[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
This holiday season has been particularly aggressive with its programming, which is fantastic if you’re in the “can’t get enough” camp. But if you’re in the “that’ll do, pig” camp, you may be feeling a little triggered at this point. This week, Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries are rolling out seven days of premieres for Thanksgiving, and Wednesday night’s The Christmas Club on the former is a romcom about a couple, one from each of the above camps, who come together to rediscover the joy of the season when a “pay it forward” opportunity presents itself.
The film stars Cameron Mathison, in his first role since stepping into Home & Family, and Elizabeth Mitchell, in her Hallmark debut. Together, they are pure magic. Mathison is one of my absolute favorites, so I jumped on the phone with him Friday to chat about the project, his day job, and attending his first Christmas Con earlier this month.
Last fall’s Love, Of Course (which I adored) was filmed before Cameron started on Home & Family but aired afterward. The Christmas Club marked his first acting role in a year, and he loved diving back into that world, especially with Mitchell as a partner. “The timing worked out great. I thought it was a very sweet script. Obviously I was excited about working with Elizabeth,” he says.
“And I also liked the fact it was going to film during July and on Home & Family, it was Christmas in July and we all felt like it was just a perfect fit in so many different ways. I got to FaceTime in live from the set of our Christmas movie to Christmas in July. So, everything kind of worked out nicely.”
In the film, Mathison is Edward, a business consultant home in Minneapolis to help a client close a real estate deal and visit with his sister and her family (Jenny Pudavick, Adam Hurtig, and Elliott Ledlow). He’s generally reticent about the holiday season, still carrying childhood baggage from his parents’ last holiday together before they split.
Olivia is a dance instructor and widowed single Mom to Maeryn (Zoe Fish). She and her Mom, Barb (Kate Trotter), have a home that’s besotted with the season, from the décor to the treats and Olivia’s love extends to her young students, which include Maeryn, who are eagerly preparing for their Christmas Eve performance.
Olivia and Edward have a meet cute outside a store when a woman, Gertrude (Gabrielle Rose), watches in horror as the four $20 bills she saved in her bank’s Christmas Club for her grandchildren’s gifts is blown out of her hands in the breeze. Edward and Olivia jump up to help and tell a small white lie. They spend a sweet afternoon together and then go their separate ways, or so they think.
They then find themselves bumping into each other again and again. During those happy coincidences (or Godwinks, if you will), she eventually softens him up to the season. Mitchell is buoyant in the role, and Mathison says she was a joy to work with, and made his to return to that world super easy.
“I love [acting]. I missed it. The first day, I was like, ‘Oh boy. I hope I remember how to it.’ It was just so fun, especially with how natural and spontaneous Elizabeth is that you can’t help being authentic and having a good time. Every take was different. It was so fun. She told me ahead of time that that’s how she likes to work, and I love it. [As an actor], I just really like to listen and I just like to react,” he explains.
“And when somebody goes off script [with] spontaneous moments…and these great little natural beats, it’s so fun. A lot of what you saw was that, and even with my sister in the toy store, [we] would play with those toys. There was a lot of that that we just kind of adlibbed and added and played around with.”
“I love the supporting cast in the film. They’re a really, really talented group of people and I mean the whole thing. You sort of jump into these and you never know exactly what you’re going to get. And the fact that it came together so well between Elizabeth and I getting along so well and the supporting players being so great, like hyper-great. We got so lucky.”
The movie is also the first-time Hallmark project for Canadian director Jeff Beesley, who’s helmed Canadian series like Corner Gas and Little Mosque on the Prairie. “I’m a big fan of his and I think he did such a great job of really capturing everything, the essence of what everybody loves about Hallmark Christmas movies and Hallmark movies in general,” says Mathison.
“And he just got it right away. He really got it. He helped me when a scene was a little bit too this or a little bit too that. He’s a fan, first and foremost, so he knew what he was looking for and he was really excited to be able to have the opportunity to be part of one. And I think I can say for him that he’s hopefully going to be doing more because of how much he enjoyed the experience. It’s a unique set of skills. I’ve had directors that didn’t mesh quite as easily with what we all know and love about these great movies and he [did]. It was very seamless.”
One of the things the movie does very well is respect that the season is problematic for some folks, and Mathison loved that Julie Sherman Wolfe’s script went there. “I think people can relate to that. Of course, it is the most wonderful time of the year, but, but you know, at times it’s not. At times, it kind of brings up memories that aren’t that wonderful. And you know, for some people it’s maybe the least wonderful time of year,” he shares.
“At Hallmark Channel, we sell holidays like everybody loves it every second of the time. But I think it was important to be able to show that not everybody has always the best memories. And it was kind of bold of Julie to include in the script. And I think it really works.”
Mathison appreciated the magical aspect of the story that helps turn it around for his character, and that it rolls up into a larger message about humanity. “It’s sort of the magic of Christmas or under the Christmas tree, or the Christmas miracle, or however you want to look at it,” he says. “I really liked the throughline of these dollar bills, these little miracles [that were] these little acts of kindness or little signs and indications in life that can teach you if you see them as little miracles.”
A year and change in, Mathison says co-hosting Home & Family has been a terrific experience, and that new, everyday exposure to his fandom helped him be transparent about his recent cancer diagnosis and surgery ten weeks ago. “It’s my favorite job I’ve ever had. I’d say it’s the job that is most closest to who I am,” he explains.
“It’s the most authentic I get to be on any job I’ve ever done. It would have been so strange for me to be sort of going through this and being away from the show without letting people know what was going on. They see me day in and day out on the show.”
Two weeks ago, Mathison also got some face time with the Hallmarkies at the first Christmas Con. “It was great. It was intense. It reminded me of all the sort of the soap opera conventions. It was really nice to get up close and personal with everybody,” he says. “I think it’s really important for us as a Hallmark family to get a direct feel of what it’s like for our viewers and their enthusiasm and the love and support. It was so fun.”
Now that his Murder She Baked partner, Alison Sweeney, is up and running on The Chronicle Mysteries, I asked if we might see hm pop up in one as a wink to the fans. “We talked about doing a movie together. We’ve talked about kind of going back and do it a different movie together,” he shares. “But we haven’t talked about me making a little appearance [in TCM], but that’d be great.”
The Christmas Club premieres Wednesday night at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel. Here are a couple of sneak peeks. And you can catch his other Christmas movies, The Christmas Ornament and A Christmas to Remember, in rotation on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries through the end of the year. Window Wonderland is now streaming on Hallmark Movies Now. Unfortunately, Murder She Baked: A Sugar Plum Mystery is not set to air this holiday season.
Photos and Videos Courtesy of Crown Media.
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