Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square was just “a perfect little storm,” executive producer, star and composer Parton said during a panel for the Warner Bros Television movie at Deadline’s Contenders Television: The Nominees awards-season event. “Who knew that when we were creating this movie, that it would be aired in the middle of the pandemic, and it would bring so much joy and so much hope to millions of people around the world? I think that was one of greatest gifts that we gave and didn’t even know quite when we were doing it that we were going to help uplift the world.”
The Netflix film, up for Emmys for Outstanding TV Movie and Choreography for Debbie Allen, tells the musical story of Regina Fuller (Christine Baranski) as she returns to her hometown to evict the residents and sell the land to a mall developer. In response, the town comes together as a community, while Angel (Dolly Parton) and her co-angel Felicity (Jeanine Mason) work on inspiring kindness in Regina.
Allen, who served as EP, choreographer and director on the film, said of joining the project, “I dropped everything. It really p*ssed a lot of people off, but honestly, I could not say no to [EP] Sam Haskell, Dolly Parton and this incredible score, and this wonderful story that we were going to tell. So that’s how I came into it, and it was just a labor of love from the very first moment all the way.”
Of wearing both director and choreographer hats, Allen said, “I cut my teeth on Fame, so I came up being their favorite director, so I was always doing both and I was in it. I was lucky this time, I wasn’t in it, so that was one hat I didn’t have to wear. But actually, if you have the gift of choreography and direction, it becomes a very seamless production because it is coming from the same vision, and you’re collaborating but it just has a special cohesiveness. And I had such a wonderful time collaborating with Dolly because she wrote all this great music.”
Writing the music was a fun experience, Parton added. “We had this wonderful script and characters, so I just really played off of the characters. I wanted to write things that really fit who they were and where they were from… You want to have fun stuff and things that also touch you, so it was easy doing that and I had a good time,” she said.
Check out the panel video above.