[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
This Saturday’s installment of Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Miracles of Christmas programming is Long Lost Christmas, a dramedy that stars Taylor Cole and Benjamin Ayres as Hayley, an interior designer/vlogger, and Jake, a home builder, who strike up a friendship when she arrives in his mountain town on a secret quest to reunite her mother with her long lost uncle.
I spoke with Cole earlier this week, and caught up with Ayres to chat about the movie, which leans more heavily into comedy than is usual for the HMM fare and attributable to the easy chemistry of the leads. “There are two stories going on and [we decided to] find a fun balance because we couldn’t help ourselves. We had too much fun and the chemistry was immediate. We just had a good time and it kind of made sense for our characters, too,” Ayres explains.
“It’s not like you can have those conversations and have that type of reaction and chemistry with anybody you meet, but the two of them, just from that first moment, it just kind of clicked. And we had to talk a lot about that, because we were having so much fun, [and remind ourselves] it is their first time meeting [and] we can’t go all the way to the end of the movie.”
Ayres echoes Cole’s sentiment that the levity helps balance out the more serious moments. “You need [that] time to laugh in the movie. It pulls on the heartstrings, and not in a sad way, but in a very hopeful way. I think that’s what I really liked about it. At the end of it, I just wanted to call my dad, my parents, or my brother. It made me wanna find lost family that I didn’t even know I had,” he shares.
One of the things that helped create that easy vibe on set was the filming location that kept cast and crew in close proximity–and exposed them to Hallmark fans in real time. “It was so special because it was like summer camp. It’s the first time I shot a movie for Hallmark where we all stayed at the same resort,” he says.
“We were at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort. The cast and crew were all at the same hotel. Taylor had an Airbnb one building over, but they still would come over. The cast and crew would wrap [every night] and everybody would meet at the pool, have a little cocktail and some laughs and then up again the next morning and back at it. I just haven’t really had that kind of fun bonding over the whole crew and cast.”
“[One weekend], we finished on a Saturday and then we didn’t start filming until Tuesday so we had two days off and everybody was gonna go back into town and we decided to just stay here for two extra days. We floated in the hot springs, we rented a boat, we went out for nice dinners, we just hung out and had a little mini vacation. It was just a really unique, cool experience of all of us getting to be there.”
“And then on top of that, the hotel was open, so there were a lot of visitors there that were Hallmark fans. So they would watch us film scenes and there were probably 60 people just there. So it almost felt like live theater, as well. And they were taking videos of it and Taylor and I were going over taking photos with them and that was really cool.”
It was during that time that Ayres captured the short video that went viral. “I joined TikTok while [I was filming Season 3 of Canadian series] Family Law and trying to figure it out. I’d been on there a couple weeks when I filmed that woman’s reaction. I posted it between TikTok and Instagram, and all of a sudden there were a hundred thousand views and I thought, ‘Whoa, what have I done?’ And now it’s at 15 million views,” he laughs.
“It’s eight seconds of this woman’s absolute joy of getting to watch a movie being made of the movies that she loves and then to turn around and see one of the stars of one of the movies. I love these movies and it’s been so inspiring to hear everybody’s response to how excited they get when the holiday season of movies comes up.”
“And now I have this outlet of Instagram, which just lets me do these short funny videos that I find entertaining and some other people do, as well. I like having that creative outlet because it’s instant. It’s not like when I’m working on a TV series in a movie with somebody else and that process takes a really long time.”
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. Ayres will be live Tweeting the East Coast airing. ICYMI, I also chatted with Taylor Cole earlier this week. Here’s their live chat from this afternoon.
Photos and video courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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