NEW YORK (AP) — A late-night glimpse of a Pentecostal church while he was walking his dog inspired country singer Billy Ray Cyrus to dream up a television series that the CMT network said Thursday will become part of its schedule early next year.
Cyrus will star in the comedy "Still the King" as Vernon Brown, a one-hit country star turned Elvis Presley impersonator who becomes a minister at a country church outside of Nashville, Tennessee.
CMT also is planning a docuseries on "American Idol" singer Kellie Pickler and her marriage, a coming-of-age documentary involving a group of friends in small-town Florida, a series starring YouTube prankster Ed Bassmaster and a late-night talk show with Josh Wolf, a former sub on Chelsea Handler’s E! Entertainment network show.
The network announced its plans for the next year in a meeting with advertisers in Manhattan on Thursday.
"Still the King" puts CMT back into business with Cyrus, daddy of Miley and frequent presence on the network when his "Achy Breaky Heart" was a hit two decades ago.
"We built bridges around the world together in the early ’90s, places where country music hadn’t been or hadn’t been for a long time," Cyrus said in an interview. "Getting together again with CMT was very exciting."
One night when his tour bus made a gas stop on the Gulf Coast, Cyrus walked with his dog and began thinking about how Elvis Presley performed in the area at the start of his career. He saw a church in the distance, and things came together in his mind when the bus ride resumed.
"I was sitting there with a notebook scribbling out idea after idea," he said. "It didn’t take long to realize that there’s a thought here that’s interesting, that’s funny, that’s smart, that’s dumb — all of those things."
Since Cyrus is a country singer with a career of ups and downs and the grandson of a Pentecostal preacher, Brown’s character fell into the "write what you know" category.
"Vernon has a great heart and really means to do good," he said. "But sometimes he just can’t help himself. Once you’ve pretended to be the King, where do you go from there?"