The first two episodes of primetime soap Monarch might have seemed a bit familiar to fans. After all, its central storyline has marked similarities to the real-life passing of Naomi Judd. Monarch showrunner Jon Feldman delved into these commonalities with Deadline.
Both Judd and Monarch's lead character, country music queen Dottie Cantrell Roman (Susan Sarandon), organize their funerals and die by suicide. Dottie's Monarch funeral also includes a rendition of the Judds' tune "Love Can Build a Bridge," which Naomi's daughter Wynonna sang at her mother's televised memorial earlier this year. Moreover, both Dottie and Naomi are vivacious redheaded singers with daughters.
Asked about similarities between real and "reel" life, Feldman mused:
From what I knew about the show, it was inspired by the lives of many country artists. It drew from that world. One of the producers is Jason Owen, who’s a top music manager in Nashville. Until the death of Naomi, which was really the most tragic and eerie of coincidences, there was no [similarities] between the Romans and the Judds. The Romans are a fictional first family of country. But really, the turn of events of Naomi’s death was something no one could have predicted.
Of hearing of Naomi Judd's passing, Feldman recalled:
Honestly, it was one of those truth-is-stranger-than-fiction moments. It was tragic, first of all. But it was also eerie in some of the parallels. Like I said first and foremost, it was just a tragic incident. I mean, it was a turn of events that in retrospect is eerily similar to some of the things we dive into in the show.
However, the Monarch execs never considered altering on-screen elements that happened to mirror Judd's passing or funeral. Feldman, who replaced Michael Rauch as showrunner last November, said of using "Love Can Build of a Bridge":
No. That was another eerie coincidence. As I said, Jason Owen, who was a producer on our show and was heavily involved in production and music, was also very close to the Judds and was involved in the producing of her real-life funeral. No one knew that Naomi had made that decision to have that song. We were already done with our production by the time she passed away. Our cast had scattered all around the world and production was over. So we didn’t have an opportunity to reshoot anything.