[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Christmas comes earlier than ever this year on Hallmark Channel, which is a bit of a surprise given the pandemic interruptions, but once the networks had the all-clear to get back to work, they ramped up quickly, going back into production on a full slate of original films. One of the first back was Chateau Christmas, which filmed mid-summer on location in Whistler, British Columbia. It premieres Sunday night, and last week I chatted with Luke Macfarlane about the new film.
In it, Macfarlane plays Jackson, a cellist and music teacher who never really got over Margot (Merritt Patterson), the one that got away, and he’s drop-kicked down memory lane when she returns to town for a family Christmas at the lodge where he’s just been roped by BFF Adam (Jesse Hutch), the hotel’s PR director, into staging a Christmas concert in less than two weeks. Good thing she’s a classical pianist. What starts out as a mad scramble, begrudging team-up turns into a chance to clear the air and perhaps forgive and start over.
Macfarlane is himself a classically trained cellist, and his Instagram followers were treated to a beautiful snippet from one of his rehearsals before production began. He he hauled his personal cello to Canada, and plays it in the film.
“I had that 14-day quarantine, so I wanted my cello in my room with me so I’d have something to do. That was literally the impulse [to bring it]. The original script was having him play the violin, and I said, ‘Let’s change it.’ It was really fun to practice every day for 14 days. I cannot remember the last time [I did that].”
The film deftly balances the current love story against the long-ago romance between violinists Sam (Hrothgar Matthews) and Sarah (Suki Kaiser), who have a chance to revisit their own missed opportunity,. Macfarlane enjoyed that juxtaposition of arcs. “There is this theme in a lot of Hallmark movies where people who’ve come before us can inform the choices we make,” he says.
The cast is in many ways an ensemble, and with everyone housed together to keep them safe and meet safety protocols meant Macfarlane got to spend some quality time with his castmates. “Jesse is such a nice guy. He’s so earnest. I really liked him a lot. [Hrothgar Matthews] was my favorite. I got along really, really well with Merritt and we worked together most of the time. She was awesome,” he shares.
“There’s always this moment when you’re doing these Hallmark movies…my favorite days are when all the actors come together and all of a sudden you have people in your dressing room and you can talk [and hear] their stories. I love that. I love meeting other actors on set and we had really fun days. We filmed the whole thing essentially at the Fairmont Whistler.”
During the concert finale, Macfarlane found himself moved by the performance, a moment we see captured on film. “I love music. I really do. I’ve played the cello since I was a little kid. There was one moment when Merritt’s character is playing the piano. I remember they had this wonderful pianist, Karen Allred. She had written all the music and recorded this beautiful Christmas-themed [composition],” he recalls.
“I was listening to her play at the concert and it just hit me. I felt myself tearing up. Just that amazing moment where you [feel the] music. That was really maybe one of my favorite things. It was just also fun [to] sit around between takes and play cello and people [realized I could] actually play.”
“It was also such a privilege to work again. In COVID times, we were wondering how we’re going to do it [and] what was possible. I love [working]. I love being on set. I love talking to people. So that was very special.”
Christmas Chateau is Macfarlane’s 10th film for the networks, and he’s happy he’s been able to go back and forth between the holiday and non-holiday projects. “I like the Christmas ones cause they just have more eyes on them and that’s always [good], but the off-season ones are also nice because you’re not around [so much] garland and Christmas lights,” he laughs.
This is also Macfarlane’s third pairing with director Michael Robison, who directed Maggie’s Christmas Miracle and A Shoe Addict’s Christmas as well as an episode of Killjoys. “Working with him as many times [as we have] now, I’m very comfortable with him. He talks to me very openly,” he explains. “He’s an editor, so he’s always thinking about editing. He knows what he wants and depends on actors who know how to take care of themselves.”
Chateau Christmas premieres Sunday at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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