November 16, 2020

Dolly Parton discusses biblical themes in Netflix film 'Christmas on the Square'


Dolly Parton says her upcoming holiday musical, “Christmas on the Square,” teaches that forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness, are essential to blossoming both emotionally and spiritually. 

Hitting Netflix on Nov. 22, “Christmas on the Square” follows Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski), a curmudgeonly and wealthy woman who returns to her small hometown after her father’s death. It’s not long before her intentions are clear: She plans to evict everyone from the town and sell the land to a mall developer. 

“The deadline to be out of your homes is now Christmas Eve,” Regina tells heartbroken townsfolk as they huddle in the local church.

But after listening to stories of the local townsfolk — including a young pastor and his wife — reconnecting with an old love, and accepting the guidance of an angel, Regina’s heart begins to soften. 

In an interview with The Christian Post, Parton, who plays an angel in “Christmas on the Square,” said the film's message of restoration and forgiveness, although relevant at all times, is “certainly” needed in today’s divided society.

“There's a lot to be said about forgiveness; it cleans you for other good stuff to come in," Parton said. “If you go around with a bunch of hate and anger and bottled up stuff in you, you can't blossom, as a person, you're not doing yourself any favors or anyone else. It's just so much better to forgive.”

“And of course, we can't forget; we still remember things. But I think when they say ‘forgive and forget,’ that just means to forget about that now and move on,” she added. “I really think that that's so important to cleanse your own heart and your own soul, to be able to forgive and to ask forgiveness. You never should be too proud to ask for forgiveness.”

“Christmas on the Square” features 14 original songs, all penned by Parton, a nine-time Grammy Award-winner. The songs touch on topics of love, the power of prayer, and caring for others. The film's title track is featured on Parton's new Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas.

The 74-year-old country music icon told CP that she “loves to write songs that touch people’s hearts.”

“I love to touch on things that are meaningful to people,” she said.

The “Jolene” singer was quick to deflect praise, crediting her longtime friend and producer, Sam Haskell, for coming up with the storyline and writer Maria Schlatter for bringing the character to life.

“They made it easy for me to write all these wonderful songs, so I was just so proud to be part of it. And working with wonderful people like Christine, it's just amazing to me,” she added. 

Baranski, a 15-time Emmy Award nominee, not only stars in “Christmas on the Square,” but lends her vocal talent to the film. She told CP that while “Christmas on the Square” is intended to be a lighthearted, feel-good Christmas film, she was struck by the depth of its message. 

“When I was working on it I was thinking, ‘Wow I could be working on something quite dramatic, because [Regina’s] pain is deep and her need for forgiveness,” Baranski said. 

“One of the most wonderful messages of the movie is, before we can forgive others, we have to forgive ourselves,” she added. “When Regina discovers what it was that was blocking her, the whole world opens up to her.”

“The movie goes deep,” she said.

“Christmas on the Square” is directed and choreographed by Debbie Allen. In addition to Parton and Baranski, it stars Jenifer Lewis, Treat Williams, Jeanine Mason, Josh Segarra, Mary Lane Haskell, Matthew Johnson and Selah Kimbro Jones. The film hits Netflix on Nov. 22.