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Reba McEntire Admits Playing Colonel Sanders Isn’t Something She’d Have Done Early in Her Career

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Reba McEntire has one of the most storied careers in country music. From a dramatic climb to recording success to her broad and varied acting career, the Nashville icon has done it all — or so we thought, until KFC unveiled a new commercial, in which McEntire plays Colonel Sanders. It was her manager, Clarence Spalding, who pitched the idea to McEntire while she was in Las Vegas during her residency with the legendary Brooks & Dunn.

“I said, ‘What? Are you kiddin’ me? Oh my gosh, yes, I am totally interested,” McEntire tells Taste of Country. “I’ve always been a fan of Kentucky Fried Chicken; I’ve eaten it since forever.”

So, McEntire met with executives from the fast-food fried chicken chain. She says KFC’s storyboards for the ad were “pretty much just like what you see in the finished product.”

“So I was really thrilled with how they treated the concept,” she says of the initial pitch. “Anything that I kinda said, ‘You know, I really don’t want to do this,’ they said, ‘Okay.'”

And the week-long filming process in Los Angeles in January was quick and easy — and hilarious. Transforming from a very-recognizable country star into a fried-chicken icon was a makeup and hair feat that took hours to accomplish.

“Hys-terical! It was hysterical. It was funny; it was kind of cute. Outlandish,” McEntire recalls of her first impression of herself as the Colonel. “And then some friends of mine came up on the trailer while I was waiting to go back in as the Colonel, and they walked right past me.”

Playing Colonel Sanders might seem unexpected, but McEntire says that branching out for an unexpected role comes naturally to her. Whether she’s recording a full-length gospel album or dressed in a white pantsuit, wig and facial hair, pushing the limits of her comfort zone is something that the artist is, well, comfortable with.

“When I did Annie, Get Your Gun back in 2001, that was the first play that I had ever been in,” she recalls. “When I was doing the interviews, somebody asked me, ‘Aren’t you scared to death that this is your first play?’ I looked at him kind of shocked and said, ‘No, I never thought about that.’ I’m kind of fearless in this sense …

“I wanna do stuff that I haven’t done, to get me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been singing gospel music all my life, but to do a gospel album was totally different. But boy, that was fun. And, evidently, everybody liked it, and it helped a lot of people,” McEntire adds, referring to her Grammy Awards-winning album Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope. “That’s what so rewarding, is when you see that what you do makes a difference in people’s lives.

“I think Colonel Sanders — I think that commercial will make people chuckle,” she concludes, “and say, ‘Well, that was funny,’ and bring a little lightness to their day.”

But while McEntire admits she’s now unafraid to branch out, she says that, earlier in her career, adopting a quirky role such as Colonel Sanders might have been a little harder for her.

“Back then, I was so focused on what my image was and still searching,” she shares. “Now, I am very comfortable in my own skin, and I can play another character.”

Whether that character is a gun-slinging cowgirl or the global icon of Colonel Sanders, McEntire is up for the challenge. All it takes it the ability to laugh at yourself.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously; have fun with life,” McEntire says. “When I see people that can laugh at themselves, that’s endearing to me.”

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