[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Just over a month since we last saw him in Notes of Autumn, Luke Macfarlane is back on Hallmark Channel Thanksgiving night in the tentpole premiere of Catch Me If You Claus, his tenth holiday film (and ninth for Hallmark). I previewed the deeply silly in the very best way comedy and chatted with his co-star, Italia Ricci over here.
In the film, Macfarlane is Chris, Santa’s son who’s straight up biffing his solo run on Christmas Eve when things go from bad to worse (to better) after he lands in the wrong living room. What begins as a somewhat startling case of mistaken identity detours into an after hours caper of sorts as he’s paired with Avery (Ricci), a would-be news reporter who’s chasing a lead that could finally land her an anchor slot while they also try to get him back to his sleigh – and beat the clock.
I recently caught up with Macfarlane about the project, which allowed him to play in the same space as the looser episodes of Killjoys like the laugh out loud “A Bout, A Girl,” as well as some of his early days theatrical training. “They gave me a lot of permission to just do whatever because he was a very out there character, but I [still] wanted to make him grounded,” he shares.
“I also understood that there was an aspect to this movie [where] we do want them to get together and we don’t want Avery to get together with somebody who is clearly [not in his right mind]. So I liked the idea that through his affection for her, he is able to find himself and ground himself and become a little bit more of the person he’s meant to be through that relationship.”
“But at the beginning of the movie, they allowed me to go pretty broad. And I remember asking the producer [Joel Rice] and the director [Bradley Walsh], ‘Is this too much? Am I doing too much?’ and they said, ‘No, it’s great. Keep going.’ They really did let me play.”
As the couple spend more time together amid the swirl of being on the run, Macfarlane loved finding little moments of connection for the characters. “When you’re falling in love with somebody, you see that they have this special thing. I remember there’s a moment kind of early on-ish in the movie when we meet Chris and she’s walking me across her front lawn to meet the neighbor and my jacket falls off and she puts my jacket on me,” he says.
“And I remember thinking, ‘Oh, I have to make a moment of this, because so much of when we first meet him, he’s hopping along and being really off and bothered that he’s not able to do his thing. But we also have to find that connection between the two of them. I remember taking a lot of pride in this idea that he fell in love with Avery when he realized that she was a kind person who wanted to put the jacket on him when he was cold. I loved that idea and I enjoyed trying to find those moments in the script of, despite all the craziness, seeing the woman through this bizarre situation.”
One extended sequence in the film finds the duo hiding out with a local theater troupe, and it’s a pivotal moment that crystallizes that Chris really is who he says he is, and tapped into Macfarlane’s own early days theater training. “I remember the moment of Chris talking to this wonderful collection of ragtag theater people and being able to say to them what their pivotal gift was, this moment in their childhood and these actors who were older, gray haired, and balding, to be able to remind them of their hopes and dreams as a kid. I was really touched by that,” he recalls.
“It was very lightly alluded to in the script, but I think when I’m describing to this maestro of the theater [the gifts he received], underneath, there was also this implication that maybe he was gay or that his love of the theater was something that Santa recognized in him.”
“I just found that deeply, deeply moving, deeply touching, and that Avery oversaw this, that [it captured that moment that] you can fall in love with somebody because they have the ability to see people deeply. It’s almost religious in a way to see a person fully. So there were little things like that [that were special].”
“In the midst of all the craziness of running through the snow and yelling and getting tied up, there’s something very beautiful about just seeing people fully for who they are, which is also kind of about seeing people as children, seeing people as who they were when they were kids, before they were tainted.”
“And that reminds me a lot of the work we did at Julliard, which was about finding your inner clown, who you are, unfiltered, unafraid to be because of coolness or calmness and just being who you are. And so much of who Santa was or Chris is in this movie is like a bit of a clown. He’s very unconstrained by needing to not be a kid.”
“I love this movie. I really, really did. And I also thought that Italia was such a great counterpoint because she is very serious. I tend to be a little bit more loose, a little bit more free and a little bit more, ‘Let’s see what happens on the day.’ And as our filming experience with each other went on, I think she rubbed off on me and I rubbed off on her a little bit. And that was really beautiful, too.”
Earlier this fall, Macfarlane broke type for Lifetime’s Amish Stud, playing the murderous titular character, which he says was a difficult role to inhabit. “It was something I wanted to do. Every actor wants to try different genres. But it was tough. It was hard. I really appreciate the fact that Stacey [N. Harding], our director, was able to not, despite its title, make this campy,” he explains.
“And there were a lot of very beautiful performances that were very deep and true. I wore an old pair of leather boots and they were wet all the time, and my feet got stinky and I couldn’t wash that stink off. And it was one of the hardest smells to get off of my body. And let that be a metaphor for the way it felt playing him.”
In Notes of Autumn (which is out of rotation but should return after the holidays), Macfarlane was paired with Peter Porte in one one half of a dual-track romcom as he Ashley Williams play BFFs who swap houses and fall in love with each other’s respective friends. He enjoyed getting to headline an LGBTQ love story for the network, and sees it as a stepping stone toward Hallmark eventually programming a standalone LGBTQ romcom as it makes strides toward more inclusive storytelling.
“I think change is made incrementally, slowly over time. And I’m so pleased to have been a keystone in that arch, because I think it’s part of developing what will eventually become a hundred percent homosexual storyline. And that will not be shocking or difficult for audience members,” he says.
Macfarlane loved his cast, although he (like me) wished we’d had more face time with the besties. “All movies are kind of haikus. You have to be very spare with the number of syllables you use. I remember upon my first read [of Rick Garman’s script], I thought, ‘Oh, we need more time [with these characters] because that friendship is beautiful,” he recalls.
“A male/female friendship across the country is a gorgeous thing. And I relished those scenes. We only had, I think, two scenes actually together, but we have this very long phone call together. I love Ashley as a type of actor. She’s very fun. She’s very present, she’s very playful. I wish I had more time with her. I see her all the time. We actually have a lot of mutual friends. Peter [Porte] is wonderful. He’s so funny. And I really, really liked him so much. I hope he gets to work more at Hallmark. I really do.”
Catch Me If You Claus premieres at 8 pm/7c Thanksgiving night on Hallmark Channel and streaming on multiple outlets in the US, and Saturday, the 25th, at 8 pm/7c on CTV Life in Canada. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos courtesy of Albert Camicioli/Hallmark Media; videos courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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