By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD-Fox’s new multi-generational drama “Monarch,” spotlights an iconic country music family headed by Dottie (Susan Sarandon, “Feud,” “Thelma and Louise”) and Albie Roman (Trace Adkins, Platinum country music star.)
When their careers are put in jeopardy, their daughter Nicolette ‘Nicky’ (Anna Friel, “Pushing Daisies”) is more than happy to step in and take center stage.
Susan Sarandon, Trace Adkins, Anna Friel and Executive Producer/Showrunner Jon Harmon Feldman (“Designated Survivor”) spoke with the TV Critics Association about their new Fox series, which premieres at 8 p.m. on September 11, 2022.
Q: I wanted to ask about the structure of “Monarch,” which takes place in multiple time periods.
Jon Harmon Feldman: We’re telling both a family drama and also an ongoing murder mystery, and a musical drama as well. So the time periods really allow us to build up anticipation and questions and ‘tune in next week’ factors and cliff-hangers.
Q: Susan and Anna, what is it like for the two of you to immerse yourself in the country music culture?
Susan Sarandon: I didn’t know anything about this world. And thanks to Trace Adkins, who introduced me to the world, I now have a little bit of an inkling.
That’s the whole bonus of being an actor, right? That you get to go into these little bubbles that you don’t know anything about and find out in depth so much more. When they did the music, even these people that really knew how to sing, there was a whole style thing that was imposed that was quite a challenge, right, Anna?
Anna Friel: Yeah, and Trace was always there to offer as much advice as we wanted, and all the great guest stars; so I learned very much on the job. We were surrounded by such incredible talent.
Q: Trace, this is a real stretch for your career. Did you see it coming?
Trace Adkins: No, I had no idea. It was about this time last year that I was getting into Atlanta and about to walk on a television set, and I had no clue what I was doing or what I was about to do; so here we are now a year later, and I’m just hanging on by my fingernails.
Feldman: That’s not true at all. He’s being humble. He knows exactly what he’s doing; and whatever he’s doing, we hope he keeps doing it for a long time on this show.
Q: Trace, you’ve conquered music and now acting. What is next on your bucket list?
Adkins: I haven’t conquered anything, dude. I’ve already achieved more than I would have ever allowed myself to dream; so, I’m good.
Q: Susan, you began your career doing serials like “Search for Tomorrow,” and here you come back to the serialized drama. What was it that drew to you to “Monarch,” and do you feel like this is a full-circle moment for you?
Sarandon: Well, not until you said that, but that’s a good way to look at it. I just go where the fun is and where I haven’t been before. I love the storytelling of country-western music. I never knew it in depth or anything. I’ve smoked a joint with Willie Nelson. That was about the deepest I got.
I was so eager and looking forward to meeting Trace and to being able to wear that hair and the jewelry and find out about a life on the road. And I just love a good accent. You can say so many things with an accent that you can’t say without.
Q: Anna, who or what is the inspiration behind your character? And how did you prepare?
Friel: My inspiration was Susan, playing her daughter. How do you live up to that, first of all? Secondly, was learning an authentic accent, and then just playing lots and lots of country music and practicing and practicing and practicing.
Country music’s a powerful and moving, expressive form of communication, and I think it was just all about telling a story. That and having lots and lots of fun and making the audience continually guess where it’s going to go so you don’t bracket yourself.
Q: Trace, there are so many incredible country music stars that are going to be in this season. Is there anyone that you are looking to have on the show moving forward?
Adkins: I think we should bring Blake Shelton, let him play my stupid younger brother. That’s kind of what he is anyway.
(They all laugh.)
Q: Susan, your character has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. What is your commitment to the show?
Sarandon: I can’t tell you about that, I’m leaving it open. I’m Jiminy Cricket. I’m going to appear on everybody’s shoulder. I’ll be around as long as they’ll have me. I love this family, love this show. I think it’s so much fun, everything I hoped it would be.
Q: Jon, could you address this plot point?
Feldman: Susan’s a really a big part of the show; you’ll see. She hovers over everyone. She influences everything. She comes in and out of the show; so she will appear in multiple episodes, and we have some great stuff planned for her. She is a looming presence, both on screen and off on “Monarch” in Season 1.
Q: Jon, given the fact that we already had “Nashville,” what do you think is going to be different with “Monarch?” What kind of audience do you think it will attract?
Feldman: It’s a little bit like “Empire” meets “Succession,” but set in the world of country music. I think there are different inspirations behind this show, but it’s really about a family and the drama of their personal and business lives. Like “Empire” and “Succession” both did so brilliantly in different ways, [it] really explores all the fun, soap, melodrama, murder and cliff-hangers that come in that world.
Adkins: What this show delivers [is] a Texas-sized love letter to country fans everywhere. Lovin’, lyin’, cheatin’, betrayal, revenge, murder, a pickup truck, a splash of Johnnie Blue, not to mention the making of some great country songs.