Nadine Ellis Previews Hallmark Mahogany’s The Holiday Stocking
Two Chicago sisters need a miracle, a healthy dose of magic and maybe even an angelic force to repair their broken relationship. This is the premise of The Holiday Stocking, the very first holiday film under Hallmark Media’s Mahogany brand umbrella.
The movie stars several familiar faces including Our Kind of People’s Nadine Ellis, Castle’s Tamala Jones, Agents of Shield’s B.J. Britt and the great Mykelti Williamson of Forrest Gump fame, and more recently, from Law & Order: Organized Crime.
Synopsis: RJ is a new angel, who is given the chance to address his one regret, that he didn’t help his sisters — Dani and Marlow — reconcile while he was still alive. Returning to earth as a stranger, he gets each of them to revive The Holiday Stocking, their parents’ old tradition to encourage good deeds at Christmas.
Helping the siblings reconnect and reconcile isn’t the only goal of The Holiday Stocking. After all this is a Hallmark Christmas movie so love blossoms, it’s refreshed and characters find peace and purpose. Knowing all this, it’s easy to see why it’s not just a feel-good movie. It provides all the feels including a very emotional ending that might elicit a tear or two, which Nadine Ellis is happy to hear.
“It hit us hard too,” Ellis explains. “There were at least three takes where Roger Bobb, our director, would say ‘cut.’ And we would start crying more. Or it was quiet because everyone was in a moment. And then you would look at the crew and they would be crying. We were like, what’s happening? It was really so powerful.”
Aside from the emotion of the movie, Ellis also talked to TV Goodness about what it was like to work alongside co-stars Jones and Britt; the most challenging part of the whole shoot, and how getting this gig felt a little bit like fate.
TV Goodness: What are your thoughts on being one of the leads in Mahogany’s very first holiday movie?
Nadine Ellis: I feel so incredibly honored. Blessed. It just feels like a magical thing. The fact that Hallmark now has this new branch with Mahogany highlighting stories of people of color
, it’s such an incredible space to be in and it feels really warm so far to have walked into this, this Christmas pool, you know? Yeah. It’s been great.
TVGD: How did you connect with Hallmark in this project?
NE: They reached out to me — it was such a surprise. And the irony was I was returning — as we all do — something from Amazon. And so I went to my local Kohl’s and I picked up the phone, my agent called, and she says, you’re familiar with Hallmark Mahogany? Right. And I literally turned the corner and in the
TVGD: You’ve done other holiday movies. Why did this particular script appeal to you?
NE: It felt really magical. I am a sci-fi girl. I love anything a little futuristic or any kind of a magical element. And when it’s woven into… kind of a real story, is always my favorite. So when I read it and I just got that little hint of
TVGD: What is great about these first Mahogany movies is that the love story is present but it’s not always the focus. There are always other dynamics going on. The relationship between two sisters takes front and center. Can you talk about what’s going on with Dani and Marlow (Tamala Jones)?
NE: I think a lot of families can relate to this in one way or another. We’re two sisters, the middle child and the baby. So there’s all of the components of that relationship, right? It’s the love, it’s the ‘I could talk about, I could beat up my sister, but you can’t!’ It’s a lot of that energy. And as we’ve grown up and then eventually [we] lost our father and then lost our mother… The way it happens in life is Marlow, the, our baby sister is played byTamala JOnes. She’s really the sister that takes on the responsibility of taking care of our mother when she becomes sick. Whereas Dani, my character, really kind of is unable to deal and she feels her contribution is by going out there being successful so that she can help monetarily. And so that really causes a risk because Marlow feels like she was abandoned. Her two older siblings who she’s been depending on her whole life, kind of abandoned her with their mother. And so when we do lose our mother, there’s just a lot of hurt feelings, you know? And rightfully so.
TVGD: Like you said earlier, this is very relatable.
NE: Absolutely. I think everybody knows, or at least can identify with some version of that, whether it’s a sibling, a cousin, some family member. So I hope people really connect with that.
TVGD: Talk about working with Tamala. What were you two like on the set? Did you feel like sisters?
NE: There was no growth needed. I’ve watched Tamala for years. I’m a huge fan of hers. And I was so excited when I found out that she was playing my sister. I had just left my hair test and I forgot something. I came back and she had walked in through another entrance and so when I saw her, I just immediately started to smile and as I was walking towards her, I just had arms wide open and she just arms wide opened me and we just hugged and embraced and the whole hair makeup team, they were giggling and we just sat there for about a minute, just rocking and talking to each other. Like, girl, no, no, no, girl. You don’t understand. No, I’ve been watching you forever. You are amazing. It was just like a love fest. And so I knew immediately this was gonna be a fun, easy project to dive into.
TVGD: Can you talk about B.J. Britt? He was amazing in the movie as RJ Angel.
NE: That one. That dude. He is really responsible for every emotional scene. All we had to do was really look at him and you were just like, why are you doing this? He has that sensitive touch. He really just falls right in. And it’s easy to be in the scene with him, to be in the moment with him. He’s so magical with what he does. And the irony is, well, you know, we call it irony, but it really is again, another fateful moment. BJ and I worked together. I was on a Fox show called Our Kind of People.
BJ came in and played my uncle, Teddy’s brother who had passed and who was haunting him. So it’s funny that he’s playing another character, another ethereal creature. And ironically on Our Kind of People, we had three scenes together and it was like huge scenes with the entire cast. So we really didn’t have any one-on-one time so to step onto this and to feel like from the very first scene, to just feel his energy. It was magic.
TVGD: Can you talk about the evolution of your character in this movie? She starts out a little bit self-involved, but you can see the growth that happens.
NE: Absolutely. The loss of her parents rocked her a little bit more than even she’s aware and the separation of family, which just naturally happened because her sister was feeling so much pain. And Dani was feeling a lot of guilt in that. Cause I think you could feel guilty and still not necessarily do what you need to do. You feel guilty, but then not necessarily make the change. And so I think that guilt along with the pain kept her away for a long time, allowed her to be justified. Like oh, she doesn’t wanna talk to me anyway. Through work, she’s really inspired to come back home, or come back to her family and in a crazy twist of faith, it all shifts.
And she’s really kind of forced to deal with the relationship with her sister that was severed and she’s really trying to reconnect and realizing, wow, when I’m right with my family, everything else kind of opens up. So I love that journey for her that she realizes that we can’t run away from the things that we’ve been trying to run from. it’s all gonna catch up to you at some point. And so it catches up to her, but she realizes that on the other side is really salvation for herself.
TVGD: And with the main love story, what makes Dani and Wilson (Karon Riley) such a rootable couple?
NE: Anytime you have a very handsome man , that’s always a nice, right ladies? But also the fact that he is… I really just kind of immediately imagined Dani’s father. This holiday stocking game was a game that her parents created when they were dating. And then once they got married and had children, they passed it onto their kids. And to see this man who is such a giver to his community, he is probably very much like her father. Even though she’s coming from a more aesthetic world and he is kind of grounded and in the community.
So they do have that opposition in place, but I think they do come from very similar places when they start to realize how much they have in common already. You’re rooting for her to let go of some of the stuff that she’s learned how to arm herself with like the clothing and the thing and the attitude. And you’re rooting for her just to relax a little bit and allow for love to happen.
TVGD: The characters in the movie live in Chicago, but I always like to ask the Hallmark actors where you actually filmed the movie because it’s always someplace different.
NE: Well, and of course we shot it in Chicago. We did not. We shot it in Utah. Utah as Chicago as many people do. We all know it. This is a known fact. Um, yeah. So we shot in Utah. When I landed, it was 108 degrees. As we layered on coats and sweaters and gloves and scarves. I think that was the, the intense, that’s the the highest point of acting that we had to do between the cast and the words. It was all there. Pretending to be cold is a whole other thing.
TVGD: What’s next? Anything planned for 2023?
NE: Listen. Happiness, success and family time, that’s what I’m hoping for. That’s what’s on the dream board and that’s what’s in my heart. So we’ll see what God brings me.
The Holiday Stocking premieres tonight on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries at 10/9c.
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