Stella Parton on Her Role in Merry & Gay, Her Sister Dolly, and Embracing Diversity

Jan 11, 2023

Stella Parton is a creative force of nature. We’ve heard her croon (Survivor, Mountain Songbird, Blue Heart). We’ve gobbled up her cookbook (“State Fairs & Church Bazaars”) and watched those YouTube baking endeavors—she’s served up everything from delicious cornbread to sangria and tater tortillas, in fact.

Folks have even appreciated Parton’s appearances on screen (Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, Raising Phil and Ernie, Nothing is Impossible). The singer-author-actor captures attention yet again in Merry & Gay, a heartwarming LGBTQI+ tale that coincides with the official launch of network on December 1.
The new network is a partnership between A Baker Production and DIVA magazine, the world’s leading magazine for LGBTQI+ women and non-binary people.

As for Merry & Gay, the cheery holiday film finds two well-meaning, but meddling moms hatching a plot to reunite their children (Andi René Christensen of Bel-Air and Hacks; and Dia Frampton of I Hate New Years and The Voice). The duo were childhood friends and high school sweethearts. Can love strike twice?

Parton stars as Mrs. Wilkinson, a supportive stage mother of sorts for the town’s Christmas pageant. Naturally, that’s where Christensen and Frampton’s characters reconnect. Hayat Nesheiwat, Janet Ivey (The Least of These: A Christmas Story), Jon Lee (Fear the Walking Dead, Lovecraft Country), and Sarah Daddario costar.

Directed, written, and produced by Christin Baker (Christmas at the Ranch, Secs and EXECS), the film features original music, including songs by Frampton, Rachel Dye, and composer Everett Young. Parton opened up with MovieWeb about Merry & Gay, inclusivity, sister Dolly, and much more.

A Movie About Love

MovieWeb: It’s great to see you in this uplifting holiday rom-com. What made you say yes to Merry & Gay?

Stella Parton: Well, for one thing, it’s a Christmas movie, and it’s a movie about love. And it’s a movie about inclusivity, which for me, is important. I believe in inclusiveness. All humans are, to me, God’s babies. And this was just such a good feel-good movie. Actually, one of my mates recommended me for this film and said I’d love to do it. It was a sweet little part. And it’s something I like to do, which is bring people together [like Mrs. Wilkinson]. So, the character was not much of a stretch for me.

MW: Why is it important to have even more diverse, inclusive movies?

Stella Parton: I think it’s high time we have more film like this because of the division in the world. Most of that is for lack of education. The more informed humanity can be, the better off we’ll all be. I think ignorance is the reason that there’s so much division in the world. This is an educational time for us, and for civilization. And the work they’re doing at DivaBox, is a wonderful thing. I wanted to be a part of it and show my support.

Related: Spoiler Alert Review: A Well-Acted Memoir Struggles to Find Tonal Balance

MW: The actors are wonderful in it, too. What stood out working with the cast and crew?

Stella Parton: I was struck by everyone’s professionalism, and just by how concerned they were about doing everything they were supposed to do. There were no egos on the set, which is always good because I believe we should all be supportive of one another. Nobody should put themselves on a pedestal and be above anyone else. That was one of the good things about working on the film—the supportiveness. It made for a feel-good experience.

MW: I love that you’ve been in other Christmas films—along with somebody else we all know very well too, your sister, Ms. Dolly Parton. So, what is it about Christmas and Christmas movies that appeals to you so much? And was there one holiday film that really informed you?

Stellar Parton: It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. It was such a great movie, and it’s kind of like the title of my last movie, which came out last month, Nothing is Impossible. It’s what Christmas is about. That’s what my big sister Dolly has always loved—the magic of Christmas. It’s why she’s done so much music, Christmas-y films, and stories about it. Because it’s about family. It’s about magic and love. That’s what we’re all about. And my grandson Liam, who’s sitting here with me this afternoon, he even made his acting debut in Dolly’s new movie coming out.

On Family and Performing

Josiah Clark/

MW: You come from a performing family. What was it about performing—singing, acting, even creating your cookbooks and your writing—that calls to you? And when did you first know you were going to sing and express yourself?

Stella Parton: Well, I don’t remember when I wasn’t singing. I can’t remember when I wasn’t trying to make people laugh or make people happy. That’s our job as entertainers—to make people happy and bring hope, and maybe have people forget their troubles for a minute. I mean, what a chosen profession to be in. I’ve noticed that even with my grandson, especially when he realized he could make people laugh; that he can make people happy. That’s just in our DNA. I think of myself as a messenger of hope—through music and through humor. I’m somebody who helps people get away from their troubles for a few minutes, you know?

MW: How would you describe your bond with Dolly?

Stella Parton: Well, we live completely separate lives, but we’re in the same family. And we’re in the same profession. My relationship with all my family is as good as I think any family’s relationships are, if you grew up like we did. We grew up very close, depending on one another for emotional support. We still do.

Related: Exclusive: Jesse Bradford on Merry Kiss Cam and the Magic of Holiday Films

MW: That’s important—having family you can count on.

Stella Parton: The healthiest thing we can do is to try to be supportive. If a sibling asked me to help them with anything, or my son or my daughter-in-law, that’s my greatest honor—to be asked, “Can you help with that?” I’m honored. I’m blessed that I’m in a family that makes you feel good about yourself.

MW: What do you hope people take away from this enchanting film?

Stella Parton: Love. I just hope they realize that we’re all God’s babies and that we’re all worthy of love. And it doesn’t matter the circumstances, or who you are, or what you’re about, or what your life is about. You’re worthy of love and acceptance.

MW: So, what’s next for you?

Stella Parton: I’m working on another installment of my inspirational memoir, “Tell It Sister, Tell It.” I’ve lived a lot since I wrote it more than 10 years ago, so, I’m doing a revision and expanding on it after what we’ve gone through with the pandemic. And I have my grandbaby right here by my side, so, it’s all good.

Catch Merry & Gay on VOD and December 1.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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