The legendary country singer is teaming up with Hallmark Channel to bring her amusement park to the small screen with an original holiday movie starring Danica McKellar, titled Christmas at Dollywood, ET has exclusively learned. Filming kicks off in Tennessee in August.
Parton will make a special appearance in the film, which is slated to premiere in December as part of the network's 10th anniversary of Countdown to Christmas. (The nine-week campaign launches Oct. 25 and runs through New Year's Day.) McKellar's mother, Mahaila, and son, Draco, will also have cameos.
In Christmas at Dollywood, Rachel Lewis (McKellar) is a single mom and award-winning Broadway producer who learns investors have mismanaged her latest theatrical -- a holiday extravaganza -- into bankruptcy, forcing the show to close before it even opens. Dismayed, Rachel's friend calls from Tennessee to tell her about an opportunity to produce a show for the 20th anniversary of the Smoky Mountain Christmas Festival at Dollywood. The only caveat? Rachel will have to work with Luke Hakman, Dollywood's entertainment director who sees the holiday show as a stepping stone to become the park's new general manager.
With her 9-year-old daughter, Amy, in tow, Rachel leaves New York City to return to her Appalachian mountain roots. Every night, as she tucks Amy into bed, she tells her a new Adventures of Amy story with the hopes of compiling the bedtime stories into a book someday. One night, Rachel tells Amy about a little girl following Santa Claus on his route. Using the stars as her guide, fantasy Amy travels with Santa to the Northern Lights. Rachel tells her daughter that the lights are so magical that Amy can always look to the night sky to find her way home. Is this inspiration for a new Dollywood show? Rachel seems to think so, though she will have to convince a skeptical Luke, who has his own vision of what will be successful. As the pair make compromises to please their boss, Rachel and Luke realize love can come in the most unexpected of places.
"I grew up watching Dolly Parton on TV. I love her. She is everything. I got to meet her -- she is charismatic and gorgeous and lovely, and she's the best person ever," McKellar told ET's Katie Krause on the set of Home & Family on Wednesday morning, adding that there will be "a lot of really fun Dolly surprises." "I'm so excited that I get to work with her."
"Dolly Parton is a bright light who is rich in spirit, kindness and love. Christmas at Dollywood features Danica McKellar in a story about finding love and new beginnings in the most familiar place: home. A holiday movie set in a winter wonderland like Dollywood exemplifies the quality of the talent, storytelling and filmmaking that has made Countdown to Christmas the No. 1 program event on television for 10 years," said Michelle Vicary, Executive VP of Programming and Publicity at Crown Media Family Networks.
This is the second time Hallmark has partnered with Parton and Dollywood on a project. In 2010, the network produced an original TV special celebrating 25 years of Dollywood.
As the countdown to the 10th anniversary of Countdown to Christmas continues, spend your evenings with Hallmark's official podcast, Bubbly Sesh, hosted by Jacks and Shawl. The podcast, featuring recaps and interviews with Hallmark stars, covers every Saturday movie premiere on Hallmark Channel, as well as every Sunday debut on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and will be breaking down every holiday film this Christmas.
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