[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Friday night on Hallmark Channel, Ali Sweeney teams up with Marlo Thomas and Luke Macfarlane for A Magical Christmas Village, a multigenerational holiday tale about Summer (Sweeney), an architect and single mom to Chloe (Maesa Nicholson), who begrudgingly brings her mom, Vivian (Thomas) to live them at Christmas whether ex-boyfriend’s house sells before she has a place to land.
Their oil-and-water dynamic is manipulated–and softened–with a little magical interference when Chloe sets up her grandma’s Christmas village figurines and starts asking for holiday wishes that begin to take hold. One of those wishes puts Summer on the path to Ryan (Macfarlane), a structural engineer visiting his brother’s family for Christmas.
Sweeney was an executive producer on the film, written by her longtime Hallmark partner, Melissa Salmons, and directed by Jason Furukawa, who was an assistant director on one of the Chronicle Mysteries. I chatted with Sweeney recently about the project.
“My favorite part is assembling the team of creative people I love getting the chance to work with. Melissa brought me this idea a year ago and she just ran with it. I loved the idea of this magical Christmas village. Melissa tells stories so well about family and those interpersonal relationships that can be so just relatably complicated. We just really had fun putting together this movie that we thought would be fun and romantic and a bit magical, but also [about] the things people go through every Christmas, too,” she explains.
“I am thrilled to be able to mix the idea of family and a little bit of Christmas magic. It’s a little bit of a turn for me because normally my movies are very much just grounded in reality. So this is sort of the first time I took the opportunity to play a little more Christmas magic and, and that was really fun for me. A little little mix up. A little more of a fairytale.”
Sweeney was overjoyed to have Thomas play her mom. “I can’t even tell you how incredible and inspiring she is. I’m in awe of this woman. Marlo is phenomenal. She’s such a talented actress and so funny, but also just a lovely human. She was such a professional every day on set. She came prepared with her enthusiasm and her energy and willing to work hard,” she shares.
“Those are long hours and she just didn’t complain. She was everything I wanted her to be from growing up, looking up to her and admiring her as really a true pioneer in television, especially as a woman. And she continues to be so humble and sincere and hardworking. I can’t say enough complimentary things. She’s amazing.”
“One of my favorite scenes to read is the opening scene. My character has to go reconnect with her mom and has to help her out. That opening scene is her coming to terms with that and having to realize there’s really no other place for her mom to go.”
“These are two completely opposite women and we are both recognizing how hard that’s going to be for us to live together again. That first scene was one of the first scenes we shot and Marlo had such a way of delivering her lines that was so funny. There’s one line that’s hilarious and she delivers it funny every time and I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s also heartfelt and really natural and has such a great energy.”
“Marlo told me that when she was given the script to read, it was that scene [that clinched it]. When she read it, she put the script down and called her agent and said, ‘Yep, I wanna work with her.’ It impressed her, too, and that meant a lot to me. I think we get the movie off and running in a good way [with that start].”
Sweeney also appreciated the multigenerational storytelling. “I sort of have that in my own life. My mom and my daughter are very similar and sometimes I look at my daughter and my husband teases me, ‘You’re raising your mom. You know that, right?’ And so it is fun to connect those dots and bring them all together and see these three women connect,” she laughs.
Considering their respective longevities as Hallmarkies, it’s a bit surprising that Sweeney and Macfarlane hadn’t been paired up before. “When we were discussing with Hallmark would be my co-star, his name came up and it was just so funny, everyone realizing that we had never had a chance to work together,” she recalls. “It was really fun to make that happen.”
Earlier this year, we saw Sweeney as part of The Wedding Veil trilogy, and she loved working on them. “What a thrill that was. I just adored working with Lacey [Chabert] and Autumn [Reeser]. Every minute of those movies was so much fun to me,” she says.
“They’re beautiful women inside and out. They’re just good people and we had so much fun working together. We developed an even deeper, closer friendship than we had originally. And it just means so much to me. Every part of it was fantastic.”
“The feedback we got from the fans about how much they loved that friendship and the relationship between the three women was so positive that I do think it’s going to inspire Hallmark to lean into that type of dynamic more.”
While nothing’s on the books yet, Sweeney is still hopeful she’ll be able to bring us more Hannah Swensen Mysteries and Chronicle Mysteries. “I will never give up trying to pitch new ideas for those two [series]. I love those stories,” she explains. “ I love those characters. I don’t have anything I can reveal right now, but I hope I can keep the mysteries going because those are my favorite to film.”
A Magical Christmas Village premieres at 8 pm/7c Friday on Hallmark Channel in the US and W Network in Canada. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos and videos courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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