Tina Fey is an executive producer on Peacock's new series Girls5Eva, but she also makes a cameo in the show as Dolly Parton, serving up a hilarious impression of the country music icon. During Episode 4, Fey plays a vision of Parton hallucinated by Girls5Eva member Dawn (Sara Bareilles), who was attempting to write a song using some of the "Jolene" singer's techniques.
"I remembered from watching, I think it was Dolly Parton on Letterman or something like that, that she sometimes fasts when she writes music," Girls5Eva creator Meredith Scardino told TVLine. "And I think another writer, Chelsea Devantez, knew that she gets up really early or in the middle of the night, and we thought, 'OK, if we put these two things together, we could create this kind of fugue state for Dawn to try to emulate the greatest songwriter in the world, Dolly Parton.' The whole writers' room, we're all super fans of Dolly Parton, we love her. We thought, 'Well, she's hungry and she's tired, and she's trying her best to write Girls5eva a hit. Wouldn't it be fun if Dolly Parton came to her?'"
The show did reach out to Parton to see if she would play herself and didn't hear back, but once Fey read the part during a table read, Scardino knew that she'd be the perfect fit. "Tina played her in the table read, and she [was] so funny," she recalled. "She's hilarious. Not a shocker that she was amazing. Tina was so good in this table read, I was like, 'Would you ever do this?' and she was kind enough to do it. She also was such a great voice mimic. I thought her work was incredible."
Scardino added that because the scene was meant to be Dawn hallucinating a vision of Parton, "it didn't have to be perfect." "It's a hallucination of Dolly Parton, and we felt like that was the leeway to let someone else play Dolly Parton," she explained. To play Parton, Fey wore a bedazzled white suit and blonde wig with long red nails, and Scardino shared that once on set, "it was difficult to get through some of things [because] [Fey] is so funny." Though she was playing Parton, Fey kept her EP hat on, which made for some entertaining moments.
"Another thing that's sort of funny is she's in this pretty elaborate getup, but she's still Tina Fey," Scardino said. "She's got producer opinions and gives you a few notes or something, looking like that, [which] was pretty funny. There was a lot of stuff that was hard to get through, but wearing a mask and a shield does keep you from distracting people with your laughter. But our actors are very good at keeping their game face on, which was impressive." You can sign up for Peacock to stream Girls5Eva here.