[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
It’s been 12 years since Warren Christie graced us with a Hallmark Christmas movie (The Most Wonderful Time of the Year) and I was thrilled to see his name pop up this season. Sunday night, he returns with If I Only Had Christmas, starring opposite Candace Cameron Bure. I jumped on the phone with Christie this afternoon to chat about the movie and his other recent projects.
In the film, which is threaded with very sweet winks and nods to The Wizard of Oz, he plays Glen Goodman, a communications VP for a tech firm that needs a lot of help in the PR department. Bure is Darcy Gale, a Kansas City PR executive bristling from her loss of a prestigious award who decides a pro bono project is just what she needs.
When her brother and sister-in-law mention an educational foundation they’ve worked with, and she discovers the tech firm’s CEO is one of its founders, she puts together a pitch that’s immediately shot down. Not to be outdone, she gets Goodman on the phone and clarifies her pitch and he offers her a three-week pro bono assignment as a potential audition for the full PR contract.
Startled that her gamble worked, she travels to Connecticut and soon falls in with the trio–Bridget (Lucia Walters), Jackie (Jordana Largy), and Cowan (Robert Markus)–who are the heart of the foundation, and Goodman, who makes himself surprisingly available to help. Over the course of the film Darcy helps all of them find their way–and she finds her own path, too.
David Weaver (who directed Bure in last year’s Christmas Town) directs a script by Sarah Montana based on a story by Aurora Teagarden and frequent Hallmark producer Jim Head. It’s a completely charming way to close out the Thanksgiving weekend.
Christie was happy to jump back into the Hallmark fold–six years after his last film, The Color of Rain–following appearances in projects as varied as USA’s Eyewitness, ABC’s The Catch, NBC’s The Village, and the Season 1 finale of Batwoman (Updated: He’s also slated to appear in Season 2 premiere). With The Most Wonderful Time of the Year in regular rotation every year since its 2008 premiere, he says he still hears from people about it.
“Whether it’s through social media or family members or something else, people do reach out and you realize what a tradition these Hallmark movies have become. They really become yearly watching for some people,” he shares. “It was just a really fortunate opportunity that the timing worked out and I happened to be around and available [for this movie].”
“Everybody was incredible. And it was a lot of fun. I was happy to do it. Hopefully it’s not another 12 years. Hallmark people are always very nice, so it’s a nice set to come to. You know what you’re going into. Everyone’s going to work hard. It’s a nice vibe. You’re going in there to do something that is sweet and joyful.”
“The Christmas movies are really important to people and when it starts to kick off that season, people sit around and it becomes multi-generational and grandparents, adults, and kids can watch these movies together. There’s not a lot of programming that can cross those generations. And you get to be a part of that and it’s usually this really sweet, loving story. That’s a nice thing to share with people.”
“And that usually is the atmosphere on set, whether it’s the cast, whether it’s the crew, the people in charge, it really all stems from the top down. And it’s really always lovely working with them.”
“I liked the script and the experience was everything I hoped it was going to be. And with the homage to The Wizard of Oz, I just thought it was really smart, and it gave us a lot to play with in there to have fun with each other and let that story naturally progress.”
The movie introduces Glen and Darcy to each other the first time over the phone and then in person in a variation on the meet cute. Christie enjoyed that setup. “I love the bar scene where they first met. It was just so funny and it was all written right there because the audience knows things that Candace’s character doesn’t. It gives you a lot of play that you don’t have to overdo because the audience knows what’s going on at the moment,” he says.
“It was a really fun day to just set up and kind of goof around and try and find the kickoff point for this relationship in our minds, knowing where we want it to somewhat go. It’s always fun to play within that.”
There’s a second strong woman in the mix, too–Brenda Crichlow‘s Winona, who’s the CFO at Glen’s company and a thorn in his side when he increasingly skips out on work once Darcy comes to town. “That’s a nice storyline, [too]. She’s trying to push him and pushing his buttons in a way to help him to try and be the man that she believes he can be,” he explains.
“I thought that was really fun to play with the narrative. She also gets to have a really nice moment at the end where you see the truth of their relationship and just how nurturing she really is.”
Once Darcy and Glen fall in with the larger ensemble, the story fills out, and Christie says that added an extra level of enjoyment to the project. “Those were really fun days, when we’re all together, whether it’s at the table together or out at the farmhouse, the maze, and those different things,” he points out.
“When you get everyone together like that, usually no matter what you’re working on, it’s fun, but this is a really nice group of people. And everyone’s brought such a nice little nuance to their character.”
This was Christie’s first pandemic filming experience and he says there was a learning curve but they settled into the routines. “Like anything as human beings, we just adapt, you put your mask back on and you walk to your spot, but other people can come in and do their job,” he shares.
“You still try and have this very symbiotic relationship, but you’re also trying to give everyone their space to make sure they feel safe and that they feel good about what’s going on. It was strange the first couple of days getting used to it, but like everything that’s happened this year, I think you adjust and you just do what you can for everybody else and make sure everybody feels safe and protected.”
Last year, Christie was part of the ensemble drama The Village, in which he played a veteran returning not just to civilian life but also a new family dynamic, while battling PTSD. “We were really proud of that show. It was beautifully written by Mike Daniels and I thought the cast was really phenomenal and where I think we were setting up to go was going to [have] really beautiful stories and storylines,” he says.
“I felt quite a bit of responsibility playing a veteran, and an amputee. It’s not something you take lightly. I was lucky that I had someone with me the whole time helping me out. I did as much research as I could, and then we treaded very lightly and we were trying to be as honest as we could and respectful as we could with telling that story.”
“There were some heavy days and some hard days, but it was a real career highlight for me because of the people I worked with [and] because of the stories. I felt very honored to try and tell that story. To get the feedback I did, which was largely positive, was really wonderful. And I love my cast. We were in New York shooting in some very special places. The experience on a whole was a real career high from that aspect.”
Christie dipped a toe into the extra short-form format Quibi, appearing in two micro-episodes of the horror anthology series 50 States of Fright, which were released this spring. “I got to sit down and have a drink with Sam Raimi and talk about it. It’s a very different format. I believe that they were ahead of their time,” he says.
“I could be wrong, but I think [with] the pandemic we had so much time to binge so many shows, it’s tough, [because] this was more geared towards pre-pandemic time, ‘I’ve got a lunch break or I’m on the subway. I need a seven-minute, high-quality episode.’ I feel like obviously that had a huge impact, but I still believe there is a world for that because we love to sit and watch things on our phone and to do these things seven-, eight-minute blocks.”
“A lot of times that comes down to the writing. It has to be very sharp. As an actor, you have to make sure your beats are quickly done because you don’t have a week to draw this out. For [my] two episodes, we [filmed in] three days.”
“The shooting format was hectic, but it was really, really fun. It was a really cool way to do something and in a very interesting process. And I still think there is a world for it moving forward. It’s a real craft and a very unique art form to be able to tell a succinct story that really captures you and tells you an arc in a short amount of time.”
Christie appears in the upcoming feature film, Land, starring opposite Robin Wright in her directorial debut. “The script was unbelievable. Robin was starring in what was a very, very difficult role and also directing it. There were days that I just kind of sat back and was just amazed at watching her bounce [between them] because taking on either one of those things would be difficult, and she did both incredibly well,” he shares.
“She’s incredibly talented and everybody involved with it [was, too]. It was really great to see a smaller group of people pulling together to do this really beautiful thing.”
Photos Courtesy of Crown Media and NBC; Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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