This Sunday, The Equalizer star Liza Lapira stars in a CBS original holiday film, Must Love Christmas, with Neal Bledsoe and Nathan White.
Natalie is a Christmas romance novelist stuck in a rut since she hasn’t been in love. She gets stuck in a storm when she reluctantly goes on a book tour. Her life soon becomes a romance novel as she’s in a love triangle between her teenage crush Caleb (Nathan White), and the reporter who wants the inside scoop (Neal Bledsoe).
For Natalie to become a successful writer again, she must decide what she needs in love and life, but she’s afraid to open her heart.
We chatted with Natalie about the movie, her favorite holiday movies, and more.
So, I saw this was your first holiday film. What appealed to you about starring in Must Love Christmas?
This was my first time as a romantic lead in something I didn’t produce and something that another studio made. And that already is exciting, but the fact that it’s a Christmas rom-com holiday movie was appealing.
Then, I read the script, and it’s cool to play a character like this that is rebounding from an embarrassing moment and is a recluse, socially awkward, and a little hyper-anxious.
It is fun to play a character like Natalie and go through the whole trajectory of healing, coming out of her shell, recovering who she is, and falling in love while she does it. It’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to play.
It was. And how do you think the diversity of the cast added to the film?
It’s hard for me to speak objectively because I’m diverse. I walk into a room, and it instantly becomes diverse, so it’s hard to separate that from who I am. When you or I, our friends, or anyone walks into a room, they bring their whole selves, including their personalities, upbringing, core values, and cultural and ethnic backgrounds.
They can’t help but bring their essence to whatever project they’re doing. It was a diverse cast, but me specifically, I am a New Yorker. I’m a child of immigrants and a Filipino American girl from Queens. Of course, I put a character on top of that, but you can’t separate the gifts of all those different components that make up a person.
You can’t separate those gifts from the art they make and inherently influences it. We had a very diverse cast ethnically and culturally how we were trained. We had So much fun together, collaborating with what each actor brought to the film. You can see how we played off each other and how it translates on the screen.
Yes, absolutely. And how is Natalie different from Mel on The Equalizer?
Well, night and day. Mel literally kicks people around, and she is fearless and confident and isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. She’s a strong network of friends. That’s the only commonality they both have is a strong network of friends.
Then, you have Natalie, who maybe is also strong and perhaps those things, but certainly, when the movie begins, she is not any of those things because of her humiliation and public embarrassment. Before the film started, an article and interview about her didn’t go well in the press, and she looked like a fool.
When we meet her at the movie’s beginning, she’s socially awkward. She’s very anxious and doesn’t want to leave her apartment as a protective coping mechanism. She’s reclusive, and that’s the complete opposite. She’s not confident in herself, not versed in love, and doesn’t know what love is.
Mel knows what love is very much. In terms of physicality, the most physical thing Natalie does is pick up her cat and put our cat back.
So Natalie is a romance novelist. Did you find that Natalie going to that small town Cranberry Falls was almost like being in a romance novel for her?
Yes, it mirrored it exactly. They even say in the script that Natalie goes to a small town that reflects the small town she conjured up in her head as this successful Christmas romance novelist.
And what was it like working with Neil Bledsoe and Nathan White and being part of a fun love triangle?
Oh, it was a dream to work with Neil and Nate. They are such pros and are so witty and so down to play and such good actors. Neil is seasoned, and he’s a prince. He’s a love interest and has been in so many of these. Neil wears it well, and it was great to work with him on this and bounce ideas off each other. He was very present and kind.
Almost all of the other stuff I said about him and Nate did that to me was the most valuable on set, and Nate was just sweet and witty. In fact, his last name is actually pronounced witty, so he’s witty like his last name. He’s also a very Veteran of these films.
These guys have done a bunch of these movies, so for them to bring their expertise and their general coolness was a pleasant experience.
It sounds like fun. And what traits would you look for in a mate if you had to create a wish list?
We don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but Natalie starts building a wish list of what she wants in her own romantic partner. Certain traits include a sense of humor and trustworthiness; you’ll need to watch to find out the rest.
For me, they must love dogs or animals. I’m a big animal lover, and another one would be must love hanging out with family. Family time is important to me. I would probably steal the rest from the movie since you can’t go wrong with kindness, a sense of humor, or trustworthiness.
The list has five in the film, but in real life, it’s more like 17. It would be a longer list.
And even though this is your first holiday film, what are some of your favorite holiday movies?
It’s not quite Christmas, but they play it around Christmas or Thanksgiving, but the “Sound of Music.” It was a sentimental movie growing up because they would play it every year, and the entire family would sit and watch and have a sing-along. It’s beautiful, and I can watch it again and again.
Okay. And tell us why viewers should watch Must Love Christmas.
Viewers should watch Must Love Christmas because it’s a feel-good, funny, and joyous ride. Everyone refers to these movies as comfort food, and they are, but they’re a little bit more than that. There’s something you can do with your whole family. The movie appeals to multi-generational families. I watched it with mine.
It’s also cool to see a flawed character evolve through her friendships and, yes, maybe romance, but mainly through her friendships. What I love about this movie and what I hope viewers enjoy is that besides being a romantic comedy and a beautiful Christmas love story. In a small town, it’s also a coming-of-age story.
If this movie can reinforce to people that it’s never too late to recover from a mistake, that it’s never too late to keep growing, and that you can come of age many times. That’s also a wonderful message.
You can catch Liza Lapira in Must Love Christmas on Sunday, December 11, at 9/8c on CBS and on The Equalizer on CBS.
Laura Nowak is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.