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Inside Netflix’s Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Docuseries: What ‘Cheer’ and ‘Last Chance U’ Director Greg Whiteley Learned From Following ‘America’s Sweethearts’ for a Season

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Angelique Jackson SPOILER WARNING: This interview discusses plot points from “America’s Sweethearts: Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders,” now streaming on Netflix.

Last Thanksgiving, Greg Whiteley was on the sidelines at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas as the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders put on an electrifying halftime show with special guest, country music icon Dolly Parton.

The Emmy-winning documentarian, best known for “Cheer” and “Last Chance U,” and his crew had been filming into the wee hours the night before, as workers put the finishing touches on Parton’s stage (which had to be assembled in a way that it could be torn down in a matter of minutes for the game to resume) and the cheerleaders made last-minute tweaks to their formations. “The cheerleaders get 15 minutes of uninterrupted prime-time coverage.

It’s a huge deal. No other cheerleading squad gets this, and they get it every year, so they take it seriously,” Whiteley tells Variety. “They spend so much time rehearsing and preparing for that day, which has become this American tradition — Thanksgiving with the Cowboys.” Whiteley compares the production — that year, a showstopping medley of Parton’s work capped off with a rendition of “9 to 5” — to riding a bull. “Watching Kelli [Finglass, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders’ longtime director] and the team try and stay on top was breathtaking,” he says, still visibly awestruck by what he witnessed. “I’d sit at home and watch it and go, ‘Oh, cool.

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