Warning: Mild Spoilers
What would you do to get the perfect Christmas tree for your town square? Rochelle Aytes stars in her first Hallmark Channel movie this year, A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado, as Erin Chambers. The task of acquiring a tree to draw in tourists isn’t as simple as it may seem, and it becomes even more complicated when feelings get in the way.
Aytes spoke to TV Goodness about this charming film. A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado provides plenty of heart and laughs. She discusses the decision to star in this Hallmark Channel Christmas movie, filming during the pandemic, playing this character, some fun moments from filming, and the lessons of the story. Read on for edited excerpts from our conversation.
TV Goodness: This is your first Hallmark Channel movie, right? What drew you to doing a Hallmark movie?
Aytes: Well, this is my first Hallmark movie. And I was presented with the script back in June, while we were all doing that stay-at-home, because of the coronavirus, and I really loved the project. And I thought that it was just a breath of fresh air from life right now. And, two, I love working with kids. And three, I love Vancouver. So it was really a no-brainer for me to, to be a part of it, and also a part of a film with such diversity. And we have such, such great heart and great messages, and I want to be a part of that.
TV Goodness: This role is different than a lot of your projects, like Mistresses, or when you’re putting on a badge and carrying a gun or some of the other projects you’ve done before. How did you approach it?
Aytes: Right, I think that, thank God, I’ve been able to do a lot of different types of projects and played different characters. And this project is different in that– Well, I don’t remember ever doing another holiday movie, actually. So Christmas has always been one of my favorite seasons. So that’s completely different to be participating in holiday movies, also, really, really leading a movie. I’ve always been a central character and sharing the screen, not that I didn’t share the screen because there was some great actors in this, but my character pretty much led the film.
And so that was a great responsibility on me. And my preparation was very important. I actually had to go to Vancouver two weeks prior to filming to quarantine. And although being inside is challenging, it gave me the opportunity to– It forced me rather to really sit and prepare, prepare for this, because it was over 100-something pages, and there’s just a lot of lines, and I wanted to really get the character. So I prepared and worked really hard on it.
TV Goodness: How was filming during the pandemic? As your first project back after the pandemic, how was it different?
Aytes: This was my first project back. At the start of the pandemic, I was actually working on something and we got shut down. And the more the cases went up, I couldn’t even imagine going back, so when we went back, thank goodness, it was in Vancouver, and their cases are so much lower, they closed down very early. So I felt safer than I would have probably working in the States during, you know, that July period.
It was still different because I had to get tested, I had to wear a mask and a shield, lots of sanitizing, and we couldn’t do the same things that we normally do on set. We had to kind of keep our distance. And I don’t even think I saw the faces of the crew once or twice, and that was when they pulled their mask down to eat. So I would see their faces and go, “Oh, so that’s what you look like.” So yeah, it was really different, it was challenging, but also, it reminded me of how resilient we are as a people, you know, we just push forward and we make things happen.
TV Goodness: Would you preview a little bit of what this movie and the story is about?
Aytes: It’s really sweet, fun, lighthearted movie. I play Erin Chambers, a community director, and my father is the mayor, I work for him. Our economy hasn’t been doing so great, so we’ve been really focusing on our tourism. And this particular season, we wanted to do a huge event for Christmas.
We need this beautiful tree for the tree lighting, and I happen upon a beautiful spruce, but it’s unfortunately on the property of a guy named, Kevin Snyder, played by Mark Taylor, who’s a really, really great actor. But, he doesn’t want to give it up, my desperation, I guess, really, my focus has become about trying to get this tree from him and convincing him that it would be great for our town.
TV Goodness: How was it getting to do some of the fun stuff like making snow angels, sliding on the ice, and things like that?
Aytes: Yeah, I think that this movie really brought out such lightheartedness and so much fun. I couldn’t wait to work on and do some of these fun events. There were so many. Gingerbread contests. We didn’t ice skate, but we kind of like slid across of the ice and did a three-legged race. That was a fun one. We did a three-legged race and I was tied to the ankle with Claire, played by Grace [Sunar].
It was fun because it was all day and we’re working with kids. You know, it’s just like, a fun, lighthearted competition, but you’re really kind of playing, competing, so I thought that was a lot of fun.
TV Goodness: How was it to film the scene when Erin slides on the ice?
Aytes: Well, what’s funny was that I was supposed to be such a, you know, so skilled at it. And in rehearsal, I was wearing a different pair of shoes and had a heel on it. And every time I would rehearse, I would fall myself. And so that wasn’t going to work. And so I had to ask if I could change my shoes, because I wanted to– I wanted to do it, right, but I couldn’t because it was really slippery, you know?
And I said, ‘Listen, guys, I could do this, but I just, I can’t do it with these heels.’ And so he said, “You know what. Nobody’s gonna see. Let’s change out your shoes.” So I’m wearing a different pair of boots with a flat heel. And when they called, ‘Action,’ I slid across, and it was like, ‘Boom, I’m a pro. I didn’t fall.’
TV Goodness: A lot of Hallmark movies have a little bit of a lesson to be learned when you’re watching them. Is there a lesson that you think is a takeaway from this story?
Aytes: Oh, yeah. There are a few lessons. Let’s see. One lesson learned by Erin, well, she focuses a lot of her attention on pleasing her father and she didn’t follow her own passions. And after, I don’t want to give too much away, but after spending so much time with Claire, she just realizes what her real passion is. And she loves to work with kids. She wants to be a teacher.
So I think just following your passion is a great takeaway. And also, we put so much emphasis on Christmas gifts, the perfect tree. Another great message in this, is that, yes, those are beautiful, fun things, right? What’s most important is being with the people you love, being with family and friends, and yes, sharing those moments together.
A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado premieres tonight at 8/7c on the Hallmark Channel. Check out the below preview and sneak peek:
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