Christmas setup is Lifetime’s first LGBTQ + Christmas movie, but that’s “not necessarily the most accurate way to describe it,” star Ben Lewis told TVLine.
the The arrow veteran alongside real husband Blake Lee (Parks and recreation, mixology) as former high school classmates in the holiday movie (airing this Saturday, December 12 at 8 / 7c). When Hugo de Lewis, a successful big-city lawyer, returns home to Milwaukee for Christmas, his mother Kate (The nanny’s Fran Drescher) arranges for Hugo to meet his secret crush Patrick (Lee), who is back after a successful stint in Silicon Valley.
“We called it the first LGBTQ + Christmas movie made by Lifetime,” notes Lewis. But “we can only really claim to represent the ‘G’ among LGBTQ + people. So I hope we just open a door for queer people of color, trans people, non-binary gender people to see themselves represented. It’s so awesome that just this year four major queer Christmas movies have been made and released. It’s just important that it’s not a trend, that people say, “Oh, well, we made gay movies. Now we can move on. This is just the beginning. ”
Below, Lewis talks about working with her husband for the first time and Lifetime’s determination to do good. Christmas setup. The actor also intervenes on the status of the Green Arrow and the Canaries spin-off and the future of his character William.
TVLINE | Did the producers contact you and your husband, Blake, because you were a couple and were already quarantined together, which makes filming safer during the pandemic? Or did they think it would add something to the movie to have a real couple?
I’m not sure exactly what the initial impetus was for this. But I think it was both, honestly. It’s interesting, people seem to be really excited that we’re a real couple playing together in this movie. [Laughs] Obviously, we were delighted to do so. We’ve been together for 10 years, but we’ve never acted opposite each other. We were also a little nervous about doing it, just because the person you are at home in the privacy of your own home with your partner isn’t necessarily who you are at work. So we were interested to see how it would go.
TVLINE | I think people are turned on because it adds a level of realism to a fantasy, and that doesn’t make it so fairy.
Yeah, I think it’s true. I think what people really react to about the movie is that these movies are, by nature, fantasies, deep down. But I think there has been an attempt by Lifetime, even though these movies aren’t known for their realism, to make this one as authentic as possible. Blake and I being a real couple plays a big part in this, besides not only having two openly gay actors playing the lead roles but also having a gay writer, gay director, gay executive producer. . You can only make your first LGBTQ Christmas movie once. [Laughs] I think they really wanted to do it right.
TVLINE | What did it mean for you to be a part of this historic moment for Lifetime and to be a part of this movie?
We weren’t too familiar with the Lifetime vacation movies, [so] I think we kind of entered it with blissful ignorance. I am Canadian. They shoot a lot of these movies in Canada, and most of the Canadian actors I know have been in one of those movies, whether it’s Lifetime or Hallmark or whatever. So when that first happened, my first thought was, “Oh, now I’m gonna do one of these movies. I didn’t really think it was a breakthrough in any way. Guess I knew it was on paper, but I don’t think I really understood the impact until our casting was announced, and all of a sudden all these people including a lot of queer people. that we know, really came out of the woodwork to tell us how much they love these movies, [how] they watch them every year, and how much it meant to them that we were going to play it. So, through everyone’s eyes, we’ve come to understand the impact it’s going to have. It’s hard to be objective about this when you’re at it.
TVLINE | These Christmas movies tend to follow a certain formula. Would you say this one matches that? Or does having a same-sex couple at the center add something to the film that sets it apart?
I think both. It definitely follows the traditional holiday movie narrative, just in terms of story points and structure and whatever is deeply satisfying to audiences that they listen to to see. Traditionalists of Christmas cinema will not be disappointed in this regard. But I think it definitely offers something new and fresh. We haven’t gotten into any kind of preconceived notions about what these movies are meant to be. Michael Murray, the writer, wrote many of these films. One of our producers, Danielle von Zerneck, made a ton of these films. We kind of approached it like we’re making this really sweet, funny, charming, almost independent movie… but an independent Christmas movie. [Danielle] somehow called itself the life police. If we stray too far in terms of tone or whatever, she would get us back on track, as she has a deep understanding of what audiences in these movies want to see. I hope the mainstream audience of Lifetime movies really like and accept it, and I think it also has a lot to offer for, certainly, the queer audience, who may not have felt represented by these films in the past. There is, hopefully, something for everyone.
TVLINE | After this experience, would you work with Blake again? Was it a happy work experience?
TVLINE | And would you make another Christmas movie?
I think we would work together again. It’s so interesting, because when this movie came our way, we were like, “This is such a once in a lifetime experience, and who knows, maybe it will be”, but I think on the second day or three we were like, ‘We never want this to end. Not only because we had a great time working together, which we did, but the cast and crew that came together for this movie were like the happiest and most harmonious group that I think. I have never known. [worked with]. Everyone got along so well. I’ve known Ellen Wong, who plays my best friend in the movie, for about 11 years, I think, since we were in the movie. Scott Pilgrim vs the world together. Chad Connell, who plays my brother in the movie, I’ve known him even longer. Pat Mills, who made it, I’ve known him for almost six years and I’m dying to work. The only main cast member we didn’t already know was Fran [Drescher], but if you grow up watching The nanny, which I think most women and gays have done at some point, you feel like you know her, and really, with Fran, what you see is what you get. She is exactly what you want her to be and more.
I think it would be difficult to match the chemistry of this group. It was like lightning in a bottle. I would love nothing more than to make another Christmas movie with this group. I don’t know if it would necessarily be a sequel to Christmas setup, although it’s an idea that has been circulating, so we’ll see. If the audience is having as much fun watching it as we have had it, then hopefully it could be on the horizon.
TVLINE | I have to ask: what did you hear about the potential Green Arrow and the Canaries spin-off status?
I haven’t heard it for a while. I was always a bit out of the loop because I wasn’t contractually bound to it like Katie [Cassidy] and Juliana [Harkavy] and Cat [McNamara] were, so I don’t really know. This is another group that had such great chemistry, and I would never say no to the opportunity to work with them again. But it’s been over a year now. I do not know. You would have to ask them for its status. But if that ever happens, I would love to, because I love these women.
TVLINE | Your character was kidnapped the last time we saw him, so we need a little resolution on that.
I know! It would be so sad if this was the last time you saw William. I think he deserves a lot better, and I was pushing constantly, especially last season and when we were talking about the fallout, for him to have a love interest. I would love to see that. I would love to see how William Clayton spent the holidays with his partner. [Laughs]
TVLINE | Well, the network didn’t say for sure that they passed it on, so there is a silver lining.
Yeah, I think nothing is official. It seems that if there was any momentum going forward with it, that the pandemic, obviously, threw a wrench into it, as it has with many, countless things. I loved playing this character. I was actually thinking of The arrow compared to that life experience, and how privileged I feel over the past two years to have been able to portray a queer storyline in more traditional heteronormative institutions, like with a superhero show and, in this case , with the vacation movies. I haven’t lost sight of how privileged I am to have this opportunity and to have received these two platforms. I’m very grateful.
TVLINE | Perhaps, Christmas setup is William’s life on another Earth.
Oh, my God, I’d like to think that. [Laughs] There are definitely some similarities, which are similarities for me too, is that they are both relatively hairstyle and relatively klutzy. I guess that’s exactly what I bring to these two worlds and these characters.