As she sits in her manager’s Nashville office dressed in a bright yellow jacket and fitted pair of white capris, it’s obvious that being an overachiever suits Dolly Parton just fine. During her career, she’s sold more than 100 million records, scored 25 Number One country hits and won numerous awards. Now with a new album, tour, TV movie and a wedding in the works, the iconic entertainer has never been busier.
Most recent among Parton’s many achievements is the success of her autobiographical 2015 TV movie Coat of Many Colors, which was released on DVD May 3rd. The initial NBC broadcast was seen by nearly 16 million viewers, inspiring a sequel — Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love — that will be released this fall. “This one is a Christmas movie and is about the time that mama didn’t have a wedding ring and we all saved up money to buy mama a ring for Christmas,” Parton reveals. “And it’s about a blizzard that about done us in on the mountain years ago.”
Returning from the first film for Circle of Love are cast members Jennifer Nettles as Parton’s mother, Avie Lee; Ricky Schroder (handpicked by Parton) as her father, Robert Lee Parton; Gerald McRaney as her grandpa, Reverend Jake Owens; and Alyvia Alyn Lind as young Dolly.
“I think it spoke to a lot of people,” Parton says of the film’s ratings success. “A lot of people relate to it and then I think also people are missing faith-based, family-oriented shows on television, like The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie.”
Coat of Many Colors was part of a multi-movie deal Parton signed with NBC. Also in the works are TV movies based on her hit songs “Jolene” and “The Seeker.” “We just got approval on the script for Jolene and The Seeker is being written,” Parton says. “We’re really hoping for a series out of that one. What we are trying to do with that is we’ll have a character, almost like a Christ-like type of character, but someone struggling like my song says, ‘I’m just a seeker, a poor sinful creature / there is no weaker than I am / I am a seeker. You are teacher / You are a reacher, so reach down.’ He has this gift, but he struggles with it and doesn’t completely understand it, but everywhere he goes he makes wonderful things happen. So it’s really a cross between Highway to Heaven and Touched by an Angel type of thing, but it’s a male. He’d be like a singer or writer traveling around. It will have a message and each week something wonderful will happen.”
As for the fourth piece of Parton’s deal, that still remains uncertain. “I’ll possibly do maybe a performance piece,” she says. “I’m not sure yet what that fourth thing is going to be. If I do a series it possibly could be on NBC. I’m not quite sure yet.”
“Everything is going so great right now and I’m riding on such a good wave”
Not willing to put all her eggs in one basket, Parton has the option to develop projects for other networks. “I may have three or four things on the air. I’m not exclusive for NBC. I can have stuff at other places as well.”
There has also been talk of a Broadway show about Parton’s life, but she says that’s on the back burner for now. “I’ve written that. I’ve been doing that over 12 years and just went up to New York recently and I saw how time-consuming that really needs to be in order to get that right,” she confesses. “Everything is going so great right now and I’m riding on such a good wave that I’m going to wait until I wash ashore and then I’ll see when I have the time to devote — maybe in two or three more years. . . . Eventually we will definitely have it out there.”
In addition to developing the movies for her NBC agreement, Parton’s top priorities are of the Pure and Simple variety. “The name of the album is called Pure & Simple, which is also the name of the tour,” Parton says of her 66-city trek, which launches June 3rd. “The title track is a really sweet little song. When I wrote it, it was a love song and I thought, ‘Well I think I’ll just write an album of love songs.’ This year I’ll be married 50 years, so it just seemed to be a good time to talk about love, different kinds of love, so that’s basically what it is. It’s a love song album and has a good variety of things, ballads and some fast ones as well, some cute things, some serious and some meaningful things, so it’s all not overdone. There’s a lot of pure and simple things on it.”
Parton fans also have something else special to look forward to with the September 9th release of The Complete Trio Collection, which features newly remastered songs and some unreleased gems from 1987’s Trio and 1999’s Trio II, both Grammy-winning collaborations with Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. “I think people will get a big kick out of that,” Parton says. “There’s some songs that people have never heard. Some of the ones that they did hear, they’ve been remastered and remixed and really sound good. That’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I’m so happy I got to be that other girl singer with the two of them because our voices just blended so well.”
Though Parton has been juggling many different projects in 2016, the event closest to her heart is her 50th anniversary celebration and the renewal of her wedding vows to husband Carl Dean. “How many people can say they’ve been married 50 years? We’ve made it this long, we need to do it again,” she says. “[Parton’s creative director and clothing designer] Steve Summers designed my dress and he bought Carl a really beautiful suit, so we’re all ready. My dress is kind of off-white. I’ve always wanted a big beautiful dress, the whole thing. We’re doing it here in Nashville.”
In addition to getting the fancy wedding dress she’s always wanted, Parton also got new rings. “These are my old wedding rings and I never wanted to change them. My husband and I bought these rings on his mother’s credit card and paid for them until we paid them off,” Parton says, gazing at the half-carat diamond she now wears on her right hand to make room for the new stunner she’s sporting on her left ring finger. “I had this one done up for the new wedding. It’s three-and-a-half carats. I had it made out in L.A.”
Parton plans to sell photos from the wedding and the money will benefit the Imagination Library, the charity she launched years ago to fight illiteracy by giving books to children. “We’ll take some pictures so people can actually see Carl and how he looks,” she says of her famously press-shy spouse. “The whole thing is really going to be special.”