It's A Wonderful Lifetime continues to deliver heartwarming stories about family, love, and the beauty of the holiday season.
And A New Orleans Noel is the unmissable award-winning film on Lifetime's slate stacked with talented, beloved stars from Keshia Knight Pulliam to Patti LaBelle. It is both a beautiful tribute to the Queen of Pralines, Loretta Harrison, and the city of New Orleans itself.
It's genuinely one of the most heartwarming films of the season. And TV Fanatic had the pleasure of speaking with director and co-writer Angela Tucker about it all. Check it out!
First off, congratulations on it winning the Audience Award at the New Orleans Film Festival. Are you still riding high from that honor? That was huge!
Yeah, it's so great. When you make these movies, you don't always get an opportunity to have them be in a film festival or get to see them in a theater. So it was really nice to have that opportunity in general, but having it win the Audience Award is great.
Now, what inspired you to take on the task of co-writing and directing this film?
Well, I love holiday movies, as many people do. I've been watching them for years and have always wanted to make one.
I had an Instagram account where I would do little fun reviews of movies on my own. And then a friend of mine, who is a producer, had been pitching, and they pitched an idea to Lifetime about a Black family in New Orleans with a grandmother who is a bakery icon.
They were looking for someone who could write and direct it. And so one of our mutual friends said, "Hey, do you know Angela loves holiday movies?" So we met up, and that was Misty Talley. She's one of the producers. And then I met with Daniel and then Lifetime, many meetings with Lifetime, and then the rest is history.
That's amazing! New Orleans feels like its own character in this film, which I absolutely loved. It felt like a love letter to New Orleans during the holiday season. So was it important to you to sort of capture the magic and heart of the city?
Oh, yeah. I live in New Orleans, and I know how often people want to see a version of New Orleans that's a little closer to what New Orleans is like.
Right. Everything's usually Mardi Gras.
Exactly. I was excited to tell a story that people who live here could identify New Orleans a little more. But it's also an added pressure because you got to get some things right, or people who live here will be like, "Oh, that's not how we do this or that." Having Patti LaBelle and Keshia Knight Pulliam helped. People are really happy with having them in this film.
You got one of the Lifetime Christmas queens, which is a win, and an icon.
It feels like you poured so much of yourself into this film and Grace, particularly with the message about choosing family and her working through her grief. Can you talk about that?
One of the reasons that I love Christmas movies is my dad passed away on Christmas Eve, so Christmas used to be a challenging time for me. And then these movies helped me enjoy the holidays again.
When I had an opportunity to make a movie like this, I wanted to feature someone who was going through how you navigate grief and missing family but still enjoy all of the beautiful things that the holidays offer.
I definitely relate to that with Grace in having moments of sadness where you miss family members during these times but also opening yourself up to family being all kinds of people, not necessarily people you're blood-related to. That was really important to me to feature that message in the film.
I work in documentary and fiction, and I think even in a Lifetime Christmas movie, I have to have some kind of personal connection to the film, and I have to have something based in reality. I'm not somebody who comes up with things out of thin air, but I have to be able to track it back to, "Oh, this makes me think of this person" or something like that.
It was great to incorporate so many personal things and feature Patti LaBelle's character based on this woman, Loretta Harrison, who started Loretta's Pralines.
And when we met her, we were writing the script. We took some real details from her life and based it all on the business she owns. And all of that enhances the film as well.
I was going to ask you about that. I saw it was based on Loretta, and it is sad to hear about her passing. It was a great homage to her. Did she get to see any bits of it before she passed away?
She didn't get to see it, but she did get to come on to set, meet Patti, see the set, and all of that.
I feel good that at least she got that experience. One of the nice things about the film screening was that so much of her family could see the film in a theater and get together and have that experience. I'm happy that we were able to make that happen.
That is beautiful. You have a great way of honoring her memory and legacy through this film. It's really sweet.
What was it like working with the Patti LaBelle?
She's everything you want her to be. Just so lovely and laid back but still like an icon. And she's so funny. The key is letting Patti be Patti, and she adds so many comedic beats to the film. I said I would let her do what she does.
She was so much fun. It translated so well. She was entertaining, and I was laughing the entire way through with her.
Yeah. There are jokes that she would say. She's really great!
I love a film that has a later-in-life, second-chance-at-love-type story. Did you always have Tim Reid in mind for Loretta's love interest? Because they work so well together.
They did. You know, that was Lifetime. They said, "What about Tim Reid?" And I was like, "Yeah, if he wants to do it, great!"
He's so great. They had such great chemistry, and he's also just such an icon and a really laidback guy. I was worried about getting somebody who wasn't intimidated by Patti. They were so fun the way they were flirting. I'm all about a love story, an older person's love story. That's my sweet spot. I just love that.
You get so much hope. Like, you realize that love can happen at any point. I always wanted that in the film.
Now with veteran actress and Lifetime Christmas queen Keshia Knight Pulliam, was it easier or harder to direct an actual married couple with her and her husband?
It's actually easy. It was during COVID, so it was a relief. They are in each other's bubble, so that's nice. But it was very easy. They got along, and they've worked together a bunch, too. It would be harder if they hadn't worked together. And it's also nice that it's just a luxury with them.
It would have been weirder if I had to direct one of them with someone else and then with them. But yeah, they were great together. She was excited to work on the phone, and the ability to work with Brad was a big selling point for her, with which I totally agree.
He's so great. Often I'll see these movies, and the guys are nice, but they don't have that sort of sex appeal. But Brad has the ladies very excited to have him around.
He seems very charming.
Yeah. He's very charming.
I have appreciated Lifetime Christmas movies over the years because of their diversity. It was fun to see just another film with this African American cast, and it was authentically Black American without specifically being "A Black Movie." I loved it.
I'm glad you saw that because I was really invested in wanting to make a Black film that felt like it was for Black people. Sometimes holiday movies can feel like the script wasn't written for Black people.
Right. They just put Black people in it, and it's a noticeable difference! Also, if there's little diversity behind the scenes, it doesn't always translate properly and authentically onscreen.
Yes. So this is something conceived for a Black family, which was really important to me.
Now, obviously, you love Christmas movies. You did this one, which was great. How do you feel now that you've done this one? Are you interested in doing more?
I would love to do more. It's such a crazy schedule to make it, but I have so many more stories that I would love to tell.
What are some of your favorite things to do around the holidays?
Okay, now that I live someplace where there isn't snow, it's definitely different. I miss the snow, but I love eggnog. Here in New Orleans, City Park has a thing where they have a light festival. I like to do that.
And then I like to watch Christmas movies. Like, I have a whole list of ones I'm behind. I've only seen like three so far. And as we all know, there are a ton. I see family, and it's also fun to be around kids, especially on Christmas day.
Why do you want everyone to tune into A New Orleans Noel? What's your pitch?
It's a lot of fun. There are multiple love stories. It's a heartwarming film, but it also has some laughs. That was the goal. If you also love New Orleans and want a little mini vacation to see New Orleans, the film is great for that too.
What other projects do you have in the works?
I have a documentary that I'm working on about Barbara Jordan, who's based in Texas, and she's the first Black Southern congresswoman. And so it's a biography doc. And then I have some other Christmas projects that I'm pitching, and we'll see what happens.
***This interview has been edited for length and clarity****
For a lovely holiday film to get your in your feelings and make you fall in love with the beautfy of New Orleans, check out A New Orleans Noel. It's one of the most endearing films of this year's It's A Wonderful Lifetime slate, with a stellar cast, and a beautiful message.
For more information on Loretta's Pralines, the late Praline Queen and inspiration behind the film's character, check out her website.
A New Orleans Noel premieres Saturday, December 3 at 8/7c on Lifetime.
Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.