Exclusive interview: Why ‘Queen of Christmas’ Christina Moore is always in the mood for upbeat holiday movies

Christina Moore up close
Christina Moore in the Netflix Christmas movie I Believe in Santa. Pic credit: Randy Shropshire

Christina Moore is clearly in the mood for Christmas, and she has two charming new holiday movies to help us celebrate.

She produced A Hollywood Christmas, which is currently streaming on HBO Max, and she starred in and produced the Netflix movie I Believe in Santa, streaming on Wednesday, December 14.

A Hollywood Christmas is about Jessica (Jessika Van), a young, up-and-coming filmmaker in Hollywood who has made a name for herself directing Christmas movies.

But when the handsome network executive Christopher (Josh Swickard) shows up threatening to halt production on her latest movie, Jessica’s assistant, Reena (Anissa Borrego), points out the irony: Jessica isn’t just trying to save her Christmas movie; she’s actually living in one!

Jessica must now juggle all the classic tropes—actors falling in and out of love, an amazingly adorable wayward elf dog, and her own stirring romantic feelings for her perceived nemesis—in order to get her movie and her life to their happy endings.

I Believe in Santa is about sensible Lisa (Christina Moore) and logical Tom (played by Christina’s real-life husband, John Ducey), who seem made for each other. However, when their first holiday season rolls around, the couple hits their first big relationship roadblock.

Lisa’s practical boyfriend turns out to be obsessed with all things Christmas. Can you believe in love and Santa at the same time? Something’s bound to give! Lisa’s daughter is played by the amazing young talent Violet McGraw.

An actor and producer, Moore has starred in more than 80 films and television shows during her 20-year career.  

She is best known for her work as a sketch comedian in MadTV and as Laurie Forman in That ’70s Show, Butterfly in Without a Paddle, Tracy Clark in the re-make of 90210, Christina Ross in Jessie, and as Mandi Heiser in CLAWS.

She has also starred on hit shows such as Friends, True Blood, Mom, Last Man Standing, Two and a Half Men, Will & Grace, and 24.

Most recently, Moore produced the romantic comedy film That’s Amor, which premiered in August 2022 on Netflix and was number two in the USA and number three in the world in its first two weeks on Netflix, garnering more than 30 million viewing hours.

Read on to find out why Christmas inspires actor-producer Christina Moore, what holiday she plans to tackle in her next romantic comedy, and how she adored working with the best-prepared performer in her life, a dog named Lucy Puggles, in A Hollywood Christmas.

Monsters and Critics: I just finished watching A Hollywood Christmas and it struck an emotional chord. The song Let It Snow is so sweet.

Christina Moore:  Oh, I’m so glad. I’m glad it got you. I think it’s got it all. I think it’s funny and is Hollywood. When the director, Alex Ranarivelo, and I were working on it for five months to finish it, we kind of kept our main mantra that it’s a love letter to Christmas movies, to Hollywood, and to Christmas. 

M&C: What do you love about Christmas movies? Why did you want to make these two movies

You know what I learned along the way? In I Believe in Santa, Lisa is not a big fan of Christmas. My husband wrote the screenplay, and we developed it during the pandemic with the director, so it’s based on a true story and deeply personal. 

It’s funny because, in making these movies, I’ve figured it out. I think there is a warm and fuzzy feeling when he says, “Goodwill to all,” that is really what I think Christmas can be about. When it’s unifying, when it brings everybody together, when it’s a sense of the end of a year celebration and twinkle lights and warm and cozy fires and singalongs and carols and hug-a-thons. I think that’s the magic of Christmas. 

I think that a lot of the pressure of gift giving, or I was raised in a really big Evangelical church setting, and the pressure of Jesus’s birthday, I think it can be a little hard on people. I feel like the Brits do it really well. They just hang lights all over everything and then serve mulled wine on every corner. If you’re a little tipsy on mulled wine looking at twinkle lights, you’re going to be all right.

John Ducey as Tom and Christina Moore as Lisa in the Netflix movie, I Believe in Santa
John Ducey and Christina Moore in the Netflix movie I Believe in Santa. Pic credit: Randy Shropshire

M&C: Do you have a couple of Christmas movies that you love and watch every year as part of your traditions?

I love Elf. Will Ferrell is God’s gift to comedy in every single thing he does. I’ve probably seen that movie 30 times. I also really love Chevy Chase Christmas Vacation. It’s a little irreverent, it’s a big, fat, juicy comedy, and it’s hysterical. Clark Griswold, yes please, all the time. And then my husband, John, and our director, Alex, they’re big fans of Die Hard is an original Christmas. I’ve actually watched that one like four or five times with the debate: Is it a Christmas movie, or is it not a Christmas movie? I do really like it.

M&C: Inclusion is very important to the work you do. Can you talk about that?

Yes, I’d love to. In A Hollywood Christmas, we feature the first Asian female lead in a holiday movie ever. She plays Jessika, the director. It just was hugely important. Her assistant is Latinx, the first AD is African-American. Mostly because of a movie set, if you’ve ever been to a movie set, it is such an island of misfit toys. It’s one of my favorite things about it that you’ve got a grip, electric, hair, makeup, wardrobe, and sound. Part of the magic is alchemy. 

When it comes to I Believe in Santa, one of the major themes that we explore, and I’m not going to spoil it, it’s set up pretty well in the trailer, is Lisa and Tom are dating; everything’s magical and wonderful, and they’re in a hive mind, they’re crazy in love and get to Christmas, and you find out he believes in Santa Claus. The theme that we were really interested in exploring was the concept of whether you can love someone who believes in different things that you do. 

One of the convincing characters in the film is Tom’s best friend, who is gay and Muslim. And basically, says Tom never judged me, never cared, never questioned any of my beliefs, and so it didn’t really matter to me if this is the thing that he believes in. I think that was one of our main reasons for creating the film and making the film, was this exploration of, during a time when we’ve had some pretty heavy cultural unrest, what is it going to take for us to just decide you can believe one thing and I can believe something else and I can love you anyway.

M&C: What are you doing now or doing next?

I’m celebrating my face off. A Hollywood Christmas debuted on December 1, and as of yesterday and today, we’re the number one streamed movie in the world on HBO Max. We’re just over here breaking our arms and patting ourselves on the back. Or just, more importantly, to thank all of our lucky stars. Now we’re focused on the release of this film.

My husband and I are developing a bunch of new stuff for 2023. We’re out in the pitch world. So, we’ve got some more holiday. One that I’m really excited about is Valentine’s Day romantic comedy. I figured,  why not hit a different holiday? Now that I’m the Queen of Christmas, I’m going to move on and become the queen of Valentine’s and St. Patrick’s Day, and then I’ll take on the Fourth of July.

M&C: Valentine’s Day is actually my holiday. I was supposed to be born on Valentine’s Day but I’m always late so I was a day late. 

Oh my God, so that’s the premise of this film is that we have a couple whose child is named Valentine because he was born on Valentine’s Day. So, a little bit like Four Weddings and a Funeral, this friend group gets together every year on Valentine’s birthday.

M&C: I have to ask a Gilmore Girls question. The gazebo in your movie A Hollywood Christmas has got to be from the fictional town of Stars Hollow.

You are right. [We had the great fortune of shooting ]on the Warner Bros. backlot. That is iconic, that particular square, that gazebo, that courthouse. It’s just nonstop Easter egg magic. They were so good to us, and we were able to shoot over a long weekend. So, we kind of had the place to ourselves. It’s a magical place. It’s full of so much history. 

We got great weather; the cast was literally bananas running over to take pictures near the Friends fountain and hanging off the Gilmore Girls gazebo. And, “Was this Back to the Future?” It really does have that extra bit of goose; you feel it, you really do. It’s a very cool lot.

MISSI PYLE as Theresa Frost in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and HBO MAX’s romantic comedy, “A Hollywood Christmas.”
Missi Pyle as Theresa Frost in Warner Bros. Pictures and HBO MAX’s romantic comedy, A Hollywood Christmas. Photo by Randy Shropshire

M&C: A Hollywood Christmas is the number one movie right now on HBO Max. Talk about what it is like hearing that. Obviously, you’ve touched a chord with people all over the world.

Yes, it’s just unexpected pure joy. That’s all I can really say. Being the producer of a movie, I like to say, is like being the wedding planner, the bride, and the cleanup crew. Or really, more importantly, it’s like being a mom. You give everything you have; you go through – for me, I’ve been more – me and the director, we’ve been involved since the beginning of the idea of it, through the writing, through the rewrite, through the casting.

There’s a sense of it that it’s like for everyone, for everyone who gave their time, their energy, their creativity; I want so badly for everyone’s success. And for everyone’s – again, just their beauty and the work that they put in, that it would be well received. Just for every single person who contributed to the project, which it’s over 100. I know that the sum of the total – what is the saying? You might know it better. The sum of the parts isn’t equal to the –

It’s just the concept that one person’s magical creativity is great, but when you put them all together, it explodes. So, to be able to write an email to my cast and my crew, like congrats, Merry Christmas, I could cry. I’m getting a little teary right now. It feels just delightful for all because you never know if it’s going to resonate, you never know if it’s going to be found, and you never know if people will get it or tell their friends about it. When it happens, it’s another piece of magic. I’m going to say it’s a little bit of Christmas magic, like snow in July. In Hollywood, it sometimes happens.

M&C: What are a couple of your favorite holiday traditions this time of year with your husband or with friends?

I love a good potluck. I love a good potluck. My friend had one this weekend, and she called it her tree-trimming party. She had a tree and we all hung an ornament. But it really was more like a potluck party. I made homemade turkey soup from my turkey dinner, boiled the bones, and did all that good Midwest gal stuff.

Somebody else had their favorite cookies, and we had all kinds of homemade dishes and treats. There’s something about that and post the plague, we’re all getting together again just to see each other and laugh and play games. It’s a great excuse to do this because it’s Christmastime. 

I’m a big fan of outdoor lights. I am very prone to just walking through my own neighborhood and marveling at the twinkle lights and getting some hot cocoa or mulled wine. I don’t know, there’s something about outdoor lights. Maybe it’s because I’m such a big fan of the Fourth of July. I think it’s one of the things Lisa says in I Believe in Santa is that twinkle lights are the fireworks of December. That’s one of my favorite things.

M&C: Tell me about working with the adorable dog. Were there any mishaps during the filming?

No, that dog was the best-trained performer on the entire set. It was kind of unbelievable. The mishap was that all the people behind the video village, including myself, couldn’t behave. When the dog went down on the table to look at Ashley, she was kind of pouting, and the dog went and put her head on its feet, screaming, “Oh my God, we couldn’t believe it.”

What was fascinating is that the dog trainer is a professional animal trainer, and at one point, we were on the back lot, and we were waiting to put the dog to work in the finale, the Christmas town gathering celebration. The pet trainer had a falcon that she was working with. 

She was just kind of over down the street away from the main set, but you would occasionally hear caw-caw, and a falcon would go flying. Like what else does she have over there in the back seat of her car? I was thinking, like, “Don’t bring a boa constrictor to the set.” You never know what you’re going to get when you open up the floodgates.

M&C: Well, and to write something that has a dog that can do all that was required you really don’t know that there’s a dog who can do all of it.

I didn’t know. My husband wrote it with our director goosing him for every different Hollywood trope, “We’ve got to put that in, we’ve got to put that in.” As the producer, I end up being the one who has to say, “Guys, I’ll try but I don’t know if I can get you that. It was a happy accident that we found the right dog, whose real name is Lucy Puggles. She’s the star. She absolutely steals the film.

M&C: So, they are calling you the Queen of Christmas right now. What do you think of that moniker?

I’m going to take it. Any time I can be called a queen, I’m going to just say, “Yes, please, I’ll do it.” I can be the proponent of Christmas and all things Christmas and warm and fuzzy and cheery and just goodwill. Goodwill to everybody; I’m here for it.

A Hollywood Christmas is currently streaming on HBO Max.

I Believe in Santa begins streaming on Netflix on December 14.

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