Kayla Wallace and Kevin McGarry Reteam for Hallmark Channel's "My Grown-Up Christmas List"

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: Kayla Wallace and Kevin McGarry Reteam for Hallmark Channel's "My Grown-Up Christmas List"

Popular Hallmark Channel star Kayla Wallace returns to the network, celebrating its annual "Christmas in July" programming event with the premiere of My Grown-Up Christmas List, based on the Amy Grant/David Foster holiday song of the same name. Wallace reteams with her real-life beau (and When Calls the Heart and Feeling Butterflies co-star) Kevin McGarry to tell the touching love story of Taylor Nichols and Luke Malone -- two people who form an immediate bond after a chance encounter. Told over several Christmases, the film explores how the couple navigates timing and distance to make a relationship work.

It was those two elements that struck a chord with Wallace. "When I first read [the script] I thought how different it was from a lot of [other] Hallmark movies," she explained during an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "These characters meet off the top, and pretty quickly start a relationship. Then by the second act, the whole movie is watching their relationship evolve.

"That's a totally different take on the usual meet, spend some time liking each other, then not liking each other, then kiss and get married," she added. "That different formula intrigued me, and I also thought, 'What a beautiful story to tell for anyone who's had to go through a long-distance relationship or has family or friends in the military, and all the emotions that come with that.' This script just grabbed me."

Wallace and McGarry had just completed Feeling Butterflies when this film came along, and the experience was just as gratifying. "We'd just filmed that in Ottawa, then found ourselves back a couple months later to do this," Wallace said. "It was the same team who worked on Butterflies, so we were lucky to both be brought back and make this movie together.

"With Butterflies we didn't have as much time on screen together," she continued. "As everyone will see, this whole movie is them together. We got to explore a more intimate kind of storytelling than we're used to, which really allowed us to dive into how these characters would be feeling emotionally, and it's just much deeper. Working beside Kevin, we both got to see a different side of each other as actors and play and explore more. We're so grateful that our director Andrew (Cymek) let us dive as deep as we could, so we got to work alongside each other in a different way for sure."

Having both joined the cast of When Calls the Heart at the same time, Wallace says she's used to seeing McGarry in his Mountie uniform as Nathan Grant on that show. But she found a new favorite look for him with this project. "The Santa suit he wore for this is definitely my favorite of his costumes," she laughed. "Oh my goodness, he couldn't stop saying 'Ho, ho, ho!' when the cameras stopped rolling. He really embraced that Santa character, and he loved it."

A major through-line of the film is the subject of soulmates. While it's obvious that this couple, despite the challenges life presents, are destined to be together, Wallace believes there's a mix of things that make a successful relationship. "I believe there are certain people in this world that come into your life and teach you something," she said. "There are certain people you meet in life that will stay forever. I believe in undeniable chemistry and connections that you can't explain. That is a huge part of this storyline. I don't know about soulmates, but maybe there is such a thing?

"The movie also highlights appreciating the time you have together and giving back," she added. "You'll get to see these characters talking over Zoom, as the whole time all they want is just to be together. Although life happens and you can't always be next to the person that you love, enjoy the time that you do have with them because you never know what tomorrow brings. There are a lot of great scenes in this movie that will bring people closer to people that they love. Taylor also dives right into everything that Luke and his family support, like their annual veteran's dinner. It makes her feel like she's a part of something and has another family."

Given the film spans five years, getting to celebrate five Christmases was an added bonus for the couple. "Then we wrapped and got to celebrate another Christmas, which was the real thing," she recalled. "But it was cold! Ottawa is beautiful, and the snow made everything look so nice. I'm not used to that kind of cold, but Kevin grew up on that side of [the] country and is used to it. But when you're on your fourth take and your mouth stops moving … I'm over-exaggerating, but the village we shot in was also decorated for Christmas, so it made for a really beautiful set."

Next for Wallace (and McGarry) is season 10 of When Calls, which she's thrilled about. "I wish I could tease you with some things, but we're super-early on prep," she said. "I'm excited to see what this season brings."

After two Hallmark movies together, Wallace isn't ruling out more with McGarry. "Believe it or not, there's no clause in my contract that says I only do movies with him -- I just enjoy working with the guy," she said in closing. "Hallmark is a wonderful part of my life, and I'm so grateful for everything, and for all the experiences that they've brought my way."

My Grown-Up Christmas List will be telecast Saturday, July 9 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel as part of its annual Christmas in July programming event.

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