Dolly Parton Hopes ‘Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love’ Will Bring Families Together

We caught up with Dolly Parton and Jennifer Nettles ahead of the premiere of  'Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.'

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Dolly Parton Hopes ‘Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love’ Will Bring Families Together
Photo by: Quantrell Colbert/NBC

On Wednesday night, November 30, NBC will premiere Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love – the sequel to last year’s highly-rated Coat of Many Colors. Based on the growing-up years of Dolly Parton, the singer said she and her production staff were very careful in selecting the actors that played her and her family members in the film.

“You always take a lot of time when you’re putting a movie together – especially when it has to do with your family, and the people you love,” she admitted at a recent media event to promote the movie. “It was so important to me that the actors really represented my brothers and my sisters and all my family. We went through tons and tons of people to find the right ones, and we felt really blessed to have all of them. Ricky really reminded me – and I’d always said this long before we knew we were going to do this – of my brothers, my dad, my dad’s people.”

That was especially true of Alyvia Alyn Lind, who earned rave reviews for her portrayal of young Dolly, as well as veteran actor Ricky Schroder, who effectively captured the role of her father, Robert Lee. “When we got ready to find ‘Daddy,’ I thought Ricky was the perfect person,” Parton said.

Of the actress who brought the legend’s mother, Avie Lee, to life, Parton confesses that the casting was a little bit unexpected of a process.

“When we were trying to find ‘Mama,’ I knew she was like little Dolly. Those were two people that had to be perfect. Mama was such a strong influence in my life. They’d bring people in for the role, and I would say ‘It doesn’t feel right.’

Then, something caught Parton’s eye. “They looked at me, and said ‘Do you know who that is? I said ‘It’s Mama!’ They said ‘That’s Jennifer Nettles! I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ Jennifer had sent in a tape and she had darkened her hair. I didn’t even realize it was her. I thought she was so perfect for the role. My mom had that sweet and gentle way. I am so proud of her, and my mom-who is watching- would be so proud.”

Nettles said she is humbled and flattered by Parton’s description of her work in the films. “If you would have told me that I would have had the career that I have had thus far, and be sitting here with Dolly Parton, who is absolutely one of my heroes, I wouldn’t believe you,” Nettles expressed. “She’s someone I emulate in so many ways, in terms of what she has done as a writer, recording artist, actress, and as a businesswoman. I couldn’t have planned it better myself.”

In describing the plot for Wednesday’s film, Parton said “The movie is called ‘Circle Of Love,’ and the circle represents the family circle, and the halo, crown of thorns and Jesus’ birthday. One of the stories in the movie is when we as children and dad all got up the money to buy Mama a wedding ring for Christmas. She had a house full of kids, and never had a wedding ring. That also represents the circle of family. There’s another part of the movie about a Christmas miracle that actually happened when we got snowbound in our little cabin in the hollow and almost died. We almost froze to death, and Daddy was gone. We didn’t have any food, and we couldn’t get out. It’s a miracle through prayer that my mama had.”

The success of Coat of Many Colors was very special for Parton, though she admitted not surprising, allowing that the timing seemed to be right for such a project. “That particular song was so meaningful because it was so much more than a song. I just felt like it should be a movie. It was so special, and a ‘meant to be’ thing for these times. I think we need more family things. I think people are missing things like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons. Obviously, they were, because we got a really good rating. Hopefully, this one will do as well.”

What would the singer want viewers to come away with after watching this week? “For myself, I want people to feel better about themselves, to be in the Christmas spirit,” she says, adding that “I want them to feel closer as a family. I want them to feel closer to God. One of the things we did with this movie is deal with the fact that the ‘Circle of Love’ is about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and we have the little kids trying to act out the nativity scene. We just want families to feel closer together, because we’ve kind of scattered so much as a family because of all of the new technology – which is wonderful to have all these great things available to us. But, I think we lose a lot – and have lost a lot about family. More than anything, I want people to feel the joy of Christmas, and what it is really about – Jesus.”

Parton only appeared at the beginning and end of Coat of Many Colors, but she does have an acting role in the new film – as a very important person in Parton’s development of her style – a woman known as the “Painted Lady” in her native Sevierville, TN. “I’ve always said that I patterned my look after the town trollop, tramp, or ho. She was the loose woman in town, but I thought she was absolutely beautiful. She had real tight clothes, red nails, lipstick, and piled up peroxide hair. I had never seen anything like that. I thought ‘That’s how I want to look.’ People would say ‘Oh, she’s just trash.’ But, I would always say ‘That’s what I want to be when I grow up.’ We worked it in where I would play the part of that painted lady that I patterned my look after. We ‘Hollywood-ed’ her up a little. She looks a little more glamorous than the woman back home. It’s a wonderful little scene in the movie, It’s one of the things that I’m proudest of – that I actually got to be in the movie, and it makes sense. And, who better than me to play a ‘Painted Lady?”

Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love airs Wednesday night on NBC. The DVD will be released on December 20 from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.