After 20 years, Dolly Parton is back in a starring role in the comedy ''Joyful Noise,'' out Jan. 13. She plays a rival to Queen Latifah (a.k.a. Dana Owens) in a gospel choir. The divas spoke to EW in L.A.

By Anthony Breznican
Updated January 06, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Joyful Noise

  • Movie

It’s nice to meet you two.
Dolly Parton Dana and Dolly — double D’s!
Queen Latifah [Laughs, tries to drink from a water bottle] Huh. This is frozen.
Parton Is that totally frozen? Can you suck it?
EW Okay, this is a family magazine!
Parton [Laughs] This is how we do it.
Latifah Yeah, what’s your problem?
EW I look forward to the NC-17 version of Joyful Noise.
Latifah That will be the actor’s cut.
Parton We didn’t say we weren’t sinners. We’re trying.

Latifah, you produced and star in Joyful Noise. What made you want to tell this story?
Latifah You see people struggling, going through challenges in their own lives, and the economy is suffering from a recession. [In the movie] it’s about good people going through bad times, and how they pull together to overcome these challenges and keep their sense of spirituality. Keep God in front…. The marketplace is missing this kind of movie.

Dolly, what persuaded you to sign on after so long away from movies?
Parton It’s gospel music. Gospel music and Christmas music are the most uplifting stuff. Everybody loves to sing that…. When they brought this to me, I thought, “I’m not a skilled actress or anything.” So I wasn’t looking for things.
Latifah Not true, not true. You are a natural.
Parton Well, I have to do things that are true to my personality…. I said [to writer-director Todd Graff], ”If you don’t want me to change the way I am, then I’ll do it. If I can have my hair, my boobs, my nails, and my shoes, I’ll do it.”

I noticed you’re the only one with a fitted choir robe.
Parton Well, I’m so short and my boobs are so big, that if I had that big robe on, I’d just…
Latifah She’d look like a tiny box.

Did you enjoy sparring with each other in the movie?
Parton We had fun with that. We’re from two completely different worlds. We’re alike in that we are bighearted, but we didn’t have no trouble [fighting].
Latifah She gets to throw a good amount of [insults] at me.
Parton You try not to take it personal, but maybe you do. [As an actor] you try to let that build up and think, ”If somebody really said that to me, I’d react.” I’m a hillbilly. I would flare up.

Besides big hearts, what other qualities do you share?
Parton We both grew up in the church…. We talked about that a lot.
Latifah My mother was a choir director, my aunt has been a choir director, and my family grew up in the church. Dolly was in the church big-time.
Parton Yeah, big-time Holy Roller Pentecostal… Plus, my mother’s people were Owens, and [Latifah’s] name is Dana Owens. She said we definitely could be soul cousins, if not soul sisters.

Joyful Noise

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 118 minutes
  • Todd Graff