‘Monarch’ Producer Speaks Out About Plot Similarity to Naomi Judd

by Suzanne Halliburton

If you watched the Tuesday episode of Monarch, you can’t help noticing the sad coincidences between the series star, Dottie Roman, and the late Naomi Judd.

Susan Sarandon plays Dottie Cantrell Roman. In Monarch, she’s the reigning queen of country music. You heard all about her in the series premiere earlier this month. Then in episode two, Monarch gave Dottie a grand send-off, under the guise that she planned all details of her elaborate funeral.

On the show, Dottie asked her daughter to help her commit suicide. She suffered from terminal cancer. No treatment would prolong her life. She wanted to end her life at home, in her bed, in the arms of her oldest daughter, following one of the happiest events of the year.

Susan Sarandon plays Dottie Cantrell Roman on Monarch. (FOX via Getty Images)

Monarch Filmed Dottie’s Suicide, Funeral Long Before Naomi Judd’s Death

Naomi Judd, who suffered with mental health issues for most of her life, committed suicide, April 30. Her daughter Ashley discovered her mother’s body. The Judds, one of country music’s most well-known acts in the 80s, were readying to go back on tour. And Naomi and Wynonna reunited, April 11, to sing their classic “Love Can Build a Bridge” for the CMT Awards.

Jason Owen is an executive producer for Monarch. He also had a good working relationship with the Judds. Before Naomi’s death, he was supposed to be part of their new tour and a planned documentary. After her death, Owen produced Naomi’s funeral.

“What feels like art imitating life is really just one of the strangest, saddest, eeriest coincidences I’ve seen,” Owen said in an interview with People.

“The Judds are literally my favorite of all time,” he said. “I was producing their whole tour, and they had their last performance, which was ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ on CMT. Then the tragic events start to unfold. It’s just another unbelievable coincidence. But it’s also something I care deeply about — what Wynonna and the family thought.”

Everything you saw in Tuesday’s Monarch episode was filmed long before Naomi Judd’s death. Fox, which broadcasts Monarch, ordered scripts for the new series back in the fall of 2019. Fox gave the show a thumbs up in May, 2021. And the first few episodes were shot last fall. Monarch actually was supposed to premiere in January. But because of a new Covid surge shutting down several shows last January, the network pushed the series to a fall premiere.

Still, Owen said he contacted the Judd family to let them know what would be unfolding on Monarch this month and that it had all been done long before Naomi’s tragic death.

Susan Sarandon performed a Shania Twain cover on Tuesday’s Monarch. The episode was filed a year ago. (FOX MEDIA)

Broadway Star Sang ‘Love Can Build a Bridge’ in Tuesday’s Episode

So in other words, Susan Sarandon’s character killed herself months before what happened with Naomi Judd.

There’s another coincidence. On Monarch, Dottie’s younger sister, Nellie, sang “Love Can Build a Bridge” at the funeral. Faith Prince, the Tony-Award-winning Broadway actress, portrayed Nellie and performed the song. Dottie, to the surprise of the audience, appeared as a hologram to sing with her sister. Most thought Dottie, even in death, didn’t want her sister to receive all the attention. Because there’s only one queen.

Owen said real-life events inspired Dottie’s funeral. He looked to the funerals for Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette and George Jones for ideas for Dottie.