Warning: The following contains spoilers for Girls5eva Season 1, episode 4. Proceed at your own risk!
Peacock’s new musical comedy Girls5eva had viewers double-recording episode 4 when the show’s executive producer, Tina Fey, was … a hallucination from country music icon Dolly Parton ?! The vision came about when Dawn (played by Sara Bareilles) tried to write a song for the girl group that gave the title. With no sleep or food, Dawn was greeted by Dolly, who led through a manic night of songwriting.
As surprising as Dawn’s appearance of the Legend was, Fey’s cameo was unexpected for creator Meredith Scardino, who originally turned to the real-life Dolly Parton to play herself. But after seeing the magic of Fey’s impression and her physical transformation, “I’m over the moon that Tina did it,” Scardino tells TVLine below.
TVLINE | Can you take me back to the origins of the idea for this plot and cameo?
We didn’t want Dawn to say, “I’m a songwriter!” and then write an amazing song. I feel like I am in movies, there is often this stroke of genius and then the person is a genius forever. You just like to sit there and smoke a cigarette and stare at a canvas and then have an inspirational montage, and then you’re a genius. [We wanted to] Turn that upside down and give Dawn this insane experience and have her own version of an ingenious montage just to fall a bit on her face because this is her first time writing as a songwriter. Your first pancake, it’s never good. So we wanted to tell a story like that.
I remembered watching Dolly Parton on Letterman or something that she sometimes fasts when she’s writing music. And I think another writer, Chelsea Devantez, knew she got up very early or in the middle of the night and we thought, “OK, if we put these two things together we could try and create such a joint condition for Dawn, the greatest Emulate the world’s songwriter, Dolly Parton. “The whole writing room, we’re all great fans of Dolly Parton, we love her. We thought, “Well, she’s hungry and tired and is trying her best to make Girls5eva a hit. Wouldn’t it be funny if Dolly Parton came to see her? “At first we said,” Let’s see if there’s a world we can get Dolly Parton. ” So we went to her. It was getting closer and closer to the shooting and we hadn’t heard about it. It’s in the middle of the pandemic and she’s in a different state and I don’t even know if she got the request, but we thought it would be fun if she played herself.
In the meantime we had a table read with the character of Dolly Parton, and Tina played her in the table reading, and she [was] so funny. She is funny. No shock that she was amazing. Tina read this table so well, I thought, “Would you ever do that?” and she was kind enough to do it. She was also a great copycat. I found your work amazing. It didn’t have to be perfect, by the way. It’s a hallucination of Dolly Parton and we felt that this was the leeway to have someone else play Dolly Parton … I loved that Tina had a few lines of Dolly Parton dialogue or songs that she did somehow bring in the character before the camera rolled. She would always just go like that [in a Dolly Parton accent]”Yawn and stretch” [which] would be how she would get back into that voice.
And also a big thank you to [costume designer] Tina Nigro, who made the outfit, and [makeup department head] Jorge [Nelson]who did Tina’s makeup. They had to mess with their faces a bit because they didn’t look very alike. We tried to socialize because Tina has brown eyes. I didn’t know this, but it’s impossible to socialize with an actor without people measuring your eyeball and getting a doctor’s note, and [you need] People who are there to make sure you don’t scratch an actor’s eye or mess around with what I get. I think during COVID it was like a tough no that we could get in touch. But it turned out great. I am overjoyed that Tina did it.
TVLINE | As far as you know, is this the first time Tina makes a dolly impression? Or has she done dolly in the past?
As far as I know, it was the first time she did it. And then, coincidentally, a week after we shot that, Melissa Villaseñor made a dolly parton impression at SNL and we said, “What’s going on ?! Everyone does dolly! “
TVLINE | Was it difficult to get through some of these scenes when Tina was performing on set in this whole look? Did the actors and crew just split up and collapse?
Yes, some things were difficult to get through [because] She is so funny. Another thing that’s kind of funny is that she’s in this pretty elaborate getup, but she’s still Tina Fey. She has producer opinions and gives you some notes or something, looking like this [which] was pretty funny. There have been many things that have been difficult to go through, but wearing a mask and shield will keep you from distracting people with your laughter. But our actors are very good at holding their playing face, which was impressive.
Have you already bitten Girls5eva? If so, rate the season below and hit the comments with your thoughts on Tina Fey’s performance as Dolly Parton!