For several years now, Brittany Bristow has been building her resume with a slew of made-for-TV movies for Hallmark.
She's always been in a supporting role, adding story for the leads by way of a friend or sister but always as some sort of confidant helping the main characters to become better people.
Brittany's perseverance has paid off, as she's been chosen to lead Hallmark's Holiday Date, one of the network's first movies to feature Hannukah as a significant part of it's holiday offerings. So, yes, Hanukah is now a part of #CountdowntoChristmas.
Matt Cohen (General Hospital, Supernatural) also stars as an aspiring actor named Joel who agrees to take Brittany's character of Brooke home for Christmas after she's gotten dumped by a man she has previously shared with her family to be a "Mr. Christmas" type and possibly "the one."
It's only after arriving in her hometown and getting caught up in Christmas that Brooke learns Joel is Jewish and unfamiliar with the intricacies of her family's holiday traditions.
Written by Karen Berger (The Art of Us) from a story by Kraig Wenman (Garage Sale Mysteries, Murder She Baked), Holiday Date explores how one family embraces new traditions during their holiday celebration. Bruce Boxleitner and Teryl Rothery co-star.
I have watched you as the sister, the friend, and the confidant in so many movies I loved, and I always wondered when is she going to get her starring role? And now you have it. Congratulations on that.
Now I have it. Thanks! I'm so excited.
What does it feel like?
Oh gosh, it's so exciting. I mean, it's a huge responsibility in some ways, but it's also just so exciting and it feels so rewarding.
And so I'm just so excited. Like I think the one word that just keeps coming to my head is excitement. I'm overwhelmed by how excited I am for everyone to see this movie and so proud of the work that we all put into it.
And it was just such an honor to be asked by Hallmark to do my first leading lady role in this movie, especially because it's one that incorporates Hanukkah and it's such a special, unique and new version of the Hallmark film. But it felt really special to be a part of it.
Exactly. Yeah. It's a premise that we've seen so many times before where the girl chooses some unknown fella to go on her family holiday, but it all gets turned on its head with his Judaism, and that is a new development for Hallmark.
It must be such an honor to introduce this new wave of inclusion.
Oh, it was. I feel very, very honored to have been a part of it.
How different is it working on a production when you're the star rather than when you're the co-star?
You know, it's funny. I feel like in all of the projects that I work on that I bring such a focus to the roles that I'm playing, and I always love having fun on set and making friends and having fun and laughing and all of that. There's just a different level of responsibility. But I honestly don't know that it's that different.
I think as long as you are bringing your A-game to set every day, whether your on set for one day or 18 or 15 or on set for every single scene, I think it's just a matter of enjoying the work that you're doing and bringing the best that you can every single time you're on set. So for me it didn't feel very different.
But I did notice like all of a sudden I was like, "Oh wait, I'm in every scene. Oh gosh. Okay cool. Oh, everyone's looking to me to set the tone. Oh okay. That's cool." It was exciting, but I don't know that I felt necessarily any different. It was just more of the same thing.
Sure. And you have worked alongside Lacey Chabert more than once, and she is like one of the princesses of Hallmark.
What did you learn from working with her and being on those films? And whenever you say you brought your A-game, obviously I recognized that or I wouldn't have been cheering for you to get your own leading role. Because I can't say that I do that with that many other sidekicks.
Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate that. Thank you so much. That means a lot. Yeah. Lacey is one of the most extraordinary people I've ever worked with. I think she has a certain incredible ability to be so, so kind on set.
And not just on set, I mean, in general, like she is one of the kindest people I've ever met, but she maintains her kindness on set. She doesn't allow the stresses of work to get to her.
She is constantly checking in with her castmates. She wants to know that everyone's having fun. She brings a certain level of lightness to the set, which is really beautiful. And she has this incredible ability to ... I swear she's superwoman.
Like she walks onto set, she knows all of her lines, she knows all of the scenes, she knows her characters, she's done her work, she's super mom. She, you know, the best friend. She's such an incredible person. I think the number of things that you can learn from someone like Lacey are infinite. And I feel like I learned from her every time I see her, not just on set. Incredible.
How did you kind of emulate all of the things that you admire in her in your first starring role?
Well, I think the main thing for me is I want to make sure that when I'm on a set that everyone on set is having fun because everyone's job is important. And that's something that Lacey and I have in common, I think.
It's something that I've always maintained, and I see it very strongly in Lacey, and I think that's why people love her so much. She respects everyone on the set, and she really makes sure that everyone knows that they're important.
So you know, it was really important to me as the lead to take that to a different level than I have in the past because I've always tried to do that. But as the lead, it's a little bit more on you to set the tone for other people to do that.
I mean, everyone on our cast was incredible and would have done that already, but I think I've really just tried to make sure that I was, you know, learning people's names and saying hi to everybody every day and walking around with a smile no matter what was going on in my own personal life, making sure that I brought a level of lightness to the set every day.
If there's anyone on the planet that could remind me of doing something like that, it's Lacey.
And what was it like working alongside Matt Cohen?
Working with Matt was so much fun. It was so exciting to be doing my first leading role for a Hallmark movie with somebody who had never done one before because I could just see him every day getting more and more excited about the film that we were making.
And I know for him it was really special because he has a young son, and for him this is a really exciting film for him where he's going to be able to sit down and watch it with his kid. He was so excited and every day he got more and more joyful and his big, huge smile would come out.
And he's so excited every single day to play and beyond that have fun and figure out how he could make people laugh, and he interacts with everyone on the cast. It was a blast. We had so much fun. And I just think that he was the perfect person for the role was Joel in this movie.
How fun for you that, in your first lead, you got to usher in someone brand new to the Hallmark family?
Yeah, I know it's all very cool because I've done so many of them now, and you meet people who haven't done them before when you're a secondary character, and that's all well and good.
But it was really exciting to be like, "Hey, I know how Hallmark loves to have this. And I know that there's this aspect." And like, "Oh we should really try to make this happen."
He was so on board and wanted to know what I knew. But it was kind of weird because I was like, "Wow, I feel like a veteran to Hallmark now. This is so funny." Like it was such a bizarre thing for me.
I think there's always more to learn, and I think there's a benefit from learning from the people around you. Matt is definitely somebody who likes to learn from the people around him, and I love to learn from the people around me, so we were a great team.
Describe your character of Brooke and how you brought her to life. What kind of research did you do, and how did you make her as adorable as she is?
Thank you for calling her adorable. I love that. With Brooke, what I did is I read the script about a million times before I went in for shooting. I like to do background character work on all of my characters.
So I like to really build them from the ground up so that I know everything there is to know about them. And I spent days on end writing about who I thought she was.
This was just pages and pages and pages of this girl and where she grew up and what high school she went to and what she wanted do when she graduated high school and which design school she went to.
And I really tried to create a person in my head that I knew who, you know, I know what her favorite genre of music is and I know her insecurities.
And I think in building all of those things and making her as real as possible in my head, I brought her to life. And then I think to a certain extent, every character you play has a small hint of aspects of yourself.
And I think that there were different things of really coming into my own and feeling like I was on the right path and all of these things that I was able to tie in to Brooke's journey once she goes home.
It was really fun getting to create a person from scratch. It was very cool. She's a very interesting girl. I mean, she's very driven. She knows exactly what she wants to do with her life, and she loved working in fashion. She wants to be a designer. She knows she's good at it. She finds inspiration in everything and she's really, really kind.
But she's had a tough time with love and she's a little sad, but, you know, she's a little scared of opening up, but when she does, it's the most beautiful thing. And I think people are really going to like her, at least I hope they do. I hope they like her. I hope they love her.
I have to ask, what kind of music did you decide that she liked?
Oh that works.
She really likes classical music. Yeah. There's certain things about like pop music and stuff like that that she really enjoys. But there's something about the serenity and calmness of classical music when designing that connects with her.
And I think at the end when she decides where she wants to go and how she wants to move forward, it actually makes a lot of sense too, just based on the line of work that she's in. Yeah, there's something about classical music.
Yeah, I can see that.
In my head I thought she adored.
So what relationship advice would you give to those love lorn guys and gals over the holidays?
Oh gosh. [lauughs] Well, goodness gracious. I don't know if I'm qualified to give it, but however ...
[laughs] I don't even know that I'm qualified to ask the question. But there you have it.
Well, I would just say that as much as I hate hearing this, when the right person comes into your life, you will know.
And as much as it stinks to be alone or it's difficult to be alone, it's also really beautiful because you have a real opportunity to get to know yourself, find out your weaknesses and your strengths, and learn to love yourself in a really beautiful way.
And then when the right person comes into your life, you're going to know that you have the strength and capacity to make a relationship work.
And I think that everyone deserves to be loved, everyone is lovable in their own way. And I think at the end of the day, we all have to be a bit brave and put ourselves out there and know that we might get hurt along the way, but at the end of the day we will find the love that we're meant for it, and it will all have been worth it.
And you thought you didn't have a good answer?
[laughs] I guess it's all right.
You done good! What are your favorite holiday traditions? What do you do with your family?
I love the holidays with my family. My sister's coming home this year, and things have changed a lot over the last few years. My sister lives in Tucson and she's a professor at the University of Arizona.
Well, that's far away, isn't it?
Yeah, it's very far away. So over the last few years things have changed a bit with, you know, she has a daughter and she just had a little boy. So it's changed a bit over the last few years in terms of how we celebrate because sometimes we go to Tucson, sometimes they come here, this year they're coming here.
My sister and I always watch Elf and bake Christmas cookies, like something we've been doing since Elf came out.
I love Elf. So many people give it flack, but it makes me smile every time.
It's so cute. I love it so much. I watch it every year.
When he screams Santa, "It's Santa." Oh my gosh. "It's SANTA!" It's Christmas to me.
In the department store?
I know. I love that part so much.
Sorry to interrupt, but so many people hate on Elf that I really appreciate you don't!
No, I love it. And my sister and I watch it every year, and we bake Christmas cookies and that's something that I really enjoy. And now Astrid, my niece, has started doing it with us. She's three but she loves helping.
And every year on Christmas Eve we watch a Christmas movie and sometimes we'll order in or sometimes we'll order in like a pizza or something and we'll have a nice night.
We'll light a fire, we'll have some food, we'll watch a Christmas movie and then normally we'll open one Christmas present and then we all stuff our presents under the tree and then run to our perspective rooms and go to sleep.
Yeah. Up until last year, I think, my mom still wouldn't let me see her put the presents under the tree.
That's so sweet.
[laughs] I'm turning 30, just for reference.
That's so sweet.
I'm like, "Mom, you're so cute." She's always been make Christmas as magical as possible. Every year, she surpasses my ability to understand how she's capable of it, but yes, up until last year I still wasn't allowed to see presents go under the tree. And I have a feeling this year, we're going to be in our own house, this year she won't let us.
I have a feeling we're all going to have to be in bed before she puts the presents under the tree. She and my dad will stay up super late and put all the presents under it, like set up the stockings, write a letter from Santa Claus and eat half the cookies. They're so cute.
That's just so awesome though. What a beautiful tradition to uphold even as you've grown into adulthood.
Yeah, it's amazing. It's so great. My mom and dad will always leave a little letter for us. My dad leaves notes in the tree for all of us. I think the things that are so special to me are just the time spent with my family and all of the things that I get excited about are all things that include spending time with people that I love.
It sounds like you have a beautiful family.
I do. I have a really wonderful family. I'm very lucky. I have very supportive parents. I have a really supportive and loving sister. I have a wonderful brother-in-law, I have a beautiful niece, an adorable little nephew that I'm so excited to meet. I haven't met him yet.
Oh my, that's going to be a big holiday then, isn't it?
Yeah. Yeah. I'm really excited.
So you've worked with a lot of fun actors and terrific actors.
I have, I have.
And there are many within the Hallmark family and some not in it yet, as with Matt Cohen. Who would you love to star alongside in an upcoming movie?
Oh gosh, that's a big question. You know, there's a number of people I would love to work with. All of the people I've met on Hallmark movies have been so incredible. I've worked with Will Kemp a bunch of times. He's so lovely. I would love do to a Hallmark movie with him.
I love him.
Andrew Cooper. I mean, I love all of my male co-stars. I love all my female co-stars. They're all amazing. If there's one person that I would say I would love to work with, not in the Hallmark world, is a dear friend of mine.
His name is Evan Williams, and he's such a fantastic actor. And I love him to death. He's been one of my very good friends since we worked together on a TV series when we were ... Oh gosh, it was almost 10 years ago now. And he's just such a sweet, sweet guy.
I would love to work with him on something. I think we would have a lot of fun. And I want to do a film with Dewshane Williams. So badly.
He's done a number of Hallmark movies as well. And he and I worked on the same series that I worked on with Evan 10 years ago, and Tara Joshi, who's just had her first Christmas movie as well, Nostalgic Christmas. She and I also worked on that show.
What was the show?
It was called Baxter. It was a Canadian show about a performing arts high school, and we were in high school. It was really fun. It only went on for one season, but it was real, real fun.
It sounds like you made a lot of good friends during that journey.
I did, I did.
That means everything, doesn't it?
It does. I mean, Tara is one of my best friends. I saw her yesterday, and we've been inseparable for the last 10 years. Pretty fantastic.
And now that you can embrace what Hallmark's offering and influence them to bring in other people that you've worked with and introduce them to, that magic is pretty cool.
Yeah, it is. And it's very exciting to watch people I love succeed. I know a lot of people talk about the acting industry is one that's really competitive and they're sure that actors don't want to see other actors do well, but I get so much joy watching my friends succeed and in all facets of life, but my acting friends especially.
I got so excited when Joy had her new TV show and watching Derrick fill in more Christmas movies with Lacey. I love, love, love seeing all of my friends succeed. It's so exciting for me.
You are a Hallmark movie, aren't you?
People tell me that a lot.
What a lovely compliment though. You have such a great attitude and you're so kind.
It's wonderful that you're succeeding because people like you deserve to get those opportunities.
Thank you. Wow. That means a lot. Thank you so much. Yeah, I feel very lucky. I spent a lot of my life in this industry, and the last few years I have been so, so, so lucky to work on a number of really fantastic projects.
I don't ever take it for granted. Every single day I feel so lucky that I've had an opportunity to work on all of them, and I have no idea what's next.
If this is it, then it was an incredible journey. And if I get to keep going, then I'm the luckiest person alive, in my opinion. So I'm just really thankful every day that I've been able to have these opportunities.
Brittany will be watching Holiday Date when it premieres and excitedly awaiting feedback from her friends, family, viewers. You can tweet along with her as she tries to get into the swing of live-tweeting at @BritBristow.
Holiday Date premieres on Hallmark Channel Saturday, December 14 at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.