Melissa Joan Hart might just be the queen of Christmas movies (although she said she wouldn’t want to arm wrestle Candace Cameron for that title). Christmas flicks are a staple of the holiday season, and if you’re looking for a fun show to watch with your family this year, Melissa’s got you more than covered. Not only is she starring in Lifetime’s Dear Christmas — which is about a podcast host and uniquely inexperienced love expert who starts a new holiday romance — but she also produced and directed two more Lifetime films: Once Upon A Main Street and Feliz Navidad.
Vanessa Quigley, host of The Momforce Podcast, got to sit down (virtually) with Melissa to talk about all things Christmas, filming during COVID-19 and how to be a mindful parent. Here’s what she had to say...
With COVID-19 and the global pandemic, the movie making business has had to really adjust. How did you get approval for Dear Christmas?
Actually, our production team was one of the first ones up and running after COVID started. Mario Lopez had asked me to direct Feliz Navidad back in March. Obviously, we couldn’t make that happen right away, so we just kept waiting. We worked with the unions and we were the first DGA (Director’s Guild of America) project up and running. We were able to get Feliz Navidad made in a safe, great way with 40 crew members. We kept it really tight. No one came on set that wasn't tested. We got tested once a week.
So that launched us into the second movie, Dear Christmas, which was the one with Jason Priestley and me. With this movie, we were tested three times a week. Same crew, same kind of bubble. Only six speaking parts, no background unless it was our crew. You’ll notice in this movie a lot of COVID-friendly things happen that you wouldn't notice unless pointed out. For example, I'm running into the ball and everybody's already gone, or someone will say, “Hurry up! We need to get those cookies done because the guests will be here any minute,” or “Are you going to come join the party outside?” So you’ll see that we don’t need a lot of background crew.
How do you feel having your work and career be such an integral part of so many people’s holiday traditions?
Well, look, I'm an entertainer. I got into this business to entertain people. I want people to smile, laugh and feel deeply. It's great to be able to put something out there every year that you just know is going to feel good. I know that people at home want these Christmas memories with their families, and Lifetime has done the homework to find out that this is what people want. They want to feel good and they want to feel safe. The season is full of joy and it's full of magic, and I know a lot about magic because I played a witch for a long time.
For a month or two, people get to feel really good and hopeful about life, even if they have some terrible things going on. These movies are the one thing that is steadfast. Whether you’re making cookies, wrapping gifts with your mother-in-law, or drinking hot cocoa on a snowy afternoon, you can sit and watch these movies and know that there’s not going to be something your kids shouldn’t be watching or that you’d feel funny about. It’s really good entertainment, which is hard to find these days.
Besides watching Lifetime movies, do you have any holiday traditions?
I feel like the whole season is just traditions, right? Starting with getting the tree, which we try to get a little earlier in our home. Also, when my son was six I discovered the Elf on the Shelf. And I was told three elves needed to come because I had three kids. So I get three, but then I was also told you cannot just move them around the house. They have to do things like make a mess, have snowball fights with marshmallows, end up in the toilet with chocolate kisses, toilet paper the whole living room and fly away on balloons. I was like, I'm sorry, what? I did not sign up for this!
You come from a big family like me. You’re the oldest of eight and I’m the oldest of 12. I’m curious if you have any life lessons you’ve learned from coming from a big family?
It definitely wasn't easy. We didn't have everything handed to us. We really knew the value of things. We knew that something like going to Disneyworld with my grandparents was a huge thing, or going skiing for a week in Pennsylvania was a huge deal. I feel like I really appreciated the time I was given. And I try to give that feeling to my kids.
We don’t like to use the “b” word around here (balance), but as a mom of three who also is working full time and juggling a relationship and also trying to take care of yourself, what advice do you have to other parents?
My number one tip would be to use your calendar. I keep my calendar really organized and I share it with anyone who needs it, like my husband or the babysitter. That way, everyone knows who’s going to pick up the kids and where they’re going. I also set my alarms. I use different sounds for different things, so for example, the dog bark alarm is for the school bus.
Another piece of advice is just to let go of some things. It’s okay to let go. And it’s okay to enlist help.
Be sure to check out Melissa’s new movie Dear Christmas premiering on Lifetime on November 27th.