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Dolly Parton responds to '9 to 5' co-star Jane Fonda cancer diagnosis

The two have been close since appearing in the 1980 movie together. "We don’t talk every day but we have a very special feeling in our hearts," Parton told TODAY.
/ Source: TODAY

Dolly Parton will always love Jane Fonda.

Parton, one of America's national treasures, spoke to TODAY Wednesday in the wake of the her former "9 to 5" co-star's cancer diagnosis, and expressed sympathy and genuine dismay.

Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda.
Lily Tomlin (l.), Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda presenting an award at the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards in 2017.Chris Pizzello / Invision/AP

Fonda revealed on Instagram on Sept. 2 that she'd been diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph nodes, and had started chemo treatments. Fonda has been outspoken about her previous bouts with cancer.

“This is a very treatable cancer," the 84-year-old wrote. "80% of people survive, so I feel very lucky.”

Parton said that she'd reached out to her following the announcement, and said that losing Fonda would be "like losing a sister."

"I have not spoken to her since she announced that she was sick; I have tried, so I would imagine she’s going through her things at the moment," said Parton, 76.

"She’ll get back to me, though. We don’t talk every day but we have a very special feeling in our hearts, Lily (Tomlin), Jane and I since we did the movie ‘9 to 5,'" he said.

In the 1980 workplace revenge movie, Parton, Fonda and Tomlin (who co-starred with Fonda in "Grace & Frankie") played harassed and put-upon lower-level office workers, ruled over by a misogynistic boss — but they find a way to get their own back in the end.

Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda acts in a scene from the movie "9 to 5".
Parton (l.), Tomlin and Fonda in "9 to 5."Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

The 40-year-old film remains culturally relevant. The upcoming documentary "Still Working 9 to 5" looks back at the movie in the light of workplace and pay inequality that persists today. All three stars speak in the doc, which will premiere later this month in New York and L.A. and at film festivals both in the U.S. and abroad.

Another plus for Parton fans? The documentary comes with a new version of Parton's No. 1 theme song, "9 to 5," in which the country legend duets with Kelly Clarkson.

"People are still working their nine-to-five jobs, and women are still trying to find their equal pay and their equal importance, and I'm all about that," said Parton. "I’m proud of the documentary and I hope it goes well. And I hope Jane does well, because that would be like losing a sister to me."

“I’m proud of the documentary and I hope it goes well. And I hope Jane does well, because that would be like losing a sister to me.”

"9 to 5," the song, remains a favorite of Parton's fans, too. She wrote the tune "on the set" of the film, she explained, and as she's noted in previous interviews, used the sound of her fingernails clacking simulates typewriter keys. Her acrylic nails even got a a credit on the album as an instrument.

Parton said "9 to 5" is a common request among fans who meet her.

But it's not the only tune her fans instinctively sing to her when they meet Parton. Sometimes "Jolene" or "I Will Always Love You" pop up, too. Chuckled Parton in typically humble fashion, "I'm just honored that they remember my songs at all."

In addition to the "9 to 5" documentary, Parton also has a new Christmas special premiering on Peacock later this year. "Dolly Parton's Mountain Magic Christmas" was filmed in her theme park, Dollywood, located near her hometown in east Tennessee.

CORRECTION 9/15 at 5:08 p.m.: There are no plans for "Still Working 9 to 5" to stream on Netflix, which was previously stated in the article.