BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — There are going to be more mysteries in the new FOX drama “Monarch” than ticks on a hound dog. The biggest mystery hangs over the new series even before it launches Sept. 11 after the network’s broadcast of NFL football.
That mystery has to do with Susan Sarandon who plays the tough as nails Queen of Country Music Dottie Cantrell Roman. She and her husband, Albie Roman (Trace Adkins), have created a music empire. When their reign as country royalty is put in jeopardy, heir to the crown, Nicollette (Anna Friel), will stop at nothing to protect her family’s legacy. At the same time, she wants to ensure her own quest for stardom isn’t stalled.
Talking about the mystery of the Oscar-winning Sarandon must be done in vague terms as to not reveal any MAJOR spoilers. All that can be said is her connection with the show may be a little disconnected at times.
Sarandon offers little light on the subject when she says of her place in the series, “I entered this kind of on a handshake. The ‘commitment’ word has always been a problem for me; so we don’t want to talk about commitment. We just want to talk about fun and being in the moment.”
To muddle the mystery even more, Sarandon starts talking about her character and Jiminy Cricket.
Executive producer Jon Harmon Feldman tries to shine some light on Sarandon and the series by saying she “hovers over everyone. She influences everything.” He adds she will be in and out of the show but will appear in multiple episodes.
The only way to fully understand the ambiguity of that statement is to see the first episode. It encompasses what Sarandon’s role will be as well as her character’s place in country music.
It would be easy to speculate the vagueness of Sarandon’s role would be because she has been generally working as a film actress with credits such as “Dead Man Walking” and “Thelma & Louise” (a movie that brought her to Kern County during the filming).
But she starred in plenty of TV projects when she was starting her career in the 1970s such as “Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law” and the daytime drama “A World Apart.” Sarandon is quick to point out that she has done a lot of television in recent years including two seasons of “Ray Donovan.”
“I just go where the fun is and where I haven’t been before. Like I said, 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,” Sarandon says. “But 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.
“I’ve never been limited by what screen something’s going to be on.”
There’s no questioning Adkins’ country music pedigree but Sarandon and Friel have no background of picking and grinning. Not having a history with a character has never stopped Sarandon.
“I mean, 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,” Sarandon says.
Friel adds that the ace in the hole for them was Adkins who was always willing to offer advice in terms of the country music world. They also had some other heavyweight special guests including Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Little Big Town and Tanya Tucker who would offer their insights.
The fact the series is set in the world of country music, it is easy to want to compare it to “Nashville.” Show creator Melissa London Hilfers doesn’t think the comparisons are fair. She sees her show as having more in common with programs such as “Dallas” and “Succession.”
The Romans live in a larger-than-life, beautiful glamorous world where the costumes are incredible and over the top. So while “Dallas” was about a family in the oil business, “Monarch” will be a drama about a family where their business is country music.
Feldman adds, “It’s sort of a little bit like “Empire’ meets “Succession,” but set in the world of country music. And I think there are different inspirations behind this show, but it’s really about a family and the drama of their personal lives and the drama of their business lives, and like ‘Empire’ and ‘Succession’ both did so brilliantly in different ways, really exploring all the fun and soap and melodrama and murder and cliff-hangers that come in that world.”
And the cliff-hanger to Sarandon’s commitment to the series will eventually be made very clear.