Country music legend Dolly Parton brought us a special holiday treat one year ago with the television movie, Coat of Many Colors, based on life with her family as a young girl in 1950s Smoky Mountains, TN. But her story isn’t over yet, as a sequel, Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, arrives on Wednesday, Nov. 30 on NBC. The popularity of these films seems to be leading to potentially bigger things, and Dolly herself enlightened us with her sweet, bubbly personality to talk about that.
Kerr Lordygan for Rotten Tomatoes: Christmas of Many Colors is a sequel to your Coat of Many Colors last holiday season. What will fans of the first film be surprised about here?
Dolly Parton: Well, actually we pull a lot of things from the first one over into this one. A lot of the same people that we had — our cast — are the same ones. I think they’re going to be surprised. One of the things — I’m going to actually be in the movie. I’m going to play the town tramp, the painted lady that I patterned my look after when I was a kid. I thought, “Well how fun would that be? Who could play a tramp better than me?” So anyway, I’m all painted up and dolled up when little Dolly — when my little self meets the painted lady for the first time, so I thought that would be a cool thing to do. So I’m going to actually be in it in addition to doing voiceovers and introducing it.
It’s really a two‐parter. It’s about a Christmas miracle that happened when we almost froze to death and almost died when we got trapped in a blizzard in our little cabin back in the mountains. About a Christmas miracle that happened with that, and then about the time that we all decided to forego any present we might get and do what we could to make up money to buy a wedding band for my mother, who had been married for years and had a house full of kids and never had a ring. It’s just about the joy of that. I think the bigger surprise would be that I’m in the movie.
It’s kind of like the past and present. It’s an effect when little Dolly sees her. It’s almost like, “Here I am, past and future.” It’s like me as a grown woman. If this does well — which we’re hoping it does — then I possibly will do a series based on my life. I will be in it off and on as little Dolly’s future, and she’ll be my past. So I can be able to kind of weave myself in and out of different stories and dream sequences or in sleep-dreams or in day-dreams — I can kind of be in it.
RT: And what surprised you personally in doing this production?
Parton: Well, just how well it turned out, actually. I’ve always wanted to have some holiday season — some great movie that would really be a true classic, and this one just could be. I think it’s the kind of show that we’ll show hopefully from now on around Christmastime. I was just surprised at how well it came together and how easy it was to do because the first one always of anything is the hardest. But I was just surprised and happy that we got the same cast — we had the same people, introduced a few new people in this one. But just how quick we got it done and how well it turned out.
RT: What, if anything, did you discover about yourself while making these films and what were the challenges of putting your story out there in the public?
Parton: Well, I actually don’t know that I discovered anything about myself personally, but I think I discovered what a hard‐ass job it is to be a producer! How you’ve got to make all these harsh decisions and hard things when things don’t exactly go the way you need to and you’ve got to pull back on the budget. Where are you going to get this money? How to go and do that. You always have a certain amount of money on a project and you can’t just spend out of your own money; you have to kind of stay within a budget. I think just the day‐to‐day problems of being an executive producer and trying to keep peace in the cast and trying to keep peace in the whole group. It’s a job but it’s been great because this has been blessed. Both projects have really been blessed. The people have been so sweet and easy‐going so it’s not all that hard.
RT: You’ve worked with most of them before –
Parton: Yes I have. We worked last year with them. It’s really usually not the artists themselves. A lot of times your problems — you’ve got to work with managers and accountants and the people that always want more than what you can afford and all that, so you kind of have to go through that, but that’s all part of it. That’s part of the challenge.
RT: Right. Exactly. I know this happened for the first film but how does one go through the casting process when you’re casting yourself as a character? Is that weird or hard to cast little you?
Parton: Oh, “little you…”
RT: How did you find her?
Parton: We looked through hundreds of little girls before we ever started the very first one because I said, “That little girl — whoever plays me — has got to be just right because that’s what this whole thing is based on, and for the most part it’s my story.” I said, “She’s got to have the same spirit. I’ll know her when I see her.” Different ones had thought they’d found her different times and they argued with me about it, some of them. I said, “No, we haven’t found her yet. I’ll know her when I see her.” Then when little Alyvia Lind, when they sent her, when they put her little video up for us to go through, I said, “That’s it. That’s her. That’s me. She’s got the spirit, she’s got the look.” Of course, she was prettier than I was, but all the more reason I wanted her. I thought she’ll make me look good. Seriously, She was just feisty. She had that same little spirit that I recognized in myself and I just started to cry when I saw her, when she was reading her lines. I thought, “That’s it.” I told them, “God will send her,” and I felt like He did.
RT: Yeah. She’s terrific. That’s great.
Parton: Oh, she’s just killer in this new one because she’s advanced even more. It’s really good.
RT: Can we expect any new music from you in the soundtrack?
Parton: Well actually, there’s four pieces of music. There’s a song called “Nickels and Dimes” that I wrote years ago with my brother Floyd. We play that over a montage; I sing it. I do “Circle of Love” with full choir at the end — I introduce it, and then at the end when I come back to thank them, I do that song. “Circle of Love” is the theme for it and we sing it and use it a time or two in the show. We have several little bits and pieces of music in it.
RT: Those are new recordings for the film?
Parton: Yeah, but there’s a lot of old Christmas songs as well. It’s a Christmas movie so we do a lot of — just some Christmas songs … “Deck the Halls” and “Little Town of Bethlehem” — a few little things like that that we sing throughout with all that.
RT: What has reaction been like from your family for the first film and your fans?
Parton: Oh, they loved it. They all cried. We’re having a big premiere this year at Dollywood up in my hometown. I thought, “Well why go to Hollywood and do all this stuff? Why can’t I bring it home?” My people are never going to get to come to Hollywood and do that so I’ve invited all my dad’s people and all my mom’s people and they’re all coming. There’s hundreds of them. They’re going to come and watch the show and I thought it would be only right to have it up there at home. They loved the first one. They’re going to love this one even more because we introduce this one [character], my uncle Bill Owens, who helped me in my early days. We introduce a couple more characters and so it’s really fun. The family loved it, they were real proud of how it turned out.
RT: It’s so much more meaningful, I imagine, being surrounded by your family rather than Hollywood industry people for such a personal film.
Parton: Well yes, it is, and especially because my sister Stella [Parton], she had a big part in it. She plays Corla Bass, the lady that owns the mercantile store. So she has a big part and, of course, her little character, the little Stella character when she was little, so she’s all over this movie. It’s fun to have it home because of her also.
RT: You mentioned earlier there may be more to come from you and this project, a potential series?
Parton: Yeah. If we do a series — we may do a series. And if we don’t do a series, we’ll probably do more sequels here and there, now and then. We might do a show every once in a while.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors airs Wed, Nov. 30 on NBC at 9 p.m.