Recently on a spectacular autumn day, three of my fellow Dollywood Insiders and I had the unforgettable opportunity to take part in a special press conference at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. Dolly Parton was there to celebrate the upcoming launch of her new Netflix series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.
The eight-movie series is a special “American anthology web television series” of stories inspired by Dolly Parton’s country music catalog. Each episode, with star-studded cast members such as Julianne Hough, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kathleen Turner, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, and Dolly herself, will be based on one of her famous songs.
As Insiders, we thought it would be fun to share what we learned during this press conference.
How did this amazing project come about? I had the opportunity to ask Dolly a question (I’m still shaking!!!) about why this series is such an important project to her.
She answered by telling us about growing up in East Tennessee and how she and her family did not have access to television for entertainment—they had to entertain themselves. Dolly began writing stories to music at a very young age. She would perform them for her family, and that’s how it all began. Dolly explained that seeing these stories come to life on the screen has been like watching her life come full circle.
My fellow Dollywood Insider, Angie Fischer, added how Dolly’s beginnings played a big part in her success:
One of the reasons so many people love Dolly is her realness and authenticity. Dolly has always been Dolly. She has continually embraced her simple upbringing, mountain heritage, and has never shied away from it. She has done this through her songwriting and music and this is the basis of why she is relatable to so many people. Many of her songs are based from her own family and life experiences in East Tennessee, which in turn, may become more movies in the future.
Just how important are the people and places of Tennessee to Dolly Parton? Important enough that she came back to Sevier County to open her namesake theme park along with Dollywood’s Splash Country, and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. Her generosity and belief in the beauty of the region and its people has spurred the economy and changed lives through the provision of jobs and the many other ways in which she gives back.
Another of my Dollywood Insider pals, Jeremy Chandler, had a front-row seat at the press conference. He walked away with a greater understanding for how the upcoming Netflix series is tied to Dollywood, the region, and its people:
Dolly has always loved to shine a light on the people and place where she grew up. Two of the eight feature films have strong ties to Dolly’s family. The episode entitled “These Old Bones,” partly-inspired by Dolly’s own mother who Dolly says was clairvoyant, is set in East Tennessee. Another popular song—turned movie—is the tale of “J.J. Sneed” from the imagination of both Dolly and her aunt, Dorothy Jo, who performed at Dollywood for many years. Dollywood encapsulates the essence of a rustic time gone by, but like a timeless tune, opens doors to a world of discovery and adventure.
As you can imagine, the four of us were star-struck by being in such close proximity to Dolly Parton. And, we were also impressed by the bevy of reporters who were invited to the press conference, which was open only to print media.
Insider Kelly Harb stayed for the opportunity to experience Dollywood with these reporters, most of whom had never been to the region let alone Dollywood:
Another interesting aspect of the press conference and ensuing day was the variety of attendees. We were surrounded by journalists from such varied publications as Glamour magazine, People magazine, Guideposts magazine, the Knoxville News-Sentinel newspaper and In Style magazine. There weren’t any video cameras allowed into the press conference, but there were representatives from such varied sources as the Christian Broadcasting Network and the E (Entertainment Television) channel. The people on the rows around mine were from locations spanning the United States from Los Angeles (several people) to Michigan. It was endearing to see how excited they were to get to see and talk to Dolly Parton.
Following the short press conference, many of the attendees were determined that if they had come all the way to Tennessee to attend the Netflix press conference, they weren’t going home without seeing Dollywood Theme Park. Many of the journalists went to the park afterwards and shot video and photos. Then they mixed business with pleasure and got to enjoy the park’s rides and food. Because they were able to experience Dollywood’s hospitality for themselves, they got to understand Dolly and her “heartstrings” even better.
The four of us felt incredibly blessed to participate in a small part of the press junket. It was a special day! As Dollywood Insiders, we have the pleasure of sharing our love for Dollywood with the world. Watching people from all over the world come to celebrate Dolly Parton, the inspiration of all of this, in the beautiful setting that we get to experience and share on a regular basis was somewhat of a surreal experience.
We want to encourage you to watch “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” on Netflix, beginning Nov. 22, and then come to Dollywood to experience and fall in love with the place and the people who inspired Dolly!