‘Monarch’ Team Breaks Down the Complexities of Bringing Godzilla to an Apple TV+ Series | Collaborators

Translating the big-screen terror and wonder of the “Godzilla” franchise into a TV series was no easy task, but the team behind Apple TV+’s “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” was up to the challenge. And as they put the series together, they learned collaboration across all departments would be key to nailing the drama series and convincing Apple that a monster show was a fit for their brand.

Several members of the “Monarch” team assembled to discuss their creative process and how they navigated the show’s complexities at TheWrap’s inaugural Collaborators panel on Wednesday presented by Apple TV+, including showrunner Chris Black, actress Mari Yamamoto, casting director Ronna Kress and visual effects supervisor Sean Konrad.

Before Apple was fully on board with the project, the idea for the show had to be solidified, which presented a challenge to producers at Legendary. The team knew they wanted to develop a series out of the popular Monsterverse film franchise, but were struggling to figure out the actual premise. Black shared that he was brought on to the project to collaborate with with comic book writer Matt Fraction, and once they got together, the idea for the plot quickly fell into place.

“It couldn’t be a show about monsters … We knew it had to be about a group of people who live in a world where monsters exist. And once we kind of dialed in … then we were kind of off to the races” said Black.

“Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” takes place in 2015, one year after the events of the “Godzilla” film that was released by Legendary in 2014. The show follows two half-siblings investigating their father’s disappearance and his history with the covert organization Monarch, which has been tracking monsters for decades. The show vacillates between two different time periods, with father-son duo Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell playing the same character.

The series is now thriving on Apple TV+ and was renewed for a second season in April, but during development, it wasn’t immediately apparent that a Godzilla show would fit with Apple’s stable of programming. Black said when they started focusing on the group of people in the central family, it all clicked into place.

Once “Monarch” had a plot and a home, the next challenge was logistics. It’s no secret that any project featuring Godzilla is going to be expensive. Black shared that the team had to find the perfect balance between the storytelling and spectacle in an affordable way — Godzilla couldn’t have as much screentime as he does in the movies, therefore the human characters needed to be that much more compelling. If it weren’t for the cast, Black said the show “wouldn’t have worked.”

The show’s casting director Ronna Kress said that the team had to look all over the world to find stars for the series, and that “each part had its own struggle,” especially the roles of Cate Randa (Anna Sawai) and Keiko (Mari Yamamoto).

“We essentially had to find two amazing Japanese actresses who were fluent in English but could also speak Japanese. And, you know, that’s not a massive talent pool … And then it was during COVID. So everything was on Zoom,” shared Kress.

Along with Cate and Keiko, Kress shared the risk they took with the casting of Kentara Randa, played by Ren Watabe, who had never acted onscreen before this series. She recounted the unique audition process.

“We were on Zoom, and he said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m a little tired I was up late last night.’ So I said, ‘What were you shooting?’ … and he said, ‘No, no, I work as a line cook.’ And we were like, ‘Wow, this is crazy.’ That was a crazy big risk too because we had to send him to Vancouver to act with Kurt Russell … but he did it!”

Watabe wasn’t the only actor taking risks by acting in the show. Yamamoto, who plays Keiko, said that she often was pushed out of her comfort zone while filming the intense action scenes.

“Every day was kind of like an adventure of like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna get rigged and you’re gonna get dropped like 40 feet.’ It’s like, ‘OK, cool.’ Like, I have a fear of heights and speed, but I’ll do it.” The actress joked that it was like “extreme exposure therapy.”

And this tight-knit team isn’t slowing down — they’ll be “upping their game” in season 2, according to Black.

Konrad shared a little bit about the ongoing process in developing the second season.

“We wanted to get into concepting as quickly as possible the moment we had anything kind of coalescing and … this process has been going before we even had a full script,” he said.

Indeed, “Monarch” will return.

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