There is a new series set to portray country music royalty—George Jones and Tammy Wynette—on Paramount+ and country music fans are all atwitter.
Acclaimed actors Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon are set to star in the new series, George & Tammy, which will air on the streaming service later this year, according to Vanity Fair.
“It was fascinating to me that someone like Tammy Wynette, who sang all these songs like ‘Stand by Your Man,’ also was married five times,” said Chastain of the role, which she says she researched extensively. “I was excited about this woman who was married and divorced multiple times and struggling in Nashville and really made a name for herself on her own. She charted multiple times before she met George Jones.”
Wynette married Jones in 1969 (it was the third marriage for each) and that relationship is the essence of the new forthcoming miniseries. The show will follow the musicians as they compose some of their biggest songs while also navigating the ups and downs of their at times-volatile relationship.
“I was really moved by the love story between them—I started to listen to the music and understood that they were always singing to each other,” added the actress. “They were both a huge part of each other’s lives.”
The miniseries was reportedly developed back in 2011, first as a film by creator Abe Sylvia. Lately, though, it morphed into a series. Chastain is also a producer.
“Frankly, I wasn’t that familiar with George Jones,” says Shannon of taking on the role. “I’m not a huge country music fan—I’m more of a jazz guy, really—but when she brought it to my attention, I got pretty seduced by the whole thing. It’s a tragic story, but it’s also a very romantic one.”
Chastain says, despite the unfamiliarity with the subjects, Shannon, who is a musician himself, is perfect for the series, “He’s a great singer and musician, and I’d seen him perform with his band in Brooklyn.”
Adds Shannon, “George Jones is, to my ear, one of the finest singers I’ve ever heard in my life. It’s obviously a fool’s errand to try to completely emulate that—that’s one of the reasons he’s legendary, is that there will never be another one like him.”
The six-episode series also stars Steve Zahn, Kelly McCormack, Katy Mixon, and Walton Goggins.
Chastain and Shannon trained for the show with Nashville-based vocal coach Ron Browning for several months, according to Vanity Fair.
“These songs, they’re pretty deep and they’ve got some dark corners in them, and we spent a lot of time with them,” adds Shannon. “In addition to learning how to sing them, I think they also kind of taught us about who the people were and the story we were telling.”
Songs the duo plan to sing includes Wynette’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and Jones’s “The Race Is On.” The series will also touch on the genesis of Wynette’s hit, “Stand by Your Man.”
Though she’s an Oscar-winning performer, Chastain says singing in front of an audience was “the scariest thing I’ve ever done.” She also changed her body for the role to mimic the time in Wynette’s life when she was addicted to painkillers. “I don’t really like to look at scales, but I stopped eating,” says Chastain. “I was drinking juices and I kept doing it until I looked sick.”
Wynette died in 1998 at the age of 55. The series, directed by John Hillcoat, will premiere in 2022.
“I think the bottom line is they were both tough people,” offers Shannon, summing up the roles. “They overcame some pretty insurmountable situations to get to the limelight.”
Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images