Dolly Parton Admits She Was Afraid of Becoming an Actress Before ‘9 to 5’

Dolly Parton not only spent decades on country radio, but in movies and on TV shows as well. The Tennessee native got her big break in films appearing in 9 to 5, a movie which also starred Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, and never looked back.

“I had been asked a lot of times to be in the movies and I didn’t think I was quite ready yet,” Parton tells Tim McGraw on his Apple Music Country’s Beyond The Influence Radio with Tim McGraw. “I also thought if the right thing came along, I might be willing to do it because I was still building my music career at the time. Then when 9 to 5 came along, it had Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. They were both so hot at the time and I thought, ‘Well, if there’s any time to start, this would be now because if it’s a big hit, then I can share in the glory of it. If it’s a failure, I can blame it all on them and I’ll walk away free.'”

Not only did Parton agree to appear in 9 to 5, but she showed her early business mind by insisting she write the theme song as well.

“Actually, I thought it was a good script, and I knew that at that time it would be a wonderful thing for women and for the workplace,” Parton reflects. “But my main deal with Jane [was], I said, ‘I’ll be happy to be in it providing I get to write the theme song.’ My business mind started working also. I thought, ‘I got to make this worth my while, not just to be in a movie with someone else.’ That was part of my deal that I would write and sing the theme song. So that’s what I did and it turned out to be a wonderful thing. It was my first movie. I’d never even seen a movie made really at that time, but I had good people.”

Parton might have had some reluctance to dip her toes into the acting world, but she had zero doubts about her ability to write the 9 to 5 theme song.

“I knew the music part would be perfect,” boasts the singer. “I actually knew that was so much part of me, that I can write and I can rhyme. I actually wrote the song on the set as we went along, as I’d watch things. I’d work with my fingernails, my acrylic nails making it sound like a typewriter. and I wrote a lot of stuff on the set. So I made it fun, but I knew I had that part under control. I wasn’t worried about the music end of it. I just knew I wanted to do the theme song, but the acting I was a little nervous.

“I was a little unsure myself, but like I’ve always said, ‘My desire to do things is greater than my fear of it,'” she adds. “So I just leaped right in there like I do everything else because I knew if I said I’d do it, I would do it. I would make it work. It did turn out to be pretty good. So that was when I got a taste of it and I thought, ‘Well, what took me so long?'”

Parton’s other movie roles include The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Rhinestone and Joyful Noise, among others.