A Dolly Parton cinematic universe? Yes, please.
The year of Dolly continues with the debut of “Heartstrings,” an eight-part Netflix series (now streaming) that explores beloved stories and songs from her cultural pride. Each episode features a different cast that tackles a piece of Parton’s canon, from “Jolene” to “If I Had Wings” and the tales in between.
Parton introduces each episode and, of course, pops up for an occasional supporting role.
“I write stories,” Parton says. “When I was back home and we didn’t get to go to the movies or have stories, I would perform them and, really, it was like my family was gettin’ to go to the movies. I would sing these songs, and I would create all these stories and pictures in my songs. And everybody used to say, ‘This should be a movie (and) this should be a movie.’ ”
So about three years ago, she pitched to Netflix the idea of transforming her songs to cinema. And it worked.
“I’ve got enough songs to last a lifetime,” she said. “I’ve got enough stories to last a lifetime.”
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“These Old Bones” takes Parton back to the Smoky Mountains; “If I Had Wings” tests family and faith on a Mississippi farm; “Jolene” expands on the story of Parton’s famed please-don’t-take-my-man antagonist, but not in the way one familiar with the story might think.
Alongside Parton’s role as a local nightclub owner, the episode stars Julianne Hough as Jolene (she “made the most beautiful Jolene,” Parton says) and Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Jolene’s best friend.
“People are so scared, because they think I’m gonna make my husband looks bad (in ‘Jolene’),” Parton said. “It’s not even about (that). It’s the back story of why Jolene was the way she was. It’s really touching and funny.”
The show comes during a monumental year for Parton. Along with co-hosting the 53rd annual CMA Awards in Nashville, she celebrated 50 years as a Grand Ole Opry member, appeared in a new Hallmark film, “Christmas at Dollywood,” collaborated alongside a pair of contemporary Christian artists and snagged two Grammy Award nominations.
“Everything in my life is real special right now, on the music end,” Parton said. “Of course, we have our heartaches with other things. But still, I’ve been very blessed in this business. The fans and God have been good to me.”
And, if “Heartstrings” goes well, it just might not be the last time folks can see her stories on Netflix.
“We’ll probably do another series if it does well,” Parton said. “They’re interested in following through with it.”