Stephen Huzar is a busy man.
He's been in many Hallmark productions, including Chesapeake Shores and various movies, and on Sunday, December 4, you can catch him in Undercover Holiday as a bodyguard playing boyfriend to pop star Jaylen (Noémi González)
We caught up with Stephen before the holidays to talk about Undercover Holiday and being an incredibly busy working actor.
Stephen joined Chesapeake Shores late in its run, but he said working on it was like a dream. At the time we spoke, he was with family and catching up on the series with his mother and sister in Saskatchewan.
He's close to his family and spends as much time with them as possible. He's on the road a lot, so making time for his loved ones keeps him grounded in a crazy industry.
Stephen didn't aim for an acting career. He got a business degree and worked in finance before he took his "wake-up pill," deciding to become an actor.
Even while he was working in corporate America, Stephen was always on the road. As a consultant, he traveled all across the US before he realized his heart wasn't in it and "decided to charge the other side" of his brain.
He said fresh out of college, it was kind of cool, but there was "always something at the back of my mind saying that no, I really want to be a performer, I want to be an artist.
"And I just didn't have that opportunity growing up. I was very competitive with sports and competitive in school and did all the, I guess, 'right things.' So now I'm doing all the wrong things. So, you got to have balance in life."
For Stephen, a little boy from Saskatchewan, being an actor seemed like such a big dream that it made more sense to get an education and a good job. Still, the acting bug bit him early. "I mean, I enjoy acting. I have done it since I was in grade two. My first performance was Old McDonald Had a Farm," Stephen said.
"I was a lead, playing Old McDonald, and my friends were playing the different farm animals.
"My buddy Roger was playing a dog, and he was in this really hot, furry outfit, and I remember seeing the poor guy after the show unzipping his dog outfit and just beat red and sweating. And I'm like, 'okay, note to self, don't be a dog in a show.' So maybe that's probably the seed.
"I always loved movies too. Star Wars was a huge influence on my life, and I remember asking dad, I'm like, 'I really want to be a Jedi Knight.' And he kind of looked at me, he's like, 'Well, I mean, I'm not sure if a Jedi Knight exists in this world. However, just know that there's an actor playing that.'
"And for me, that was a big aha moment, like, 'oh, I could be an actor and be these different characters that I really aspire to, that inspire me.' So there were a few things that were along the road. I always liked to entertain. I like to make people laugh. I sometimes like to be the life of the party, but sometimes I don't.
"Yeah, it was always there, but I just never took it seriously as that would be my career. So I was lucky enough to have a bit of an awakening. I call it my quarter-life crisis, actually. I don't know if anyone's ever used that term before," Stephen laughed.
Stephen couldn't be more thrilled with the patch his life has taken. "I'm really happy. I'm in a good place. I'm very grateful. That's number one. Always be grateful, and I'm certainly very thankful for everything that's been happening. It wasn't an easy route to get a bit of a foothold.
"It certainly took some time to get roles, but I stuck to it, and I just knew all this was what I wanted to do, so I was really focused and kept studying and kept just believing that this could happen. So I'm very lucky. I really, really enjoy what I do. I couldn't imagine doing anything else, to be honest. It was a little scary, but that's okay."
Stephen loves to travel. He's from Hungarian blood, which he says has been very nomadic. "I use that as my excuse for how much I travel."
Traveling invigorates and inspires him. "It gives me ideas. And I mean, really, that's what our job is. Not only to know ourselves but also just to study humanity and to really see what's out there.
"So when we do the performances, if we haven't specifically lived in those shoes, which happens rarely, sometimes all of a sudden, the character is you.
"But when we were able to witness that and be in those circumstances and to see those people live that way, then it really helps. So I think it's kind of our job a little bit as well. Yeah, I love it."
For now, most of his acting jobs are in his home country, but he'd love to shoot something entirely overseas. Hallmark has been broadening its location shoots, and he's found himself in very well with the network, and he enjoys working with the network very much.
"First and foremost, I love the people. I just love people. I love the vibe. I love the energy of a family that is always created on these, especially a series like Chesapeake.
"I had the really good fortune of being on for two seasons and coming back to a family, there's really nothing like it. We're together for almost four months, and you get to know each other so well, and it's really that bonding experience.
"I come from a very small family, it's just my mother and sister. My father had passed, and also my extended family where I lived in Europe. So for me to be a part of [an on-screen] family for that long...
"I mean, I gravitate towards larger families in a way because I hadn't had that. So I love that so much. Just feeling included and respected and getting to know people.
"And the flip side of that, of course, is the hardest thing is when you wrap. There are a lot of teary eyes and a lot of goodbyes. We never know in this industry. It's interesting. We work together so closely and get to know each other so deeply at so many levels.
"And sometimes, you never see those people again. That's it. Often we do shoot again together, but sometimes we don't, and we know that. Deep down, we know, and that's the really hard thing."
Saying goodbye to his Chesapeake Shores family was tough. "It was very emotional, extremely emotional. It's probably one of the most emotional goodbyes I've had in any project. And there's just something about that show and how they took me in as part of that family because they were very much a family.
"Dan Paulson and his crew he created there is just something extraordinary, and I'll never forget it.
"And watching the show now, I get totally emotional, not just from the actual characters in the show but just bringing back the memories that we had. It's a beautiful thing and hard at the same time. But in the same respect, I mean, we have such perfect memories."
Stephen loves working in this genre, which he calls the inspirational genre. Most of the sets he works on for Hallmark rom-coms and holiday movies offer the same vibe he experienced on Chesapeake Shores, although in a much tighter time frame.
Stephen loves that they're making uplifting content that will live in perpetuity on the network, hopefully helping people who watch for a long time to come. "So, that in itself is really special to be a part of these kinds of projects.
"And it does attract certain kinds of people that I really appreciate, and I think it really builds a strong community. So I really appreciate being a part of that."
Hallmark movies are shot very close to their release date and under a very tight schedule. Stephen said the minimum time on set during one of those shoots is 12 hours, but they often push it to 16 or 17 hours per day. "It's pretty crazy. I love what I do," he said.
If you're like me, that schedule seems daunting, but even though it's not easy, Stephen says it's a lot of fun.
"I'm very passionate about acting, but it's a lot of focus, a lot of time and energy, right? Emotional energy, which is what we do. And, of course, a lot of lines as well because we're shooting 90 pages and a hundred and some pages actually in just a matter of a few weeks, so we have a lot of content to go through.
"But luckily, these teams are fantastic. You should know I'm talking about the crew. They can really turn it around really quickly."
Stephen says they work at this pace in part because they're attuned to the community and want to be mindful of taking up local residents' space for long shoots, which "could be very draining."
I haven't seen Undercover Holiday and wondered if it was a play on The Bodyguard. Stephen said that it was but that the director didn't take his inspiration from the movie because he hadn't actually seen it.
Still, Stephen (who, like me, loved The Bodyguard) says you'll see similarities. "The storyline has some similarities in that this is a very, very popular Hispanic star who gets some threats.
"She starts to get some threat or feels threatened by her stardom, and the label then basically brings calls in a bodyguard to help protect her. So, that's my role. And we get into very interesting circumstances throughout the movie, as you can imagine."
Stephen shared more about his role, which included his character meeting Jaylen's family. "I have to be discreet about what I do, but I have to be with her the whole time. So basically, I'm with her throughout this holiday season when she goes back to visit her family, as well.
"So there's a lot of fun involved and a lot of madcaps that happen, which of course, makes it a very entertaining show."
And Stephen thinks only the best of his costar. "A wonderful cast. Noemi is fantastic. Oh, my gosh, it was just a dream working with her and the rest of the cast. I was the only one who couldn't speak Spanish, which worked for my role.
"But now I know a little bit, and it was really nice to hear Spanish spoken on set so much. I think it did a wonderful job of bringing lots of great cultural references to life, and I was very inspired to continue to learn. I think the language is wonderful.
"I spent a lot of time in a Spanish-speaking country, so I know a little bit of broken Spanish. I can get around, maybe, but certainly not conversational. But it was just wonderful to be around and hear Spanish spoken so eloquently while we were shooting."
Undercover Holiday isn't Stephen's only Christmas movie this season, either. He's got Christmas in Rockwell as well, which he shot with Trish Stratus, another actress to which he gives glowing reviews.
Christmas in Rockwell was their second time working together, having previously worked on Christmas in the Rockies. "We really connected then, and it was just wonderful to reconnect on Christmas in Rockwell.
"Trish plays Alyssa, and she is a movie star who comes back to live in her hometown just to get away from all the craziness of Los Angeles and to have a nice normal Christmas.
"Now, of course, she comes back to a small town, and doesn't turn out to be a normal Christmas for her because she's so famous. But where I come into play in this show, I'm the guy who stayed behind and started a business in a small town.
"I own a movie theater in town and sort of a struggling movie theater. We knew each other before. At first, she doesn't recognize me because she's so famous, of course."
We can certainly see the seeds planted between a Hollywood star and the handsome man running the local struggling movie theater in her hometown.
Sheila McCarthy is playing Stephen's mother in Christmas in Rockwell. He calls her an incredible actress, and he's worked with her before on a movie he produced, Milton's Secret.
Milton'sSsecret was the first film Stephen had ever produced. "It fairly robust cast, starting Donald Sutherland, Michelle Rodriguez, and a nice ensemble kid cast," Stephen said.
"It's a coming age story of a boy who's being bullied at school and how he deals with bullying and learns from his grandfather, played by Donald Sutherland. Based on a very famous author's work, his name is Eckhart Tolle, who I'm a big fan of. And so I took on that.
"It was quite a project, but we got it done, and we have also school curriculum based around that as well. There's a lot of demand these days, a lot of interest in mental health, of course, and how mindfulness ties into that. And of course, the bullying issue that's been happening for quite some time.
"Now cyberbullying is a big thing. So I try to produce things that are mindful and impactful, with timely issues that we have globally. So that's sort of my producing side. And so that actually gives me a good understanding of the whole picture, I guess."
Being behind the camera has offered Stephen a chance to understand the challenges producers and directors face for his on-screen productions, as well. Now, he can appreciate the full production and how everybody fits in.
"There's not one person that I see on set that is not more important than the other. I've always had that attitude, and I always will.
"It's almost like a miracle, to be honest, how film and television are made, and everyone needs to be firing it out to make it happen, and miraculously it gets done. So it's certainly a team effort. It's one of the most team-effort things that we can do in society, for sure."
As a documentarian, he's produced films and docuseries. He enjoys learning and finds documentaries like a living encyclopedia.
"You can really get so much information by watching documentaries, and it can be very specific, which is great. I love audiobooks as well, and I feel documentaries are a good visual/audio sort of brain dump on the topic.
"So when I have an opportunity, I love watching them, and when it's a topic I'm passionate about, I'll help produce, as well, or take a lead in producing. I just love the information and how it's presented.
"I'm a really big fan of nature documentaries. I love sitting back and watching planet documentaries, and then I get inspired to travel more, go into the jungles and see them myself."
We hope that Stephen finds enough time to visit jungles around the world and continue sharing his craft and his inspiration in front of and behind the camera.
Holiday Undercover airs on Hallmark Channel on Sunday, December 4 at 8/7c.
You can watch Christmas in Rockwell on Prime Video and Christmas in the Rockies on FOX Nation, Vudu, Freevee, Tubi, and Amazon!
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.