[Warning: General spoilers ahead,]
The KIlljoys TV takeover continues this weekend with Sarah Power headlining an ensemble cast that includes Beau Bridges in Our Italian Christmas Memories, premiering Saturday on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. In the film, Sarah is Anna, an adjunct sociology professor and the eldest Coluccia sibling, who returns home for Christmas so she and her brother and sister can relieve their mom, who’s the primary caretaker for their beloved Grandpa “Nono,” who’s battling dementia.
At the suggestion of his neurologist, Dr. Greg (Markian Tarasiuk), Anna takes on a project to recreate a special recipe that her late grandma “Nona” prepared every year, hoping it will help Nono stay engaged and present. That unearths some long held issues with her sister, Ella (Morgana Wyllie), while her brother, RJ (Jesse Irving), is working through his own anxieties about finding his path. This week, I chatted with Power about the film, and a second Christmas project for Canada’s CBC, and her seven-season run on Good Witch.
Power was drawn to the strength of the script for Our Italian Christmas Memories, which is credited to Joie Botkin and Pierluigi D. Cothran and Samantha Herman from a story by Michael Varrati. ”I thought it was so different from most of the Hallmark movies I have read or seen. The holidays are great and it’s happy, but it can be really hard for people,” she shares.
“And so many people are dealing with a sick family member and Christmas still happens and you still celebrate or you find a way to celebrate. And I think what I loved about this movie is how important traditions were not just for the memory loss and keeping his memory going, but it was also so important to my character because she finally realized how much was at stake and once it was gone, it was gonna be gone forever.”
“I think the way that they weaved traditions and family traditions and how important they are into the story of those characters was really well done and I found it very moving. I cried the first time I read the script. I really loved that the script didn’t shy away from the tension between family members.”
“Someone getting sick always leads to one person doing more than another. And the resentment builds up from that and the love is there, but it can cause a lot of tension when someone in your family is sick. The scenes that I did with Morgana, who played my sister, felt like they were really real. They let us go for it and kind of go at each other and I really appreciated that.”
Having Bridges on board as her grandfather was an especially sweet bonus. “I could write a novel about Beau. I loved him. He was so wonderful. He’s the kindest man I have ever met. I was attached to do it before I knew who any of the cast were. And when I found out it was Beau I instantly got very nervous because he’s such a legend,” she recalls.
“Then I met him and he immediately was just the most humble, wonderful, kind man. And he was so generous. And the first thing he said to me was, ‘Let me know if there’s anything you need me to do differently and anything you need from me. I’m gonna be there for you.’”
“He’s just an amazing person and such a great role model and he really set the tone for the rest of the cast, who were all incredible. Getting to know him between takes, we had a lot of time to just sit and talk. Some of the scenes that we had together were so special.”
“My favorite was probably when he takes me to the parking lot to show me where they used to live. I remember they were waiting for the sun, for that magic hour lighting, so we only had a couple minutes to shoot it. He’s just so good in the whole movie, but I remember in that moment thinking, ‘Oh my God, pinch me. I’m doing this beautiful sunset and I’m here with Beau Bridges and he is looking at me in this way that’s breaking my heart.’ And it hit me, ‘Wow, this is a really good job. This is a really good job to get.'”
“The director, Catherine Cyran, said from the very beginning, ‘I want the family chemistry to feel real. It’s really important that you guys show up and we somehow figure out a way to make it feel like you’ve known each other forever.’ And by hour two we were best friends. The chemistry was just so great and we really just enjoyed each other a lot and had so much fun.”
One of the really nice things about the movie is that it takes the time to explore every member of the family. “It’s really hard to give everyone their own screen time and [have] all these characters feel so fully realized in that amount of time. I loved all the stuff with Jesse’s character, RJ, in the kitchen at the restaurant, and Morgana and Parveen [Dosanjh], who played my sister and sister-in-law. They had some beautiful scenes together also. It was just so much fun to work with such talented, nice people.”
Our Canadian friends can catch Power in another holiday outing December 12th and 13th on CBC and CBC Gem in The Christmas Checklist, a two-part film. “It is based on a true story about a woman who lost her mother just before Christmas. And she’s an only child and had no dad in her life. So it’s a devastating loss. And she finds this letter her mother left her with 12 things to do before Christmas to help her get over her grief,” she explains.
“I loved it. I did it in Montreal, one of my favorite cities in Canada, also with a great cast and a great crew. The story is really moving, and I think people will love it. I got to know the crew so well. [With] a lot of these TV movies, you work together so intensely, but it’s only for three weeks. And this one stretched out over ten weeks. I started the first week of June and finished the day before I flew to Vancouver to do Our Italian Christmas Memories. It was all Christmas, all summer, but it was really great.”
When Good Witch ended last summer, it took fans of the long-running series by surprise, and Power, who appeared in all seven seasons, shares that they often didn’t know, season to season, whether they’d be back, but the conclusion of Season 7 had more finality than most due to the departure of then-producer, Jon Eskenas.
“I [usually] prepare for the worst but hope for the best. In a way, it did feel like an end because we had a big thing for him at the end and said goodbye to him, but the scripts didn’t [feel] like a conclusion]. I feel badly about that. I wish things had been tied up a little more neatly if they were gonna end it [but] seven seasons is a really long run. I was super grateful for that,” she says.
Power was initially a one-off character for The Good Witch’s Family, one of the standalone films that preceded the series. [Afterward], I was shooting Killjoys and I heard they were making a Good Witch series in Toronto, but I never thought anything of it,” she recalls.
“And I think I ran into John and Craig [Pryce] at the Directors Guild Awards and said hello and a couple of months later, right when I wrapped Killjoys, I got an offer to do a guest star appearance as Abigail. I shot that right before Christmas and then I just got an email in January with the next script and I was in it. After that, I was just there. I moved into Grey House and I never left.”
When she looks back at the show’s longevity, the answer is simple. “I think the reason it was so successful is because at the heart of it, it was just people who really loved each other. They would clash and they were different and they had different ways of doing things but at the end of the day, they were always after the same goal–to do the right thing and to help people,” she explains.
“They just had very different ways of going about it. It served its audience. It was nice people being nice to each other. I think that’s what a lot of people wanna watch these days because the world is a bit mad right now. I would love to do another movie. I know the whole cast would.”
If you’re not quite in the Christmas spirit yet, you can catch Power over on Tubi in another romcom, When Love Blooms, streaming now on Tubi. “I also shot that in Montreal. I took flower arranging classes for it. I learned a ton and I got to work with a really great director, Éric Tessier,” she says. “My co-star was amazing. I really loved him. Thomas Cadrot is a Parisian actor, but he lives in Vancouver and he’s really great. He’s so good in it and it’s just a great fun romcom.”
Next up, you can catch Power in the FOX midseason series Accused (which filmed in Toronto and will feature several Canadian folks). “I just love working. I’m very happy when I’m on set and I was really lucky that year I got to do Good Witch and Killjoys at the same time; two years, actually. Going back and forth between that was so fun. It was exhausting, but it was a great workout as an actor,” she recalls.
“I’m happy to do any genre, really. I really wanna do a Western. This is my plug to get on Yellowstone, or one of the spinoffs. I did a show in my early twenties in Calgary called Wild Roses. That was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. It was like summer camp and such a good cast.”
Our Italian Christmas Memories premieres Saturday at 10 pm/9c on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos courtesy of Hallmark Media, CBC; and Tubi; Video courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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