EXCLUSIVE: Dolly Parton Relives Nearly Freezing to Death in 'Christmas of Many Colors'
By Sophie Schillaci
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Dolly Parton is turning painful childhood memories into a new, feel-good holiday story.
The 70-year-old country music icon is following up last year's hit TV movie, Coat of Many Colors, with this year's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love, airing Wednesday, Nov. 30, on NBC at 9 p.m. ET/PT. In an interview with ET, Parton reveals that it hasn't been easy watching her family's struggles play out onscreen.
"The first one was real emotional because it was the first time on camera my family had been exposed," Parton says. "But this one has so many things in it that will really pull at your heart."
Including, Parton says, one particularly terrifying memory: the time her entire family nearly "froze to death."
"That was very difficult, to watch that," she admits.
"We lived way back in the mountains," she explains, "and we had boarded up our windows to keep the snow and wind out, and had no idea it was going to snow like that. We got trapped in there."
"We thought we were going to die and our little tears were frozen on our little faces," she continues. "We were frozen, no fire, no food, no nothing. And so it had to have been prayer that melted the snow around us and got us out of there. That's kind of like our Christmas miracle. Momma had a lot of faith, Momma had those visions and dreams that she sensed something was going to happen, but because of her great faith, she prayed us through."
Jennifer Nettles is back playing Momma Parton, while Ricky Schroder returns as the family patriarch.
"It's so cute, I've always loved Ricky Schroder since he was a little bitty boy," Parton gushes. "He looks a lot like my dad's people. ... It makes me miss Mom and Dad a lot."
Pint-sized actress Alyvia Alyn Lind returns as young Dolly, while the real-life "Jolene" singer makes a very special cameo.
"I got to play the painted lady, the woman I patterned my look after when I was little," Parton explains. "I had never seen anything quite like her, with all that yellow hair piled up on her head, lipstick, long red fingernails and painted eye shadow. Like a movie star, and we didn't see that. We didn't go to the movies. ... People say, 'She is just trash,' and I say, 'That is what I am going to be when I grow up.' I got the look down and it was a perfect little part for me to play."
While Parton has much to be thankful for this holiday season, the Christmas of Many Colors premiere does come at a "heartbreaking" time.
On Tuesday, the Great Smoky Mountains, where Parton was raised, was engulfed by wildfires that forced thousands to flee from the Tennessee foothills. The flames continue to affect the area surrounding her Dollywood theme park.
"I have been watching the terrible fires in the Great Smoky Mountains and I am heartbroken," Parton told ET in a statement. "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," she added.
"Wildfires in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains continue to affect several areas of Sevier County including Dollywood," representatives from Dollywood said in a separate statement to ET. "An assessment this morning revealed no damage to the Dollywood park itself but more than a dozen cabins managed through Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Cabins were damaged or destroyed."
"Last night, for the safety of our guests, resort staff evacuated families in 50 rooms staying at Dollywood's DreamMore Resort and families staying in 19 cabins at Dollywood's Smoky Mountain Cabins," the park's reps added. "For those interested in helping victims of the wildfires, contact the American Red Cross 1-800-Red Cross or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate ten dollars to American Red Cross disaster relief."