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Michael Nardelli Talks Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in Homestead 

Michael Nardelli Talks Hallmark Channel’s Christmas in Homestead
Photo Credit: Patrick Maus


WARNING: mild spoilers

Tis the season to watch Hallmark Channel. Every year Hallmark unloads a sleigh-full of family-friendly movies that serves to boost spirits and get everyone properly prepared for Santa’s arrival.

On Thanksgiving night, Christmas in Homestead descends upon the merry masses. It’s about a famous actress who heads to a small town in Iowa to film a holiday-themed movie. There she finds love, but the road to happiness does not go smoothly, of course.

Photo Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Curtis Bonds Baker
Photo Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Curtis Bonds Baker

The cast includes Taylor Cole of Supernatural, Summerland and The Originals; UnREAL and Jane the Virgin star Michael Rady; Daytime Emmy winner Jeff Branson; and also General Hospital‘s Brooklyn Rae Silzer.

Photo Credit: Patrick Maus
Photo Credit: Patrick Maus

Christmas in Homestead also features Michael Nardelli, who has appeared on the small screen in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, Nashville, Quintuplets, and Revenge.

In the movie, he plays Ian Cooper, a paparazzo trying to dig up some dirt on said famous actress. Via email, Nardelli graciously answered questions about the Hallmark movie, his own digital series, and his favorite holiday movie. Spoiler Alert: He couldn’t name just one.

TV Goodness: Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas is absolutely a huge event every year. Why is it fun to be a part of one of these holiday films?

Michael Nardelli: Because I love Christmas! They’re also great movies that you can watch with the whole family and get into the Christmas spirit. It’s such a fun time of year with such a unique feeling. When you have a big family getting together for the holidays, it’s hard to find something that everyone can watch and enjoy. Hallmark does a great job of telling stories that everyone can find meaning in, and their scripts always have such moral authenticity. I’m proud to have worked with them.

TV Goodness: Christmas in Homestead premieres on Thanksgiving night. How does that make this experience even more special?

Michael: I’m so excited! I’m honored that they picked us to air that night. We definitely have that post-Thanksgiving dinner tradition in my family of sitting together in the family room (usually after eating lots of turkey and even more pie!) and watching something together. It’s just super cool and super surreal for me that it’ll be something I had the chance to work on. My nephew and nieces haven’t been able to watch a lot of the stuff I’ve been in thus far, so being in something that’s kid-friendly is an added joy!

TV Goodness: Christmas in Homestead is kind of meta. It’s about an actress who’s shooting a holiday-themed film. You play a member of the paparazzi. Talk about your character, Ian Cooper. How much trouble does he cause?

Michael: When we meet Ian he is definitely chasing a lot of the wrong things. Living in L.A. has affected his morals so all he really cares about is money, celebrities, beauty and catching the big “exclusive.” He doesn’t have a huge regard for peoples’ privacy either. He takes some photos of the big starlet (played by Taylor Cole) and her possible new love interest that wind up causing quite a bit of trouble and uproar amongst the local townsfolk in Homestead. Thankfully, he meets an innkeeper who has a much stronger moral compass than he does; when Ian develops feelings for her, he knows he’ll have to change his ways to keep her.

TV Goodness: So Ian might even fall in love. What appealed to you about playing this character?

Michael: I liked the idea of doing a romantic comedy. It was a nice change of pace for me from a lot of the other more serious roles I’ve done in the past few years. Ian also had a really fun arc. It’s fun as an actor to start with a character who might not be super likable, and then find the things that make him a fully fleshed out human being by the end of the story.

TV Goodness: Who or what did you look to for inspiration for your character?

Michael: I watched a documentary called Smash His Camera about famous paparazzo Ron Galella; that really informed my understanding of the role a lot. Seeing how the paparazzi work, what their goals are – a lot of them look at it as an art and don’t consider the violations of privacy. I also tried to watch a lot of romantic comedies – something I don’t normally do — and it was a fun assignment. I really loved Working Girl and Harrison Ford’s character in that. He’s always been a huge inspiration for me and I wanted Ian to feel similar [to] that character: equal parts scoundrel and caring.

TV Goodness: Now, the town where the film is set is Homestead, Iowa. Where did you guys actually film this movie and what was the experience like as a whole?

Michael: We filmed it in Dahlonega, Georgia. It’s about an hour north of Atlanta which was great because my family lives there. On days off I was able to drive down and hang with the family. Dahlonega was a really great, picturesque small town that was perfect for what the script called for. We filmed in October so it was actually pretty hot, especially with all the “winter layers” we had to wear for the film. The townsfolk were really supportive of the movie and wanted to know everything about it, although I think we confused a lot of them because there they were setting up the shops in town square for Halloween and then suddenly the next day everything was covered in fake snow and Christmas decorations.

TV Goodness: What’s your favorite moment in the film for your character?

Michael: There’s a moment where I’m trying to get the “exclusive” and I wind up falling out of a tree. I thought it was a really fun moment and definitely indicative of Ian’s “do whatever it takes to get the shot” mentality. I also really enjoyed all my scenes with Katrina Norman (who plays Zoe). Our characters are sort of “opposites attract,” so it was fun having a back and forth with her. There’s a scene where we have a snowball fight in the town square; it was really beautiful and fun to film!

TV Goodness: You’re also producing, writing and starring in a digital series called Dark/Web. What is Dark/Web?

Photo Credit: Patrick Maus
Photo Credit: Patrick Maus

Michael: Dark/Web is a cautionary tale about the modern “always connected, always on, always available” world we’re living in today. It talks about things like cyber terror, hacking and freedom of information. It does all this with a bit of a hybrid story structure that we’re excited about: a serialized narrative that spans the course of eight episodes, and stand-alone anthology segments that appear in each episode. There’s a narrative device that ties it all together. If we all do our jobs right it should feel fresh, scary, topical and fun. We have a few episodes shooting this week actually; Zelda Williams is directing one and starring in it, and Boman Modine is directing the other one. I’m really excited to share it with everyone!

TV Goodness: How challenging is it for you to wear all the different hats for one project?

Michael: It can be very challenging and overwhelming on certain days, and then it can feel incredibly rewarding and empowering on others. I like being able to create projects like Dark/Web that feel like I have some ownership over them, but I also love being an actor-for-hire in stuff like Christmas in Homestead where I can come in and just focus on my character and his place in the story – it’s gotten to the point where those gigs feel like a bit of a vacation since I’m relieved I don’t have to worry about all the production stuff going around me.

TV Goodness: Where will we be able to find Dark/Web?

Michael: We’re promoting the show on – we actually did a contest with their readers and let them submit scripts for the show, then we chose the winner and will be producing that episode as part of the series. LRM’s updating readers on the production, what goes into making a digital series… all that stuff. We’ll debut the show there exclusively for a week, then it’ll be released by a more traditional digital distributor. We’re still filming right now though, so getting it all “in the can” is taking up all my focus!

TV Goodness: You’re a self-proclaimed sci-fi, comic book and gamer nerd. There are a ton of sci-fi shows on TV right now. Are there any series you’d love to guest star in?

Michael: Westworld! I’ve fallen in love with it. It speaks to a lot of the themes that interest me in life. I also really love Mr. Robot, Black Mirror and, of course, Game Of Thrones. I’d be a happy camper dropping into any of those series!

TV Goodness: What’s your dream project?

Michael: I just saw Arrival. That’s my kind of movie: mysterious, thrilling, complex, but also full of a lot of heart. It really addresses the modern dilemma we find ourselves in where, despite being connected so thoroughly by social media, we still miss a lot of the cues of communication in how we deal with each other. It’s this great parable about the human condition hidden in the structure of a science-fiction film. I’d love to work with that director and those filmmakers. I’m also a huge Marvel fan, I’d love to do stuff that’s more physical and action-oriented than I’ve been given the chance to do so far.

TV Goodness: Back to the holiday theme…what is your favorite holiday movie and why?

Michael: This is SUCH a hard question. I love so many of them: It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street and A Christmas Story. I have to say though, I really grew up on Christmas Vacation; it was always the one I put on in November to get that Christmas feeling going, so I’ll pick that one! I love Home Alone, too. I love anything Christmas really!

Christmas in Homestead premieres Thanksgiving night at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel.

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