‘Monarch’: Joshua Sasse on the ‘Surreal’ Shania Twain Cameo

“Monarch’s” Luke Roman (Joshua Sasse) found himself dealing with a diva situation in last week’s episode of the Fox country music drama, when backstage at his mother’s memorial service, Shania Twain (playing herself) refused to perform. Twain didn’t want to hit the stage because she and the late Dottie Roman (Susan Sarandon) were frenemies after – in this universe – Dottie stole “Man! I Feel Like a Woman.”

“Your mother was never nice to me. Bitch stole my song,” Twain quipped to Sasse’s character Luke. And the whole scene ended up being a very unique experience, Sasse said.

“It was hilarious. It was just fantastic,” Sasse told TheWrap. “We didn’t really talk before we went in, she’d just flown in from Switzerland, where she lives. And as the day happened, I was already in the dressing room waiting for it to happen, and so we just went straight into our rehearsal. And so Shania comes in. But she’s Shania. Playing Shania. And so, it was very surreal.”

Joshua Sasse and Shania Twain in "Monarch" (Fox)
Joshua Sasse and Shania Twain in “Monarch” (Fox)

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Sasse, who starred as the titular character in ABC’s 2015-2016 musical series “Galavant,” has worked with many trained singers across his career, but acting opposite an icon like Twain was a new experience.

“I’ve been so lucky, I’ve had a really very varied career,” he continued. “In ‘Galavant’ we got to work with a lot of big, surreal names, but they were [playing] characters. And so with this, when she’s playing herself, and she’s doing the whole number, it was just surreal. It was great. And she’s so charming, and was so game for a laugh. And some of that scene was ad-lib. She was so good. I felt like I was being outplayed.”

On Fox’s new fall drama “Monarch,” about the first family of country music attempting to keep their family legacy alive after the series premiere death of matriarch Dottie (who appears in flashbacks during the season), Sasse plays Luke, the businessman of the family. Although the actor is well known to have an amazing singing voice, and his character will occasionally sing on the show, Luke had no ambition to be in the country music spotlight. Instead he wanted to go in the direction Dottie pushed him – running the record label.

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“He’s not out for attention. I think that’s really important as the juxtaposition to both his sisters and his parents. That’s not a necessity for him, which is probably why he [wasn’t] driven to do it,” Sasse said. “And through some of the plots [on the show], it was obvious that he has a really good musical understanding and knows how to lay down a track and knows how to play a piano or the guitar with artists that come in to teach them how to do stuff, but there’s so much ego in the show that the role is much more important to sort of have some tether to reality and also to run the business. And I think, because the show’s centered around this music label, it was really important that what Dottie left him was the legacy of keeping everything under control and making sure that her dream stays alive. And that can’t happen with people that have fireworks all over the place.”

Sasse sees mama Roman pushing her son into the business as following one of the major themes of “Monarch.”

“I think a lot of the show’s themes are about sacrifice,” he said. “And so I think for Dottie, there were so many sacrifices that she had to make, and she knew that maybe … the harder one was to send me off, and this is sort of why Luke fell out with his father was he went away to university and learnt economics and the craft and business and that took him away from his father’s entire ethos, which was really important for the show to have this combative nature between these two guys.”

While Luke has major issues with his father (who is abusive to him), he is close with his sisters – Gigi (Beth Ditto) and Nicky (Anna Friel). But, that hasn’t stopped the character from engaging in a relationship with Kayla, Gigi’s wife. Asked about why Luke crossed that boundary, especially with the wife of a sister he is so close to, Sasse said, “the point is, is that he didn’t think.”

“The majority of the stuff that happens in this show is meditated, and … often, cutthroat decisions are being made. And whilst that’s all happening, sometimes the left hand just, you know, takes control, and I think it’s sort of played in because we felt that Luke and Gigi had this really close relationship,” he continued. “It lends a whole level of drama to it, you know?”

“Monarch” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.