[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
A Magical Christmas Village kicks off this weekend’s Countdown to Christmas programming on Hallmark Channel with a new holiday romcom starring Alison Sweeney, Marlo Thomas, Luke Macfarlane, and Maesa Nicholson. [If you missed it, you can see my 1:1 conversation with Sweeney here.]
Fresh off his whirlwind European and Australian press tour for Bros, Macfarlane took the time to chat with me this week about his feature film debut and his latest, but hopefully not last, Hallmark project. More on that later.
In A Magical Christmas Village, Macfarlane plays Ryan, a civil engineer who’s visiting family for the holidays when he finds himself making surprising, braver choices in a new friendship with Summer (Sweeney), thanks to her daughter, Chloe (Nicholson), wishing upon a magical Christmas village figurine set owned by her grandmother, Vivian (Thomas).
Mcfarlane says it was important to play the role in a way that demonstrated free will as his character responded to the universe’s nudges. “I think it’s very important that our characters, especially in the love story, have free will. I actually mentioned this today in my interview on social live that, in Lincoln’s second inaugural, he talks about the better angels of our conscience. They’re there, but they’re kind of quieted by the way we’re in our own way,” he explains.
“I think Ryan is operating in a self-guided way where he’s not listening to what the angels, or this magic, has to say. It’s less that he’s not acting on free will and more that he’s had the volume turned up on what is inevitable in his life. It was fun to play it like he was checking in with his gut [in his decision-making].”
He also enjoyed playing an adult love story. “They’re two people who have thought that their lives had been set up a certain way, that that was all they were going to get, and who really enjoy each other,” he shares.
“This concept of two adults meeting is very different from two young people meeting and tumbling over each other and [these new] feelings. Ryan and Summer feel very deeply for each other. They [already] have lives and stuff to deal with, but they can also just really enjoy spending time with each other.”
“One of the things that I wanted to make clear was that Ryan was kind of a funny character and that he was this combination of being a free spirit, but also very practical in his life. He had a bit of a wanderlust quality to him, moving around a lot for work.”
“He also had this very particular nature about himself and the way he likes to do things. He’s a list guy. I came to figure out that he thought he knew how to be alone and he was very comfortable being alone and could be alone wherever he wanted to [until he realized he could make room for someone else].”
Macfarlane doesn’t share much screen time with Thomas, but loved spending time with her on set. “The thing that actually most resonated for me was Free to Be…You & Me, which I discovered much later because it was slightly before my time. It is so incredibly seminal and also feels so relevant. I went back and watched some of the skits. It was so ahead of its time,” he says.
“She’s definitely the only actress I’ve ever worked with who has a Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was pretty amazing. But she’s also so down to earth, so willing and open, and just down for a hang, which you never know, especially with working with such an icon. You treat them with a certain reverence and distance because you never know.”
“She was always cool for a hang, to sit there, very open and chatty. She had ideas about the scene. I really, really, really enjoyed her. “I was chatting with her about opportunities and she said, ‘The only roles I get are where I’m dying or I have a terrible relationship with somebody. I just wanted to do something happy.’”
One of the fun things in Bros is a throughline wink-nod to the movies of Hallheart, a Hallmark-esque network. Macfarlane credits the film’s co-writer and co-star, Billy Eichner, with nimbly adjusting that arc as real-world Hallmark took steps to make its slate more inclusive.
“In the first draft of Bros, Hallheart was very different. The jokes were about it not being inclusive,” he recalls. “And by the time we shot the movie, [it was rewritten that] Hallheart had showed the world, ‘Oh no, we can do this,’ so all the [original] jokes weren’t relevant anymore. And Billy being an astute observer, said, ‘We have to change these jokes.’ Then Hallheart was able to make a joke about a [title called] Holly Poly Christmas about polyamory.”
While Macfarlane was doing press for Bros, he was often asked about his future with Hallmark, given that his formal contract with the networks concluded with A Magical Christmas Village. He wants the Hallmarkies to know, full stop, that he very much hopes the relationship continues.
“One thing that I’ve come to really appreciate about Hallmark is its reach and how deeply it connects with people,” he shares. “I always, always, always want to be part of that. It’s a part of my career that I feel is really unique and I’m really proud of. And I hope that they will continue to have me come and make movies with them.”
A Magical Christmas Village premieres at 8 pm/7c Friday on Hallmark Channel in the US and W Network in Canada. Here’s a peek behind the scenes. All of Macfarlane’s other holiday films are also in rotation again. In case you missed it, I cover them here.
Photos and video courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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