This was posted Tuesday, November 29, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk
The magic of country music legend Dolly Parton is she makes being Dolly Parton look easy. You never see her sweat.
The producers of her latest film "Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love" set to air on NBC Wednesday had to use literal movie magic to ensure the actors didn't appear to be sweating during scenes set in December but shot in the sweltering heat of this past July and August in Georgia.
"In post production, we add their breath as they speak," said Sam Haskell, who was Parton’s agent for many years while at the William Morris Agency and is an executive producer on the film. "We put in a blue tint to give people the idea it's freezing. Actors wore these ice vests to keep cool and we placed them in special cooling trailers between takes. We took really good precautions to make sure everyone was comfortable."
NBC landed a sizzling hit last year with the original "Coat of Many Colors," drawing 15.5 million viewers, nowadays a hefty total and more than its live "The Wiz" adaptation that same year. (That number includes viewership up to three days after airing using DVRs.) It was the most popular broadcast TV movie in more than six years. A sequel was an easy call.
Both films are based on stories from Parton's rough and tumble childhood in the Tennessee Great Smoky Mountains. (She ultimately based her successful Dollywood amusement park near her childhood home. Sadly, the area is now being engulfed by wildfires. Parton herself released a statement today regarding the situation: "I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken. I am praying for all the families affected by the fire and the firefighters who are working so hard to keep everyone safe. It is a blessing that my Dollywood theme park, the DreamMore Resort and so many businesses in Pigeon Forge have been spared.")
Parton is played with spunky resolve as a nine year old by Alyvia Alyn Lind.
The latest chapter revolves around her family's efforts to buy Parton's mom Avie Lee (played by former Atlantan Jennifer Nettles) a wedding ring, something their dad Robert Lee (Ricky Schroder) couldn't afford. The kids sacrifice their own Christmas presents to help their long-suffering mom.
"It’s all about sacrifice and giving back and loving your family and having faith," Haskell said. "Good will prevail."
Nettles, after the CMA Awards earlier this month in Nashville said she grew up in a Southern, Christian family and related a lot to the story. "There were tears. It was special and emotional."
Parton is just thrilled to be able to bring her own past to life, even if some of the memories are bittersweet. "I really believe this is a blessed project," added Parton at the same event. "It’s a faith-based, family-based film and I think people are needing that and missing things like 'The Waltons' and 'Little House on the Prairie.' "
She opens and closes the movie as herself and also plays a small role as the town trollop who admires her younger self busking to raise money for her mom. "When I grow up, I want to look just like you," little Dolly said to the real Dolly.
The cast returned to the Gaither Plantation in Covington to film most of the sequel. This time, they had to shoot a blizzard that endangered the lives of Parton, her mother and her seven brothers and sister while their dad is working in the coal mines. "We covered four acres in paper fiber potato flakes that are organic and biodegradable," Haskell said.
Schroder said the heat was a challenge. Between every take, he said, "the poor make-up women would have to run in and pat you down and put powder on your hats and scarves and gloves and jackets."
He said despite some of the scary moments in this film, "this one isn't as heavy as the first one, which involved losing a baby. There is some suspense and drama and a few tears but there is also more lighthearted comedy."
Melissa Ruggieri contributed to this story.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.