The executive producer of Monarch is speaking out after some country music fans drew eerie similarities to a tragic death on the new country music drama. In particular, some thought of country legend Naomi Judd’s death earlier this year.
Naomi — who was one half of beloved country duo The Judds, along with daughter Wynonna Judd — unexpectedly died earlier this year following a long battle with mental illness. She was 76.
Naomi’s other daughter, actress Ashley Judd, confirmed on the family’s behalf in a a heartbreaking interview with Good Morning America in the weeks following her mother’s death that Naomi died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The autopsy report confirmed Naomi’s cause of death last month, and the family noted that Naomi “was dogged by an unfair foe. She was treated for PTSD and bipolar disorder, to which millions of Americans can relate.” Ashley emphasized during her GMA interview that mental health resources available for anyone else struggling.
Spoiler alert: Susan Sarandon’s character, Dottie Roman, is a legendary country artist and matriarch of her family. She decides to end her own life with a fatal dose of medication after she’s diagnosed with a terminal illness. Like Naomi, Dottie apparently made plans for her own memorial service, which included a performance of The Judd’s beloved hit, “Love Can Build a Bridge.”
Monarch Executive Producer Jason Owen — a music industry official who was also planning a documentary with The Judds before Naomi’s death, and produced Naomi’s public memorial service for CMT — told PEOPLE that the dark similarities are coincidental, as those scenes were filmed months before Naomi died: “What feels like art imitating life is really just one of the strangest, saddest, eeriest coincidences I've seen.”
Owen added later: “The Judds are literally my favorite of all time. …Then the tragic events start to unfold. It's just another unbelievable coincidence. But it's also something I care deeply about — what Wynonna and the family thought.”
“Out of friendship, love and respect for the Judd Family, I called Wynonna and Greg Hill, [manager for the Naomi Judd Estate], to make sure they were aware of Monarch and its storyline well before it aired.”
PEOPLE also notes that the Monarch storyline was finalized two years before Naomi’s passing. The cast, which also includes country music superstar Trace Adkins, bean filming by September 2021 and finished the first few episodes that fall, with the show originally slated to premiere in January 2022. The premiere date was delayed because of COVID-19 concerns, and it debuted earlier this month.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide or is in emotional distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.