[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Saturday night on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Taylor Cole and Benjamin Ayres team up from Long Lost Christmas, which follows the story of Hayley, an interior designer and successful vlogger facing the first Christmas without her dad. Anxious to ease her mom, Patricia (Jacqueline Ann Steuart), back into the world, she decides, with the help of her BFF, Sarah (Stefania Indelicato), to track down her mom’s long-lost brother.
The quest takes her to a quaint mountain town, where she stumbles through a series of white lies to cover the intent of her trip while bonding with local home builders Gordon (Grant Vlahovic) and Jake (Ayres) and Gordon’s daughter, Briana (Stephanie Van Dyk), a local furniture designer.
Michael Robison directs a script by Nancy Ayers and Jamie Pachino, based on a story by Ayers and a novel by Joan Kilby. This week I chatted with Cole about the project.
If you watched any of the social media feed captured by Ayres during filming, you might guess, based on his very easy chemistry with Cole, that the movie was a romcom on Hallmark Channel. Cole says the duo and her husband bonded immediately, and she and Ayres often felt like they were shooting two different films.
“This was the first time that we worked together, but my husband and he had done Cranberry Christmas together. I’d followed Ben on Instagram and you know how Instagram is, you feel like you know everyone.
“So when I met him, it was like we’ve known each other forever. And my husband was there, too, so the boys got to go golfing on the days off and we were all just family immediately. We often joked that we were shooting a romcom and [the other film was] the storyline of finding the lost family.”
Cole appreciate the mix of humor and heart. “I think that’s more enjoyable to watch, personally. I love anything with a little humor. Even if it’s the darkest of subject matters, you can still find humor in it. And I think it’s a healing way to look at things and have a good perspective on keeping levity in your life and using it to your advantage,” she explains.
“Hayley has a lot going on, her mind is racing, and she has a bunch of emotions to sort through, so she’s a bit out of sorts. And her nerves in general make her more clumsy than normal. So I think the scenes with her and Jake where he has no idea what she’s actually going through and where she’s fumbling through and a little clumsy are pretty cute. And they were really fun to shoot.”
That familial aspect of the story was also a big draw for Cole. “I love that. I grew up an only child, but my dad had seven brothers, so we would have huge family reunions and that amount of family in one space is just the most heartwarming and beautiful thing that you can feel,” she shares. “I have made an effort in the last year to get all of my cousins and family here to visit.”
“It’s so fun to have that dynamic in a Hallmark movie because whether you make it or you grow it or you were given it, family is a very important and beautiful thing that we can all embrace and cherish and love for the rest of time.”
Cole is one of the Hallmarkies faves who cemented her place in the network this spring with a multi-picture deal, which she was and is thrilled about.”Hallmark is so great about making the content that I want to to make, which is just making families come together and people smile and be happy and learn something and relate to it and turn off their brain to what might be going on and everyday life and just have a good warm, ‘food for the soul’ kind of movie,” she says.
“I personally love the romcom, but I will always be here for family and any other storylines that they want to add because they just have the right formula to bring people together. And I think that’s important.”
“I started out with Hallmark not knowing who Hallmark was and then just absolutely fell in love with the family, the content, and the fans. Everything about Hallmark made me light up and realize that this was why I was supposed to be an actress.”
“When there were other competing networks that wanted people to join, I couldn’t express enough how much I wanted to stay with the family that I had built and that I loved and grown to be a part of. And the fact that Hallmark agreed and wanted me to be on board as well made me so happy. I feel like I chose the right path for this crazy world of acting.”
Aside from the romcoms and holiday movies, Cole would love to continue some of her previous projects. “If they brought back Ruby Herring, I would love that. We haven’t got any word that it’s gone anywhere. Nothing’s official and they bring those things back willy-nilly,” she points out.
“I like doing those kinds of movies because you get to come back and meet those characters, dig a little deeper and get to see them over and over, like One Winter Weekend, One Winter Proposal, and One Winter Wedding. Those were some of my favorites and we still have a Megan and Sean wedding to see. That would be fun to do.”
Next month, Cole is joining several other Hallmark stars at Christmas Con in New Jersey. “I am so excited. This will be my first Christmas Con. There’s no better fan base, ever. They are incredible and they appreciate all the content that you’re bringing to them and it’s a love-love, win-win,” she shares.
“Everybody is so grateful and so sweet and so loving that you can’t help but absolutely love making these movies. To meet everyone in person and take pictures and say hi and say thank you is really exciting.”
Long Lost Christmas premieres at 10 pm/9c Saturday on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries following the premiere of Three Wise Men and a Baby at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel. Cole will be live Tweeting the East Coast airing. Here’s a sneak peek of the film, and my new conversation with Benjamin Ayres is here.
Photos and video courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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