Dolly Parton and Jennifer Nettles returned to television Wednesday night (Nov. 30) in the highly anticipated holiday sequel, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, on NBC. The sequel was a follow-up to Dolly’s original family story, Coat of Many Colors, which aired to rave reviews earlier this year.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love continued with the story of young Dolly Parton as the Parton Family experienced a true Christmas miracle, drawing the Partons closer together than ever. Jennifer Nettles returned with a stellar performance as Dolly’s mother, Avie Lee Parton, and Ricky Schroder, Gerald McRaney and Alyvia Alyn Lind, who plays a young Dolly, reprised their roles.
Jennifer and Dolly sat down at a recent press conference to talk about the movie and the experience they had on set.
Can you give some insight to the casting for the movies, Coat of Many Colors and Christmas of Many Colors?
Dolly: You always take a lot of time when you are trying to put a movie together especially when it has to do with your family—with people you love. It was so important to me that all the people really represent my brothers and sisters, my mom and my dad. Ricky reminded me so much of my brothers and my dad and my dads people. So when we got ready to find daddy, I thought Ricky was the perfect person.
Jennifer had sent in a tape and she had darkened her hair—I didn’t even realize it was her. We were just looking and I said ‘that’s mama, that’s mama!” They said ‘do you know who that is?’ and I said, ‘It’s mama!’ The rest is history because I thought Jennifer was so perfect. Jennifer was the perfect person and I’m so proud of you and mom, who I know is watching, would be so proud.
How much is the sequel based on real life events?
Dolly: The sequel is other true stories from my life. It’s called Circle of Love and the circle of love represents, of course, the family circle and the halo and the crown of thorns and Jesus’ birthday but one of the stories in this is when we as children and my dad all made up money one Christmas to buy mama a wedding ring—she had a house full of kids and never had a wedding ring—that also represents the circle of love. All the stories about Coat of Many Colors, and if we wind up doing a sequel —which we might— it will be called Life of Many Colors, but it will all be based on different stories that really happened to us at some point along the way.
What was your relationship with Dolly before the audition?
Jennifer: I had met you, Dolly, a couple of times, but just in passing. One year we did a VH1 tribute to Reba, I met you there. One time at CMAfest I met you there, but this was just in passing and obviously as a fan. Having the opportunity to get to know you a bit more through these movies, not only in the times we spent together, but when you play a role like that—I was super excited for this sequel I will be honest. Not only in the opportunity as a process to get to make the movie but to learn more about your story as a little girl—to get to hear those stories continued because we see in you a women that everybody knows and we have these ideas about you, but to get to know the person from your story and your childhood, I think it makes it so much more intimate.
What was something that surprised you to learn about Dolly’s story through this experience?
Jennifer: I think some of the intimacies in the details are what you get more of. Obviously we know Judy, we have seen Judy in Dolly’s life—Judy Ogle—for all these years. But to get to know that story of that friendship, to get to know how that developed, to get to know how protective they were of each other and still are today. Those moments are what makes this movie that much more special because we get to know her as a person. When you get to know someone as a child, as children we are who we are in the purest sense, they have no filter—not that you have a filter now (laughs)—the authenticity that you have is what we love about you and what we love about Dolly so much, but to get to know that child is so special.
Is there one scene in the movie that means more to you when watching it?
Dolly: Yes, because I am executive producer, I had to go in to watch because we were trying to decide where the music should be and what songs we wanted to play over certain things. In the movie, when we are freezing to death and dying—we were so cold, we were trapped in our house, the snow had trapped us in because we boarded up the windows because of the wind and the cold, not knowing it was coming a blizzard. We were trapped in the house, we couldn’t get out, so when we got into that part when mama was praying and the tears were froze on our little faces (choking up)—when I was watching that I just can’t hardly bare it. It’s a good kind of pain though. It’s a sweet sorrow but I guess Parton is such sweet sorrow (laughs).
What’s one of the biggest things you want viewers to take away from this movie?
Dolly: I want people to feel better about themselves. I want them to feel in the Christmas spirit. I want them to feel closer as a family. I want them to feel closer to God because it really is like a faith based movie. We just want families to feel closer together because we are just kind of scattered so much as a family because of all the new technology —which is wonderful to have all these great things available to us—but we lose a lot about family. More than anything I just want people to feel the joy of Christmas and what Christmas is really about—which is Jesus—and about that love of family and just feeling happy.
Jennifer: I think I would love for people to feel connected and be reminded of their own stories. That’s what all art in it’s highest function and form does, is it connects and reminds us of our own stories. I hope that this story connects us more to ourselves and to each other.
What are some of your own Christmas traditions?
Jennifer: I have a son who is almost four years old and for me it has become all about that. It’s always been about family and food and those things are usually the traditions that we really celebrate. But now, getting to see the holiday through his eyes and getting to celebrate that tradition with him is pretty special for me.
Dolly: We just do what we always do, we get together with family. I’m like a child at Christmas. Christmas I love. I’ve got all these little nieces and nephews that I love and they love me. They call me GiGi. I have all these little nieces and nephews that come to my house—we do cookie night every year, we have for years and years and years. I dress up like Santa Claus, like Granny Claus we call it. I have an elevator in my house and I have it painted like a chimney with fire. I go up and get presents from upstairs and I come down the chimney in my suit with all the stuff. That has become such a special tradition. We call it cookie night. To me I can’t wait to do that with them. We have fun. We have little ones that get to be my elves. I come down and get a load of kids and go back up and get some more presents and they help me load it up. So that’s a fun thing.
After making the movie Dolly, is there anything you’d go back and say to your younger self?
Dolly: I’d just say, you’d better buckle up, because we are in for the ride of our lives.
If you missed Wednesday night’s airing, Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love will be available Dec. 20 on DVD and will include featurettes, deleted scenes and more.
Photo by © Curtis Hilbun / AFF-USA.COM