Anna Friel is sick of wearing heels.
”I’ll be standing on a red carpet with a pair of flats in my bag because I know they look great, but they hurt your back and they’re uncomfortable. As you get older, you’re dealing with gray hairs and wrinkles. It’s a bigger thing to get ready. It’s not quick, easy, slap your lipstick on,” the 46-year-old British actress, best known for “Pushing Daisies,” told the Daily News.
”We can only do our best. As long as you’re doing your best, that’s all you can do.”
Despite Friel’s personal preferences, she often found herself in heels — even baking in a ballgown — for her role as Nicky Roman in “Monarch,” Fox’s new country music drama premiering Sunday. Nicky has struggled to prove herself while stuck in the shadows of her parents Dottie and Albie, played by Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins, the queen and king of country music. Nicky, for her entire life, has been told to wait. Her time is coming. The throne is hers…eventually.
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown is so true, but she’s always been in the background of her mother and father and told that some day, she’s going to have to take the lead. It’s hard work!” Friel said.
“She grows in confidence the more that she snipes against everyone saying ‘you’re too old, it’s never going to work for you.’ We all know how that feels. I’m in my 40s and the next young up-and-coming talent is coming right behind you. [Nicky’s] only form of survival is to be a fighter and get back up every time she’s knocked down.”
When tragedy strikes the Roman family, though, Nicky’s succession plan is thrown off kilter when her sister Gigi (Beth Ditto) suddenly comes out of the woodwork with the voice of an angel. In the world of “Monarch,” like the real world, there can only be one.
“There’s always rivalry but at the core, Nicky absolutely loves and adores her sister. I think she’s just shocked that now, after all of these years where she didn’t want to take the stage, suddenly she wants to take the lead. She feels a little blindsided,” Friel said.
“That would be OK if [Gigi] had helped share the lead over all these years. [Nicky’s] the one who had to do the world tours with mother and father and not be able to look at options and not be able to pay as much attention to her relationships because the weight and the pressure of continuing the legacy has always been on Nicky’s shoulders. She thought the payoff was she didn’t have to share it.”
From there, “Monarch” begins to look less “Nashville” and more “Empire,” full of backstabbing and manipulating, but chock-full of country music staples like Shania Twain, Martina McBride and Little Big Town.
“This is an incredibly fun playground and it does feel limitless. These characters are larger than life and if you don’t bring that, you’re doing a disservice to the audience,” creator Melissa London Hilfers told The News. “It’s stuff you wish you could do but you would never do because you’re a sane person. They take care of it the way you wish you could have.”
Hilfers, who grew up in Maryland on TV shows like “Dynasty,” “Dallas” and “Melrose Place,” said she imagined “Monarch” as the Romanovs of country music, a dynastic family fighting for the throne. There’s deception and tabloid leaks, but they can always come home again.
“My sister is one of my favorite people on Earth so I would never want to create a show that didn’t celebrate sisterhood and celebrate women. It’s a Fox drama so we wanted there to be drama but it’s equal opportunity nasty. The gloves are off for everybody, no matter who they are. What we wanted to come across was that at the end of the day, they will always have each other’s backs,” Hilfers said.
“There’s definitely a rollercoaster with the sisters — and all of the siblings — but in the end, they’re ride or die for each other.”
And at the top of the Romans sits Dottie, imbued with Sarandon’s posture and poise.“She’s a very unique, almost Machievellian character, but it’s not easy to be queen,” Hilfers said.
“Monarch,” from start to finish, is high-octane drama, by design. But, Friel stressed, the emotions are normal.
“I’m a mother. My daughter is 17 and I was able to take her everywhere I filmed, but to juggle that and keeping a household and presenting yourself so you feel attractive and normal, it’s a lot. It’s a lot of pressure and stress put on a woman’s shoulders,” she told The News.
“And I don’t think Nicky complains about that but it’s about how much we believe the negativity that’s coming our way, how much we hear it or allow ourselves not to hear it and say, ‘no, we’re special and we have a lot to offer.’”
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