Fox’s ‘Monarch’ Executive Producer on the Show’s Inspiration: The ‘Romanov Dynasty’ in Austin, Texas (Fall TV Preview)

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Fox heads to the heart of Texas on Sunday night, blending country music with family squabbles and raw ambition in its new primetime drama “Monarch.”

Debuting the first of its two-episode premiere right after the Fox NFL doubleheader, “Monarch” follows the Roman family members as they strive to maintain their first family of country music status, established by matriarch Dottie Cantrell Roman (Susan Sarandon) and Albie Roman (Trace Adkins).

“So the original inspiration was I thought, ‘What if I reimagined the Romanov dynasty as a family of country stars in Austin, Texas?’” executive producer and creator Melissa London Hilfers told TheWrap of the show’s inspiration. “And I wanted it to be a big, opulent, multi-generational drama.”

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The show focuses on all of the Romans and their associates, but opens not only with Sarandon’s Dottie and Adkins’ Albie hosting a press conference, but with a focus on eldest daughter, Nicky Roman (“Pushing Daisies” alum Anna Friel). She’s starting to emerge from beneath the shadow of her superstar parents, but some are left wondering if she is truly the heir to the Roman crown.

“And I also really, because of who I am, and where I am in my life, got fascinated with the idea – and again, this goes back to my crazy Romanov research – but of someone who is the heir apparent, and has all this pressure on them, but in the modern day, a woman who’s turned 40, who finally has her chance to make her dreams come true,” London Hilfers continued. “Because before that, life got in the way. She had kids and a husband and a demanding family and all these obligations. And the idea that if your time comes in the entertainment industry and you’re over 40, is it too late? That was a question that weighed heavily, has weighed heavily on my mind for a while.”

Beth Ditto and Anna Friel in "Monarch" (Fox)
Beth Ditto and Anna Friel in “Monarch” (Fox)

The Gossip singer Beth Ditto plays Nicky’s younger sister, Gigi. She’s got a hell of a set of pipes, but has stayed in the shadows, we quickly find out, to support her older sister whose dream is to be a country music legend. London Hilfers said her own younger sister “was some of the inspiration for Gigi, who was just tough and doesn’t back down and is pure of heart and kind, and loves her sister.” But as with any drama, it’s not all smooth sailing.

“You’ll see as the series goes on, power and ambition can corrupt all kinds of people. And there are definitely challenges that the sisters face. But at the end of the day, they are definitely ride or die for each other, which is something I really wanted to portray,” she said.

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Joshua Sasse, known for showing off his pipes as the star of ABC’s “Galavant,” plays Luke Roman, Dottie and Albie’s middle child, who can sing, but is actually on the business side of things, running their recording empire. Being a business executive, however, isn’t a career path that has endeared Luke to his daddy.

“In some ways, he has a very complicated relationship with his father. And in part, that’s because he isn’t a professional singer. He’s not a songwriter, and his father, Albie, really only appreciates artists,” the EP told TheWrap. “But Luke is amazing at what he does, too. He is the CEO of the company and has actually done phenomenal things and has great long term plans if Albie would only listen. His mom, Dottie, who named him CEO, knows what he’s capable of and she just wants him to have a chance to prove it and you will see him and his father butt heads over and over and it kind of hits a fever pitch.”

Joshua Sasse and Anna Friel in "Monarch" (Fox)
Joshua Sasse and Anna Friel in “Monarch” (Fox)

The three Roman children have their dramas, and plenty of it is intertwined with the legacies of their “queen of country music” mom, Dottie, who is played by Oscar winner Susan Sarandon.

“Susan was willing to read the script. And I just prayed,” London Hilfers said of recruiting the actress for the role. “And she really responded to the material.”

And Trace Adkins, real life country music legend and actor, was interested enough when he heard of the show, that they were able to get the script to him.

“He was just incredible from the first moment,” she said. “And he has said to me that he responded to the character of Albie because they have a lot in common.”

“Monarch” premieres Sunday night simultaneously in all time zones after the conclusion of the NFL double-header on Fox.