Why Actors Like Rita Moreno and Kelsey Grammer Want to Make Lifetime’s Holiday Movies

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/Getty

Year after year, Lifetime continues to churn out around a bajillion Christmas movies every holiday season. With those festive flicks, the network nabs big names—this year, for example, its roster includes folks like Kelsey Grammer, Rita Moreno, and Mario Lopez. What does the channel do to attract so many big names every time the clock strikes November, and how do they keep these folks around for years to come?

At a recent press event teasing the upcoming Lifetime holiday calendar, stars from six of the channel’s feature slate—Steppin’ Into the Holiday, A Christmas Spark, The 12 Days of Christmas Eve, A New Orleans Noel, A Country Christmas Harmony, and Santa Bootcamp—joined a big Zoom to chat about their experiences.

Country music singer and Dancing With the Stars alum Jana Kramer has starred in a handful of different Lifetime films, including her upcoming yuletide dance movie Steppin’ Into the Holiday alongside Mario Lopez. There’s just something about Lifetime, she explained, that makes her feel at home every time she participates in one of their films.

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“I love Lifetime because they truly make you feel like you’re a part of the family. With that, they know I’m a mom, and that comes first and foremost in my life. They are so accommodating when it comes to my kids, my schedule, having them come on set,” Kramer said during the event. “Having a partner like that, who supports a working mom, makes me want to show up every year for them, because that means so much to me.”

It’s also a family affair for A New Orleans Noel star Keshia Knight Pulliam, who filmed the movie with her husband Brad James. Alongside celebrating her own romance, she loved working with icons Tim Reid and Patti LaBelle, who were given the chance to shine (and eat a whole bounty of pralines) in the new movie.

“I love doing these Christmas movies,” Pulliam said of her work with Lifetime. “I think they’re the most lovely, feel-good Christmas movies that transcend generations, transcend so many different things.”

Alongside Pulliam and James, other families made Lifetime holiday features this season, including Kelsey Grammer and his daughter Spencer. Filming a Lifetime movie was the chance for them to finally connect on screen together. The Grammers chatted about what a joy it was for them to work together on The 12 Days of Christmas Eve, grateful for Lifetime’s commitment to familial relationships. Not only do they want to work together again—working together with Lifetime, in particular, would be ideal!

“The idea of being to play my dad’s daughter in a film has always been a dream of mine. Also, being able to do a holiday movie together I feel like was really special and unique,” Spencer Grammer said. “To be able to work with my father, who is such a legend and such a comedian and talented actor, was really fun.”

Meanwhile, Danny Pintauro, who stars in A Country Christmas Harmony, appreciated Lifetime’s slight push for more representation in their TV movies. As an openly gay man, he felt that playing another queer character in his new movie was an important step in LGBTQ+ representation, a stride he was proud to make with Lifetime.

“Any opportunity for me to represent the LGBTQ community in almost a boring way, a good old-fashioned relationship—they’ve got their issues, they’ve got their love, it’s solid … getting to do that on Lifetime is so important,” Pintauro said. “We’ve made a lot of strides. When it comes to representation on Christmas movies, it was the last holdout in terms of representation, and now we’ve made big strides.”

And of course, there’s Rita Moreno. The legendary actress stars in Santa Bootcamp, which was directed by Melissa Joan Hart. She popped by for the final panel, which brought the whole Christmas-themed day full circle. Hart chatted about why it’s so important to make a Lifetime Christmas movie feel, well, festive.

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“You can take Christmas out of any movie, or you can put it into any movie. I don’t know if Home Alone has to be a Christmas movie, but it’s a great movie,” Hart said. “The formula really is happy ending, romance, and with this one, we were able to infuse more comedy than usual, which is where I live. I want to infuse more comedy, and of course, with this great cast, we were able to do that. Lifetime let us have that freedom in this go around to inflate the comic moments.”

She continued: “Really, it’s a matter of a great story, great performances, and then you sprinkle in really pretty Christmas decorations and some snow at the magical kiss, and you’ve got a Christmas movie! I don’t think the formula is as structured as it seems. You play around with the colors of red and green.”

Lifetime will roll out its holiday films through November and December. You can see the full list of movies, premiere dates, and stacked cast lists over at their website.

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