This holiday season Malinda Williams, along with the Uplifting Entertainment network are bringing you Marry Me For Christmas, a family story filled with laughter, a few white lies, and big life lessons.
We sat down with Williams, who is also executive producer, and Brad James, her co-star and on-screen faux beau to talk about holiday traditions, love, relationships and whose family makes the better food during the holidays.
ESSENCE.com: Your on-screen chemistry was so believable; you kind of got this sense that you all had a good time. How was it working with the cast?
Brad James: It felt like Christmas time when we were on set. I was really impressed with everyone. We had a good time.
Malinda Willams: I have to agree. This was one of the most fun projects I've ever worked on. We actually shot this in eight days so it was a very full schedule for all of us. Sometimes that can be grueling and exhausting but I was consistently reenergized by everybody that came to play, as I call it, because it didn't feel like work. We laughed all day, we had trailers and nobody spent any time in their trailers, only in these common areas where we could be together.
ESSENCE.com: Malinda, your character Marci is a career woman who held off on love to chase her dreams. Can you relate to that at all?
Malinda: That's one thing that she and I do not have in common. I've always put my family first. I think part of it is because I never really chased the career in the way that a lot of people set out to develop a career. It's always sort of been what I've done, something that was kind of naturally a part of me. So starting a family or getting married and having a baby was also something that was naturally a part of me. Marci has bought into the idea that if she starts a family she's going to have to put her career on hold, which a lot of women do, unfortunately. Although lots of women do it, I would rather have my children when I'm younger and have much more patience and energy to deal with them.
ESSENCE.com: Brad, what are your thoughts on a woman like Marci?
Brad: I think you can't help but be attracted to a woman like Marci. Maybe not focusing on her ambition as her only qualities. She's a character with a lot of qualities that are deeper than her career, which seems to be the focal point. I think we see pretty quickly that she's got a lot of love in her.
ESSENCE.com: Marci fakes a relationship with Brad's character to appease her family's expectations. Can you relate or understand falling into this kind of pressure?
Malinda: I get it. It actually has happened to me before and what's interesting is that I was not aware that's what I was doing until I looked back at a relationship that didn't work out and thought 'I wasn't really doing this for me. I was doing this because I thought that this was what I was supposed to be doing.' I don't know that I would consciously go and fool my family, they'd see right through me, but I can definitely relate.
ESSENCE.com: This is such a feel-good film about a family that's really big on traditions. Do either of your families have any special holiday traditions?
Malinda: We don't have any quirky traditions. We just have your typical traditions, or maybe they're not typical, I don't know but it's what I've always known. My family gets together every Christmas morning—I come from a family of girls, there's three of us and we all have our own children and own families. It used to be that we lived in different places and we would all gather at my moms house and we would cook breakfast and dinner and the whole extended family would come over. Now I live in another state so I go there and just like when I was a little girl I get to wake up at my parents home with my son and we open gifts like we did when I was little.
Brad: I grew up in my grandparents home. It wasn't the kind of home where you think Santa Claus is bringing your stuff, so the first thing we do is we start off by saying a prayer of thanks for everything that we've been given in life. We realize it's not about the gifts but there's a lot of that going around too. It's an all day affair, and one thing I really look forward to is my granddad's ribs. I think he gets his grill from a crack dealer because he's sprinkling something in there that's not typically on ribs.
Malinda: You know what I think one day we might have to have a family to family Christmas day battle because your granddad's ribs can't be better than my uncles ribs.
Brad: I don't know Malinda, I really respect you and the things that you say, but I think you're in dangerous territory here.
ESSENCE.com: What lessons about life, love and family do you think audiences will be able to take from the movie?
Brad: I would definitely like to think and hope that they take home honesty and realizing that you can be who you are with your family. I think in the end that's what Marci gets. I'm so glad that this was made with the TV audience in mind because it was perfectly written to watch with and experience with your family and you can see an example of that family togetherness. If you haven't had that in the last couple years and you've really been doing your own thing maybe it's something you need to rethink. Maybe these fleeting moments should be spent with our family.
Malinda: Like Brad said, there are some very real moments in this movie that people and their families can relate to. Life is short, and one of the things that happen in this film is that some things that had gone for years unsaid get put on the table, and I'm a big proponent of that. If you feel it, let the people you love know that you love them, and that they are important to you.
Marry Me for Christmas debuts on UPtv's network today, Saturday, December 14 at 7pm ET.