Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is set to be the epic glue that holds together the MonsterVerse going forward. The blockbuster cinematic universe from the past decade continues next year with Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, but in the meantime, Monarch has been airing weekly on Apple TV+ and is approaching its final two episodes on Jan. 5 and Jan. 12. The series balances a large ensemble cast and different timelines to stitch together the story of the titular secret organization that has been studying MUTOs (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism), basically the MonsterVerse equivalent of kaijus.
Bill Randa is a cryptozoologist who studies these creatures, and was played by John Goodman in 2017’s Kong: Skull Island. Anders Holm (Workaholics) portrays Randa in the 1950s throughout Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, forming one of the best relationships on the show with a Japanese scientist named Keiko (Mari Yamamoto of Pachinko). The pair work on and off with the eventually former Army officer and adventurous helping hand, Lee Shaw (played by both Wyatt Russell and his father Kurt Russell in different time periods).
We spoke with Holm and Yamamoto about the show and their characters, what it’s like to act in John Goodman’s shoes, and what Godzilla means today. You can check out our video interview above.
Creating a Relationship in the MonsterVerse
Anders Holm is famous for his comedy work, such as co-creating and starring in the series Workaholics and the film Game Over, Man!, along with a bounty of sitcom roles, so it’s a little surprising to see him in Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, but he fits right in. Holm brings a humor and calm to the wild drama that unfolds, and is a charming presence. We asked why he’d want to be involved in something so different — basically, he thought it was cool.
I mean, right off the bat, they were like, “It’s Godzilla.” And I was like, “I’m in. But like, what about it?” And then they were like, “It’s 10 episodes. It’s more of a human story. There’s a mystery element to it. You play young John Goodman.” And I was like, “Shut up. I’m doing it. Let’s make it.” And it was an amazing experience.
“I think for me, getting to play something so epic in scale — I don’t think you get to do that very often as an actor, in this world where monsters exist,” said his co-star Mari Yamamoto on her interest in the character. “And also to be able to play a period piece in Hollywood as an Asian person was also really exciting. I don’t think we’ve seen a lot of Japanese-American stories, sometimes, but I think it’s quite rare. So to have this trailblazing woman, you know, a Japanese woman kind of navigate a man’s world in the 1950s, like the military and all these things, whilst hunting monsters and selling a fantasy, was just a dream come true. Truly.”
The pair have a great relationship that we see throughout the 1950s as Monarch jumps around time, from meeting in the forest to being married and starting a family. It’s a love story of mutual obsession, and the pair balance each other out. Holm and Yamamoto credit creators Chris Black and Matt Fraction and the rest of the writers for this; the actors never really sat down and hashed the relationship out, opting to just trust the script and the process.
“I don’t think we ever sat down on or had a conversation about it,” explained Yamamoto. “Anders is just so present as a person and in the scenes too, so it’s just so easy to be in it together and just react off of each other. I think we both bring sort of different things. [Anders] brings levity and I think I bring a lot of intensity, so these opposing forces kind of work in our favor.”
“I feel like it was on the page,” added Holm. “The characters are so well-written and so nuanced. Those guys, they know what they’re doing.”
Anders Holm as Young John Goodman
When we spoke with Kurt and Wyatt Russell about playing the same character, they mentioned that there was a kind of through line between their performances. Of course, it makes more sense for them to do that — they’re father and son and have pretty similar dispositions. For Holm, it was a very different situation playing young John Goodman. We asked him if he tried to model his performance after Goodman in any way:
“To be honest, there is like one mannerism. I’m not going to say it, because if I tell you, you’re gonna steal my job. But thankfully, they told me I didn’t have to, like, embody John Goodman. And that was great, because I can’t deliver that. He’s got the classic John Goodman energy that we’ve loved for years. Whether it’s Roseanne, Big Lebowski, like all these unbelievably classic roles that could be played by no one else. So I wasn’t gonna even try and step in their shoes, but I brought my energy and I just did what I could do.”
Yamamoto did what she could do, too, and probably more than that. There are some challenging physical moments that required her full involvement, bringing the actor to the edge of her fears. “I was ecstatic through the whole thing, I would say, but in terms of difficulty, the last scene of the first episode, when Keiko falls to her death, that was me actually just falling on the wire over and over. So it was definitely extreme exposure therapy to my fear of heights and speed, and I think I can say I kind of conquered it,” said Yamamoto, who added with a laugh, “though it didn’t end well for me, but, you know, in theory I’ve conquered it.”
Japanese Godzilla vs. American Godzilla
One of the most interesting things about such an international series like Monarch: Legacy of Monsters is seeing both distinct cultural differences but also how they intertwine to portray something universal. There’s such a diverse cast and crew, which brings a multiplicity of perspectives. Yamamoto has an interesting vantage point as a Japanese actor working in this more Hollywood incarnation of the famous Godzilla with the MonsterVerse. She explained the possible differences in how the Japanese view Godzilla as opposed to Americans.
“So I’m Japanese, I was born and raised in Japan,” explained Yamamoto. “I do think I have an understanding of the American perspective, but I do think it’s different for Japanese people. I think it’s just so fascinating how Japanese people processed the war or, in a way, they didn’t process the war. And when Godzilla came out in 1954, I think it hit really hard at something that they hadn’t really addressed inside themselves, that they carried all of this fear and trauma and terror of something terrible that had happened to them collectively. And then seeing a figure that, in a way, represented that, it must have been so cathartic. And also it probably shifted the zeitgeist in some way, I imagine.” She continued:
And so, that legacy continues and will always be part of how we view Godzilla. And I feel like in the American perspective, I think people relate to the monster perhaps more. I can see how it’s just, in a different way, cathartic to see something so colossal not giving any thought to the wreckage it leaves in its wake. It’s sort of satisfying to just see something destroy everything in its wake. So I can understand that part of it as well.
Monarch: Legacy of Monsters streams on Apple TV+, with the final two episodes coming to the platform on Jan. 5 and Jan. 12. The first episode is free to watch. You can find the series through the link below:
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