Carly Pope and Kristoffer Polaha star in tonight's Double Holiday on Hallmark Channel.
Written by Nina Weinman, who has almost two dozen successful television movies on her resume, Double Holiday follows Rebecca, a successful Jewish woman working on her company's Christmas party with Chris in the hope that it leads to a promotion.
Carly and Kris took precious time out of their busy schedules to talk about the movie and a whole lot of other issues including their love for some of their most cherished programming from the past.
Both actors impressed with their kindness and a desire to make the world a better place to live. On Carly's part, she's focusing on using her commitment to entertainment that helps move the bar toward more inclusion and societal progression.
Kris enjoys bringing smiles to the faces of his fans with his roles from his work with Hallmark to his role in the 2014 feature film, When Hope Grows. He and his family give to the community by spending time with and getting to know those who aren't as fortunate.
So it's no surprise at all that these two actors are helming Hallmark's first Hanukkah movie.
While Holiday Date premiered first, it is Weinman's Double Date that was first greenlit by the network focusing on a Jewish lead who commits to planning her company's Christmas party to be considered for a promotion.
Kris has only a three-year tenure with Hallmark networks, and he still feels green in comparison to some of the other talent associated with the brand. He's appreciative of the way their original movies resonate with the audience, laughing as he realizes their innocence.
"They harken back to a time in our lives when were like three or four and there's this warm, magical thing, and they try to recreate that warm little feeling that we all experience, even briefly, even if it was fabricated in a movie," Kris said.
He's well-versed in Hallmark's roots which find a young man Kris shared a recent visit he and his wife took to Mexico that included visiting an orphanage. The 42 children he saw inspired him, and he's drafted a pitch to showcase what he learned that he hopes gets made into a movie.
"The kids just want a connection, they want to be seen and ultimately, that's what everybody wants. They want to be seen, and they want to be a part of a family. They want to connect.
"I think that's what everybody is yearning for -- knowing that you belong and that you're welcome in society, welcome in your neighborhood where you live, and in the family that you grew up in, and that you're welcome in your own skin," Kris said.
Double Holiday is Carly's first introduction to the network that quickly becomes like family for many, and shares Kris' sense of urgency to help deliver stories in which everyone feels represented.
"It's important, let alone imperative to be showcasing more representation than less. It was an integral reason for me saying yes to Double Holiday because I felt interested in being a part of content that is trying to reflect more accurately what our society looks like," Carly shared.
"I feel keen to be a part of the dialogue that is pushing boundaries to ensure that's done. I read the Double Holiday script, and it was lovely. Then to boot, it was showcasing another holiday that's celebrated over the same time and quite missed from the lineup. It was a real treat to be able to be a part of it for that matter."
On Kris' part, he admits he's had a good relationship with one of the casting directors at the network that has never let him down -- he's accepted every role he's been offered at Hallmark and tries to infuse them with something different each time.
In one of his favorites that he starred in last year, Small Town Christmas, he even channeled a favorite actor. When he read the script, he heard the voice of Jimmy Stewart. "I called my agent and said 'I'll do it if I can do it like Jimmy Stewart.' he said, 'Uhhh, and I said, 'no, I'm serious. I want to play him like Jimmy Stewart."
Chris continued, "I remember a compliment from an older guy on set who was part of the background, and he said, 'you know, you remind me of Jimmy Stewart,' and I was like 'YEAH!'"
So Kris was very excited to get the call about Double Holiday which he hopes will appeal to a lot of viewers. "What they'll see if they tune in is a really beautiful movie that is a lot of fun. It's funny and has a lot of heart. Carly and I got along great, and we have a really good chemistry. Apparently, we play well together."
Written and produced by people of the Jewish faith, both actors assure us that the utmost care was taken to get it right from the correct way to light the Menorah to the prayers that are shared for the occasion, an equivalent you don't see for the secular Christmas movies.
Carly couldn't help but be impressed with the Hallmark influence on holiday programming. "It's quite incredible what they've accomplished, and every year you think, 'how could they possibly do more than that,' but then they do.
And their programming has prompted other networks to jump on it like Freeform and Lifetime and Netflix. They've started a feel-good trend that is really quite phenomenal."
Carly appreciates the way Weinman incorporates Hanukkah into Double Holiday because it isn't an afterthought. "She's done a beautiful job in the setup of the film and how it naturally incorporates both Hanukkah and Christmas."
As Rebecca and Chris have a little spat over who would better represent the company by taking over the planning of the Christmas party, "Rebecca's thoughts are 'while I'm Jewish, I have some fresh eyes,' and Chris' thoughts are, 'well you don't really know what Christmas is all about. I do,'" Carly said.
"And therein lies the crux of their repartee. They're very competitive with one another. So the reason this story Nina has written really works is that it follows the eight days that they have to get ready for the Christmas party, which also coincides with the eight days of Hanukkah.
"And because Chris and Rebecca are working together and going into overtime, he becomes privy to the Hanukkah celebration because she has no choice but to double task and do both," said Carly.
Kris said, "It's like opposing viewpoints, conflicting desires. Carly's character is really amazing at home with her family, but then in the real world, she clams up, and she's not exactly who she is or who she wants to be."
"And my guy is just looking for a family. He's just longing to be a part of a bigger thing, and ultimately they find love, and they accept each other. And when they accept each other's differences, all of a sudden, they become stronger for it."
If Rebecca might seem to lack knowledge about a holiday that gets celebrated to the hilt in America, there's a reason for that, Carly says. "She's had her head in the sand because she's been really career-driven operating at 11 on a scale of 1 to 10 to try to keep her work life from identifying her.
"She hasn't focused on the details but has been looking at broad strokes to keep herself focused and on point, moving forward, and successful not realizing that she's losing a lot of the minutia along that way that is far more fulfilling.
"And it's when she slows down and has somebody that's reflecting back what he's seen by being brought into her world that she slows down and finds her true self."
Carly continued, "I can't stress enough how specific and loving with regards to showcasing Hanukkah Nina was with this film. You could see it in the script, but upon speaking with her and working with her, I really respect what she'd done to ensure that Hanukkah is a holiday and a tradition in its own right.
"Because of the setup of the film, it just also happens to be juxtaposed with Christmas while also fulfills Hallmark's Countdown to Christmas," Carly explained. "It's to Nina's testament what she's done to demonstrate what Hanukkah can mean for certain families or how it looks or certain traditions that are incorporated.
"One person's family is not going to celebrate the same way as another's, or one family is going to be more observant than another's. I think that what Nina has done is she's really tried to illuminate a tradition other than Christmas. And I think she's done it really beautifully."
Kris and Carly both agree that the film works to bring a new audience to the network while also understanding that you cannot please everyone in the way any tradition is celebrated on screen.
Everybody celebrates differently, and there is always room to show more diverse celebrations of the same or different holidays. "But I think that this is a really good attempt at opening up the audience to another and a different holiday tradition or celebration," Carly shared, "And I'm hoping that it also means that more viewers will feel represented on screen."
Something else the stars of Double Holiday share is a career riddled with some of the "weirdest timing ever," as Kris put it.
Carly exploded onto the scene in 1999 with Popular, on which she starred as Sam McPherson, stepsister of Leslie Bibb's Brook McQueen. Polar opposites, the two girls struggled to fit into their newly merged family while weathering the complexities of high school.
The series ran for two years.
Since, she's starred on a number of TV shows including 24, The Tomorrow People, Suits, and Arrow. A show that seemed to have such promise by way of story and cast was Day One from the start of the decade.
Picked up early at NBC, she costarred with Xander Berkeley, Julie Gonzalo, Jason Brooks and a host of others as a group of apartment residents who survive an unknown world cataclysm that destroyed modern infrastructure. But before it ever got a chance, the series was canceled and never aired.
"There's a whole contingency of us that are quite close from that job," Carly said. "It's one of those head scratchers. We were picked up for 13 right off the bat, and we were so excited."
On day two of shooting the pilot, they learned it was going to series, and it took them about a year to ultimately get released from their contracts after the network's sudden about face.
"That one had a real peak and then a real valley, and I still have a disc of the unfinished pilot that is so bittersweet to watch."
One of Kris' best-known roles was as Nate "Baze" Bazile a young man who discovered he had a teenage daughter with Shiri Appleby's Cate Cassidy on Life Unexpected, a series that was unceremoniously cut after only one quite successful season.
He subsequently starred in Ringer with Sarah Michelle Gellar and Made In Jersey, for which he moved his family to New York upon the promise that the network was behind the series that was expected to run for several seasons.
He was on set and on camera when he saw that show implode as a producer took a call that ended it. "I remember watching what he was doing while I was shooting and made a face like, 'what's up?' and then honestly, he made an announcement right on the spot" that the show was canceled.
It wasn't the first time that happened, and he admits it probably won't be the last, but it's also why he's so pleased his experience at Hallmark has been so welcoming.
Perseverance in any line of work is a requirement for success, and Carly and Kris have never stopped trying to make the world a better place through their craft.
"I feel so lucky to be working in the realm of entertainment and am grateful for that at all times. It's a pleasure to be working on content that can reflect society or offer an escape or just straight up make you feel," Carly shared.
Up next for Kris will be more of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries series Murder 101 with Jill Wagner and a small, but delicious role working under Patty Jenkins in Wonder Woman: 1984.
Upcoming for Carly is quite a departure from the Hallmark vibe with The Mental State, a movie in which she gets to dig into the dark side of human behavior.
Both can be seen tonight on Hallmart in Double Holiday, which begins at 8/7. Don't miss it!
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, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.