Darren Criss and I Sat at Pianos to Geek About ‘Royalties,’ Music Theory, and Mark Hamill

     July 3, 2020

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Darren Criss is one heckuva talented guy. From his work writing, producing, and starring in the viral Harry Potter musicals with StarKid Productions, to his starring roles in Broadway’s How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to his acclaimed, award-winning performances in Ryan Murphy‘s Glee, American Crime Story, and Hollywood, Criss has yielded great success in all matters of creativity. But his latest project, Royalties on Quibi, just might be the perfect synthesis of all his interests.

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Image via Quibi

Co-created by Criss alongside StarKid collaborators Matt and Nick Lang, Criss and Kether Donohue (You’re the Worst) star as aspiring pop songwriters, inadvertently climbing their way up the music industry ladder. With the help of manager Georgia King (Devs) and producer Tony Revolori (Spider-Man: Far from Home), the two write a different song every episode for different guest star artists, including Rufus WainwrightLil Rel Howery, and Mark Hamill! Throughout their career woes, the pair also goes on personal journeys involving love, love lost, and the primal power of a tasty hot dog.

To celebrate both Criss’ and this show’s love of music, I wanted to do something different. I am a lover, performer, and writer of music myself, and I wanted to get into the weeds of Criss’ songs. So we sat down at our respective pianos and guitars, and Criss walked me through, chord by chord, some of the songs he wrote, in a bonafide music theory lesson/virtual jam session! We also talked about the genius of Disney composers like Alan Menken, the importance of Glee solidifying the contemporary American songbook, and what it’s like to make Mark “Luke Friggin’ Skywalker” Hamill sing the word “penis” over and over again.

Check out our full, musical interview below, and check out all of Criss’ wonderful tunes on Royalties, now streaming on Quibi. For more on the expanded world of Criss’ creativity, here’s our interview with Ryan Murphy.

Television