Devotees of the Netflix series Steel Magnolias (which just wrapped season three) are in for a treat this Friday when two of that series' stars, Brooke Elliott and Brandon Quinn, reteam for the Lifetime holiday flick A Country Christmas Harmony. On Magnolias, the duo play husband and wife Dana Sue and Ronnie Sullivan, so getting to playing exes in Harmony who reunite over Christmas was a treat. "It's funny," said Elliott, who is also an executive producer on the film, while recently promoting the project. "One of the other executive producers came to me and said, 'What do you think of this idea -- get ready for it -- Brandon Quinn as a co-star?' I literally [screamed] through the phone, 'Yes! Yes, yes, get Brandon!'
"It was the most joyous thing they could have said," she added. "They went out to Brandon, and I just had to pray that he wanted to do it with me."
"It is funny," concurred Quinn of his casting. "I was doing another film earlier in the year with this production company as they were starting pre-production on A Country Christmas Harmony. The producer said, 'Hey, we're actually getting ready to do a movie with Brooke,' and I'm like, 'Oh my gosh,' and went on gushing over my love for Brooke and how much I love working with her. But there were no strings attached to me doing the film. A couple months went by, and I get a text from the producer asking if I can sing and if I wanted to be a part of the film. I was like, 'Yes, I [sing], but I'm terrified [doing it in front of people]. I feel like I need to talk to Brooke first.'
"I called her immediately," he continued. "Little did I know she already knew they were reaching out to me. I said, 'Hey, listen, I don't know how you feel about this, but I'm really excited. Are you cool if we play love interests in the movie? I know we play husband and wife on our show. Is that weird? Is that too much? Should I say no?' She was like, 'Oh my God, are you kidding me? I'm so excited!' So, it was really exciting to be able to work together on something else."
The film marks Elliott's return to Lifetime, the network she called home for six seasons on the brilliant (and grossly underrated) Drop Dead Diva (2009-2014). "Lifetime has been a huge supporter of mine," she smiled. "They're so lovely to me, which is funny as [this movie] is about going home. So, it really felt like coming home to them. They support my involvement in the business, and all the other things I want to do. I loved being able to collaborate with them in this new way of being on the producing team, that was really special. Lifetime is very supportive of women wanting to progress and evolve in the business. I hope to have more of a relationship with them as I'd love to direct a Christmas movie."
A Country Christmas Harmony also marks a return to television for former child star Danny Pintauro (who plays Elliott's assistant Eugene). "Unless you count a small co-star I did about 12 years ago, this is literally the first time I've been on television since Who's the Boss ended 35 years ago," he reflected. "So, it's a big deal for me. The years after Who's the Boss didn't include a lot of attempts at acting. I did a bunch of theater, but the universe was just telling me it wasn't the right time. I lived a normal life, got married, and moved to Austin to work as a veterinary technician. Then this project came along, and all the pieces fit together perfectly.
"When I made the decision to return, I had to be willing to do whatever it took," he continued. "I auditioned for whatever came my way to show people who and what I am now. It's almost like starting over. I worked through some trauma, like that of being a child actor and what that means, and then trying again after years to be an actor in the past. Being outed early on made being an actor even harder. Now I feel I'm ready. I have this grounded, solid base as a human who knows what he wants."
The fact he can now authentically portray a character who happens to be gay only contributed to a wonderful experience. He's happy with "any opportunity to represent the LGBTQ+ community," he said. "[Eugene] just has a good-old-fashioned relationship. Getting to do that on Lifetime is so important! We're making a lot of strides when it comes to representation in Christmas movies as it was kind of the last holdout in terms of representation. [Eugene] is a complete character, a whole character, a real person. He isn't a caricature of what it's like to be a gay man, and that is super important to me.
"I love that we've gotten to a place where we can create fully realized, interesting gay characters that don't have to have any of the caricatures we've seen in the past," he added in closing. "A diverse group of people are going to watch this film, and those people will get to see this hardworking guy, taking good care of who he works for, but also being a best friend and having a loving husband. I couldn't ask for a better role to bring to Lifetime."
A Country Christmas Harmony will be telecast Friday, November 18 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime as part of the network's It's A Wonderful Lifetime programming event.
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