Composer Lior Rosner on Scoring the New RuPaul Series ‘AJ and the Queen’

AJ and the Queen season 1 now on Netflix – Picture: Netflix

AJ and the Queen is now on Netflix globally and we scored a an interview with Lior Rosner who served as the composer of the series. 

They say opposites attract, well that’s an understatement for the two main characters in Netflix’s new scripted series AJ and the Queen. The logline for the show reads, while traveling across the country in a run-down RV, drag queen Ruby Red (RuPaul) discovers an unlikely sidekick in AJ (Izzy G.): a tough-talking 10-year-old stowaway.

The show is helmed by the Emmy-winning Michael Patrick King aka the genius behind HBO’s hit series Sex and the City.  Other creatives include costume designer Trayce Gigi Field, cinematographer Edward J. Pei, and composer Lior Rosner. Music is a very large part of the series, as Ruby Red is constantly performing grand numbers, so we decided to speak with Rosner more in-depth about working with Ru on the show’s main title theme as well as his other musical contributions to the project. Read the full interview below.

WON: How did you first get involved with AJ and the Queen?

I have a previous working relationship with RuPaul, so he approached me about writing the theme song for the show. There was an on-camera performance of the theme song, “Ruby Red” in the first episode, so that’s how it started. After that I got a call to come in and meet with the showrunner, Michael Patrick King, and he liked what I had to offer so I got hired.

WON: In a previous interview, you said that you created the main title song for AJ and the Queen with RuPaul. What was that process like? Did Ru come to your studio?

Ru called me and needed a song asap. I asked for a few references to get the vibe he was looking for and then began writing out ideas from there. We did it very fast in a couple of days after that. We then brought it to Michael and he had some suggestions, so we worked on it for another week or two until we came up with the final version.

WON: I believe this is one of your first streaming shows. Is that correct? A lot of composers who score streaming projects say it is like scoring one long movie. Was that your experience for this series?

Yes, this is my first streaming show. It’s like scoring a 10-hour film. The way it’s structured, there is not supposed to be any closure or resolution in each episode, so viewers keep clicking next. So, it definitely feels like 1 long piece and not episode to episode.

WON: How did you initially decide what the musical palate for this show was going to be? Do you just present a lot of different ideas to Michael upfront?

Originally when I got the gig I sent in a demo reel from some music I had done on a previous project. In the rough cut of episode 1 that temp music actually worked to some of the pictures. So we were able to find the vibe we wanted pretty quickly. So we started from that previous palate and then developed it into a new score for this show.

WON: RuPaul has previously told Vanity Fair, “This show isn’t about a drag queen in a kid’s show. This is about a kid in a drag queen’s show. It’s edgy, and it has some dark themes in there.” What types of sounds/instruments do you tend to use for these dramatic moments?

It’s very eclectic. There is a lot of piano work. There is a lot of wind chimes and strings in the more emotional moments. There is an instrument called the waterphone I have been using a lot for more of the intense moments. Overall, it’s a pretty piano-driven score.

WON: AJ and the Queen seems to have a more serious vibe than some of Michael Patrick Kings previous shows such as 2 Broke Girls and Sex and the City. What were some of his notes for the score to match this tone?

Michael has a gut instinct for what works and what doesn’t. It was a fine line to execute because we didn’t want to get too serious because the show has a lot of comedy too. It can be funny and heartbreaking too. It’s very tricky to find the right tone for both types of scenes.

WON: Did you find your score for AJ and the Queen adapted at all from the 1st episode to the final episode? Not necessarily on purpose, but as the story unfolds?

There are a lot of reoccurring themes that play out through each episode. The last episode definitely has a lot of emotional payoffs that we have been seeing through the whole series, so I created the score to fit that.

WON: Is there another Netflix show you are currently watching that you enjoy?

I have been watching the new Dracula series on Netflix. I have been enjoying that.

You can learn more about Rosner at https://www.rosnermusic.com/.