TV & Movies

The Woman Behind Bridgerton's Major Soundtrack Moments

“Music is a character in her shows,” Alexandra Patsavas says of working with Shonda Rhimes.

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Alexandra Patsavas has been the music supervisor for TV shows like 'Bridgerton,' 'Grey's Anatomy,' '...

The Bridgerton prequel, Queen Charlotte, is still reigning over the streaming charts. Last week Nielson’s streaming chart reported it raked in close to 2 billion minutes viewed during the week of May 8, and over on Spotify, the franchise’s official playlist is already at one million likes and counting, featuring more than four hours of Bridgerton tracks. All across the world, viewers are not just swooning over Charlotte and King George’s love story, but also the show’s soundtrack, which relies heavily on instrumental covers of hits from megastars like Alicia Keys and Beyoncé.

One of the masterminds behind the soundtrack is Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, who is also Netflix’s senior director of music creative/production. “There's no bigger compliment than fans acknowledging and being excited about the music,” Patsavas tells Bustle over Zoom from Los Angeles, California. “But it's a testament to the storytelling. Music doesn't stand on its own. Music supervisors are creating a listenable companion piece.”

For the past 25 years, the three-time Grammy winner and her company, Chop Shop, have been curating the songs for your favorite movies and TV shows, from The Twilight Saga and The Hunger Games to The O.C. and Gossip Girl. While the job is centered around picking the right track to elevate a scene, Patsavas is also responsible for licensing the rights to that song. Today, she runs a team of music supervisors at Chop Shop, including Justin Kamps, who also worked on Bridgerton.

Before Patsavas, now 55, found her current profession, she was booking clubs in Champaign, Illinois, where she studied at the University of Illinois, before she landed in LA in 1990 to take a mail room job at an agency. She then worked in the film and TV department at the rights management company BMI until 1994. “I didn't know music supervision existed,” she says. “Once I discovered it, I was quite certain that I was going to take a shot at [it].” Her first shots at supervision were for director Roger Corman, with whom she worked on over 50 low-budget and made-for-TV films, before focusing on TV series and starting Chop Shop in 1998.

One of Patsavas’ longest collaborations has been with Shonda Rhimes. Along with the Bridgerton franchise, Patsavas was behind those big tear-inducing song choices in early seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and soulful Motown hits on Scandal. “Music is a character in her shows,” she says. “In Grey's, it had a very handknit feel. Many songs were almost used as a score that tied many scenes together,” Patsavas says. “Every single project I work on with Shondaland begins with: What will the music be?”

Below, Patsavas talks about Queen Charlotte’s wedding song, working with Stevie Wonder, and a Grey’s Anatomy moment that changed the industry.

How was working on Queen Charlotte different from the previous Bridgerton seasons? What kind of research did you have to do?

Queen Charlotte was known for being a lover of music and a big proponent of the arts. We also did a deep dive into the catalog of [Black classical musician] Chevalier de Saint-Georges, so a lot of his cues are woven in the story.

We do focus on some composers of the era, [like] Haydn and Mozart, but something we talked about quite early on was [to prioritize covering] women of color who wrote or performed these iconic songs, such as SZA, Beyoncé, and of course, Alicia Keys. “I Will Always Love You” [was] written by Dolly Parton, but Whitney Houston made it her own.

When in the production process do you finalize which songs you’re going to use? Because SZA’s song “Nobody Gets Me” came out fairly recently.

That was one of the last covers that was selected. I have early access to the scripts and can really absorb the story. We have a lot of creative conversations, and then a lot of music starts flying back and forth. Some of the songs were chosen quite early in the process. As I always say about music supervision, what you envision and imagine from the page and then actually being able to watch the actors, see the set design, and see how the scene has been lovingly cut by the editors, you start to see what needs to take place, and what song should ultimately be chosen. And I'd be remiss not to acknowledge [composer] Kris Bowers, who composed a stunning score.

Yeah, I really loved the piece he did for the wedding.

It's transcendent. That's an original song that he wrote with Tayla Parx. He took a look at the footage, and he and Tayla co-wrote, recorded, and performed “A Feeling I’ve Never Been.” That's one of my favorites.

Alexandra Patsavas with Queen Charlotte composer Kris BowersJerod Harris/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

How do you keep yourself well-versed in different types of music? Are there any genres you aren’t drawn to?

To enjoy music supervision, you have to be seduced by all genres. One of the best parts of this job is that you're always exploring. When we thought about Bridgerton, for example, it was really about how the music could be consistent with the costumes, production design, and casting, which is reflective of the period but modern in all the ways that Shonda Rhimes does so well. It seemed like those covers of iconic pop songs made a lot of sense. The audience wouldn't necessarily hear the lyrics but would recognize the songs.

What does your Spotify Wrapped look like at the end of the year?

It looks like a non-focused individual. It's all over the place.

What do you enjoy listening to when you aren’t doing research?

I love Dusty Springfield, Motown, of course Beyoncé. I found that during the pandemic, I leaned into things that I already loved, and then the freedom that we all have back [now] has made me expand to listening to new things again.

After working as a music supervisor for so many years, has there been a moment when you felt you’d made it?

No, I don't think it's a moment. I think it's the realization of the kinds of projects I had the opportunity to work on. Stevie Wonder ended up writing an original song for the Scandal finale, and I've been lucky enough to have a few of those moments, [with artists like] Stevie Wonder, Beyoncé, and Snow Patrol.

Speaking of Snow Patrol, Grey’s helped launch the band and “Chasing Cars” into the mainstream in 2006.

They were definitely excited to be part of the show. It was so interesting that “Chasing Cars” was not the single; it was a deeper track on the album. It's a ballad, and radio in those years was not ballad focused. It was more uptempo. And I remember the pivot. After [seeing] the fandom for that song, [record labels] made the change [of releasing ballads as singles]. That's the most rewarding stuff.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

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