Country singer/sitcom star Reba McEntire is playing chicken tycoon Harland Sanders — aka the Colonel — in a new series of KFC ads running from now through April that are tied to the release of the mega-chain’s new “Smoky Mountain BBQ” chicken. For the last few years, KFC has had a bunch of different actors and comedians — including Jim Gaffigan, Rob Lowe, Billy Zane, Ray Liotta, and Norm Macdonald — portray the fried chicken chain’s founder, but this is the first time a woman has ever represented the Colonel in an ad.
The first commercial features Reba as the Colonel singing a song about the new smoky chicken on stage at a rowdy honky tonk where real-life Reba is also in the audience, watching the show. “I’m Colonel Sanders, the same as always, absolutely nothing’s changed,” the man in the white suit croons. “Please ignore any likeness to famous country singers, I’m definitely not a woman.” The crowd starts to gets out of control, so the cops bust in to break up the party, but they quickly get caught up in the vibe of the music and start line-dancing.
This is one of many amusingly absurdist Colonel ads that creative firm Wieden+Kennedy has cooked up for KFC over the last two and a half years. Last fall, the company’s executive creative director Eric Baldwin told Eater that instead of trying to cast one actor as KFC’s founder, his team realized “it was better to have celebrities paying homage to his character as opposed to trying to recreate him.”
McEntire is apparently a life-long KFC fan. “It’s part of my story, and I’m so excited to now be part of theirs,” the country legend says in an announcement. “I’ve held a lot of roles in my life — sort of like the Colonel himself — but this is certainly the most unique one yet.”
Check out the first of Reba’s Colonel ads above, and stay tuned for more updates on McEntire’s turn as the goateed chicken magnate as they become available.