The Orville’s Dolly Parton Cameo Was a Huge Challenge to Pull Off

Fans of The Orville probably didn’t expect to see Dolly Parton making a cameo appearance in the latest season of the Seth MacFarlane sci-fi hit, but in episode 8 of the third season, Parton did indeed appear and a version of herself. The country music legend is no stranger to making guest appearances as herself in movies and TV shows, and considering her songs have been a part of the show from the start it really shouldn’t be a surprise to see the singer putting in an appearance.

In the episode titled “Midnight Blue”, Rena Owen’s character Heveena finally meets Parton, having been shown to be huge fan throughout the series. Parton’s cameo leans into that, with the star appearing as a 1990s version of herself as she meets Heveena in a simulation. As part of her role in the show, Parton also gets to perform the song “Try” from her album “Blue Smoke.” While speaking to Screen Rant recently, The Orville’s executive producer Jon Cassar explained how the cameo was full of challenges due to Parton’s requirements around Covid safety. He explained:

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“Seth was virtually a dog with a bone on this one, there was no way he was giving up on Dolly, no way at all. Finally, he got her to say yes and she was excited about doing it. There was lots of restrictions. You’ve heard the way we did it, we virtually had to shoot half of it in Nashville and half of it in LA, because she didn’t want to get on a plane. We don’t blame her, no one wanted to get on a plane back then. So we had all these restrictions and I remember Seth going, ‘What are we gonna do?’ Most directors have experience shooting one way on one set and two weeks later the other way on another set, and no one knowing it’s what we do all the time. [Chuckles] So we virtually built the cabin in LA, cut it in half and sent half of it by truck. We had it all lit and planned out, we knew what the lights were, where the cameras are going to be, the heights of the cameras, the lenses of the cameras. Because, again, part of the visual style is our people, our creative people, our director of photography, Jeff Mygatt, all his people, his camera operators, his lighting guy, we wanted it to look the same. In the morning, at eight o’clock, we were shooting Dolly Parton, by noon we were on a plane and we were back in LA less than 24 hours later, like it was that fast. She was so good, we got it done in no time, she knew her dialogue inside and out, she loved the storytelling, she just loved the whole script. Then having Rena there was great, because they connected right away. I heard them talking in between takes and Rena grew up in the mountains, just like Dolly did, so they became two mountain girls that were just chatting away. So that was great to see also and then she really knew her stuff and she just came through. She couldn’t be nicer about the whole thing and now she’s tweeting about it too, which is great, so it was a win-win all around it and I think it’s a win for the viewers.”

The Orville: New Horizons Is Hoping To Continue Beyond Season 3

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The Orville: New Horizons is the first season of the show under the control of Disney following their merger with Fox, and Seth MacFarlane has made it clear that even though he would love to do another season, it is all in Disney’s hands. However, the response to the latest season seems to have been pretty positive all around, and with cameo appearance by Dolly Parton in this week’s episode has had people talking about the series on social media. Obviously this is the kind of attention that will guarantee MacFarlane gets to continue his space adventure for at least another season.

As well as The Orville, Seth MacFarlane is also working on a prequel series to his hit movie Ted, in which he will once again give a voice to the foul-mouthed teddy bear in a series that will go back into the 1990s to see Ted’s influence on his friend John at a young age. That series is expected to arrive on Peacock sometime in late 2023 or early 2024, while The Orville is currently being released weekly on Hulu.