On Saturday, November 13, one of our favorite Hallmark leading men stars in My Christmas Family Tree, and we got him on the line to chat about it.
Andrew Walker is one of Hallmark's most reliable and charming leading men. He never delivers a bad performance, and his characters are the perfect romantic counterparts to his leading ladies.
You'd think that as often as we're honored to chat with him, we'd run out of things to talk about eventually. That's not the case, and it's a testament to how Andrew sets every role he plays apart from the other.
It's fascinating to see someone playing so many different parts that each stand out on their own, and Andrew says it's drawing on all of life's experiences that allow him to so effortlessly distinguish Andrew, the man, from his many characters.
"Look, I feel like there are so many things that a person goes through in their life, and things can change at a drop of a hat. So I could win the lottery this afternoon. I could be a completely different person, or my spirit or my demeanor could be completely different."
His character in My Christmas Family Tree, Kristopher, had one of those life-changing moments at age 22 when he got a call that both of his parents had been killed.
Or, I could get a call that, for example, in comparison to the movie, my character, Kristopher, loses both his parents at 22 years old, just at the drop of a hat, this tragic accident.
"People can have tragedy in their life at the drop of a hat, and they can have an unbelievable huge surprise. Things can change immediately. So I think that it's not so much about necessarily trying to change things too much, because it's still me, it's just the circumstances in which the character is going through those changes, just my world that I live within."
Andrew finds it easy to identify with Kris's situation, as his mother has Alzheimer's.
"Fortunately, it's been ten years, but only really started to get bad during the pandemic. And so there's a piece of Kris that I was able to draw from in losing his parents because I feel like I am processing the inevitable loss of my mom and the way she's not at all who she was, who I've remembered her being throughout my life. So it's therapy.
"That's what I love about acting. You're able to take certain things that you've either experienced already or that you potentially might experience and know how to process that. If it's losing a parent or, God forbid, losing a child, you have this platform where it can be healing.
With the example of Kristopher, knowing that I lost both my parents in that film, it makes me appreciate having my mom and my dad still around. Even though my mom is not at all who she used to be, my dad is still very much a presence in my life, and I speak to him every single day. And so I appreciate it more too.
"So it's a beautiful inside-outside experience where you take a bit of reality, and you take a bit of imagination, and you try just to embody that and not so much play it."
Andrew reflected on Helen Mirren when she was asked how she played the Queen, and she said, "I don't have to play the Queen. It's how people treat me that makes me the Queen when I'm playing my role."
That sentiment reflects directly to Andrew's connection to James Tupper's character in My Christmas Family Tree. "So when I'm playing my role, James Tupper's character is my new father figure or acts as a father figure to me, and so he treated me a certain way in that movie that allows viewers to see that we had this dynamic, this very comfortable dynamic."
Andrew said that James was incredible to work with. Just coming off of Big Little Lies and working with Meryl Streep, Andrew picked James' brain about working with a cast of that caliber.
He was also excited to work with James because they have another friend in common, Emily VanCamp, who played James' daughter in Revenge, a show we at TV Fanatic know very well. As it turned out, Andrew had no previous knowledge of Revenge, though, and the connection took him and his wife by surprise.
"Don't know anything about Revenge. So Emily VanCamp and Josh Bowman are my wife and my best friends, and we've known them for years and years. And I was three days into working with James, and I called my wife, and I go, 'Cassandra, man, this guy's so incredible. I've had a couple of scenes with him now, and I love acting with him,' and she's like, 'Well, what's his name?' I said, 'James Tupper.'"
Andrew said that Cassandra watches about as much TV as he does, but she recognized the name. Only when she looked him up did they realize Andrew had a natural ice-breaker sharing that connection with Emily.
In addition to a growing friendship with James that includes texting and rounds of golf, Andrew learned a lot about their field from the seasoned actor, especially when it comes to taking risks.
"Look, in Hallmark movies, are we allowed to take that many risks? Not necessarily, but still, he's really off the cuff. He shook things up more on set than I've seen in a long time. On these 15-day shoots, you hit your groove day eight a lot of the time, and things start loosening up a little bit more.
"That's why with TV shows, coming into the second season, things start getting really good because people have all been able to really sink their teeth into their characters, and the storylines, and stuff. But James really had a great understanding of who his character was pretty quickly in this movie, and so, he took a lot more risks."
Andrew was especially impressed with how James prepared for the role, running lines until you know the part and the character so well that once filming starts, you can just "lose all the lines and have fun."
We agreed that this comes at a time when Hallmark, too, is taking more risks in terms of casting and storytelling. Andrew said, "I love where they're taking the network."
My Christmas Family Tree stars Aimee Teegarden as a young woman who, through a DNA registry, finds her birth father, played by James. It's a heartwarming story that is about new and old connections coming together for the holidays. But there's a lot more to it than that, and Andrew weighed in on why it should be appointment TV when it airs on Saturday.
Love of Christmas Vacation is an excellent place to start, as James plays a character just below the line of Chevy Chase's character when it comes to his love for Christmas.
"He wants to create this beautiful Christmas environment for his family. He's a real holiday guy. But I think mainly the heart behind this movie is just how unconventional families can be and that there are really no boundaries when there's love."
"When you have one person believe in you or one person loves you, you can really shoot for the moon. Yeah, there are no boundaries on what you can do. This family took Kris under their wing after losing both of his parents, and they were his rock that he needed at that time to piece his life together again."
Aimee's character, Vanessa, is in a similar position.
"It's not like she has a fractured life or is in a depressed state necessarily; it's just she's a little in the void. She's created her own family, and friends, and stuff like that, but to know that you have people like this that you can feel love from or feel like they're supporting you through thick and thin, and to know that there's blood out there is even that much greater."
"So I think what really puts this at the front of the Christmas movie viewing line is that there's awesome comedy, there's familiarity in this movie, but then there's a lot of storylines that we haven't seen ever in a Hallmark movie. A large ensemble cast that works and, like you said, you really see there's a little bit of a different vibe in this movie that you can't really put your finger on."
Although it's an ensemble cast, Andrew believes he's done some of his best work on My Christmas Family Tree.
"Even though it's a little more nuanced, the readings that I was doing and the things that I was trying to draw from before I took on this character, I had to start from a place of grief, and then I had to think about what Kristopher had gone through to get to where he was currently in where the story is being told.
"And I love that I was able to go deep in how my mother's situation has made Andrew feel and how potentially a tragic accident like that, what that could do to somebody in their life and how alone you could feel. But then, having this family take Kris under their wing changes things completely. And so, it was a very therapeutic movie for me to do."
Although Andrew is starring in the movies we watch that give us Christmas inspiration, he can discover new and long-forgotten traditions, too.
"Well, actually, funny enough, this movie reminded me of a tradition that we don't do anymore. Well, obviously for specific reasons -- I live 3,500 miles away from my family now or from my immediate family back in Montreal.
"But because I come from a family of musicians -- my mom was an incredible pianist -- she could also hold a note. She wasn't a singer necessarily, but she could hold a note really well. And my aunt was a music teacher, my uncle was a trumpet player, my two cousins were opera singers, and one cousin did some off-Broadway stuff.
"And so I remember that when we were younger, we would go caroling. We would just knock on people's doors. The whole family would go out for one night, we raised some money for charities, and we would go around caroling. And I forgot that.
"We had stopped doing it when I was probably around 12, 13 years old, and it was a memory that I had lost track of, and it hit me when I was back on set again doing it as we were preparing to leave the house."
With such a familial love of music, Andrew has made a pact with his wife and his six-year-old son that if his son started taking piano lessons, he would take them as well.
"He started his first piano lesson last week, and he loved it. I didn't love piano lessons when I was younger, but I did play. I sang in a rock band from 14, 15 years old up until around 19, 20 years old. And so I can carry a tune, but my family, we do music mornings on the weekends. We did do them in the weekdays before both kids, my youngest is in daycare now, and my oldest is in first grade."
They've got drums, shakers, a triangle, and tambourine, and it all comes out on the weekends.
"So I think I am definitely incorporating music in their life at a young age, and hopefully they'll continue. My son told me yesterday for the first time, he's like, 'Yeah, Daddy, I want to be an electric guitar player in a band, but I know that I have to start playing piano first,' because he said he heard me say that's the gateway instrument!"
My Christmas Family Tree dives into well-known traditions and even offers something unique that fits perfectly with Aimee's character getting to know the family she never knew she had.
"I love it now because it's so much more specific on who that family is and the background, the heritage, the history, and teaching Aimee's character about the lineage, where she came from. So I appreciated it just to give the movie a little more specificity in the storyline."
My Christmas Family Tree is a lovely addition to Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas lineup, and we think you'll be watching it for years to come.
My Christmas Family Tree premieres on Hallmark Channel on Saturday, November 13 at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.