Dolly Parton is doing her part to help families get in the holiday spirit by playing a hooker with a heart of gold in tonight’s NBC Christmas special, Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. The TV movie is a followup to last year’s smash hit, Coat of Many Colors, and it’s also based on a true story.
Coat of Many Colors was inspired by the tearjerker of a tale Dolly Parton sings about in her beloved song of the same name. The singer grew up impoverished in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, but what her family of 14 lacked in wealth, they made up for in love — even though young Dolly’s schoolmates made fun of the “coat of many colors” that her mother pieced together from rags, the future country superstar proudly wore the garment with love “in every stitch.”
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) November 23, 2016
In Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, Dolly Parton revisits another poignant moment from her childhood. According to the singer, the time she and her family almost froze to death is one of the personal stories that the movie brings to life. The thin walls of her family’s tiny, one-room cabin were no match for the bitterly cold wind of a relentless snowstorm.
“We lived way back in the mountains, and we had boarded up our windows to keep the snow and wind out, and had no idea it was going to snow like that. We got trapped in there,” Dolly told Entertainment Tonight.
Dolly Parton’s family had no way to get warm, so they they feared that the cold would kill them.
“We thought we were going to die and our little tears were frozen on our little faces. We were frozen, no fire, no food, no nothing.”
Dolly Parton credits the power of prayer with saving her family.
“And so it had to have been prayer that melted the snow around us and got us out of there. That’s kind of like our Christmas miracle,” Parton said.
— NBC (@nbc) November 23, 2016
Jennifer Nettles and Ricky Schroder reprise their roles as Dolly Parton’s parents in Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, and young Dolly will once again be portrayed by Alyvia Alyn Lind. Dolly Parton will also have a cameo in the movie playing someone who had a huge impact on her life: the town prostitute. Parton explained that she was impressed by the “painted lady” because no one else in town looked like her.
“I got to play the painted lady, the woman I patterned my look after when I was little,” Parton said. “I had never seen anything quite like her, with all that yellow hair piled up on her head, lipstick, long red fingernails and painted eye shadow. Like a movie star, and we didn’t see that.”
According to Dolly Parton, everyone else in town considered the prostitute “trash,” but she decided that she wanted to look just like her when she grew up.
— Taste of Country (@TasteOfCountry) November 29, 2016
Another of Dolly Parton’s childhood anecdotes served as inspiration for Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love. Parton told Parade that the “circle of love” referenced in the title is her mother’s wedding ring.
“My mother had been married and had nine kids and never had a wedding ring, so it is the story about how we all make money to get Mom a wedding ring for Christmas and what we all had to sacrifice for that,” Dolly said.
Papa Parton gets so desperate to give his wife and kids the perfect Christmas that he takes a potentially deadly job working in the Cumberland mines. Meanwhile, young Dolly Parton takes one of the first steps on her path to stardom by scoring the role of Mary in her school’s Christmas play.
Dolly Parton told the Boot that she wanted to make a Christmas movie about growing up poor in the 1950s to remind today’s gadget-obsessed families about what’s really important and to bring them closer together during the holidays.
“We’ve scattered so much, as a family, because of all the new ways, 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, so more than anything, I just want people to feel the joy of Christmas and what Christmas is really about, which is Jesus, and about just that love of family,” Parton said.
Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love airs tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.
[Featured Image by Rick Diamond/Getty Images]