[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Sunday night on Lifetime, we’re treated to the second Steve Byers holiday romcom in a month. Following his appearance a few weeks ago in Too Close For Christmas, this time around he stars opposite Private Eyes’ Cindy Sampson in A Christmas Break.
In the film, Sampson plays Addy, a school administrator and alumni desperately trying to save her school, which is slated for closure right after the holidays unless she can secure funding. Byers plays Dylan, an actor who was Addy’s longtime childhood friend and sweetheart before he left for Juilliard years early.
Over the years, they lost touch, but when Addy needs a Hail Mary to help her students and Dylan, who’s now a movie star, could use a PR boost after a crash-and-burn romance, she reaches out to see if he’ll come direct the school play. After about a thousand unanswered calls to his manager, Garth (Arnold Pinnock), her wish is finally granted and Dylan comes home. It’s a bit of a role-reversal from Byers’ Catch a Christmas Star, where he stayed home and his high school sweetheart went off and became famous.
Refreshingly, Dylan isn’t above the assignment and instead takes the opportunity to connect with the kids and Addy, and remind himself that the craft and not the carnival that comes with it is where his heart lies. And maybe with a certain school administrator, too.
When I chatted with Byers for the first film, we also chatted about this one, which reunites him with Sampson following a guest appearance on Private Eyes, which filmed last year, aired last month in Canada on GlobalTV, and should come through on ION in the US next year. A Christmas Break was filmed early this year, ahead of the pandemic shutdown.
“Cindy and I got along great. We had a lot of fun. It was one of those situations where, when you’re doing a movie like this, there aren’t too many surprises, but I think the real joy comes in when you love working with the people you’re working with and you have fun. And that was definitely a lot of fun on that one,” he shares.
During filming, Sampson shared Insta stories of some of the behind the scenes shenanigans of shooting in an actual primary school. “With location scouting and whatnot, they try to find places that they can double as both the set and holding rooms and areas for hair and makeup and all that kind of stuff,” he explains.
“So, they have tables and chairs in an area they had designated hair and makeup, and it was a children’s preschool. It’s one of those things where you spend a lot of hours waiting and we certainly found ways to just amuse ourselves and inevitably a children’s play school nursery has so many things to play with [pre-COVID].”
“[Now] it becomes just glaringly obvious what a different world we’re living in. I really feel so sorry for children; their world has been completely upended. You can’t just start touching furniture and toys. But back then, we did. And inevitably that was the result of being overtired, too much coffee, and probably a whole bunch of snacks.”
Another fun moment happened onscreen during a late-night walk-and-talk scene. “Cindy and I have a scene where it was night, about two or three in the morning, and it was freezing cold [in Hamilton]. We do a little stroll over to this [gazebo] and there’s a guy who’s supposed to be selling chestnuts,” he recalls.
“They wanted real chestnuts in it, but it was so cold, and everybody just wanted it to be done. So we take these chestnuts and go sit down, and I go to crack them open, after confirming they were edible. We’d rehearsed and I hadn’t opened any of them. When I went to do it for the scene, they were frozen and I couldn’t get into them. So I ended up eating chocolate covered almonds.”
Byers hopes fans enjoy the lighter fare during such a radically different holiday season. “It’s actually a really light, fun fun movie. We’re not breaking the mold on it, but at the same time, I think that one of the draws of these kinds of films is that you can insert new people, new scenarios and you end up with the same result, which is, a feel good, happy movie,” he explains.
“Especially in these times, I think it’s nice to be able to choose a little bit of happiness and good at the end of something. And you’re certainly going to get that with this.”
A Christmas Break premieres Sunday at 8 pm/7c and repeats at midnight/11 c on Lifetime in the U.S. and will be streaming the next day. In Canada, you can catch it at 7 pm ET Christmas Day on Citytv. If you missed our interview for Too Close for Christmas, it’s here.
Photos Courtesy of Lifetime and Reel One Entertainment, Video Courtesy of Reel One Entertainment.
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