Jennifer Finnigan marks her second Christmas movie for Hallmark Sunday night with Welcome to Christmas, starring opposite Eric Mabius in a romantic comedy about a development executive for a chain of high-end vacation resorts who is sent to scope out the town of Christmas, Colorado. I chatted with Finnigan last week about the film and her CBS series, Salvation, which has fans hoping for a revival after its fall cancellation.
In Welcome to Christmas, Finnigan’s Madison arrives in Christmas to essentially rule it out of consideration for a new resort until she falls for the local sheriff and his family and the townspeople and has to weigh her heart against her career. It’s a very sweet love story and extended ensemble film with familiar Hallmark faces like Susan Hogan, Michael Kopsa, Lorne Cardinal, and Sarah Edmonson.
Finnigan’s first Christmas film was 2015’s Angel of Christmas with Jonathan Scarfe, which is one of our faves. She was happy to jump into this new project this fall, right after wrapping production on the second season of Salvation. “I had sworn I would take some time off and then a cute Christmas movie came up and I went right back to Vancouver,” she says.
“I had worked with the director [Gary Harvey] on Walking the Dog and many years ago [in What Color is Love?]. I had heard Eric was a nice man. He sourced the material, found the novel [Debbie Mason’s The Trouble with Christmas], and co-produced it. I knew that one of the weeks would shoot in Revelstoke, which I had never been to.”
“I’m always attracted to doing something really sweet. Angel of Christmas was the first Hallmark movie I did. I was in the middle of shooting Tyrant, which was really dark material. I read [that] script and it was fun and funny and I had such a great time in those three weeks. I always keep an eye out for cute Christmas movies because the TV [series] I do tend to be very dramatic. It’s nice to go off and do something light and sweet that my child can watch in a few years.”
Finnigan didn’t realize that with that first film, she became part of an annually revisited library of holiday movies, but loved that aspect, and working with Hallmark in general. “I was not aware of that at all. My name had circulated around Hallmark for a while and I wasn’t all that knowledgeable about them, so when I really paid attention, that opened my eyes to the network and the people who are so kind and lovely and love what they do and love the talent that they employ,” she says.
“I’m a fan of their business model. I think we all agree times are tough right now so we all need to zone out with something sweet and gentle and kind and with a happy ending . I think there’s something to be said about that. They’re doing something right. They’re killing it. Every other day I have someone telling me they watched Angel of Christmas and loved it.”
The new film balances lighter and more serious moments, and the former resonated the most for her. “I veer toward the quirky comedic scenes. Our initial meeting I thought that was fun, and the scene where the townspeople give me their original pitch and I’m sort of humoring them and tying to get out of there and they keep keeping me there and I’m doing everything I can to leave,” she explains.
“I’m getting in deeper and deeper and I remember playing the despair. All of the townspeople are definitive characters and quirky and silly and adorable and it was fun to play off of them. I liked any scenes with the little girls [Lauren McNamara and Payton Lepinski]. I fell madly in love with them. And I just had a little girl so there’s something to that.”
“Sarah Edmonson, who plays Rachel, has been my friend for 20 years. We were constantly laughing, especially when the days are long, you keep each other sane. I very much appreciated all the female characters in this. They’re all great people and pulled out fun characters who anchored the story.”
Salvation concluded Season 2 earlier this fall, and was cancelled three weeks ago, but fans have rallied to support the show and hope to see it land somewhere else for a third season. They’re not alone. Finnigan loved the experience of making the show as much as the fans loved watching it and talking about it on social media.
“I love that everyone is keeping hope alive but I truly don’t know [what is happening with it]. I’m trying to say goodbye to it in my own way. It’s the first time in my career I’ve been heartbroken by a show ending,” she shares.
“I have very special relationships with the showrunner and cast. Ian [Anthony Dale] and I became parents at the same time and walked each other through it and gave each other advice. Liz Kruger was so supportive throughout and after my pregnancy. Going through such a transformative two years while working on a show that I very much loved and was passionate about, it embedded itself more than any other show I’d done.”
“It felt like a year too early, It felt like it could have gone three years. I try to never get ‘too close’ because this is a career where you’re constantly moving on. You can always have a sense of nostalgia. In this instance, because of everything gong on in my personal life, I got very close to it. Maybe it’s good that for the first time in nine series, I got my heart broken.”
“The fans are amazing. I’m just mad about this fans. They’re incredibly intelligent. Their comments are always interesting. I love their passion and enthusiasm. More than anything, I want it to get picked up for them. I loved hearing what they thought about things that happened and what our characters had done.”
“It’s the first time I’ve dipped my toe into quasi sci-fi, I guess you could say. If we’d gone to Season 3, we would have gotten to full blown sci-fi. I’d never experienced this kind of fandom. It’s so fun for me. I can never say this enough. I was an only child, so in some ways, TV was my sibling. I was a voracious TV viewer. I have a love for television and I understand when they have a passionate love for a show because I felt that.”
You can also catch Finnigan starring opposite her husband, Jonathan Silverman, in Andover, a film the two co-starred in that’s now streaming on Amazon. “I would qualify it as a twisted, dark, love story. It was brought to my attention because my husband was about to sign on to do it. They were looking for the woman who plays his wife. I read it and I loved the idea of working with Jonny on this,” she explains.
“I got to play seven different versions of the same woman. It was daunting at first but I was so excited to tackle that. I remember I had my workbook and I plotted out the slight differences and nuances I wanted each character to have.”
“We were shooting out of sequence [so I was playing different people on the same day]. There were vocal shifts, sometimes there were posture shifts, and hair and make up, of course, and emotional shifts. It kept me on my toes and I really had fun doing it. We think it’s a cool little piece.”
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