Last weekend a handful of Kiwi expat actors went to see legendary country singer Dolly Parton perform at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. And one has a more intimate connection than the others — Spy can reveal former Shortland Street star Cameron Jones has landed a lead in a biopic about Parton — and was chosen personally by the star.
As Parton regaled her audience with stories of her humble beginnings, Jones knew more than most. The handsome Kiwi actor has got his first big Hollywood break playing Parton’s Uncle Billy Earl Owens, who discovered Dolly’s talents, in Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colours: Circle of Love which is a sequel to Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours.
“I have had the best time of my life working with incredible people,” Jones, 25, told Spy.
“My co-stars are veteran Ricky Schroder and Disney star Kelli Berglund, and of course working under Dolly’s supervision — she personally chose me. It’s been a blessing to work with such talent. What I love about Dolly is how beautiful and pure her soul is through everything she has accomplished. She’s so down-to-earth and genuine, even though she’s the centre of attention wherever she goes. She dreamed of being a star her whole life but never lost her sense of who she was or where she was from, and I think her genuine and golden heart was disarming to a lot of people in this industry. I feel like I can relate to her story of coming from a small town and just chasing, with absolute persistence, that one big dream.”
The director, Stephen Herek, is a legend in the business. “That first day on the set was the best day of my life. And when Stephen called cut, he came up and said five words which I’ll remember till I die: ‘You’re gonna be a star.’ In classic Kiwi fashion, I didn’t really know how to reply. It was definitely a moment I’ll never forget.”
The executive producer, Sam Cameron, told Spy: “Dolly and I worked hard to find the perfect actors to help bring her family to life. She told me to find someone handsome, charismatic and who could sing and play the guitar. When Cameron walked into the room and he had it all . . . and it didn’t hurt that he reminded us of a young Montgomery Clift!”
The Kiwi actor says he has been largely keeping to himself in LA, catching up the most with former Shorty star KJ Apa. “Distance and traffic makes it a bit hard here. But I probably see KJ the most of anyone I know. He’s launching into superstardom that boy.”
The United States premiere is next month at Parton’s theme park, Dollywood, in Tennessee. Jones tells us he is proud to be escorting his mum and sister to the premiere. A New Zealand screening date has not yet been confirmed.