Jessica Chastain, Michael Shannon on Dueting in ‘George and Tammy’  

George and Tammy, the Showtime limited series about the lives and tumultuous relationship between country stars George Jones and Tammy Wynette, premiered in Los Angeles on Monday in what caps more than a decade-long journey for Jessica Chastain.

The star — fresh off of an Oscar win for playing another Tammy in The Eyes of Tammy Faye — has been attached to the project since 2011 when it was first being developed as a film, and also served as a producer on the series.

Chastain told   that she was so inspired by showrunner Abe Sylvia’s passion for the couple’s story that it “put me down the rabbit hole of who they were and then I became obsessed with them as well.”

“I’m very protective of them and I can’t imagine anyone else playing her, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing George, which was why I called Mike,” she continued, pointing to costar Michael Shannon, who she recruited to play Jones. “I know how protective Mike is of the characters he plays so it just felt like the right recipe for a working environment.”

The two actors have been longtime friends since costarring in 2011’s Take Shelter, as Shannon said he didn’t know much about Jones before taking on the role but “I like working with Jessica and I like singing so it was a perfect combo.”

Shannon — who is a musician in his own right as part of indie rock band Corporal — and Chastain both went through extensive vocal training to prepare for the performance, and reflected on their first time singing together onscreen with duet “Something To Brag About.”

“It was fun, it was like finally. We had been working for so long,” Chastain recalled, as Shannon added, “We had been waiting a long time to do it and the extras were really excited and they were nice to us — nobody threw any apples or tomatoes or anything. It was a fun song and not too overly difficult so that was fun.”

Sylvia said he was blown away, as well as relieved, the first time he heard his two leads sing together.

“I was like, ‘This is going to work,’ he remembered. “It’s a big swing to take on these icons. They have incredible chemistry as friends and actors and amazing trust, so they go to some very dark places and some very joyful places together.”

“If they didn’t have that longstanding friendship and trust and sense of play, the show wouldn’t have worked,” he continued. “The show is dancing on the needle of their chemistry.”

Sylvia said that fell in love with the couple through his research, and pushed through the decade-long development process because it was “too important of a story and too beautiful of one not to fight for it.” He knew Chastain — whom he also worked with when writing The Eyes of Tammy Faye — was his Tammy Wynette after seeing her in The Tree of Life, and spoke about the importance of she and Shannon actually singing in the series.

“I think that the important thing to remember is George and Tammy themselves conveyed so much pain and beauty and sorrow and joy and happiness and all of this emotion in their vocals, and that’s what we wanted to capture with Michael and Jessica,” Sylvia said. “The vocals are recorded live and you get their true feelings in the vocals at all times, that’s how they’re most like George and Tammy.”

And despite the long journey to the screen, the creator was never discouraged: “I think the country music gods have been looking out for us on this project, make sure we made it the right way.”

George and Tammy premieres on Showtime on Dec. 4.

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