Dolly Parton's The Orville Cameo Was Literally Shot Across Space

National treasure, American icon, and all-around living legend Dolly Parton is living her best life. Between popping up on the "Grace and Frankie" finale, providing the youth of America with access to literature, and helping save the world by funding Covid vaccine development, Dolly has graciously found the time to continue popping up in films and on television across the entertainment spectrum. It made sense when the holiday musical "Dolly Parton's Christmas on the Square" debuted on Netflix in 2020, because everything about that project sounds precisely in line with what we know about Dolly Parton. However, her recent cameo appearance on "The Orville" was probably not on anyone's 2022 bingo card.

In a recent episode, Dolly Parton appeared as a hologram version of herself circa the 1990s, interacting with Haveena (Rena Owen) in a simulation. Once Haveena arrived, Dolly excitedly shouted out, "There you are! Welcome, come on in. Don't be shy." Haveena immediately humbled herself before the queen (relatable), falling to her knees and bowing. "Oh come on, don't you bow to me. I'm not all that," Dolly said. "I'm not even sure I'm all there." Dolly was playing not herself, but merely the computerized simulation of herself created from old footage and historical documentation. "I may not be real, but I'm still all Dolly." Sounds like something even Dolly today would say about herself. 

Seth MacFarlane is a clever writer for that one, for sure. Getting Dolly Parton to appear is exciting enough, but the way they were able to get her "on set" is downright impressive.

Making some Dolly Parton TV magic

Tom Costantino, co-producer on "The Orville" took to Twitter to give a behind the scenes look at just how Dolly's appearance came to be. Given the Covid shooting restrictions, the production had limited access to the Queen of Country and had to find a way to be a little bit more creative. The team shot on both the standard set of "The Orville" as well as a rebuilt set in Nashville using Dolly's studio team. This meant everyone involved learned to replicate the scene exactly with doubles, lighting, and blocking, before sending the sets to Nashville to shoot the first half of coverage. A special effects team also worked on de-aging Parton, so she'd more closely resemble her look in the 1990s.

Once Dolly's coverage was shot, everything was shipped back to "The Orville" home base to shoot Rena Owen's closeups as Haveena. This way, Dolly was able to be in the show without being too close for Covid comfort. This moment is a wonderful example of the type of magic that can be made with an ingenious team of creatives and the brilliance of Dolly Parton. Dolly's performance is so heartwarming and Owen's reaction is so genuine, you'd never know the two weren't directly interacting with one another.