‘Monarch’ Executive Producer Explains the ‘Strangest, Eeriest’ Judds-Like Storyline
Spoiler alert: What follows will give away key plot points from both episodes of Monarch that have already aired on FOX. Trace Adkins stars as Albie Roman, and Susan Sarandon stars as Dottie Cantrell Roman in a country music drama that uncovers a sordid stash of family secrets. Their children, Nicky, Gigi and Luke (Anna Friel, Beth Ditto and Joshua Sasse), are also co-stars.
During the premiere, viewers watched as country music queen Dottie Cantrell Roman battled cancer, but chose to die on her own terms, by suicide. Nicky is also a country hitmaker, and before she passed, Dottie crowned her daughter the next queen of country. Theirs is a strange kind of combative love that has left younger sister Gigi out in the cold. It all sets up the feuding that's to come.
That dynamic also describes the real-life Judds. The elephant in the room began to make noise during Ep. 2.
When Naomi Judd died by suicide in April, it was revealed that she'd gone to great lengths to plan her own funeral, including which songs would be performed and who would speak. Dottie Cantrell Roman did the same on the show, and it's up to Nicky to keep her plan on track. A delicious revenge is served during the fictional story that — as far as anyone knows — doesn't replicate real life. Dottie asks real-life Shania Twain to sing a B-side called "Dixie Kitten" just to get one last slap in on a career-long feud. Twain calls the late Dottie the B-word before agreeing to do it. Tabloids could only dream of something similar happening in real life.
The kicker comes when Dottie appears via hologram to sing a song with her sister, Nellie. The song chosen is a Judds song. In fact, it's the one that Naomi performed with Wynonna during their last TV appearance in April (at the CMT Awards), and the one Wynonna Judd sang solo at her mother's memorial: "Love Can Build a Bridge."
After watching episode 2 of Monarch, there's only one question:
Is Monarch Based on the Judds?
When Nashville premiered on ABC a decade ago, people wondered who the lead characters were based on. Producers said nobody in particular, and nobody in particular believed them at first, but as the show rolled along, it became more and more difficult to pin any character to an existing country star.
Monarch executive producer Jason Owen says the show didn't create anyone in the Roman family out of a real-life star's existing image. "What feels like art imitating life is really just one of the strangest, saddest, eeriest coincidences I've seen," he tells People.
Owen also clarifies a few other details about when the funeral scene was written and filmed, and why he chose the Judds' song as a capper. Simply put, he's a huge fan and had the pleasure of producing their tour. Coincidentally, he also produced Naomi Judd's funeral on CMT, so he was very aware of the similarities.
What Does Wynonna Judd Think of Monarch?
Wynonna and Ashley Judd haven't given an opinion on Monarch, but the were not surprised to read about it in the news. To get in front of any pain Season 1 of Monarch might cause the Judd family, Owen spoke to Wynonna Judd and manager Greg Hill and explained what was coming. The story for Season 1 of Monarch was actually finished two years ago, and these first few episodes were filmed last fall.
This means the delay of Monarch had nothing to do with Naomi Judd's death. The show announced it was pushing its premiere until the fall in January, more than three months before Naomi Judd died (April 30, 2022).
Whose Funeral Was Dottie Roman's Funeral Based On?
Owen did have someone in mind when he helped shape the funeral sequence. More accurately, he had someones. Memories of the public memorials for Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette came to mind, and more recently funerals for George Jones and Charlie Daniels were televised (Daniels is not mentioned by Owen or People, but he's an example of the kind of goodbye country music gives its heroes).
"They're icons, and they deserve these big celebrations of life," Owen tells the magazine. "That's where we got the idea for the over-the-top funeral."
Coincidentally, the Judds' final tour begins later this month, on Sept. 30 in Grand Rapids, Mich. Wynonna Judd will keep the Final Tour going with help from some of the famous women of country music.
Monarch airs on FOX on Tuesday nights.