How Indie Rocker Beth Ditto Became Gigi Roman on ‘Monarch’
In real life, Monarch actor Beth Ditto is a punk rocker with a thin acting resume, but before you question her country cred, listen to her talk.
"We have a thing in my family called double cousins, where you're related on both sides of your family, your mom and your dad's side," says Ditto, who plays Gigi Roman on Monarch. "So like, you'd be like, 'There's Terry, he's my second cousin on my mom's side and he's my first on my dad's.'"
"Susan was like, 'Shut the f--k up. I seriously was like, 'She's right. Just shut up. They'll tell you what's wrong.' It was amazing ... It was the best advice."
The Judsonia, Ark., native grew up on country music and can school you on classic songs from the '70s, '80s and '90s, even if she's not quite old enough to have lived all of those decades. Her life and career took a big turn about two decades ago, however, when she formed the successful, award-winning punk rock band called Gossip in the Pacific Northwest.
Talking to Taste of Country, she proudly points out that she's one of just three true Southerners on Monarch (along with Trace Adkins and Kevin Cahoon) and one of just two professional musicians (Adkins). Despite her inexperience in front of a camera ("Four months in I was like (whispers), 'Anna, what's the master shot?'") she felt right at home with her castmates — most of them, anyways.
"They literally were like, 'A fat, gay country singer.' And I was like, 'Who else you gonna get?'" Ditto riffs when asked how the role came to her.
"Listen, I don't try very hard. I'm not a very ambitious person," she admits. "Good enough is fine with me. I'm comfortably middle class. I could lease a very nice Nissan Sentra. My credit is decent. It's not great, but it's good enough.
Watching Beth Ditto talk makes one wonder if television comedy is in her future. "So, good enough is fine with me," she continues, "but this I really, really, really wanted, so I auditioned like four times."
Others auditioned for the role of Gigi, the rough-and-tumble black sheep of the Roman family. Two episodes in, viewers are learning how talented she is, with one in-show news outlet calling her the next queen of country. It's not a role the character embraces, however — Ditto describers Gigi Roman as confident, but uninterested in a life that has only hurt her.
"She's been pushed around by her mom and criticized a lot because she's big and she's gay and she's weird," Ditto shares. "She's more like her dad. She's very close to her dad."
Ditto — who is gay in real life — reveals that she has grown very close to Adkins. They create quite the odd couple, but the On Becoming a God in Central Florida (Showtime) star admits that toward the end of production, she'd wander into his dressing room space just to see what he was up to, or what stories he had to tell.
"Two people could not be more different, but at the same time, I feel like we understood each other," she says.
As for Susan Sarandon?
Actually, Ditto has nothing but kind words to say about the actor who plays Dottie Cantrell Roman, but (like Adkins) she admits to being a little afraid of her. During one scene, she was having a hard time with where she should be and how she should walk along rough terrain, and she was really projecting her anxieties.
"Susan was like, 'Shut the f--k up,'" Ditto recalls, laughing. "I seriously was like, 'She's right. Just shut up. They'll tell you what's wrong.' It was amazing ... It was the best advice."
Monarch airs on FOX on Tuesday nights at 8PM ET.