PIGEON FORGE — Lights, cameras, actors and plenty of umbrellas brought bustle and energy to what would have been a dark, gloomy night at Dollywood on Thursday.
The upcoming Hallmark movie, “Christmas at Dollywood” is filming at the Pigeon Forge theme park through Friday, getting footage of Dolly Parton and the cast and different areas of the park.
“Christmas at Dollywood” will air at 8 p.m. Dec. 8 on the Hallmark Channel. It stars Parton, Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from “The Wonder Years”) and Niall Matter (“When Calls the Heart”).
Both McKellar and Matter called working with Parton on this project a dream come true while on set Thursday evening.
“Here’s the thing. As great as I thought this was going to be, it’s even better, and that’s really because of Dolly. She is the most magical human being I have ever met. And she has exceeded my expectations, and my expectations were high,” said McKellar.
“She’s lovely. She’s gracious. She’s generous. She’s gorgeous, and she makes you feel like a rock star … even if she’s the rock star. She just has this gift, and I’m trying to learn what that is ’cause I want to give that to people too.”
Dolly’s role in ‘Christmas at Dollywood’
Much of “Christmas of Dollywood” has been filmed in Vancouver, Canada, but the film needed exterior shots of Dollywood since its story takes place there.
On Thursday, the crew worked on scenes around the park’s Showstreet Palace Theater, which featured a stage in front of it surrounded by giant Christmas ornaments and lights.
During one of the film’s scenes, Parton took the stage with a band behind her and welcomed a group of people to Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival.
Parton stars as herself in “Christmas at Dollywood,” and her appeal will bring great attention to the film, according to Matter.
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“Dolly Parton sets this one apart by far … I mean she is going to bring in so much viewership because everyone in the world loves Dolly,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s anyone you’re going to talk to that doesn’t admire Dolly Parton and what she’s done for this community, what she’s done in her career, and I think that a lot of people are going to be drawn to the film because we’re actually focusing on Dollywood, something that Dolly created close to her hometown, which is amazing …”
Dollywood’s 2019 Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival will begin on Saturday when the park reopens, and the event continues through Jan. 4.
‘Christmas at Dollywood’s’ story
“Christmas at Dollywood” tells the story of McKellar’s character, Rachel Lewis, who’s a single mom and Broadway producer, according to a Hallmark news release.
After some bad luck with investors, Lewis seeks out a job at Dollywood to produce a show during its Smoky Mountain Christmas festival. While at the park, she meets Dollywood entertainment director Luke Hakman (Matter), who’s more interested in a promotion than the holiday show.
“As the pair meets in the middle to please the boss, little do Rachel and Luke realize love lurks in all the unexpected places because this isn’t the Great White Way. Or Hollywood. This is Dollywood!” reads a film synopsis from the Hallmark Channel.
Nina Weinman wrote the film, and Alan Ett and Bruce Hendricks are its executive producers, according to a release from Hallmark.
It’s a part of Hallmark’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” event that began on Oct. 26. This year the network is featuring 40 new holiday films.
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