Part of ‘Christmas in July’ holiday movie collection
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
David Boreanaz has proven to be TV gold, so no one was shocked when his early-aughts series, “Angel,” was a breakout hit. What pleasantly surprised fans and critics alike was the second-season arrival of Amy Acker’s unassuming Fred, who stole many scenes – and ultimately rose to challenge the title character.
A decade later, Acker would again make her mark on a second-season show with on-screen heavy-hitters, this time working alongside Michael Emerson – fresh from “Lost” – and a post-“The Passion of the Christ” Jim Caviezel. Her not-quite-there Root was a revelation, as she did the will of “The Machine” – an artificial intelligence that could predict “persons of interest.” Root could be quiet, calm and calculating, or giddily go full-on vigilante. Her later romance with straight-laced former CIA agent Shaw (Sarah Shahi) propelled “Person of Interest” into a different stratosphere. Simply put, Acker was awesome in this role.
Over the course of 15 years, the actor has excelled in multiple genres, with roles in spy-drama “Alias”; sci-fi series “Dollhouse” and “The Gifted”; Marvel’s best-in-class superhero show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”; and romantic comedy holiday features “Dear Santa” and “A Nutcracker Christmas.” She recently played Georgia Knight, a criminal justice pioneer and soulmate to Marg Helgenberger’s Judge Lisa Benner on “All Rise.”
Today, Acker is an in-demand talent – and the star of Crown Media’s “Christmas in July” film “Crashing Through the Snow.” This is the lone new entry airing in The Hallmark Channel’s holiday movie marathon.
Acker chatted with BTS, revealing her affinity for the holidays, fun with fans and appreciation for Root. An edited Q&A follows.
Maggie and Sam are crashing Christmas! When he proposes they team up against his sister’s perfect Christmas to make a better one, neither is prepared for the blended family challenges that ensue. Warren Christie, Amy Acker and Summer Howell star in the Hallmark Channel’s “Crashing Through the Snow.” (©2021 Crown Media United States LLC photo by Steven Ackerman)
Q: In the past couple of days, I went back and I watched “A Nutcracker Christmas,” and I also watched “Dear Santa,” which I have to say is not only one of my favorite Hallmark movies, but one of my favorite holiday movies. I was so excited you were going to be leading the new “Christmas in July” film this year. How did this opportunity come about and what appealed to you about it?
Amy Acker: Thank you so much. I'm not exactly sure the whole scenario, but I wrote a Christmas movie – because I love doing them – and I had sent it to Hallmark, and they were reading it and then, all of a sudden, I heard, “They aren't going to do yours, but they'd like you to do this one instead” (laughs).
So, I got very excited because really I just wanted to make a Christmas movie; I didn't care which one it was. And this had a lot of a similar feeling to the kind of character I wanted to play, and everything I was hoping mine would be – but it was better and really well written and amazing. And so, I was super-excited to be asked to play Maggie and to get to play the part.
Q: That's very exciting that you wrote your own Christmas movie. Is that something you’re going to be pursuing?
Amy Acker: Well, I mean, I'd like to be able to write one again, and to do one that can be made. But yeah, I just love getting to make them; and I love working with Hallmark. I was like, “Oh, maybe there's a way that I can be even more involved.” And so, I had an idea for a story that I'd written – and I have a couple of others – so, we'll see if I get inspired.
We all had so much fun on “Crashing Through the Snow” that we were all like, “OK, how do we make another all together?” We've all been throwing ideas around of what the sequel could be.
Q: Well, I'm sure the sequel would be fantastic, but let's start with the original. Tell me a little bit about “Crashing Through the Snow.” Tell me about the film and about your character.
Amy Acker: Well, it is a really fun script. I play Maggie. My ex-husband (Kristian Bruun as Jeff) and I share custody of our kids, and we have a pretty great, healthy, like co-parenting/blended family relationship that we are still really active in each other's lives. And he has a new girlfriend (Brooke Nevin’s Kate) that he's going to spend Christmas with; and so, the girls and him are going to her family's house in Aspen for Christmas. I'm pretty intimidated by how perfect she is, and how great she is, and a little scared that everyone – mainly my children – are going to like her better than me. But kind of against my ex-husband’s will, she invites me to come to Christmas with them in Aspen.
And so, I basically crash his Christmas with his new girlfriend's family. And when they get there, it turns out her brother (Warren Christie’s Sam) is back in town – who has been in Japan, working as a chef, and he has unexpectedly showed up for Christmas back at home and is crashing Christmas as well. So, the two of us have a little plotting to try to make it so that – his term is that he wants me to “win Christmas” for my kids, and I am very resistant to that term; but eventually I'm kind of like, “You're right, I have to win Christmas.”
We get to do all sorts of crazy things, and the best Christmas activities, and have a good time with the kids … and we end up, maybe, falling in love … as you do in Hallmark … and having a pretty great Christmas with everybody all together.
Q: Sounds like there could be some high jinks afoot.
Amy Acker: (Laughs) There is a little bit of high jinks, yes.
The other part of Maggie is that she's not only crashing Christmas, but she's also a big klutz, so she crashes through everything. She’s always crashing! She's falling all over the place. There's lots of slippery surfaces like ice and skis (laughs), but she's not able to completely stand up. There's lots of fun moments where we get to do fun things.
Brooke Nevin and Kristian Bruun in “Crashing Through the Snow.” (©2021 Crown Media United States LLC photo by Steven Ackerman)
Summer Howell, Amy Acker and Myla Volk in Hallmark’s “Crashing Through the Snow.” (©2021 Crown Media United States LLC photo by Steven Ackerman)
Q: I know Hallmark does “Christmas in July” every year, but I was thinking: Here in the Buffalo area, we're getting back to festivals and concerts and a whole bunch of things we couldn't do last year. I'm wondering this year if maybe it's more appropriate – if it's more special, if it's more fitting – to have a holiday celebration now when our country is the most open, the most accessible, the most unrestricted it's been in a long time. Is it maybe a little bit more meaningful now to go back and have a holiday in July, and sort of reclaim something else we couldn't do last year?
Amy Acker: It does feel like that, doesn’t it? I was saying the same thing. We didn't get to be with my whole family, for sure. I mean, LA was really bad over Christmas. And we had such a removed and different holiday than we've normally had.
I had never done “Christmas in July” before, but when they were telling me about the movie, and it's coming out in July, I was like, “This seems like the perfect excuse to have my family over. Let's make a big, kind of Christmas/summery dinner, and just celebrate.” And someone’s like, “I want to put up a tree,” and I was like, “OK, let's do it. Why not?”
Q: So, whether it's July, or whether it's December, is there a holiday go-to for you and your family?
Amy Acker: We are probably living in a Hallmark movie. We kind of go overboard. We do all of it (laughs). We do the gingerbread houses and the cookies, and we go cut down the tree, and we do like a decorating night. My husband usually plays the piano, and we do carols, and have people over; and we're kind of the house that, if people don't have a place – at least in years past – if people aren't going home to family, or don't have a place to go, we kind of have everybody over to our place on Christmas. We usually have sometimes 30 or 40 people for Christmas dinner, which is always a lot of fun.
Q: I talk to actors about working with Hallmark, and everyone always has a great time. For a lot of them, it's sort of like a respite from something else they've done – maybe something a little darker, a little bit more dramatic – in your case, maybe with guns or other things. Tell me about working with Hallmark and why you enjoy working with the company so much?
Amy Acker: You know, I feel like it's kind of similar to when you're watching a Hallmark movie, is how I feel when I'm making it. I mean, everybody's in such a great mood. Everyone's there to do something uplifting and happy, and it has this really warm and fantastic environment. I don't know; it's like you get to celebrate Christmas year-round.
Christmas always makes me happy. I'm always glad to be there working. It seems like they always choose really good people. They got this formula down and they know how to do it where it makes everyone happy, and everyone wants to be there and is happy to be there.
And like you said, you're not shooting in a dark alley at 4 a.m. with guns and blood. Everyone's just a little happier.
Q: You came to fame with “Angel,” you were on “Person of Interest.” I've really enjoyed you in things like “Alias” and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “All Rise.” What is the conversation like with you and fans? Is there something they bring up more often? I'm guessing maybe “Angel” or “Person of Interest”? Am I right in assuming your fans are across myriad genres?
Amy Acker: That's definitely true. I was telling someone sometimes I kind of have a guessing game like, “Oh, I wonder if that’s a ‘Angel’ fan or a ‘Person of Interest’ fan?" when I'm talking to people. And it ends up being a person who’s like, “I love you in ‘Dear Santa,’ ” and I'm like, “That is not what I thought you were gonna say!”
Yeah, I feel like there's a lot of (diversity). I mean, “Angel” is something that has been really cool that now people have passed that down to their kids, and so it feels like it's something that – even though it's been off the air for 20 years – it has this, like, sort of generational following, where the people who really loved it share it with their kids. That something that's super special about that fan base.
And then “Person of Interest,” I feel, has just a super unique (fan base). And being a part of that show, and getting to meet the fans from that show, has been one of the best experiences I've ever had, just because I think people were so affected by the characters of Root and Shaw. And just the show in general was so well written, and just so smart; and people who love it have just a real passion for it. I just feel like I've met so many people, and have gotten to go so many places, and do so many cool things because of that show, and the people who love it. So, that's definitely a big one.
Amy Acker as Maggie in “Crashing Through the Snow.” (©2021 Crown Media United States LLC photo by Steven Ackerman)
Q: I think what you brought to Root was one of the most genius things I've seen on television. What was that experience like for you, playing that character?
Amy Acker: I loved it. Every script was so – I mean, I just got to do so many different things. You would just read the scripts and kind of be in awe of (creator/writer) Jonah (Nolan) and everyone who had written them. Like, this was a real thing. There was the whole part about we would do something season two, and then season four it was like a news article. And I started to get nervous like, “You guys are predicting really bad things to happen in the future (laughs)!”
I loved working with Michael Emerson, and Sarah, and all of the cast and crew. I just thought the fact that they let Sarah and my character go in that direction, I just feel like it was such a good, complex and unique character that I got to play that it definitely has spoiled me. I'm like, “Oh, I want to play something like that again.” It really felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Crashing Through the Snow,” a new, original movie, premieres Saturday, July 10 (9 p.m. ET/PT), on Hallmark Channel as part of the network’s annual “Christmas in July” programming event. Holiday films also air on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.