'Monarch' Team Teases Season 1's Iconic Country Music Guest Stars and Cover Songs

Recognizing faces and tunes aids in authenticity.
by Danielle Turchiano — 

Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins in 'Monarch'


Unlike Empire before it, Fox's musical drama Monarch features a soundtrack of mostly cover songs. 

More specifically, executive producer Jason Owen revealed during a Television Critics Association press tour panel for the series, country music tunes from the 1990s and early 2000s that the cast reinterpreted.

The reason for this, he said, was because those behind the show wanted the music to already be recognizable to the audience, which might help viewers accept the central Roman family as characters at the forefront of that musical genre for decades.

"The Roman family is made up of iconic country music families all sort of melded together, and I think we did right by that. It's a very soapy, over-the-top, dramatic fun show, and we push that envelope," he explained.

That family includes matriarch and Queen of Country Dottie Roman (Susan Sarandon) and patriarch Albie Roman (Trace Adkins), as well as their adult children Nicolette, aka Nicky (Anna Friel); Gigi (Beth Ditto); and Luke (Joshua Sasse). When the show begins, the family is preparing for a big performance to coincide with a Lifetime Achievement Award, but there are secrets among them that are about to spill out and threaten their relationships and perhaps even their place in the genre.

Around these fictional characters though will be some very important real-life country music royalty. Martina McBride, Tanya Tucker, Little Big Town, and Shania Twain have all been confirmed as guest stars in the first few episodes, playing versions of themselves and sometimes lending their own music to the soundtrack.

"I think we should bring in Blake Shelton and have him play my stupid younger brother. That's kind of what he is anyway," Adkins said, deadpan, about potential additional players to pop up later in the show's run.

Although the show has the hook of having music in every episode, everyone who works on it was adamant that it is a family-focused drama first, but this family's business happens to be country music. And the lines between their business and their personal lives will blur often because of how intimately and intricately intwined they are, but also because the basis of a good country song is often heartbreak, and every member of this family knows a lot about that, just often in ways they are not sharing with each other for fear of hurting each other.

"I love the storytelling of country western music," said Sarandon, who also said she wanted to do the show because "it's a real guilty pleasure kind of thing; you know, 'Tune in next time.' I thought it would be really fun, and it was."

Plus, the accents! Both Sarandon, who is a native New Yorker, and Friel, who hails from the U.K., called out the work of adopting a Southern accent as something that was rewarding as actors. As Sarandon put it, "there are just certain things you can get away with" when saying them in an accent.

Monarch premieres Sept. 11 after the NFL game on Fox.