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Who's Who in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings

Who you'll see (and what you'll hear) in Netflix's new country-music-inspired anthology series.
  • Melissa Leo, Dolly Parton and Ginnifer Goodwin all have roles in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. (Netflix)
    Melissa Leo, Dolly Parton and Ginnifer Goodwin all have roles in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. (Netflix)

    Though she's obviously timeless, Dolly Parton is having something of a moment right now. Last winter, the Netflix Original Movie Dumplin' featured dozens of her songs as its soundtrack. The current 9-part NPR podcast series Dolly Parton's America has been providing a deep dive into Parton's particular flavor of Americana. She's fresh off a well-received co-hosting gig at this year's CMAs, and next week she returns to The Grand Ole Opry for a new primetime concert special on NBC. Ever a storyteller, Parton's best songs have always been the ones that pack a novel's worth of detail and characters into three and a half catchy minutes, leaving the listener wanting to know more about each of their self-contained universes.

    Dropping on Netflix this Friday, Dolly Parton's Heartstrings endeavors to provide exactly that. Each of its eight episodes tackles a different song from Parton's catalog and fleshes it out with a roster of top-tier talent (including Dolly herself), both in front of and behind the camera. Here's a look at the songs on its playlist and a breakdown of who's appearing in each episode.


    ulianne Hough and Dolly Parton in Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings. (Tina Rowden/Netflix)

    What's the Song About? Come on, you know this one: a man is besotted with a redheaded beauty; that man's significant other begs said beauty to avoid reciprocating.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Julianne Hough: Best known for her years-long stint as a Dancing With the Stars dancer, Hough's also made the occasional foray into acting, and, more recently, judging: she was one of the panelists on the most recent season of America's Got Talent.
    • Kimberly Williams-Paisley: Though she's best known her star-making role in 1991's Father of the Bride and its sequel, Williams-Paisley has worked steadily since then, both in front of and behind the camera.
    • Dallas Roberts: The Juilliard-trained Roberts is mainly a stage actor, though he's definitely played his fair share of "hey-its-that-guy" roles on large and small screens alike. He had a lengthy arc in Season 3 of The Walking Dead and a recurring role as Alicia Florrick's younger brother on The Good Wife.

    "These Old Bones"

    Kathleen Turner and Dolly Parton in Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings.(Tina Rowden/Netflix)

    What's the Song About? A young woman feels strangely drawn to the eccentric old fortune-teller who operates out of a "rusty shed" in the woods. As her own supernatural gifts emerge, she discovers that the two share a bond.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Kathleen Turner: Turner topped the A-list for most of the early 80s, starring in a string of hit movies including Body Heat, Romancing the Stone, and Peggy Sue Got Married. Though health issues forced her to take a step back from acting by the early 90s, nearly every one of the occasional roles she's taken on since then  — be it a guest appearance, a voice-over, or a stage role — have allowed her to try something new, and the eccentric fortune teller suggested by Parton's song ought to be no exception.
    • Ginnifer Goodwin: After starring as Bill Paxton's slightly air-headed third wife, Margene, on HBO's Big Love, Goodwin played Snow White in ABC's Once Upon a Time. In her early career, Goodwin excelled at playing the cute-but-not-threatening best friend type in films like Win a Date With Tad Hamilton, Mona Lisa Smile, and Something Borrowed.
    • Kyle Bornheimer: Though he's starred in a slew of failed sitcoms (Perfect Couples, Family Tools) Bornheimer has appeared in exactly one episode of just about every hit show of the 2000s, from Breaking Bad to How I Met Your Mother.

    "If I Had Wings"

    Delta Burke, Michele Weaver, Gerald McCraney and Tim Reid in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. (Photo: Netflix)

    What's the Song About? "If I Had Wings" is the only one of the eight songs not to tell a linear story. Instead, it meditates on the narrator's wish to start over from scratch and "fly away" from current circumstances.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Brooke Elliott: Broadway nerds will recognize her from dozens of stage roles, but her most visible TV role has been as Jane Bingum, the titular diva on Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva.
    • Gerald McRaney: Depending on what end of Generation X you were born on, you either recognize McRaney as one of the brothers on Simon & Simon or as Major Dad. If you're not that old, you might have spotted him playing the kindly old OB/GYN who delivered the Pearson triplets on This Is Us.
    • Delta Burke: McRaney's wife of 30 years is best known for her role as Suzanne Sugarbaker on Designing Women, though she's also popped up in numerous TV movies and guest appearances over the years (including one episode opposite Elliott in Drop Dead Diva).

    "JJ Sneed"

    What's the Song About? A Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque couple goes on an epic crime spree until he double-crosses her, leaving her to plot her revenge.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • David Denman: Denman's mile-long list of credits spans genres (he's shown up in everything from The X-Files to Mad Men) but he's definitely best-known as Roy from The Office.
    • Colin O'Donoghue: Similarly, O'Donoghue is mainly known for one role: Captain Hook on ABC's Once Upon a Time, though horror fans may have also seen him opposite Anthony Hopkins in 2011's The Rite.

    "Two Doors Down"

    Melissa Leo and Andy Mientus in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. (Photo: Netflix)

    What's the Song About? A lonely woman hears her neighbors having a party and musters the courage to knock on the door and join the festivities. The results are better than anticipated.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Melissa Leo: Though Leo's appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, her best-known role was in The Fighter, for which she earned the 2010 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
    • Ray McKinnon: A veteran character actor with a distinctly grizzled look, McKinnon has worked steadily in TV and film since the early 90s, but he's best known for his roles on Justified, Deadwood, and Sons of Anarchy, as well as for creating and executive-producing Rectify.
    • Andy Mientus: Mientus's acting career started after he was discovered moderating a fan page for the Broadway musical Spring Awakening (yes, really). He's since starred in Smash and played a recurring villain on The CW's The Flash.
    • Katie Stevens: After finishing in the top ten of season 9 of American Idol, Stevens starred in MTV's Faking It and currently stars as a budding magazine writer on Freeform's The Bold Type.
    • Michael Willett: Willett and Stevens are enjoying a reunion in this episode after starring in Faking It together, though viewers may also recognize Willett from his recurring role on United States of Tara or the indie film G.B.F.

    "Down From Dover"

    What's the Song About? A young girl's lover gets her pregnant and then skips town, leaving her to deal with the fallout from her family and neighbors. As she goes into labor, she continues hoping he'll come back to her.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Holly Taylor: After a brief stint on Broadway, the Canadian-born Taylor landed the role of Paige Jennings, the daughter of KGB operatives on The Americans, where she's spent most of her acting career thus far.
    • Bellamy Young: You'll spot plenty of familiar titles among Bellamy's 20 year body of work, but she rose to stardom as First-Lady-turned-Presidential-candidate Mellie Grant on Scandal.
    • Camryn Manheim: Although she's been working steadily since the late 90s, Manheim's most recognizable and iconic role is Ellenor Frutt on The Practice (although Toby Walters in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion is a close second).

    "Sugar Hill"

    Timothy Busfield and Patricia Wettig in Dolly Parton's Heartstrings (Photo: Netflix)

    What's the Song About? A couple looks back with nostalgia on the summer they fell in love amidst gorgeous Appalachian scenery.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Timothy Busfield: Busfield was an iconic figure in the early 90s when he played Kevin Costner's brother-in-law in Field of Dreams, then moved straight into a starring role on thirtysomething. Since then, he's mostly worked behind the camera, although he's occasionally stepped in front of it for recurring roles on series like The West Wing, Without a Trace, and Designated Survivor.
    • Patricia Wettig: Like Busfield, Wettig's most recognizable role was on thirtysomething — in fact, she played his wife, so playing a married couple again should come easily to them. You may have also seen her in Brothers and Sisters, Prison Break, or the City Slickers movies.

    "Cracker Jack"

    What's the Song About? A child rescues a stray puppy and nurses it back to health; it becomes her best friend.

    Who's in It and How Do I Know Them?

    • Sarah Shahi: Shahi's best known as Agent Shaw in CBS's Person of Interest, but fans of The L Word or Chicago Fire will recognize her from recurring roles on those series.
    • Rochelle Aytes: Aytes starred as April Molloy on the primetime soap Mistresses before moving on to a regular role on ABC's The Purge.
    • Jessica Collins: Though she's appeared in countless guest-starring roles over the course of her twenty-year career, soap fans know Jessica Collins as Avery Clark on The Young & the Restless, a role for which she received a Daytime Emmy.
    • Tammy Lynn Michaels: Michaels's name might be most recognizable due to an offscreen role rather than an onscreen one (she was famously in a relationship with rock star Melissa Etheridge from 2001 to 2010), but she also starred in the WB's Popular, Ryan Murphy's first television series, and the short-lived NBC sitcom Committed.

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    Jessica Liese has been writing and podcasting about TV since 2012. Follow her on Twitter at @HaymakerHattie

    TOPICS: Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, Netflix, Bellamy Young, Brooke Elliott, Camryn Manheim, Colin O’Donoghue, Dallas Roberts, David Denman, Delta Burke, Dolly Parton, Gerald McRaney, Ginnifer Goodwin, Holly Taylor, Julianne Hough, Kathleen Turner, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kyle Bornheimer, Melissa Leo, Patricia Wettig, Timothy Busfield