Going back to summer camp as an adult and bonding with life-long friends is something that Tori Anderson has embraced with her whole heart.
The star of NCIS: Hawaii as Kate Whistler, and many Hallmark movies, Anderson says that being part of the ensemble of the original Hallmark movie, Campfire Christmas is pure joy.
It’s a load of good old-fashioned camp fun, with Christmas traditions to boot. Campfire Christmas is part of Hallmark’s Christmas in July celebration.
In her new feel-good movie, Anderson plays Peyton, whose parents have owned Camp Evergreen her whole life. When they decide it’s time for them to retire, they plan one last Christmas in July celebration at the camp for all their former campers and counselors.
Peyton and her friends gather together there one last time, and while she’s happy to catch up with most of the old gang… she’s not too enthusiastic about seeing Thomas (Bleu). Her ex-boyfriend who broke her heart when he broke up with her after high school.
As they all spend time together and reminisce, old romances – and a new one – are sparked. They help one another take stock of where they are in their lives and gain insight into the paths they want to take as they start on their own happily-ever-afters.
So, we are able to ponder the question, will this summer be the best Christmas ever?
“This movie has this element of fun. I went to sleepaway camps when I was younger, and it was always the best time,” Anderson exclusively tells Monsters and Critics.
“Also, my husband and his family went to a summer camp their entire lives. They celebrated, and they also went in July; this is what they did every year as a family. That’s something that they still talk about, and it’s still a big part of their lives. It just had such a fun, competitive but friendly element to it that really just made me smile. “
Please read on for more about celebrating Christmas in July, why Tori Anderson loves Hallmark, and how she and her husband are learning to surf in Hawaii during her break from NCIS: Hawaii.
Monsters and Critics: So, are you hankering for a snowball fight right now?
Tori Anderson: Well, I am because I’m in Hawaii right now, so I would take a snowball fight even though winter and I aren’t the best of friends. But I do love the seasons, and who doesn’t love a snowball fight?
M&C: Talk about what attracted you to Campfire Christmas and to the character of Peyton.
Tori Anderson: When I first read the script, this is an ensemble piece, and you don’t always see that in Hallmark movies, and that’s what attracted me to it. I loved the friend element that you have in this group of friends that are coming back together. Every single character has their own trajectory and their own arc throughout the movie.
It does carry a theme of second chances, and you have a couple who is married and trying to figure out having kids, and then you have another couple who is trying to have their first relationship. And then you also have another couple who’s sort of rekindling a past love. There really is, I think, something for everyone in this film, and that’s what I love about it. The movie made me smile when I read it, and I loved Peyton and her can-do attitude and the fact that she got to go and see her friends again and kind of relive all these moments with her mom and her dad and all of her friends. And kind of grow and learn and still have that throughout your life.
M&C: I went to an overnight drama camp for seven years, and I still have the best memories.
Tori Anderson: I think it also holds a space of so many firsts, too, and how you kind of come into yourself as a kid and learn about who you are separate from your family. It’s so nostalgic, right? It’s such a wonderful throwback, and it’s fun.
M&C: Let’s talk about you and Peyton. Do you feel like you and she had some similarities early in your career before you had landed some bigger roles?
Tori Anderson: Yes, absolutely. There’s always an element of truth in how you feel about characters. I definitely struggled for a while trying to find my footing as an actor. You have this idea in your head of where you could be, and it’s the same with Peyton. She’s working for a publishing company, but she really wants to be a writer. She’s faced so much rejection. Peyton, throughout this storyline, is faced with rejection. You get these glimpses of hope and that something’s going to kind of pan out, and then it doesn’t go your way, and it’s sort of rejection after rejection after rejection. In this industry as an actor, you have to have tough skin, but then part of what it is to be an actor is to be able to showcase your vulnerability and to feel your emotions. It’s sort of this strange juxtaposition where you have to be tough but also be able to bend and mold certain things and be in touch with your emotions.
M&C: Did you relate to her having big dreams?
Tori Anderson: I definitely felt like I related to her. I’m also from a very small town. We shot the movie on Vancouver Island, where I grew up, so there were a lot of elements that really struck a chord with me. It’s been a dream of mine to go home and shoot a film, and I was able to. This is the first time I worked on Vancouver Island, and there’s a line in the film where I say, “I think growing up, I took this place for granted.” There’s sort of always a kind of line like that where the character sort of is trying to reminisce and realize what they’ve kind of lost, but it was the first time I was actually there where I grew up, and I really felt it. I really do feel like I took growing up on Vancouver Island for granted. There were just elements of truth sort of woven throughout this movie that I haven’t had before, which was really unique and really exciting.
M&C: I’ve heard it’s just paradise on Earth.
Tori Anderson: Yes, and it’s an incredibly idyllic place to grow up. I grew up on a farm. It was a beautiful way to grow up. Then I moved to Toronto, and it was a totally different world. Yeah, I miss it. I definitely took it for granted and wish I would have explored more and everything, but that’s the beauty of being able to go home is that it’s there, and you can always go back and take it in. Yeah, it’s a remarkable place. It’s stunning, and the people are kind. There’s just beauty at every turn.
M&C: What is it like working on NCIS: Hawaii? To me, it’s kind of got all the things I love about NCIS and then a lot more.
Tori Anderson: That’s very nice to hear. I’m new to this sort of universe, so I didn’t really know what to expect, which I think was a positive in my book because I didn’t go in with a lot of fear. I kind of went in with an open heart. But I will say Hawaii has been a total gift to me, NCIS: Hawaii, and the cast and the crew. I’ve never felt more welcome. And I deeply, deeply love my character and what her journey has been. I did not expect where it’s gone, and I feel so fortunate in every way. But, yeah, it’s been a roller coaster, but it’s been a huge life-changing experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
M&C: Is there anything particular you’ve learned because of your NCIS character? Physically, mentally, emotionally?
Tori Anderson: I learned, which is interesting because it ties kind of back into Peyton, as well. I learned communication. Communication is so important, and hearing someone out and owning up to your mistakes and being honest with what’s gone on and just owning it and not being afraid to say, “Listen, I made a mistake, and how can I improve?” And how can I be the person that you believe yourself to be?
I love that you see both of these characters grow. It’s not like they’re remaining stagnant. They’re constantly learning and constantly trying to better themselves in a world that isn’t always incredibly open. They’re faced with challenges, but they just sort of keep going and don’t give up.
M&C: This is not your first Hallmark project. You’ve been doing Hallmark for a while. Why do you stay with Hallmark?
Tori Anderson: I have always had a really positive experience with Hallmark on set. I found everything very professional. I found there was a level of preparedness that was really, really nice. Because these are shot really quickly, and the level of talent they bring on board was always awe-inspiring walking onto a set in the Hallmark world, the props department and set locations and everything. It always blows my mind. It feels like Christmas is kind of everywhere. I think someone once said they wanted to see Christmas in every frame, and they really do. It’s remarkable what everyone does. You work with incredible people. It brings a source of levity into people’s lives. I think as you’re working on it for people watching, that is sort of unmatched. It’s a really positive space to work, and I think it’s a positive place for a viewer to watch.
M&C: Where are you watching Hallmark Christmas movies in your home? What are you wearing, eating, drinking?
Tori Anderson: I think the morning thing for me. So I’m in my PJs with a cup of coffee, and it’s a morning thing. My mother-in-law and my sister-in-law are huge, huge Hallmark fans and so they’ve always sort of recorded it from the night before, and then we wake up in the morning, and we’ll watch a Hallmark movie. We’re all kind of settling down and have had our breakfasts and are just sort of mellowing out on a Sunday or something and watching it. It’s sort of that kind of cozy vibe.
M&C: My kitchen TV is always on Hallmark or the news unless my teenage son takes the remote.
Tori Anderson: Right, that’s like theirs, too. It’s the same thing. They always have that on. When they’re cooking, it’s always on in the background. It’s pretty cool.
M&C: Have you been to an actual Christmas in July? What’s your take on the whole idea?
Tori Anderson: I’ve never celebrated Christmas in July. It’s interesting because there are lots of times that I celebrate Christmas on and off with my family because I spend one year with my husband’s family, one year with my family, and we kind of go back and forth every year. It would be nice to sort of celebrate a Christmas in July with the people that you don’t get to celebrate actual Christmas with. It’s kind of an interesting concept. I think having more Christmas in your life is probably never a bad thing. It’s pretty dang enjoyable. So, yeah, or at least the food, bringing your Christmas food around in July and stuff. I don’t know. I might take to it. It might be a fun little thing to do every once in a while.
M&C: Is there a thread in your career from Nickelodeon and Blindspot and NCIS and Hallmark? What’s the plan? What’s the future?
Tori Anderson: I don’t know. I think a lot of being an actor is taking the parts that appeal to you. I think now I’m getting to a point where I can kind of mediate that a little bit more. But I know when I auditioned for NCIS: Hawaii, I read the sides, and I just sort of leaped at it because it was a character I haven’t been able to play. It’s something I’ve always wanted to dip my toes into, someone who’s really smart, who’s really good at her job and capable, and doesn’t care if she’s liked or not. That was something that really, deeply appealed to me. And so that was really exciting, and I never thought that I would actually book the role. Then I booked the role and was sort of faced with my own idea of feeling like a fraud.
M&C: Please tell me more.
Tori Anderson: I feel like that’s a common thread with actors, is feeling like they miscast the person in some way. So now, after doing this, this takes up a large chunk of my time, so it’s the things in between that I’m going to find creatively fulfilling that I’m excited to do. A lot of it’s going to be dependent on the characters and the characters I want to portray, the people I want to work with, and dipping my toes into a darker reality in some ways I think would be fun. But, also, on my hiatus, I shot this Hallmark movie which was so nice because it was just joy. It was driven by joy, and it was fun, and it was competitive, and so that was a nice offset of nine months of work to be able to do something like that. I think right now I’m in a unique position that I haven’t been in yet, and so I’m excited to kind of see where things go and what I can kind of do in that my three months off and see what kind of piques my interest.
M&C: Did you move to Hawaii for the role?
Tori Anderson: Yes, my husband and I moved to Hawaii, which is crazy. We’re committing to being here, which is really exciting.
M&C: I have never been there. It’s on my list.
Tori Anderson: Oh, let me know if you ever come. It’s pretty surreal. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place and the people are so kind and wonderful. I can’t speak highly enough of it, and I feel – you have to be respectful of I’m working here. This is people’s home. But it’s far from Toronto, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
M&C: Does your husband like living in Hawaii?
Tori Anderson: Yes, he does. We’re both getting into surfing here, so I think we’re both trying to figure it out. It’s a big shift from Toronto, but we’re making the most out of it. Hiking, surfing, I think we maybe might take a sailing class here or there. But, yeah, just trying to embrace it. The water is so beautiful, and the surfing is unreal. We went to the North Shore last year for the surf competitions and watched these surfers from all over the world, and lots from Hawaii just go on these waves. You have to have just an insane amount of respect for them. It’s a pretty wild place to see.
M&C: What overall advice would you have for a teenager or young woman who wants to be an actress? Who’s watching you on Hallmark and NCIS and saying, “I want to do that.” What have you learned that you want to pass on to someone?
Tori Anderson: I would say don’t try and change who you are. Don’t homogenize yourself to being like someone else. Find the qualities that make you and know that that’s innately what makes you special. And showcase them. Don’t shy away from who you are and don’t try to change yourself, and don’t listen to people who say you can’t do it. Put one foot in front of the other and just believe in yourself and go after what you want. That’s for any career and anything you do in life. Don’t listen to the naysayers and just believe that who you make you special and where you come from makes you special. And that there’s no one else like you. Just believe in yourself.
M&C: Why do you want my readers to see Campfire Christmas?
Tori Anderson: I think people should see it because I think it’s a really great reflection of the world that we live in. I think that there really is something for everyone in the storyline, and it is so much fun. I feel like I can’t emphasize that enough. We had the best time working on this. It really felt like we were friends forever. The cast is phenomenal, and Anna White’s script is just a joy. I think it really transports you into the camp environment, and it’s just a heck of a lot of fun in so many ways. There’s also a pageant, too. It’s a total delight, so I hope that’s enough to entice people, and then I hope that they see it and they love it.
Campfire Christmas premieres on Saturday, July 16, at 8 pm ET on Hallmark Channel.
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