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Catherine Lough Haggquist Talks Jingle Around the Clock and Christmas Pen Pals [Exclusive]

Catherine Lough Haggquist has been a Hallmark staple in recent years, most notably as a member of the ensemble cast of the Aurora Teagarden franchise. Around here, we’re also fans from her run on Continuum. This holiday season, you can catch her twice—in Lifetime’s Christmas Pen Pals, which premiered last weekend and repeats through the end of the year, and Saturday night on Hallmark Channel in Jingle Around the Clock. I chatted with her earlier this week to talk about the new projects, her entertainment industry-focused bookstore, BizBooks.net, and the advice she gives young performers.

Lough Haggquist shot both holiday movies this fall in Vancouver, and says it was a treat to shoot when Christmas was right around the corner, and to bank projects that her family can enjoy. “It was really fun. I really love doing Christmas movies. They play so often, so it’s really nice to revisit the time and place when we created them,” she says.

“And I love that they’re something the whole family can watch. I have little cousins wanting to get into this business so it’s nice to have something that’s safe for them to see. [They’re also on all the time]. You don’t have to wait until 8 in the evening to watch. They’re playing all day when you’re baking and doing your Christmas wrapping and when the kids are getting home from school. People are discovering them around the clock.”

“It was really nice to work on [these movies] as people were turning their minds to the holidays. We joke in Vancouver that once it turns 30 degrees it’s time to get the wool sweaters out and make Christmas movies. I enjoyed having the Christmas ramp up while we were doing that onscreen.”

In Jingle Around the Clock, Lough Haggquist plays Fiona, an ad agency boss to Brooke Nevins’s Elle. “I’m her boss and bit of a mentor to her. I’m trying to convince her there’s a work opportunity that would advance her career but at the same time she has commitments to her family and friends at the holidays and is conflicted about how to navigate both worlds. The movie is about how she figures out how to do that,” she explains.

The role parallels her character in Christmas Pen Pals, where she plays Naomi, who co-owns an online dating site with Sarah Drew’s Hannah and has to nudge her to get her head out of the science of relationships and instead get into her feelings. “I was really happy with the similarity in that both show women in the workplace as supportive and collaborative and oftentimes the two female roles can be pitted against each other,” she shares. “I was really, really grateful that both of these were supportive mentorship-type characters. It was neat that they had that [in common].”

Lough Haggquist has been an ongoing part of the Aurora Teagarden films, and spoiler alert, in the next one, she’s the former mayor. “I’m still part of the Real Murders Club, which was really a lovely surprise. Even though my term of office has ended, my participation in solving the mystery was maintained,” she says.

“I’m very grateful for that. It’s a really fun group to work with. We have a really great time. It’s been really a great treat to get to do it a couple of times a year and discover the latest plot twist.”

BizBooks.net is Lough Haggquist’s 22-year-old book business that sprang from her participation in the local Vancouver actors union, UBCP/ACTRA. “When I started acting, I wanted to learn more about the business itself. I was elected as a representative to the UBCP/ACTRA executive board and sent on different bargaining trips and promotional trips to Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto, and they had bookstores that catered to the industry,” she recalls.

“If someone was curious about the business, they could buy a book and discover if it was for them. [Vancouver didn’t have anything like that yet]. In 1996, we opened our book store in Gastown and moved to a second, larger location in 2001 and we noticed the trend from our customers that they wanted us to send them the books. And we noticed that other brick and mortar bookstores like us were feeling the [same] economic pressures.”

“We felt that the future was the Internet and in 2010 we adopted our ‘Online and On Location’ model. We do the majority of book sales online and we’ll also go to events, conferences, screenings, and plays, and do pop-up stores. That’s been a wonderful way to maintain that in-person contact with our clients and [allow them to find] a book through the serendipity of browsing the covers. We’ve been able to connect to people [all over the world]. It’s been a great adventure.”

Lough Haggquist’s experience as part of the union has helped her as an actor and helped her educate the next generation on how to separate personal and professional. “The more I got a foot in the business side, it made the audition process less difficult,” she says. “Because then it was [reframing it as], ‘Am I going to collaborate on this project with these people?’ as opposed to, ‘Do they like me?’”

“That’s where a lot of younger actors start out. They make themselves vulnerable to offer their take on a role and they have difficulty separating [critique of performance and instead perceive it as a] criticism about them as individuals.”

“It gave me a clear sense and when I teach young actors about the business, it’s one of the things I try to lead with…finding that way to separate your success rate in the audition room from your worth as a person They’re not really related You were completely fine going into the room and whether you get this job, that’s not a reflection of that. That was one of the real gifts I got from being on the union side and learning about the business close up.”

Lough Haggquist has two feature film roles coming this year. In Endless, she’s the Mom to Alexandra Shipp’s character and one of my faves plays her husband. “She’s going through a bit of a traumatic time in her young life and her relationship and I’m there to support her and help her navigate that,” she explains.

“It’s been an interesting young adult film that I think will be well-received and it has some twists and turns along the way. Ian Tracey plays my husband. We’ve known each other for 30 years and this is the first time we’ve shared a scene. He’s such a generous actor and we had such a great time collaborating. [We received feedback that they] could totally buy [us] as a family That was really nice feedback to get. It’s always fun working with your friends.”

Love & Oatmeal [is a film I did] with Ben Platt. That is a story about a complicated relationship between a brother and sister,” she says. “I play the therapist to the sister. I think that will be a great story, well told. That was a lot of fun to work on.”

Jingle Around the Clock premieres Saturday at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel. Christmas Pen Pals repeats through the end of December on Lifetime and is available online at Lifetime’s website. Aurora Teagarden returns in 2019.

Photos courtesy of Kristine Cofsky Photography, Crown Media, and Lifetime.

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