Movies with some supernatural element are always a treat, and Ghosts of Christmas Always plays like a modern-day version of A Christmas Carol.
Kim Matula stars as Katherine, a Ghost of Christmas Present, and she and the ghosts of Christmas Past (Lori Tan Chinn) and Christmas Future (Reginald VelJohnson) are tasked with helping Peter (Ian Harding) rediscover his Christmas spirit.
But this case isn’t like all the others, and Katherine has to work extra hard trying to figure out why.
I had the chance to jump on the phone with Kim to talk about the movie, and you can find our conversation, which has been edited for content, below.
I’ve already had the opportunity to watch Ghosts of Christmas Always, and I loved it.
Well, thank you. I’m so glad. I’m excited to watch it when it airs on Sunday.
It’s just adorable. It’s funny. And it’s moving. I was laughing out loud at one point, and then I was tearing up later.
Perfect. And that’s what I did when I was reading the script. So then that means we did our job.
How did you get involved with it?
The script kind of found me. My manager reached out and she said, “Hey, you’ve got an offer to do this movie. Do you want to take a look at the script?” And I said, “Yes, please.” And I read it.
And like you just said, I felt all the things that you just said. I was laughing. I was so pleasantly surprised to see that there was some really good comedy. And then I was crying reading this script.
This is so moving. And it was kind of a no-brainer for me. I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.
Are you a fan of A Christmas Carol?
I am a fan of Christmas Carols specifically. I like the Bill Murray Scrooge. I know that one is not beloved by everybody, but it’s 1000% beloved by me. And I also am an avid watcher of the Muppet Christmas Carol. That was a big in my house growing up.
So what’s it like to get to be one of the three ghosts of Christmas Eve?
I never thought that this was a character that I would get to play. What an obscure opportunity to play this. I just never thought that I would. And it was really fun. It was really interesting.
I think if you had given me a choice — past, present, or future — I wouldn’t have picked present because, in my head, I’m like, “Oh, I get to do that all the time. I’m already in the present, but let’s do something more interesting, past or future.” But I am so pleased with what I got to play.
And I know that this movie was definitely a different journey than what my character was used to. So maybe her talents weren’t used the way that she normally would. But it was really fun.
It was really fun, especially getting to do all the cute little transitions in different locations. I’m excited to see how those effects turn out in the final product.
They look pretty good. They have a little whirring effect in the space where they were. And then, as they’re disappearing, there’s like a little flutter of some sort. That’s really cute.
That sounds right. That sounds right. Cool. I’m excited to see it.
I was going to ask you which one you would have wanted to play past, present, or future. But isn’t it interesting that this story doesn’t just tie you to your role?
It’s very true. I get to play all kinds of different ways; I get to go to the past.
She gets to play along with the other ghosts, which is like, it just doesn’t happen.
Yeah. It’s the best of both worlds. I get to be two ghosts, essentially.
Yeah, it was really fun.
It was really fun to do. My expectations were met when I got to set. I was really, really happy.
Well, I was excited because I always think movies that have ghosts in them or angels or something from the past or somebody from the future; they’re always just really fun to me. So I always have high expectations. And this one, thankfully, met and exceeded my expectations, to be honest.
I’m so glad to hear that. I can’t wait to see it. I mean, we were just such silly giggly while we were shooting this. We just had the best time that I knew that it was going to be a project that I would be excited to watch. And I am so excited to get to see it finally.
When the ghosts first go see Peter, he’s so excited. He’s like, “Oh, it’s the ghosts!” Were these scenes fun to film? Because that’s how I think I would be. “Oh my gosh, it’s just my night. What’s going to happen?”
I know. Because clearly, this person does not need any help finding his Christmas spirit. Playing that really kind of childlike excitement about can we have this fun journey,’ just accepting that this is what’s happening and going along for the ride. Yeah, it was really, really fun.
And Ian and I got along so well in real life. We have a lot of mutual friends, but we had never actually met. So getting to meet finally was seeing an old friend. We got on so well, and I hope that that comes through because, yeah, as I said, we were just like giggly kids.
It really comes through. You both seem really natural with each other on screen.
Our director Rich [Newey], was really fantastic in letting us play around with the dialogue a little bit and letting us find what came naturally to us as actors and what we thought this character was thinking and feeling. We didn’t have to stick solely to the script.
I mean, we definitely stuck to the script, but he let us play and explore a little bit, which we never know if you’re going to be able to do that when you get to a set. And that was really awesome.
What kind of preparation do you have to do to play a Ghost of Christmas Present?
Oh God. Well, I called so many ghosts. [laughs] I did so many seances just to get that ghostly perspective.
[laughs] Good for you!
Well, thank you. Thank you. I really dabbled in the dark arts. [laughs] There wasn’t a whole lot of prep that I had to do to be a ghost. I knew there was going to be some more heartfelt scenes and some funny scenes. And I know that I can do that.
And so much of it is meeting the other actors that you’re getting to work with and seeing how they’re going to play the part, and then meeting the director and seeing how he wants to shoot it. And it all came together. It all came together really nicely.
So how would you describe Katherine from your perspective?
Oh, Katherine, she’s such a sweet soul. She really is. And I think she doesn’t have a whole lot of expectations for her. I mean, I say life, but she was dead. She had already done the living part of her life and accepted the role that she was playing now.
Now she is the Ghost of Christmas Present. And she loves her job. She has a really good time doing it. She has good friends and coworkers, and she has accepted this reality. And so when this very interesting man shows up in her life, I just don’t think she was expecting it.
So she really accepts this pleasant surprise in her life. And I think that, sometimes, people have a hard time accepting change or things they weren’t expecting. And she eventually really embraces it. And I love that about her.
What do you like about this different spin on this classic story?
This is not what anyone is expecting. I think everyone expects a Christmas Carol to go as planned. We’re going to show you your past and your present and your future where you’re dead. And then you’re going to feel bad, and you’ll learn to love again. Your heart will grow three sizes like the Grinch, but this one doesn’t take itself too seriously.
It can focus on itself and what the story thinks the story is supposed to be. It can kind of poke fun at that, and it totally turns it on its head. The second that you realize that this person does not need his Christmas spirit restored and that the Ghost of Christmas Present is now able to tag along, why would she be able to tag along?
And I think from the beginning that something is going to reveal itself. And I know when I was reading the script, I was so curious to find out what that was.
So you said it was a really fun shoot, and you had a lot of room to maneuver within the script. Did it feel like it was going to be magical while you were making it?
Yeah. I did think it was going to be magical. And I don’t exactly know why, but I knew that. I know the sets were so beautiful. I knew that our costumes were so beautiful. And I think when you’re having fun with somebody that you’ve never met before, it’s always a gamble.
You go in to work on something new, and you just really hope that you understand each other, that you work in similar ways, that your sense of humor is similar; you hope all these things, but you can’t be certain that’s always going to be the case.
And when it happened, I mean, truly, that in and of itself feels magical. It really does. And so being able to work alongside people who all wanted the same wonderful experience, and we’re so giving as actors and as people in general, they were just also lovely to spend time with.
And that makes you want to watch the final product, that makes you want to do it again. We would joke, Ian and I, like we’re ready for the sequel. We’ll sign on to do another one just because we were having such a great time.
And yes, that is magical when you get all the right pieces together to create something, and it just blooms. It’s something great.
Is this your first Hallmark movie?
Yeah, that’s my first Hallmark movie.
What a good movie to start with.
I agree. I think about it, and I’m like, “Oh man, if I do another one, how am I going to top it?” This one was just so great that you hope the next one will be as well.
Will you do more, do you think?
I would love to. I have no plans to do one at the moment, but I would love to.
And what are your favorite Christmas movies? We already established which Christmas Carol you watch. What do you do with your friends and family for Christmas? What movies do you have to watch that make it Christmas for you?
It’s a Wonderful Life. That was one growing up that we watched all the time as a family. We always watched It’s a Wonderful Life. So that one lives in a very nostalgic pocket of my brain, so it definitely doesn’t feel like the holidays until I’ve watched it.
And Elf is also just such a feel-good classic. Oh, and one more. And The Polar Express, that’s a newer film, obviously. It came out in the last ten years or something. But I read that book as a child all the time. So when the movie came out, all I had to do was watch the trailer, and I burst into tears like, “Oh my God, it’s a movie.”
And so anything that really makes me feel nostalgic for childhood Christmas time. I’m all in. I want it. I love it. So that’s what we’re doing.
I know. I’m the same way. And I’m way beyond my years, at this point, to be childish when a Christmas thing happens, but I can’t stop myself.
That’s what the holidays do. You want to go back to that childhood time when, I mean, God, you just remember counting down the months until it would finally be Christmas time. And now it feels, as an adult, life moves so quickly, and you blink, and it’s the holidays again.
And you’re like, wow, they didn’t just do this. But being able to go back and take part in those traditions that you had when you were a kid, it brings back so many good memories. And that is what makes the holidays so special.
What were some of your favorite holiday traditions?
Oh gosh. Making cutout cookies with my mom and my sister. Listening to the John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album was another really good one that we always did. And we used to drive around and look at Christmas lights, of course, all the time. We’d all get in the car and look at Christmas lights.
We used to count the angels the people would put in the windows. And so that was always a thing. It was kind of like an I spy game. “Ooh, we found another angel.” And if it was moving, if it was an electronic angel, that was even better. You got more points for finding those angels. So every time I see an angel in a window, I always go back to those memories.
And that fits really well with your love for It’s a Wonderful Life.
I know, every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings, exactly.
You’ve got a whole thing going with your Christmas. It’s all interconnected. I like it. And a Wonderful Life is also very similar to the Christmas Carol.
Yeah, it is. I mean, there’s a ghost showing him what his life could be. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’m a big decorator.
I love the holidays. And that’s something that I got from my parents. My dad would always go all out on the outside of the house and my mom would go all out on the inside of the house. And as me and my sister would always help in any way we could.
And I really carried that with me as an adult. I just love it. I love decorating up the outside and every year, coming up with something new, me and my man, we made Christmas balls to hang from our tree in the front yard that we made out of chicken wire. And we wrapped it with Christmas lights, and we had a pulley system of a rock on a big extension cord.
And we pully them up onto the branches of the tree, and all of our neighbors will stop us and be like, “Wow. How did you make those? We love them.” And I feel like that’s my way of giving Christmas spirit to people around me.
I’m picturing you hovering over blueprints.
You’re right. [laughs] You are not wrong.
Plotting where the next decorations are going to go. And this year, you have round chicken wire balls. What can you do next year?
How do we top it?
That is so nice.
It’s always about topping it for the next year, the next season. We just love it.
How early do you get started?
I like to start decorating the week before Thanksgiving or maybe two weeks before Thanksgiving. I don’t turn on any of the lights, but we always go out of town to New York for Thanksgiving.
So when we get back to our home in California, I like to just be able to turn on the lights. And now Thanksgiving is over, and it’s Christmas time. So I don’t have to scramble to get it all done before December 1st. It’s already put up, and I can just turn the lights on.
Do you invite everybody over so you can have a lighting?
No, I don’t, actually. I don’t really do a Christmas Vacation-style lighting ceremony.
You might think about that. It would be a nice way to spend some time with your friends.
It could be nice. You’re right. It could be.
The thought you put into it.
It’s true. I’m so type A that I thought about having a classic tree trimming party where my friends come over, and we’d all decorate the Christmas tree together. But I know that the second they all leave, I would rearrange the ornaments. I would put some where I want them because I’m so specific about where they go.
You would need a second tree.
Have your main tree that could be yours, and then you could have something special that everybody decorates. That way, you might not feel like you have to change them.
Yeah. It’s a good thing to do with all the ornaments that don’t make it onto the first tree. I always end up with a lot of ornaments that didn’t make the cut and that would be good.
So what else is coming up for you?
Oh my gosh. I’m very open to anything right now. I don’t have a lot coming up in the pipeline, but I’m very excited for everyone to see this movie.
Well, I can’t wait for you to do a second one. I’m just saying I like my Hallmark people to go in and make magic for me all the time. All the seasons.
I know they don’t do Christmas sequels, but I would love it if they did.
Have they ever done a Christmas sequel? I don’t know.
I don’t know that they have. I was talking to one of our producers; he was like, “Yeah, we don’t really do Christmas sequels.” And I said, “Maybe you should rethink that.”
After you see Ghosts of Christmas Always, you’ll be eager for a sequel, too. Welcome Kim to the Hallmark family when you tune in to Hallmark Channel on Sunday, October 30 at 8/7, to find one of your new Christmas favorites!
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.