Billy Ray Cyrus Talks Creating Still The King

A Walk With His Dog Started It All

Billy Ray Cyrus has been a part of the country music family since the debut of his chart-topping 1992 album Some Gave All. The Kentucky native also pursued a very successful television career, garnering a great deal of recognition starring beside daughter Miley Cyrus on Hannah Montana.

Sunday night (June 12), Cyrus returns to your TV screen on a show of his own invention, Still The King.

We caught up with the “Hey Elvis” singer to chat about his new show and what else he has coming down the pipeline.

Where did you get the idea for Still The King?

I was down South doing some tour dates and thinking about reinvention, wondering, “Where do I go at this stage in my career?” and reinvent myself out of Hannah Montana and my first series Doc. I knew I needed to do something different if I was going to do it. I stepped out to walk my dog, and looked and there was an old pentecostal church and the backdrop landscape was straight out of the Louisiana Hayride with Elvis, and I thought, “That’s a good reinvention: a dysfunctional Elvis impersonator who lies his way into the church as preacher.” I went in and wrote it down right then, and I underlined “dysfunctional,” because I knew that would be important.

Tell us about your character, Vernon Brown.

My character Vernon Brown is a guy that in the late ’80s had a humungous hit record, and in the midst of his fame, he imploded. He also finds out that he’s got a 15-year-old daughter that he’s never seen. He’s got a great heart, but he’s easily tempted to go the wrong direction. As hard as he tries to be good and do the right thing, he finds it easier and more convenient to do the wrong thing.

What was it like working with Joey Lauren Adams, who plays Debbie, the mother of Vernon’s daughter?

First and foremost, she’s such a great actress and it just felt so natural. It felt like a family. By the time we brought in Madison Iseman, who plays our daughter Charlotte, it felt very real, and just the chemistry of the whole cast has been nothing less than magical.

Do you have a favorite moment from being on set?

Theres just so many great moments, it’s been so great making this show. The cast is brilliant, the writers have done a great job and our partnership with CMT has all been fun.

If you could play any other character on the show, which would you choose?

I’m lucky on this show, because I actually get to play a couple different characters. There’s Vernon, a preacher and Elvis. It’s one of those three all the time, and it’s about finding that balance.

Do you have a favorite line or scene from the first season?

I love the way the show begins, “expect the unexpected” might be a good mantra for Still The King. It opens with Randy Travis as the sheriff who finds me in a creek, naked and drunk, which I think is a great place to start.

What was it like filming on location in Nashville?

It’s been great filming here and meeting lots of fans who live in the area. The entire community has been so supportive of the show.

What can fans expect from you as an artist in the near future?

I have a new album coming out called “Thin Line,” which is written from the idea that there’s a thin line between Elvis and Jesus, between Willie and the Lord. There’s a thin line between a lot of things in life. I also have a new video called “Hey Elvis.” I think there’s a little bit of Elvis in all of us, and people try to find their inner Elvis, and when you get in to a spot where you channel Elvis, there’s something fun about that.

And lastly, tell us about the #CowOfTheDay campaign we have been seeing on your Instagram and Twitter.

I have one cow. He’s the only cow I’ve ever had. He’s a rescue cow named Eddy. I took a picture of him and called it “Cow of the Day,” and it just kind of caught on. But now I’m out of cows, so I’m open to submissions. If you have a good cow, send me a picture. I need a cow of the day.

Still The King premieres Sunday (June 12) at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CMT.

Writer and social-ite for CMT, lover of all things Nashville, and firm believer that Ross and Rachel were not on a break.