Brennan Elliott Talks About The Gift of Peace, Bringing Comfort Through the Gift of Film

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Brennan Elliott stars with Nikki DeLoach in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' The Gift of Peace.

It's a moving film featuring characters dealing with loss and grief during the holiday season.

Brennan was kind enough to share his thoughts with TV Fanatic about how Hallmark's growth is benefical for viewers and talent, what it was like digging inside of himself to accurately portray a character experiencing profound grief, and how he hopes the film touches people and provides comfort for those needing it most.

Brennan Elliott for The Gift of Peace

The Gift of Peace is so beautiful. Tell me how you got involved with it.

Yeah, there were a couple of scripts that came across my desk, and this was one that I read, and it scared me, to be perfectly honest. When I first read it, I thought, wow. It's a testament to Hallmark's diversifying content, going deeper on certain movies and not shying away from real emotions and what people will or have experienced.

If they haven't, they will experience pain and grief at some point in their lives. I actually had my wife read it, and she told me, 'you really should do this. There are people out there going through real struggles and dealing with a lot of pain, and this might serve as a healing tool and give them a little hope.'

I thought, wow, that might be special. Obviously, people know what I'm going through with my wife, so everything lined up, and I decided to go after it.

Talking to Nikki DeLoach, who has become a good friend and somebody I admire as a human being as an actress, we both decided that if you do it, I'll do it. We both decided to jump off into the ocean of grief together, so to speak.

The Gift of Peace Poster

Did you work together before?

No, we actually haven't. There was a project a year or two ago that did come across to me that had her attached, and I was possibly going to do, but it just didn't transpire because I think I was on another movie, and the dates didn't work out.

So we've been circling each other for a few years and know each other fairly well, but not as well as we do now. We really wanted to work together. She is an incredible human being.

There were some really rough days with the content and the work we're dealing with, and she held my hand through some of that stuff and said, look, whatever Brennan needs, take a moment, and vice versa because she had some deep places to go to.

It was a lot of fun. It was a deep and personal experience for all of us. I don't think I've been on a show where an ensemble had grown that close. It was almost like we were living in this movie for three weeks together. It was a lot of special moments that I'll take with me forever.

Michael at the Fair

What was your first thought when you read the script?

I don't want to do this. It scares the life out of me. I was like, oh wow. I'm the kind of actor that tries to make everything very honest and human and three-dimensional and real and all the rest. I'm sure all of us do.

But I work very personally with choices in my life. And so I knew what Michael was going through as soon as I read it. I knew what it was like to lose someone and to be in grief. I know what it's like even to be faced with the fear of anticipatory grief.

Obviously, as a caregiver for my wife's illness, it hit home in some ways that scared me. But at the same time, those are the ones you want to do. It challenges you to face some of those emotional things that you touch, you try to repress and run away from.

I remember meeting with the director, Fred Gerber, who was a lovely, lovely man and a talented guy. And Beth Mitchell, our executive producer, and then Nikki. And we just read it together. And that was the moment I knew we were going to be in this together, and I could trust that I could go to those places and vice versa for Nikki.

Finding Magic on The Gift of Peace

We really wanted to tell the story from an honest place. We didn't just want to make a movie, or a Hallmark movie, whatever that might be; we wanted to make an honest experience of people going through grief because everybody's going to go through grief or has gone through it.

If you haven't, you're going to at some point in your life, whether it's the loss of a job or a loved one or whatever, an illness or whatever you have to go through, God forbid. But when you go through it, no one talks about, well, how do we get to the other side? How do we find some sense of healing through this very painful experience?

These four or five characters are going through very different experiences, but pain is universal, and grief is universal. So how do we tell this story from an honest place?

What I liked about it was that not only is Michael here to help everybody get through their journey, the irony is he needs the most help in a lot of ways because he's been in denial and suppressing it. And I know of that very well as well.

So it was a couple of things that really hit me. And I thought the pedigree was obviously working with Nikki and Fred and just Hallmark alone. I thought, 'I'm in a safe place, and let's all go to this place and be open and vulnerable and let's hopefully touch some people.'

Michael and Traci Lean on Each Other

What was it like on set during the incredibly emotional scenes that you were filming? How different is it on set when you're doing something that requires emoting that type of pain for the camera? Do you use the same tactics for other movies, or do you have to draw from a different place?

Every movie is different for me for some reason. I never really approach the role the same. I mean, obviously, it's from a personal place and in your imagination. But this one, as you know, because you've interviewed many, many Hallmark stars. we shoot these movies in 15 days, and we shoot them with maybe two takes if you're lucky. you don't have a lot of time to mess around.

So the people that do a plethora of these are prepared. They've worked hard to bring something to life. And for me, on this one, the hard part was I just needed to make sure I had a quiet space. I wanted to make sure that I could go to a space where there weren't crews or grips or noise or buses or cars going by.

Everybody works differently, and I was quite quiet a lot of the time and was rubbing my nose emotionally in certain things so that when we go to set your emotional life and everything's turned on, and you're ready to go.

But this one was tough because I really needed to focus emotionally on being open and vulnerable. You have a tendency at times to chitter chat or talk to other actors. On this one, a lot of us were pretty focused.

Brennan Elliott and Nikki DeLoach

I understand. It's very moving, and you do a great job.

Oh, you're so kind, Carissa. Thank you so much. It means a lot. I had an interview in New York -- we were doing the Countdown to Christmas there, and it was a lovely time for all of us to hang out. I remember one interviewer who asked, what kind of movies do you want to make?

And I said, well, I'm not really interested, and I just came off the tongue, I said, 'I'm not interested in just making pretty pictures. I want to make touching pictures.' You want people to be affected. You don't want people just to go, 'oh, I love that suit, and his hair looks so great. I know the next moment before it happens. They meet; they kiss.'

You want them to be surprised. You want to be taken on an emotional journey and realize that we're mirroring life to them in some way, so they can be entertained but, at the same time, learn something and be touched.

There's humor in this movie, there are family elements, there's friendship, there's goofiness, there's romance, there's denial, there's pain, there's spirituality, there's a lot of elements that were on the page that we actually wanted to heighten even more.

Michael Ready for the Climb

I haven't seen it, but you have, and your response is, 'it makes me feel warm inside knowing that these people can be touched and affected; it's a different type of movie.'

I've done the rom-coms, and this is a very different type of movie, and we knew that going in. I think that's a testament to what Hallmark's doing; they're diversifying the type of content.

They're going to places that maybe they were scared to in the past. And it really stretches you as an actor to be able to try to play different roles.

I've been lucky enough to play very, very diverse characters throughout my career and not do the same thing. And this was one that was very different than what I was used to. And I was like, let's tell this story.

Hallmark hasn't embraced really faith-based holiday movies. It's always been a little overarching what Christmas has become versus what Christmas started as in the first place.


Michael Remembers on The Gift of Peace

In that regard, does it feel different telling a faith-based story?

I approach every project differently when creating the character and telling the story, but it's all from a real place.

There are elements that are on the nose about spirituality, and there are elements that are very subtle, but this was a Day Spring production in conjunction with Hallmark. They were lovely and gave us free rein to tell the story spiritually, but not banging you over the head every second with it.

So I think it's a spiritual movie, but I think, in retrospect, it's for everyone, regardless of your spirituality or religion, your creed or your sexual orientation, or who you are. It's all about a story at Christmas, how to heal through grief and to come together and that you need people to help you. You need people to love you, and you need people to pray with.

And that's the spiritual element that we all need in our lives, especially nowadays. You got to believe in something outside of yourself, or you're going to be on a bumpy ride.

Michael Prays

You do.

You really do. I've got two young kids, and it's a scary world out there in a lot of ways. If you have something you can hold onto that makes you feel like you're a little safer going through the storm, which this movie successfully has that element, I think you can speak to everyone.

We need that on some level, whether it's this religion or this belief system or this kind of spirituality -- whatever it is, we need something to keep us when we're going through really rough times.

I think the one thing about the movie I love the most was it does say -- you can't do these things on your own. You need friends, you need family, you need spirituality, you need people to come and love you from a selfless place and be there for you. And you don't see a lot of movies like that.

Michael and Traci Lean on God

No, you don't.

And that's one thing I liked because it is a scary thing not only to creatively dive into as an actor or as a producer or a writer or whatever, but I think it's a thing that's left unsaid; you don't want to do a movie about this because maybe this is going to rub people the wrong way.

I think -- I'm hoping -- we'll see it when we're in New Jersey at the Con, but I'm hoping it's a movie that can be for everyone, and they all can get some sense of being touched in peace and learn something about their own personal journey.

And I don't think that anybody would watch and not have an idea of what it's like to lose somebody. Everybody has lost somebody different, a grandmother, a mother, or a partner. There are all kinds of different grief. And I think that it was a wide enough birth that people will find something that speaks to them.

And, as well as I do, that there are people that haven't really maybe experienced a level of grief, of a loss like that.

Finding Beauty at Christmas

I know I went many, many years until just recently, losing my grandmother ten years ago. I've been through different levels of grief at different stages in my life, and the grief I go through now is very different with Cami's illness.

But that being said, if you haven't gone through any grief, you will. It will happen at some point in your life, and no one will tell you how to navigate it.

This movie gives you hope. You know that it will be painful, but there will be life on the other side. I think one of the worst things that happens is when somebody does get sick, you spend so much time worrying about what life is going to be like when they're gone.


And hopefully, this will give people an idea that it's going to be tough, but you'll get through it.

Yes, and that was our main motivation for doing the movie. That was the main motivation I said yes to it because I think we all need that. I've had moments of hopelessness with Cami's illness where I'm like, I don't know how to get through this, to be perfectly honest.

Sharing a Special Moment in Church

And I had to draw upon that for the movie. And so you go back to your hotel room, and you sit there, and you're like, okay, after a 15-hour day, and you got to get up in five or six hours, and you just go, 'I am emotionally done.'

But that's what going through grief feels like. You get more exhausted by acting like everything's okay, by walking around, saying, I'm fine. It's all right. Yeah, I'm still in pain, but it's okay. No, it's okay not to be okay. It's okay to be in pain.

And that warms my heart Carissa, because, in the end, we want people to laugh and cry and through the gamut of emotions, but at the same time, have a little bit of hope at the end. To go, you know what? It's Christmas time, and with people around me supporting me, I can get through something.

There's something that's just so emotional, just listening to faith-based Christmas songs, too.

Oh, yeah.

Michael Celebrates a Special Anniversary

The beautiful songs that are sung on the show and that play in the background, it put a lump in my throat while watching.

Aww. Nikki and I were telling the director and the producer when we were doing our little read through -- I'd rarely done a read through Hallmark movie for a long time, and it was actually beneficial for us because it's such deep material -- I said, let's not shy away from this. Let's really go for it.

You did.

Let's not hold back. Let the idea speak for itself. Let's experience this so that people are really affected and can find some hope. Everybody was on board, even all the other characters in the piece.

I've never done something this personal before, where it was like, there really wasn't a lot of room to breathe. I mean, I had lumps in my throat just doing scenes with these people.

Michael's Lost Love

I can imagine.

It was a beautiful journey, one that I'm still affected by and look forward to sharing in New Jersey with all the people that are going to be at the Christmas con to watch it, and, obviously, on December 10th when it airs. But you don't get many times in your career where you can really maybe help people through some artistic content.

Hopefully, this has a little bit for somebody out there. And if one person goes, 'you know what? I was ready to check out on a lot of things, and I saw this, and it made me realize if I stick to it, as painful as it is, maybe, with support, friends, family, and therapy, if I need it, maybe I can find some peace because life's tough, not an easy game.'

It isn't. So what would you like Hallmark fans to know about this movie before watching it?

That you're going to be touched in your heart and your soul, hopefully, enough to realize that no matter what painful thing you're going through, have gone through, or will go through in the future, there are messages and things in this movie that can give you a sense of hope, a sense of peace, and a sense of optimism that you can get through it.

Michael at the Letting Go Ceremony

Guilt and grief and anxiety and fear and depression, those things are legit. They're real. Millions and millions and millions of people deal with it on different levels every single day. We need help to get through certain things. There are messages in this movie that I think can benefit.

I know it benefited me in my journey. Obviously, I can't attest to Nikki, but we've all gone through it, and if we can find something that can make us watch it and, going away, say, 'okay, maybe I'm not going nuts. I'm in a lot of pain, but if I continue doing what I'm doing, I'll find some sense of peace and grounding.'

I mean, one of the scenes at the end of the movie with the balloons and letting go, just the whole group of people. I haven't heard the music, but I have heard the music is really touching and really even amplifies the emotional life.

On that day, I remember there wasn't a dry eye in the whole place, even with extras. People were not even sure what movie we were making but realized that you have to let go sometimes to be free, and it takes a journey to get there.

The Letting Go Ceremony

One of my cousins lost his youngest son two years ago, and we did that at his funeral, the releasing the balloons thing. I mean, it just brings on the waterworks.

Oh yeah, there's nothing heavier.

It is such a meaningful thing that you're doing, and it seems impossible. But the way that it plays in this movie, to,o is exactly what it does. It gives everybody who's there that feeling of catharsis. That we're all in this together. Everybody has something that they're going through, and we don't have to carry that burden.

Exactly. That's how you can find healing. You have to get to that point of wanting to let that go to get to that point. That's a painful journey.

One of the things -- and Carissa, you've probably seen so many Hallmark movies, you can attest to this -- but obviously, it's a brand, and there are these elements and these Hallmark things you need to hit, these little tropes, and the rom-coms, and there's a little bit of heightened reality, and you escape and everything else.

Brennan Elliott Photo

What I also love -- and they're doing it with all of their content -- but this is a movie, and they want to do more of these kinds of movies where you can escape with something grounded in truth. I mean, really, really honest. It's not always about the glitz and the glam and the shining lights and the Christmas trees, which is very, very important.

In this movie, it's not a backdrop; it's an important character, but what's important is the spirit and the soul and the heart of these characters going through their grief and that, at Christmas, really coming together can really help them. And I found that throughline of the story really beautiful and honest.

I look forward to seeing more of these. Hallmark has definitely upped their game with meaningful, inspirational content. The formula is disappearing.


Brennan Elliott Blue Blazer

And with that, everybody gets a chance to grow from people behind the scenes to people on screen and to those of us watching it. I'm really excited to see what else is coming.

Yeah, me too. And from an actor perspective or a producer perspective, to see the kind of content that they're doing in all areas, whether it's with sexual orientation, whether it's bringing a diversity of color, I mean, all these things.

It all should have happened years ago, but that's just the way the world's going; everybody has a voice, and everybody has something to say, and everything that people want to say and do and feel is important. They're trying to have a little bit for everyone. And I find that encouraging.

Agreed. You had three Hallmark movies this year. How are you going to beat that next year?

Well, actually, I'm glad you just said that. I was just telling my wife that we took the first half of the year off because she was going through some surgeries, and I had to be here with the kids and take care of her and stuff. But she's doing great now, and she's like, 'you're my husband, I want you out of the house.'

Brennan Elliott Smiles in Black Leather

She's had enough of this togetherness.

Yeah. So I said, 'well, I'll do four or five next year if I can, whatever.' But no, I love working for Hallmark, and that's why I stay around. And well, if they want to keep me, I always say yes to them. And this was one that I'll cherish for a long time, for sure.

Yeah, I hope you get to do another couple that will challenge you a little bit to take you out of your comfort zone and away from the formula. You did a great job.

Oh, you're so kind, Carissa. We were doing ADR, just going over some of the lines as a bustler and buyer, you know, that whole routine in the studio, and you do ADR.

And there was a guy there, an old burly biker-looking guy, tats everywhere, big beard. I mean, lovely, lovely guy. And he was the sound mixer, and he was watching some of the scenes, and he goes, 'is this a feature? What is this?' I go, 'no, it's a TV movie for Hallmark.' He goes, 'this is a Hallmark movie?' Because he was unaware.

Right. I love how people have this idea of Hallmark, and they're really off the mark these days.

And they are. I said Hallmark is making great movies. It's not just a Hallmark movie, it's a Hallmark movie. And those tropes have to be there, and it's got a certain brand, but they're really taking risks and doing really interesting stuff.

It's a really great time to be an audience member and watch, and also to be a part of the creative team, like me. So I'm excited for the future on what they want to bring to the fans.

Before there was Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, there were Hallmark Productions that aired on broadcast and were super special. Families gathered around to watch these meaningful films, and now they're finally bringing some of that back, and I love it.

It's exciting to see the growth and see where we're going as a network. And that's a testament to obviously Wonya Lucas and [her team].

Michael Kisses Traci's Hand

Everybody over there that's really listening to the fans and going, 'we want to be known for making not just this A plus B equal C type of movie. We want people to watch it and go, this could be a movie that could rival a real feature.' And they have Hallmark drama, they had Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Everything's bleeding into each other.

In our movie, there are humorous moments, really fun, playful moments, and comedy, rom-com, and romance. There's pain, emotion, and life; there are all of those things. Every movie should have that, in my opinion. So it doesn't have to be relegated to a certain channel.

It's life. People always want to call something either a comedy or a drama, but in life, there is comedy and drama.


Your life throughline has a little bit of everything.

There should be all the emotions in the rainbow, in everyone's performance, and in every movie, instead of just here are personalities, and we love them, and they're telling a story. Oh, there's that trope. Now they have the big kiss; here's the meet-cute. All that stuff is there, and I get all that, and there's a place for it.

I've done many of those and will continue to do those. But it's also nice to see that you can do that and still be honest and three-dimensional and human and real, and people can really connect to that as opposed to the trope itself.

The Gift of Peace accomplishes all of that and more, with moving cast performances and a beautiful story. You can watch The Gift of Peace Saturday, December 10 at 10/9c.

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 X and email her here at TV Fanatic.

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