TV

Exclusive: Why Dolly Parton Wanted a Gay Storyline in “Heartstrings”

The country queen opens up about why incorporating a same-sex couple in her Netflix series was "important."

Netflix has finally dropped the trailer for Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, a new eight-episode anthology series with each installment based on a song from the legendary queen of country’s discography.

The new preview gives fans a glimpse of what’s in store for the screen adaptations of classic tracks like “Jolene” and “Down From Dover.” Eagle-eyed viewers might clock a quick moment of queer romance when two male characters, played by Andy Mientus and Michael Willett, clink champagne glasses while looking into each other’s eyes.
 

The synopsis for “Two Doors Down,” the episode starring Mientus and Oscar winner Melissa Leo, reads: “A family’s lifetime of secrets come bursting out during a chaotic and comedic New Year’s Eve wedding weekend. Will they make it to witness the ’I do’s’ without killing one another?”

At the Dollywood red carpet premiere for Heartstrings, NewNowNext asked Parton why she wanted to include a gay storyline in the family-friendly series, which will be released the week before Thanksgiving.

“It’s important that I touched on everything that all families go through. Everyone has gays in their family,” Parton explained. “I tried to give all the different angles in the stories. Just like we have an interracial marriage because people deal with that all the time.”

“I just wanted to present people and lives, and what people go through,” she added. “I just wanted to touch on everything for everybody.”

Netflix

Mientus (pictured below) also attended the premiere, and spoke about what it meant to him that Parton decided to feature queer characters in the series.

“We’re the last episode of the season, we’re also the Christmas episode of the season, and we’re also the gay episode,” the out actor told NewNowNext. “It just really speaks to Dolly’s embrace of our community; she chose to not only to feature that story at all, but center it as the finale of this series and the holiday episode.”

“In a way, that will tell audiences that you can have a queer story and have it be a holiday episode,” he continued. “Not something edgy or sad, that their kids shouldn’t be seeing, but a story that can be as heartwarming as any of the other featured in this eight-episode season.”

Mientus also explained the significance of having a gay storyline that was never discussed with him, which he sees as “proof” that the country queen really accepts her LGBTQ fans.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Netflix

“It’s not a move she’s making because it’s a convenient time to support our community, but it’s that she’s always supported our community even when it was very difficult for her to do so,” the Smash star added.

“She isn’t thinking about making a statement. She’s just doing this because it’s the right thing to do. It’s a group she’s including because why wouldn’t you? She wants the show to look like all of the stories of America, not just a select few. That really tells me she’s walking the walk and not just talking the talk.”
 

Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings hits Netflix Friday, November 22.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
@chrisreindeer