Melissa Joan Hart Talks Holiday in Handcuffs

Holiday In Handcuffs Photo
Melissa Joan Hart (“Sabrina, The Teenage Witch”) and Mario Lopez (“Dancing with the Stars”) star in the romantic holiday comedy “Holiday in Handcuffs,” a story about a modern young woman who has a breakdown at Christmas and desperately kidnaps a handsome guy to take home to her parents. Can she keep her misdeed a secret from her family and convince them that they are a happy couple or will their Christmas be ruined? The two-hour original movie will premiere during “25 Days of Christmas,” SUNDAY, DECEMBER 9 (8:00-10:00p.m., ET), on ABC Family.
Do you have any personal family holiday experiences that were strange or funny in their own way?

Melissa Joan Hart: My family always had a great relationship with Santa. Every year we would get a photo of him or a bag of gifts dropped on our front porch or see him run through the yard. As a kid, it was great to have that thrill and now, as an adult, it is wonderful to recreate it for our son!

One of the many traditions we had and still enjoy is after the Thanksgiving day parade when Santa makes his appearance, we all yell out as loud as possible at Santa all the things we want for Christmas. My husband thought we were all very strange the first time he witnessed this phenomenon.

You've had experience with pretty much every aspect of show business from acting in television, film, and theatre to producing and directing.  What do you enjoy doing the most, and why?

It depends on the project and the time in my life. I miss theatre but I am scared to death of it now since I am so out of practice with that format. I love directing, but it is the hardest of the careers I have had and yet the most rewarding for me. But acting in comedy is where I feel the most at home.

What was the best part of filming Holiday in Handcuffs for you?  What was the worst?

There was honestly so much I enjoyed about this shoot. It was my first job back after having my son so I was so thrilled to be back on a set. Calgary was a wonderful city and I adored spending so much time in the snow with my son. The cast and crew were all such pros and at the same time so much fun to spend time with. And my role of Trudie was one of the most fun characters I have ever played. She is such a nut from a nutty family and going through a crazy little crisis which was great to play.

Where was the movie filmed?

Outside of Calgary mostly in an area called Bragg Creek which I loved. Most of the cast would spend weekends in Banff and Lake Louise which was wonderful.

How hard is it for you juggling motherhood with a career?

I am lucky to have a career where I work hard for a few weeks and then have a ton of time to spend with my little family. I know when I am working that it is only temporary so I try to enjoy the time I have on set and do the best I can do, knowing that I will be home with plenty of play time in the near future.

Do you think your character Trudie is a little bit crazy, or just desperate?

I feel that Trudie is a product of her parents, who are a little nuts, but who isn’t herself. But she also feels the pressure they put on her to live her life just the way they want her to. But I love the modern conflict she endures of having to survive a quarter life crisis. I see this a lot these days where people around 30 are asking themselves where they are supposed to be in life; should I be married, have a baby, be a CEO by now?! I think she just snaps from the modern pressures.

How were the other members of the cast to work with?  There seemed to be a great chemistry between you and Mario Lopez.  Did you become friends in real life after the movie?

Mario and I will always be friends but we don’t hang a lot outside of the events we see each other at. The entire cast was incredible to work with. I love people that come from long running sitcoms because they have a level of professionalism that other actors don’t understand. They are great at making the pages come alive and bringing out the funny in a short amount of time. Markie, June, Vanessa, Tim and Kyle were such a blast to work with and we all became close friends.

You started out very young as a child actress.  Do you plan on getting your own children involved in acting?  Would you support it if it was something they wanted?

I would make sure school came first and they could dabble on the side but after they graduate, it’s up to them.

How did you balance the humor, seasonal sentiment and the off-kilter element of kidnapping someone for a Christmas movie?

I didn’t really think of it as a Christmas movie while we were shooting. It is more of a romantic comedy that happens to take place at the holidays. I thought all the elements work well together. Everyone with a family can relate to the pressure the holidays put on people and that makes for funny scenarios. It was more grownup material for me to play with and I had such a blast doing it.

Did you ever feel reluctant to bring a boyfriend home to meet the parents?

I always loved bringing boyfriends home because my family was so crazy and loud and I always thought it was so fun to be around but I can see how it can be overwhelming.

Not that you would have a holiday breakdown, but do you feel a lot of pressure during the holidays?

I actually love the pressure of picking the perfect gift for each person, throwing parties, making cookies for our cookie exchange and sending out the best card I can find. I am a big planner so the more I have to do, the more I get done.

How does your character's Christmas time compare to what you do during the holiday season? 

Pretty similar! We both feel a lot of pressure to impress our families. But my family actually picks gifts that the recipient usually enjoys and wants. We don’t lock ourselves in a cabin with no contact to the outside world, but we do enjoy our time together and turn our phones off while we are together for the day.

What was it like portraying a potential kidnapper?  Do you ever see yourself having a "break" quite like this one – what do you think might ensue if you do have a "break"?

I could never hold a gun on anyone. It was even difficult to do in a movie, but I have snapped here and there before. I usually try not to upset anyone in the process of me losing it.

Have you seen the film yet?  What did you think of the finished product?

I was really impressed and proud of the movie. I thought it would be hilariously funny, but I didn’t expect it to be as sweet as it is. My harshest critic is my 14 year old sis who said it was "up there with Elf" as her fave Christmas movie. That’s huge for me!

Name your favorite Christmas films that made an imprint on you, ones you always watch at the Holidays?

Meet Me in St Louis is awesome! I suggest everyone see it at least once so you can really understand the meaning behind the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Also, Elf has become a must watch in our house. I think that movie should have been nominated for best original screenplay and best actor.

What is your favorite holiday tradition?

I love eating my grandma’s famous French Silk Pie ‘til I am sick. But now, with Mason, I am looking forward to starting all kids of new traditions with my growing family.

Do you find that your "Sabrina" fans are following you on to other roles?  What would you most like to say to your "Sabrina" fans?

I have the best fans in the world. I see on websites a lot someone will pick on me for my baby weight or a bad outfit and then someone will immediately stand up for me and say something nice. I find on my MySpace page that my fans are waiting for my next project while Hollywood thinks they have abandoned me. It’s funny how Hollywood doesn’t understand what the rest of the country wants.

Will you be directing any more TV or film in future?

I am in the process of trying to get a film off the ground called Tiny Dancer that I will be directing hopefully next year. It is a wonderful movie about a prima ballerinas struggle between motherhood and her career.