Anna Friel is sick of wearing heels.
“I’ll be on a red carpet with a pair of shoes in my purse because I know they look great, but they hurt your back and they’re uncomfortable,” said the 46-year-old British actress, best known for “Pushing the daisies.”
“As you get older, you’re dealing with gray hair and wrinkles,” she said. “It’s a bigger thing to prepare. It’s not quick, easy, put on lipstick. We can only do our best. As long as you do your best, that’s all you can do.”
Despite Friel’s personal preferences, he’s often found himself head over heels, even cooking in a party dress, for his role as Nicky Roman in “Monarch,” Fox’s new country music drama that premiered last week .
Nicky has struggled to prove herself while trapped in the shadow of her parents, Dottie and Albie, the queen and king of country music, played by Susan Sarandon and Trace Adkins. Nicky has been told all her life to wait. His time is coming. The throne is his…in the end.
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown is so true, but he has always been in the background of his mother and his father and told him that one day he will have to take the initiative,” said Friel. “It’s hard work!
“She grows in confidence the more she fires back at everyone saying, ‘You’re too old, it’s never going to work.'” We all know how that feels,” he said. “I’m in my 40s, and the next young up-and-coming talent is coming right behind you. (Nicky’s) only way to survive is to be a fighter and get back up every time he gets tagged.”
However, when tragedy strikes the Roman family, Nicky’s succession plan falls apart when his 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 deep down, Nicky absolutely loves and adores her sister,” Friel said. “I think he’s just surprised that now, after all these years of not wanting to go on stage, he suddenly wants to take the lead. She feels a little blind.”
From there, “Monarch” begins to feel less “Nashville” and more “Empire,” full of backstabbing and manipulation, but full of country music staples like Shania Twain, Martina McBride, and Little Big Town.
“This is an incredibly fun playground and it feels limitless,” said creator Melissa London Hilfers. “These characters are larger than life, and if you don’t bring that, you’re doing the audience a disservice.”
Hilfers, who grew up in Maryland on TV shows like “Dynasty,” “Dallas” and “Melrose Place,” said he envisioned “Monarch” as the Romanovs of country music, a dynastic family vying for the throne. There are hoaxes and tabloid leaks, but they can always come home.
“There’s definitely a roller coaster ride with the sisters, and all the brothers, but in the end, they ride or die for each other,” Hilfers said.
“Monarch,” from start to finish, is high-octane drama, by design. But, Friel stressed, emotions are normal.
“I am a mother. My daughter is 17 and I was able to take her everywhere I filmed, but to juggle that and maintain a household and present yourself to feel attractive and normal, it’s a lot,” he said. “It’s a lot of pressure and stress on a woman’s shoulders.”