A mystery has been brewing ever since viewers visited the monster-filled lands of Legendary’s 2017 film, Kong: Skull Island. The film revealed a shady organization called Monarch with special interests in the growing presence of titanic monsters like King Kong and Godzilla. We’ve seen these giants smash and crash on the big screen, along with a trail of clues to Monarch’s machinations. That trail continues today when Monarch: Legacy of Monsters premieres on Apple TV+, continuing the story of the Monsterverse from exciting new perspectives of its nuanced human protagonists.
To mark the massive stride of the Monsterverse, I had the pleasure of chatting with director and executive producer Matt Shakman (WandaVision, Succession, Game of Thrones). We talk about the creator’s history with Godzilla, the process of bringing this cinematic universe to a television series, and much more.
PlayStation Blog: Thanks for joining us, Matt. How did you get involved with Monarch: Legacy of Monsters?
Matt Shakman: It’s great to be here. Thank you. I’m a big Godzilla fan. I have been since I was a child. I used to watch them with my dad; They are very pleasant memories of my childhood. so when [Legendary] I was approached to direct the first two episodes of this show, I was immediately intrigued just because Godzilla was part of the package. But then when I got to read the scripts and see the really beautiful multi-generational dramatic story they had created, I was immediately drawn to it. And on top of that, there was Kurt Russell and Wyatt Russell playing the same character. [Lee Shaw]. Hugely exciting. I was really ready to go. Regarding my previous career, I am a filmmaker, director and producer, I work in theater, film and television. And that’s my story up to this point.
You mentioned that the new series spans several generations. How do you address that on the show?
So Monarch is this organization that has existed in the Legendary MonsterVerse movies. It is an organization that studies monsters. It is a somewhat reserved group. Our story is about that organization, how it came about and what it is like today. We follow characters in multiple time periods who have connections to each other in ways that are revealed over the course of the show. I don’t want to say too much about the history of those family connections. But it’s really about many generations of trauma, of dealing with what monsters mean on this earth and what life is like now that they’re part of our everyday experience. That’s what’s happening in our current timeline, after the events of the 2014 Godzilla movie, where the monsters were revealed to us for the first time. It is about a society that has to deal with a new reality and how they are going to live alongside these creatures.
How far does the show’s timeline extend in the Monsterverse?
I don’t want to say too much because I would like people to find out. “When” is a big part of the narrative, but we’re having events that happen before Skull Island even happen, after Skull Island, and events that happened closer to our present. Obviously, this is still not exactly happening in our day. But a few years ago.
You mentioned working with Kurt Russell and his son Wyatt Russell. As a director, how do you approach two different people playing the same character at different times in their lives?
I love Kurt Russell. I’m a big fan, have been since I was young, and I’m also a big fan of Wyatt and Russell. They are both great actors. Curiously, very different actors. They approach acting in different ways. They are both brilliant at what they do. So it was fun to get together and create a character with these two actors. And I think they loved it too. You know, as a father-son creative project, you can’t really think of a better one, where they would meet in the middle and say, “Okay, well, who is this guy? How is the sound? How does he walk…?
When we started filming Wyatt’s stuff, Kurt would stay in front of the monitor and study and think about it. He was looking and saying, “I can do that, I can contribute a little bit of this.” I also think Wyatt enjoyed watching his dad’s movies and was thinking, “Okay, how can I bring in some of that classic Kurt Russell stuff?” They met in the middle and I made sure that everything related to that character was a group conversation. The costumes were both at the same time, the hair and the makeup, it was all about building this character together.
What is your approach to keeping people coming back with each new episode?
It’s a human point of view all the time. And that’s what makes it special. We follow these characters who occasionally lead us to monsters. We’re seeing monsters from ground level, which I think is what sets it apart from the other Monsterverse movies, where a lot of things happen at Godzilla’s eye level, and rightly so. It’s exciting to see King Kong and Godzilla fight. [from that perspective]. For us, we’re trying to create characters that you root for and care about, and want to join week after week and see how they’re doing this week compared to last week. That’s television, right? That’s why television is different from movies.
Speaking of the human character who occasionally takes viewers to the monsters, how do you pace those key monster appearances?
It’s a great question. And it’s true, you obviously need to make sure you’re spending the right amount of time. Because, ultimately, it is a story about humans. It’s about Cate, Kentaro, Lee Shaw and all these other wonderful characters and how these monsters shape their lives. Less is more when you bring in the big guy [Godzilla]. But it also has to play a key role in the overall narrative. I can’t take credit for it. Chris Black and Matt Fraction are the creators of the show. They determined how they needed Godzilla to function in the narrative and where he would come in and play an important role in changing the story. And ultimately where their story ends and how it intersects with the story of Cate, Kentaro, Lee, Keiko and all these other characters is the joy of watching the first season.
Can you talk a little about your first memory of seeing Godzilla on screen and how it stuck with you?
My memory is sitting on an old ’70s-style couch in Ventura, California, with my dad watching a rerun of the original Godzilla on a Sunday afternoon. I had this Godzilla toy from the late ’70s that Toho made. The tail came off and shot out with a little spring… That was my favorite toy when I was a kid. And I played with it until it was just little pieces of plastic. I recently took it out of the garage, at my dad’s house, and located it. And it’s actually not that bad. The hand is missing and I had to reattach the leg. But it’s probably back on my office shelf. Now that this show is about to premiere, it’s great to repost it. I love Godzilla and so does my dad. This show makes me feel connected to my dad, similar to the way I feel secure with Wyatt and Kurt. [Russell] We enjoy working together.
Anything else you want to add?
I’m excited for people to see the show. We are really passionate about it. It’s been a lot of fun making it over the last year and we hope people enjoy it when they see it.
Watch Monarch: Legacy of Monsters now on Apple TV+ with an extended 3-month trial for a limited time on PS4 and PS5.