Why Dolly Parton 'Felt a Bit Closer' to Lily Tomlin Than Jane Fonda When Filming '9 to 5'

Dolly Parton made her film debut in the 1980 comedy 9 to 5 with co-stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. The country queen grew fond of her cast mates and revealed that a stronger bond was formed with one in particular.

Dolly Parton could relate to her ‘9 to 5’ character

Parton wrote and sang the movie’s now-famous title track. Though 9 to 5 was her first film and she was immediately matched with Hollywood heavyweights in Fonda and Tomlin, Parton instantly resonated with playing secretary Doralee Rhodes.

“I was real comfortable with the part I played because it was so me,” Parton told Playgirl in 1981, from the book “Dolly on Dolly“. “It was just amazing how well (writer/director) Colin Higgins got me down, as far as my character. She’s pretty much like me, a believable, likable person.”

With Dabney Coleman playing her lecherous boss Frank Hart, Parton appreciated the opportunity to show an assertive side to herself rather than her usual sunny persona.

“I’m a secretary whose boss has been telling everybody that he’s sleeping with me,” the music icon explained. “My best scenes are the ones where I’m really mad at the boss. I play mad real good. It gave me a real chance to do something besides being my own sweet self.”

‘9 to 5’ star Lily Tomlin spent more time with Dolly Parton

When asked if she developed a closer bond with one of her co-stars over the other, Parton described her friendship with Tomlin and noted that Fonda had her hands full as one of the film’s producers.

“I felt a bit closer to Lily during the film because I had a chance to get to know her,” she remarked. “Jane had so much business stuff to do. And Lily and I are both with the same agency now. I spent more time talking to Lily.”

The “Jolene” singer reiterated that her relationship with Fonda was perfectly amicable but lack of time got in the way of developing a deeper friendship.

“With Jane, we got to be close, but we really hadn’t gotten together enough to totally relax and just be pals,” Parton pointed out. “I have such respect and admiration for Jane. I’m not star struck, but I know when a person’s great.”

Jane Fonda praised Dolly Parton during ‘9 to 5’ filming

Fonda apparently became a fan of Parton throughout the filming of 9 to 5, raving of how the country singer raised the spirits of the cast and crew and helped deliver a quality movie. Parton considered the entire process a blessing.

“That’s a nice compliment,” Parton said in appreciation of Fonda’s comments. “The movie was a real special project. It was a meant-to-be thing, a blessed thing. It’s real important to make people feel good so they don’t lose interest in what they’re doing. Give ’em something to look forward to the next day.”

Fonda gave Parton some acting tips while working together, which the singing legend considered extremely helpful. Parton also revealed that people may have an inaccurate impression of the Oscar winer.

“She was always saying little things like, ‘Don’t talk on the same voice level’,” Parton shared. “‘Make a definite look, don’t move your eyes around’. Things like that. … A lot of people think she’s hard because of her strong beliefs, but I found her very sensitive. She’s very firm, very intelligent.”

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