Country artist Trace Adkins stars as fictional Roman family patriarch in new FOX TV drama Monarch. He is Albie Roman, alongside his television wife, Dottie Cantrell Roman, played by Oscar-winning actress Susan Sarandon. The show begins this Sunday (September 11e), but Adkins, and a few other series associates recently gathered in Nashville to join members of the media for a preview of the first episode.
Adkins says he wanted to be part of Monarch as soon as he saw the first script.
“I was on a tour bus and my manager called and said somebody wanted you to do a TV show,” he recalled, “and I said send me a script . And when I found out who some of the people I was going to be working with were, I knew it had to be something that FOX Entertainment was committed to. It wasn’t going to be a little disposable thing. So I can sing. and act pretty much like myself, yes, I can do that. I had a blast.
The story is built around the Texas-based Roman family’s reign as country music royalty. But faced with the possibility of everything falling apart, other members of the family, like his daughter Nicky Roman (played by Anna Friel), are ready to do anything to protect this legacy. There are secrets, lies and lots of country music.
Alex Anders, who previously worked on the musical/TV drama Glee, is co-musical supervisor of Monarch. (He’s part of a global music team that includes his brother, Adam Anders and Peer Astrom.) While the show is set in Austin, it was actually filmed in Atlanta, with all music recorded in Nashville.
“We had a lot of great Nashville songwriters working on the show, so there’s going to be some really fantastic original songs coming out,” Anders says. “Trace has one that I know you’ll love. And then there are also great covers.
While country music fans are familiar with Adkins, the women who play his daughters, Anna Friel and Beth Ditto, are newcomers to the genre. Part of Anders’ job was to help them transition into country music.
“Everyone had to find their ‘voice’ for their character,” he explains. “Beth comes from Indie-rock or punk, and now she sings ‘How Do I Live’. It’s not the same thing. As for Anna, she sang Irish folk music which relates a bit into country so that’s helpful but coming from England she had to find a whole new voice for that style of music. She worked so hard and I’m so proud of what she achieved. Singing with a different accent, in a different style, while taking notes from a producer on how to sing and where to sing – you can only think of so many things at once. It’s amazing.”
And while country music is a main character on the show, Monarch is definitely a drama, touching on deeper themes throughout the first season. Actress Susan Sarandon stars as the powerful Roman matriarch and Adkins says it was a pleasure working with her.
“I was terrified (at first), but very quickly I realized that when you work with someone like that, someone as confident, as accomplished and as professional as her, you realize, oh my God, she’s gonna carry the scene All I have to do is swim in her wake and hang on and hope that if I survive the scene I’ll probably be fine And she was very kind, generous and kind, and she made me feel comfortable.
With music as such an important part of Monarch, well-known country artists will make appearances on the show. Look for Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Tanya Tucker and Little Big Town to fill guest roles in future episodes.
Rising country singer Caitlyn Smith, who sings the theme song to Monarch, is thrilled that a prime-time show highlights country music.
“I loved the TV show Nashville when it was there, really because of the music,” she says. “So when I heard about this show, I was like yes, yes, yes!”
She says the song “The Card You Gamble” written by Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna, sets the perfect tone for the show.
“It has this kind of dusty, old-school vibe. There’s a darkness that really embodies the energy of the show too. I think it’s the perfect song to kick off a drama series like this.
Anders says he hopes Monarch will help introduce a younger generation to songs they haven’t experienced before.
“I hope it does what Glee did. It’s a totally different style, a totally different thing, but I hope it does what Glee did and introduces a lot of amazing songs to a whole new audience.
Adkins hopes so too. He thinks Monarch hits primetime TV at just the right time.
“I think this show is going to prove to some people who maybe doubted that country music could carry a drama series. Because country music is the star of this show, and as a star, I think it has the power to carry it all.
He smiles, then adds, “And I can’t wait for people to say, ‘Hell, he was right.'”
Monarque in preview on Sunday, September 11e after the FOX NFL Doubleheader. This is a special day and hour for the show to introduce it to viewers. It will premiere again in its regular season timeslot on Tuesday, September 20.e at 9:00 p.m. ET / 8:00 p.m. CT.