Reba McEntire likes to stay busy, and in 2022, she's got a dizzying number of new projects in the works: After putting out her My Chains Are Gone gospel project and wrapping a string of arena dates early this year, she's already got another slate of Reba: Live in Concert dates planned for the fall, and not one, but two major acting projects in the works.

One is a role on the ABC crime drama Big Sky, while the other is a reunion of sorts: She's joining the cast of a Lifetime film called The Hammer, alongside her former Reba co-star Melissa Peterman and her boyfriend Rex Linn.

But just two years ago, it would've seemed unimaginable that all these projects would be playing out. Like it did the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic halted McEntire in her tracks. Additionally, just days before pandemic shutdowns began to impact the U.S., McEntire was already dealing with a difficult family situation: Her 93-year-old mother, Jacqueline, was dying of bladder cancer.

"I was in Oklahoma helping my brother and sisters take care of Momma, flying back and forth to Nashville [tour] rehearsals," McEntire remembers of that time, speaking to USA Today. "She passed in the middle of March, and I went back home for the funeral. That's when COVID broke out. We didn't even get to have a funeral."

Between her mother's death and the impact of the pandemic, McEntire says it was deeply uncertain time for her and her family. "You talk about tailspin? Everybody was like, 'What's going on? What's COVID?'" The singer continues. "And here we are, two years later, getting to do a show that everybody was really excited about. It was better than any of us could've imagined."

Projects like Big Sky coming to fruition are big, triumphant moments for the singer, and her work on the Lifetime film is especially full-circle: It marks a chance to collaborate on a professional project with Linn, who she started dating in March 2020 — the same month that McEntire lost her mother, as well as the same month that pandemic shutdowns brought her schedule to a grinding halt. The pair had dinner together once, but due to social distancing precautions, they started a daily morning ritual they called "coffee camp," first on the phone or over Zoom, and then at one of their houses.

Now, more than two years later, they still do "coffee camp" every day. Working together in front of the camera is a goal they've had ever since those early days, and as soon as she got the script for The Hammer, McEntire knew she wanted Linn to be involved.

"We're trying, I'm trying to get him on this," she said of Linn. "We're supposed to see the script the first of April. So, when we get the script, oh yeah, we'd love to work together. We've been trying to work together ever since we got together two years ago."

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