The Romans are coming. On Sunday, Fox's new family drama Monarch introduces us to a family who have dominated country music on stage and behind the scenes. Led by Albie (Trace Atkins) and Dottie Roman (Susan Sarandon), this family will do whatever it takes to remain at the top. As their parents confront their dark pasts, siblings Nicky (Anna Friel), Luke (Joshua Sasse), and Gigi (Beth Ditto) fight to prove their place in the family.
"The Romans, as we've come to say, are just like any other family — provided your family is involved with blackmail, murder, affairs, cover-ups," showrunner and executive producer Jon Feldman said at Fox's Television Critics Association summer press tour panel on Sept. 7. He further described the tone of the series. "It's sort of, a little bit like Empire meets Succession, but set in the world of country music," Feldman said. "There are different inspirations behind the show, but it's really about a family and the drama of their personal lives and the drama of their business lives." And while there are similarities to Empire and Succession, Feldman said there are plenty of differences, too — especially in how the show explores "all the fun and soap and melodrama."
The panelists were also asked about how the show is different from Nashville, the ABC musical soap opera series that launched in 2012. "It is set in the world of country music as Nashville was, but I think more of its DNA comes from those classic larger-than-life soaps like Dallas and Dynasty and now Succession," said screenwriter and executive producer Melissa London Hilfers. "This is a family and that was also a show about family, but this family's business happens to be country music."
The executive producers also highlighted the element of suspense in the show. Minutes into Episode 1, it's clear that Dottie has been hiding the truth about something terrible that happened. "We're telling both a family drama and also an ongoing murder mystery," Feldman said, adding that there will be multiple cliffhangers at the end of Season 1. "We're building to some really interesting mysteries, some of which will resolve but some of which we won't," the showrunner said. "Season 1 is really going to end with a bang — literally and figuratively."
As for the country music component of the show, Jason Owen — who launched the artist management company Sandbox Entertainment — played a key role as executive producer. "I thought, 'I'm not sure that I can explore the country music space in the authentic way we'd like to without bringing in somebody from the country music space who really knows it and lives it,'" said executive producer Gail Berman. "Which is why we reached out to Jason Owen and got him on board."
Country music singer Adkins starring as Albie Roman also adds to the show's authenticity. Taking on this role was a new venture for the established artist. He said it was about a year ago when he first walked onto the set of Monarch. "I had no clue what I was doing or what I was about to do," Adkins said. "Here we are now a year later, I'm just hanging on by my fingernails."
The singer also shared his hope for a guest star in Fox's series. "I think we should bring Blake Shelton, let him play my stupid younger brother — kind of what he is anyway," Adkins said.
While it's uncertain whether this will come true, we do know about guest appearances including by Shania Twain, Martina McBride, Tanya Tucker, and Little Big Town. Owen said it was intentional for these stars to appear as themselves. "It was important for us to have the stars play themselves because the Romans are part of a legacy country music family, and we wanted them to interact with the current and iconic stars of today."
Monarch premieres Sunday Sept. 11 on Fox. Episodes will air next day on Hulu.