On November 30th, more than 11 million viewers tuned in to NBC's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, the sequel to last year's award-winning film Coat of Many Colors, inspired by Dolly Parton's song of the same name and the true, heartwarming story behind that iconic 1971 single. The sequel, which featured Parton in a cameo role as the "Painted Lady," helped NBC earn its highest ratings for a Wednesday night so far in the 2016-17 season.
On Tuesday, December 20th, Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love debuts on DVD, with deleted scenes and featurettes, including interviews with the cast and a look at the first song Parton ever wrote – "Little Tiny Tasseltop" – at age five.
Jennifer Nettles earned raves for her role as Parton's mother, Avie Lee, whose special bond with the fourth of her 12 children is a centerpiece of the story recalled in the films. For Nettles, who recently released a Christmas album and helped soundtrack country radio in the early 2000s with Kristian Bush in Sugarland, the role was a chance to spread her wings.
"That was a fun part for me," Nettles tells Rolling Stone Country. "I grew up doing theater and I love all of the performing arts, but what an honor to make my acting debut, so to speak … with this particular role."
Nettles' favorite aspect of the film's sequel, she notes, was the opportunity to reunite with her fellow cast members, including Ricky Schroder, who plays Parton patriarch Robert, and Alyvia Alyn Lind, who plays the singer as a young girl.
"You become like a family," Nettles explains. "You already have that chemistry established; everybody knows each other, so there's not those moments of sort of figuring out each other's timing and phrasing – all those pieces that you really want to get into a role and with other actors. I was excited to jump back into it and to continue that story with that family."
Christmas of Many Colors also afforded the "Unlove You" singer the chance to learn more about the woman behind the songs, and how friendships and family influenced her upbringing.
"We know her music, but to get to see her as a child in that intimate story, you get the backstory of what really made her," she says. "She tells her stories in her music, so if you know her music, you get to know some of those broader strokes. To know the intricacies, for example, of how her relationship with [lifelong friend] Judy Ogle came to be and how they protected each other, I think those moments are super sweet. To get to know how close she was with her family and with her parents and what kind of role they had and their faith had, her grandfather being a pastor. You get to see how all those relationships really shaped her as a person."
The seven-time host of ABC's annual CMA Country Christmas special released her first solo holiday LP this year with To Celebrate Christmas, and used that hosting experience to vet some of the Christmas songs she ultimately included on the album, finding the ones she felt connected to the most. Among them: the somewhat obscure Irving Berlin tune "Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep," from the 1954 film White Christmas.
When it comes to choosing her own favorite holiday-themed flick, Nettles admits her fondness for a certain 2003 romantic comedy that has become a Christmas staple. "I love Love Actually. I love it as a holiday movie and I love it year-round. It's so good."
Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love is available on DVD and will re-air on NBC on Friday, December 23rd.