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Jennifer Nettles shares her thoughts on Avie Lee, her favorite moments of the film and more.
Singer-songwriter and musician, Jennifer Nettles, portrays Dolly Parton’s mother in the new NBC film based on Dolly’s song, “Coat of Many Colors.” Best known as lead vocalist of the country duo Sugarland, Jennifer is a storyteller at heart. She was beyond thrilled to join in the re-telling of this beloved story from Dolly’s childhood.
Q. As you started to develop your character, what things about Avie Lee stood out or perhaps surprised you?
A. What I loved most about Avie Lee was her authentic mixture of vulnerability, compassion and strength. She loses a child and goes into a dark depression. She checks out for a while. She is real and wounded and human. But, her love of her family gives her strength to push beyond and create a beautiful metaphor of rebirth out of tragedy by making a coat for Dolly. I love so much that beautiful, living metaphor of her sewing those pieces back together. So womanly and strong.
Q. The Parton family is known for their tight-knit bonds. While filming, did the cast develop similar family-like relationships?
A. We had a ball. Having so many kids in the cast kept us all laughing and humble. Children have a beautiful way of demanding your presence and that definitely provided levity much of the time. Though there were times where I definitely heard myself become “mother-hen” in trying to help keep their little attentions for the next shot. And, true to the script, many of the older children helped to keep the younger ones in focus.
Q. Considering everything you have done in your career, where does this role rank in your list of achievements?
A. Playing the role of Avie Lee definitely ranks up at the top of the list for rewarding artistic experiences. I love telling stories, be it in a three and a half minute song or as an actor. Getting to tell such a beautiful story as Avie Lee’s and getting to dive deeply into her heart, her struggles and her strength was such a treat for me.
Q. Knowing that Dolly herself helped cast you in this role, did you feel a certain amount of pressure to get it right and if so how did you handle it?
A. You better believe I felt pressure!! I was chosen to play Dolly Parton’s mother!! The relationship between a mother and child is so special and sacred and complex. I wanted to honor their close bond and make Dolly proud at the same time. I asked Dolly about her mother and also pulled from my own precious relationship with my mother, not to mention my own relationship with my son as a mother myself.
Q. The song “Coat of Many Colors” first debuted in 1971, yet it still has a powerful message for people today. Why do you think people relate so well to this story?
A. The symbol of the “Coat of Many Colors” is one of alchemy. We are all so attracted and attached to the very real experience of something simple and humble actually holding the most value. We love and relate to taking humility and limited resources and watching them be transformed into gold, through the lens of love.
Q. Other than “Coat of Many Colors,” do you have a favorite Dolly song?
A. “Jolene.” Of course. Such a fantastic story of the complexities and messiness of love and life. And I love that it is from one woman to another.
Q. What was your favorite moment of making the film or your favorite takeaway?
A. Interestingly enough, my favorite moments were the most painful ones. The funeral scene in particular. How cathartic. I hope its rawness touches people and reminds them that their own losses are seen and understood.
See more cast interviews and tune in Thursday, December 10 at 9/8c on NBC to watch Jennifer Nettles as Avie Lee Parton in “Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors.”