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Hello, Dolly

In a new TV movie, country star Jennifer Nettles digs into the life of one of her heroes, Dolly Parton

Author Justin Goldman Photography Ben Cohen/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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As someone who’s won Grammy awards with her band, Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles wouldn’t need an acting coach to play a country star on TV. But in Coat of Many Colors, an NBC movie airing this month that’s based on the Dolly Parton song of the same name, Nettles isn’t playing the iconic singer; she’s playing Parton’s mother, Avie Lee. Still, all it took was one meeting with Parton for Nettles to get into the character.

“In the conversation that Dolly and I had, I said, ‘How in general would you describe your mother?’” Nettles recalls. “Dolly said, ‘I will tell it to you this way: My momma was me without the glitter.’ And I thought, ‘OK, that’s all you need to say!’”

Nettles, 41, had only met Parton in passing at an event or two before she signed on to Coat of Many Colors, but she counts the 69-year-old singer/songwriter as an influence who was “everywhere” during Nettles’ childhood in rural Georgia, and she immediately connected with several aspects of the film’s script, including when Avie Lee sews a coat for 9-year-old Dolly out of cloth that was originally meant to be a baby blanket for an infant who died.

“Such a big part of the movie is how the family overcomes a huge tragedy together through their faith,” Nettles says. “Parton’s musical beginnings had a foundation in the church. That was where I first sang in front of an audience, and I just loved that it was so much a part of the fabric of their family—not only the church, but also the music and what they drew from that.” (DEC. 10)

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