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Jewel Discusses Her Role as June Carter Cash in Lifetime Biopic

Our Country

By Laura Ferreiro

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(Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images)

The love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash has become the stuff of legend. Famously illustrated in the Oscar-winning 2005 film "Walk the Line," the country couple's great love for one another kept them together through Cash's substance abuse problems and the trials and tribulations of living in the public eye.

Now director Allison Anders has put her own spin on the story, telling it from June Carter Cash's point of view in the upcoming Lifetime biopic "Ring of Fire." Based on the book "Anchored in Love" by Johnny and June's only son, John Carter Cash, the film had its world premier at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on Tuesday night before it airs Monday (May 27) on the cable network. Cast members, the director, producers and Lifetime executives were on hand to share their experiences and their take on the story of the country music royalty.

Jewel kicked off the evening with a solo rendition of "Ring of Fire," the tune made famous by Johnny but actually written by June. Jewel admitted that her first thought was "Oh crap!" when she learned she'd gotten the role. "I knew I wanted to capture June's spirit on top of the fact that Reese (Witherspoon) won an Oscar (for her portrayal of June) and I wasn't an actress," she said. The folk singer's only other notable acting turn was in Ang Lee's 1999 film "Ride With the Devil."

Despite her lack of thespian experience, Jewel delivers an impressive and engaging performance as the charming and self-deprecating country singer, portraying her from her early 20s until her death at age 73.

"I had a similar background to June," Jewel revealed. "I grew up eating squirrel stew and my family was musical. I left home when I was 15 and I grew up singing in a bar, which was the best study in human nature I could have asked for."

John Doe of renowned Los Angeles punk band X also has a role in the film, portraying A.P. Carter, June's uncle who was a founding member of The Carter Family band. "It was exciting to tackle the research and try to be representative of A.P.," Doe said, adding that there are universal truths in the Cash's timeless music.

Anders explained that she couldn't resist taking on the project and telling June's story while trying to remain as loyal to John Carter Cash's book as she could. "I was drawn to the project about a woman who created her own journey in a time when that was hard to do," she said.

John Carter Cash said he intended to be as "truthful and honest" as he could when writing the memoir about his family. "The book is a straight guide," he said. "Mama was always a laughing spirit and it's an important heritage in the history of music."

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