Why ‘Monarch’ Finally Brought Kurt and Wyatt Russell Together Onscreen

TheWrap magazine: Kurt Russell explains why the monster Apple TV+ series was right for him to pair up with his son

Monarch: Legacy of Monsters
Kurt Russell in "Monarch: Legacy of Monsters." (Apple TV+/Legendary)

Godzilla is having a moment. “Godzilla Minus One” won an Oscar earlier this year and was followed by a box office hit, “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire.” (Proof positive that a monster mash really can turn into a graveyard smash.) The giant radioactive creature who made his first onscreen appearance 70 years ago also showed up on the small screen in Apple TV+’s “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters.”

Created by “Severance” veteran Chris Black and legendary comic book writer Matt Fraction, the series explores the origins of Monarch, the secret government organization tasked with tracking behemoths like Godzilla.

Half-siblings (played by “Shōgun’s” Anna Sawai and newcomer Ren Watabe) unite after the death of their father, a high-ranking Monarch official (Takehiro Hira, also from “Shōgun”). It leads them to a mysterious former Monarch operative named Lee Shaw, played in the present by Kurt Russell and in flashbacks by Kurt’s son Wyatt Russell. Shaw could be the key to uncovering the biggest Monarch secrets.

What makes “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” stand out is how it flies in the face of traditional wisdom about Godzilla movies: that they sag whenever we’re spending too much time away from the monsters. With “Monarch,” it’s almost all human drama, yet it’s just as thrilling, moving and fun. It also makes the moments when Godzilla does appear even more exciting.

And Kurt Russell knows about battling otherworldly beasts. Russell, who faced off against The Thing in 1982 and was determined to destroy and remake the universe in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” has always been a fan of the King of the Monsters.

“I just remember seeing ‘Godzilla’ when I was a young kid,” he said. “I don’t know how old I was. I don’t remember anything about the story. I remember he was coming out of the water. But I don’t remember being afraid of him or terrified by him. ‘The Blob’ was terrifying. I was a little bit older when I saw ‘The Blob’ and I was like, man… That’s nightmare time for an eight-year-old. Godzilla had this thing about him. There’s a backstory there somehow. Where did he come from? It’s not a dinosaur. Why is he doing what he’s doing? And it seems like he’s always fighting other monsters. You never see a love scene between Mothra and Godzilla. They’re fighting each other. They’re fighting each other all the time. That’s what I remember.”

Part of the appeal for Russell was being able to build the character of Shaw with his son (who has appeared in series including “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Under the Banner of Heaven” and “Lodge 49”). Kurt and Wyatt have been offered parts together in the past, usually as father and son. What intrigued them this time was the possibility of playing the same character across multiple timelines. (Russell fully credits casting director Ronna Kress for coming up with the idea.)

“That’s an idea, instead of doing CGI or something else—we’ve come to find out that it’s never been done before between two known actors, father and son, in adulthood stages. And that was interesting,” the elder Russell said. “We started talking to Chris Black and Matt Fraction because it was just a casting idea. We wanted to never get in the way, but we also wanted to make (Lee) matter.

He had to have a greater purpose. “We started talking about the reality that he’s going to take

these two time periods and bring them together. He’s the only one you’re going to see in both these time periods. Ultimately, you are going to understand things through him or because of him. And then we started talking about what is the behavioral stuff that we feel will best display that for the show, for the story, and for the betterment of the concept of doing some- thing a hell of a lot more than a creature feature?”

The actor said that should you rewatch the first season of “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters,” you will notice commonalities between the two Russell performances that you might have missed the first time around. “We didn’t want to get cartoony about it, but we wanted to do a cinematic blend,” he said. “We wanted the relationships to matter so much that when you got to the end, it was extremely emotional. Because when you talk about doing something with Godzilla and all these monsters and you want to have the people matter, there’s only one chord to strike that’s going to match the grandeur of the show and those monsters, and that’s emotion.”

This story first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

Read more from the Race Begins issue here.


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