Is Monarch based on the Judds?

Anna Friel and Susan Sarandon in Monarch
Anna Friel and Susan Sarandon in Monarch (Image credit: Fox)

Note: this post contains spoilers for Monarch

The new Fox mystery-thriller Monarch centers around a family of country music icons and their matriarch, Susan Sarandon’s Dottie Roman. Though the fictional Roman family shares similarities to the legendary real-life mother-daughter duo the Judds, executive producer Jason Owen told People that the show is not based on a true story, nor is it meant to parallel the lives of the Judds in any way. 

"What feels like art imitating life is really just one of the strangest, saddest, eeriest coincidences I’ve seen," Owen said. 

The series was developed in 2019, greenlit in May 2021 and started production in September 2021. The premiere was pushed from January 2022 to the fall. Owen, a music industry veteran, had been working with the Judd family on a documentary and final tour when country icon and Judd matriarch Naomi took her own life in April 2022. He was also called upon to produce Judd’s funeral for CMT.

Naturally, he became concerned about the parallels that could be drawn between Monarch and the Judd family, considering a major character dies in the premiere episode

Dottie, having been diagnosed with cancer at the start of the series premiere, overdosed on pills at home in her bedroom with her daughter Nicolette (Anna Friel) at her side. Naomi Judd also died in her bedroom.

In the second episode of Monarch, the best and brightest from the country music community come together to celebrate the life of Dottie Roman and the Judds’ hit song "Love Can Build a Bridge" was featured in the funeral ceremony. In the episode, Dottie planned the details of her own funeral, but in reality Owen was the one who picked the song for the scene.

The song was also featured at Judd’s own funeral.


(Image credit: Fox)

The similarities are uncanny, but Owen is quick to point out that the show wrapped filming long before Naomi Judd’s death. He connected with the Judd family to let them know what the show was about.

"Out of friendship, love and respect for the Judd Family, I called Wynonna and Greg Hill, [manager of the Naomi Judd Estate], to make sure they were aware of Monarch and its storyline well before it aired."

When envisioning Dottie’s funeral scene, he wanted the celebration of her life to rival the massive send-offs for legends like Johnny Cash and Tammy Wynette. Little did he know he would be doing the same thing for Naomi Judd, whose music inspired him from a very young age.

"I was in their life for these big moments of return when we put the arena tour on sale, and it basically sold out," he said. "Then they have this amazing comeback at the CMT Awards, where all the artists are fawning over them. It was exactly how I wanted people to be reminded of how amazing these two women are. I’ve been there for all the highs. I’m also now part of their biggest low."

Monarch airs Tuesdays on Fox. The latest episodes are available to stream the day after they air on Hulu.

Sarabeth Pollock
Editorial Content Producer


Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.  

When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.