If you watch Monarch, the new Fox series, then you’ve seen Nicky Roman (Anna Friel) and her sister Gigi (Beth Ditto) competing to wear the mythical crown left by their recently-deceased mother, Dottie Cantrell Roman (Susan Sarandon). And Dottie was the queen of country music. In this alternate Monarch reality, Dottie even got credit for hit songs of both Shania Twain and Trisha Yearwood.
But now that Dottie is dead, it’s up to Nicky and Gigi to carry on the family tradition. The actors who portray the two characters definitely know what they’re doing on stage. Simon Cowell even offered Friel a recording contract when Friel was a teenaged soap star on a British show. Friel said she was almost 18 when Cowell made the offer.
“I just didn’t think it was a natural step for me,” Friel said in 2016, when she appeared on Good Morning Britain. ‘I don’t know what would have happened, but I was flattered to have been asked.”
Here’s a taste of Friel’s singing ability from Tuesday night’s Monarch. (And here’s the Outsider recap). There’s a good back story for the song, “God Knows.” Dottie wrote it about her marriage to Albie (Adkins). She left a copy of it on a USB drive hidden in the heel of one of her cowboy boots. Gigi had intended to sing “God Knows” at the Austin rodeo, but Nicky snatched it away.
On Monarch, Nicky has struggled for attention her whole life. But Dottie cast too large of a shadow. And now that momma is dead, Gigi might snag the crown instead. Ditto, who portrays Gigi, is a legit performer.
You probably noticed that when she sang a charming cover of Lizzo’s “Juice.” And last week, she and Atkins did a duet to Willie Nelson’s “Always on my Mind.” TV father and daughter sat in the back of the pickup truck singing the country classic.
Ditto, growing up in Arkansas, was raised on traditional country. But she started her entertainment career as the lead singer of a punk rock group, Gossip in the Pacific Northwest.
On Monarch, she’s the black sheep of the family who isn’t in the music business. Rather, she owns a country bar in Austin and lives with her wife, Kayla.
“She’s been pushed around by her mom and criticized a lot because she’s big and she’s gay and she’s weird,” Ditto told a Taste of Country as she talked about Gigi. “She’s more like her dad. (And) she’s very close to her dad.”
In real life, she’s also a lot like her outspoken character. She also enjoys a close relationship with Adkins. “Two people could not be more different, but at the same time, I feel like we understood each other,” Ditto said.
But the two Roman sisters and the actresses who play them aren’t the only singers on Monarch. There’s a younger group as well.
Inigo Pascual portrays Ace, Nicky’s adopted son from the Philippines. And Pascual grew up around the music business. His dad, Piolo Pascual, is a huge singer/actor in the Philippines. And Pascual also has his own hit single, “Dahil Sa’yo,” which he released in 2016. The song won the Filipino equivalent of a Grammy.
Then there’s Emma Milani, who portrays Ana Phoenix, the newest Monarch signee. The indie/pop singer released her first single back in 2017. It’s called “My Own Language.”
Check out Pasqual with Adkins singing a cover of “Photograph” at Dottie’s funeral.