When it comes to Christmas, multi-talented star Carly Hughes (pictured above) is all in. The confessed "Christmas-a-holic" actually spent a number of her past Christmases in Whoville, starring in How the Grinch Stole Christmas off-Broadway, so getting into the Christmas spirit this year for The Christmas Edition, opposite Rob Mayes (pictured below), Aloma Wright and Marie Osmond, her first Lifetime movie (and first-ever Christmas movie) was easy. "I've been looking for a Christmas project for my whole life!" the former American Housewife star beamed during an exclusive chat with MediaVillage.
"When I was doing The Grinch it was Christmas every day, 15 times a week," she recalled. "A standard Broadway show is eight a week, but since it was a holiday, and we had a special contract, we did up to four shows a day, kind of like Radio City, but we were off-Broadway. But it was fine as we were in Whoville all day, so that was great."
For Hughes, Christmas didn't end with each performance. "I'm a Christmas elf!" she laughed. "I have a Christmas wardrobe. I change out my Christmas dinnerware and mugs. Last year I had a general, 'Hello, how are you, I love Christmas, I'm addicted to Christmas,' meeting with Lifetime, just so they could see my face. I even came wearing an ugly Christmas sweater that was not too ugly and actually very cute.
"So, when this project came, almost a year later, they remembered me," she continued. "They were like, 'Okay, this is yours.' It could not have happened at a better time, as the stars aligned and it was a perfect distraction with what is going on in the world and the pandemic, and all of the crazy stuff happening in America. It was nice to go into a Christmas bubble and make a little magic at this time."
Hughes said that while she was elated to have landed the role, getting to the set to start filming was another story. "I'm very strict with COVID rules and quarantining because my jobs depend on it," she explained. "If you test positive, you don't get the job. I'd been sitting on my porch minding my business since March, so knowing I'd have to travel and be around people gave me a little bit of anxiety. They picked me up as I didn't want to fly, and we drove to Utah. But the anxiety went away once I met everyone. We were quarantined while in Utah filming, to the set then to your house, in this little bubble of actors and that made me feel comfortable as we knew where everyone was."
However, one little daily task continued to fuel some stress. "We were tested regularly," she shared. "I didn't like being tested because I felt like they were trying to dig my brains out. I was like, 'Is my nose bleeding?' I swear they'd ask, 'Are you ready to shoot?' I'm all, 'Sure, is my nose bleeding?' So dramatic! But it kept me sane knowing that we were taking the proper precautions and protocols to make a little Christmas magic happen."
In the film, Hughes portrays Jackie, an up-and-coming journalist passed over for a promotion by her new boss (Osmond, pictured above), who decides to switch gears and accept the challenge of injecting new life into failing small-town newspaper in Alaska. For Hughes, the idea of starting afresh is nothing new; like her character, she dislikes the word "no."
"Jackie and I are very similar in the fact that I don't want to be told 'no,'" she shared. "I know me better than anyone, so if I know I can do something and I'm being told, 'no', the answer is, 'okay, bye' and finding another way to do it. Jackie's reply is, 'Fine I'll do it my way.' I related to not giving up. Especially doing Broadway, then transitioning to TV and film the answer is never 'no.' It's more, 'how?' Not everyone is going to have the same vision as you do, and in the movie, no one had the same vision as Jackie. It's always about how you get there and keep your focus."
According to Hughes, her entrée into a Lifetime Christmas couldn't have been better cast. "I hit the jackpot," she said. "Between Rob, Aloma and Marie, everyone was just good people." She described Mayes, with whom she shared much screen time and experienced ice carving and glassblowing, as "a doll and an adorable goofball." They became fast friends. And Osmond? Well, Hughes is thrilled to now include her in her ever-growing Christmas card list. "She is a legend," she enthused. "I was like, 'Oh, Marie Osmond. I literally grew up watching you! We are in scenes together?' She's a sweetheart, a joy to be around, and a goofball like me. When we both laughed hard, we snorted!"
Christmas and its traditions are important to this traditionalist, who hopes this is just the first of many adventures with Lifetime. She recently concluded her commitment to American Housewife after four years of playing the infectiously sassy Angela. As a hip, Black lesbian, she was a diversely rich character for television. "It was great to hang her up as I've been playing her for four years," Hughes said. "Sometimes you have to spread your wings. It was great to have that character grounded and rooted in American television. I'm happy to have brought her to the screen and brought that character to life."
While there are new projects in the works, given the current constraints of travel, Hughes is sad she's unable to spend the holidays with her family this year. Still, she's thankful to be going home in spirit courtesy of The Christmas Edition. "Every year my mom and I watch all the Christmas movies on TV together," she said in closing. "At least she'll be able to see me at Christmas on TV this year. And there's a little homage to my mom in the movie as a surprise, which made it extra-special."
The Christmas Editionwill be telecast Sunday, November 15 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime as a part of the It's a Wonderful Lifetime programming event.
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