Ellen Hollman – Sharing Christmas
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) Yes, I just finished a film called Army of One with Matt Passmore, who was the lead in Jigsaw. It will be out sometime next year, which is exciting. It was an action-thriller, which is normally the genre I often find myself in. So, from time to time it’s nice to find myself in these romantic-comedies just to balance life out.
Q) Please tell us the premise for your film Sharing Christmas and about your character.
A) My character is Stephanie Nichol and my family has owned a Christmas shop for the last forty years. So, this isn’t just your run of the mill big box shop. It’s a mom and pop shop that has managed to survive over four decades. We’ve been able to influence so many lives on a personal and intimate level. Now that the leaser has sold the building to a mass real estate company we are under threat of being closed down. This is something that happens and happens every day. Mom and pop shops are being replaced by massive companies and are just being stomped all over. Of course, my character is not willing to go down without a fight so she is coming up with all kind of ways to maintain traditions. So, I think that’s the solid throughline of the film – how important tradition is. Change is important. It is. But tradition is something that is fundamental to keep alive in one’s life, especially the family. That’s who Stephanie is – she’s an old school person and a young spirit.
Q) Often in Hallmark movies setting plays a key role. In what ways does the setting in this film lend itself to the theme of the movie?
A) The story takes place in New York City. New York City is a hustling, bustling unique machine of itself. All you have to do is step off the streets into the Christmas shop and you are transported into a snow globe almost. You don’t hear the sirens and see thousands of people rushing by each other. It’s like you’re in the North Pole waiting to give your list to Santa Clause.
Q) Hallmark movies are usually not shot during the season they are set in. How were you able to get into the holiday spirit while you were filming?
A) It was almost impossible to escape the feeling of Christmas on a Hallmark set. [laughs] There are times when you are on the street shooting and because of the temperature it’s so much warmer than it normally is and we didn’t have snow. And what is a New York Christmas without snow? So, we had some specialists come in and make snow for us.
Q) Hallmark films also have a great balance of heart and humor. How does that play out in Sharing Christmas?
A) Any genre I do I try to invoke some sense of wit and humor into it. Not only is it more interesting for me, but it’s also more interesting for the audience to watch. Even though my character (in a sense) is wide eyed and bushy-tailed and by the book, I myself am a pretty…I don’t want to say sarcastic. [laughs] But I do want to say that I do like to encompass humor in my every day. Even though there was some dialogue itself in some moments that didn’t seem like there was humor, I would find a way to keep it uplifting and unique. So, hopefully that comes across since we would get giggles all the time behind the monitor. So, that’s a good sign.
Q) In what ways did your personal holiday traditions lend to getting you into character?
A) I come from a big family. I have four siblings. We have parents, aunts and uncles. So, we’d always drive to Pennsylvania to visit family. Always, since I can remember, we were surrounded as family. There would be a house full of gifts, food and decorations. It was organized loving chaos. Just remembering that way of growing up helped me bring something to the character. It’s about falling asleep on the couch watching Christmas movies. It’s about waking up in “double digits” (as I call it) and eating leftovers from the night before and staying in your pajamas until it’s dark out again. That, to me, is the holidays.
Q) What was it like working with costar Bobby Campo and how were you able to instantly connect to portray yourselves as a couple?
A) Bobby was so great to work with. We just instantly hit it off. Hallmark has a great way of casting people that have great synergy and he was no exception. He was able to understand my humor and I understand his. So, we found these really cute idiosyncratic moments that are subtle and elevate the material. So, he and I were on the same plane of understanding with that and I think it really brought the scenes to life. The first time we ever met was when we were doing a scene on set. We just went right into the scene without having met each other, which is not is not uncommon in our industry. Sometimes you are not going to get the courtesy or the time to meet the other person. So, you just have to create that reality for yourself and just bring it one hundred percent.
Q) It’s really important to keep holiday traditions alive. What are some traditions you have carried with you?
A) So, the night before we always open one gift with each other. When we were young, it would be hot cocoa and marshmallows but nowadays it’s more like spiced apple cider. No matter what when I go back and visit my dad (even though my family are well into their twenties and thirties) he still likes to decorate the tree with Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. [laughs] So, here we are grown adults and we’re decorating the tree to Alvin and Chipmunks Christmas album. It’s really adorable! [laughs]
Q) It’s really important these days to keep traditions alive, especially during our current political climate and with values shifting.
A) I agree. So many more people are interested in gratification and the flashiness of media that people want to be impressed and entertained all the time. Even as something as simple as dinner, you’ll see kids on their iPhones or iPads completely uninterested in having a dialogue with their family and that’s what it is all about. I think it’s about bringing it back to the basics and turning off the technology and trying to communicate with each other is a good way to keep the traditions alive. Because tradition doesn’t necessarily mean turning on Alvin and the Chipmunks while you’re decorating a tree. It’s about reconnecting with your family and the people you love. I think it’s important for people to be reminded of that and that is what Hallmark does so seamlessly. I think millions of people watch it because it reminds us to forget about the noise and focus on what really matters – because you can’t take it with you!
Q) You often portray such fierce females. What is it about these characters that resonates with you and you have taken away from them?
A) I can even start with Saxa from “Spartacus.” She’s the type of woman who prides herself on her strength and never apologies for her weakness. Zypher from Badlands has a stealthy silent strike about her. She doesn’t have to make a scene in order to show her power. She just is. There are some things that I do take from these roles. And a lot of them have been genre specific shows, which I love to do. I love to do action, high octane type of film and television projects. Those are the ones that are still memorable to me, the ones that are not only physically but mentally challenging. Zypher and Saxa use their weapons when they have to, but first and foremost they intimidate with their minds and hearts first.
Q) As we are in this current political climate and how unbalanced it has become, what can actors, entertainers and anyone do to be a part of the resistance and be more vocal here and abroad?
A) I think doing your due diligence is extremely important before firing out opinions. Because it is so easy to point fingers without getting the proper or correct information. So, just looking at different outlets aside from ones you normally go to. Looking at one you normal go to. Look at the opposing news source. Looking at one you favor. And then look at one that is international. I follow a lot of international social media and news outlet because they are more likely to be unbiased than those primarily in the US. Then, of course, I just go with my gut. If someone is supporting the suppression of women then I’m not going to be OK with that and I will be the first to vocalize it. Finding like-minded people while still keeping an open mind to those who don’t agree with you is extremely important as well. Don’t be a jerk! [laughs] You can’t expect people to listen to your opinion if you are not going to listen to theirs. It doesn’t mean you have to like it though! [laughs] Going into the holidays, this is some sound advice for everyone: When at the dinner table with your loved ones don’t bring up religion or politics! [laughs] And you’ll do just fine!
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure viewers know about the movie?
A) Absolutely I’ll be live tweeting so people definitely give me a shout out! I’ll try to come up with some game – like take a sip of your hot cocoa or spiked cider every time you see Santa on television. Feel free to reach out and say hey. It’ll be fun!