Interview with Actors Amanda Kloots, Paul Greene, Rebecca Budig, director/producer Jessica Harmon, and writer/producer Anna White of “Fit For Christmas” on CBS by Suzanne 11/3/22
This is a typical holiday movie, but I most enjoyed seeing Rebecca Budig in it (even though it’s a fairly small part) and being able to chat with her. It airs Sunday, 12/4 on CBS.
Here is the transcript of our interview:
CBS 2022 HOLIDAY PROGRAMMING PANELS
FIT FOR CHRISTMAS
Amanda Kloots, Executive Producer/Star
Jessica Harmon, Director/Executive Producer
Anna White, Executive Producer/Writer
Virtual via Zoom
November 03, 2022
© 2022 CBS. All rights reserved.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Hi, everyone. I’m back. I’m Noelle Llewellyn. And on behalf of myself and my counterpart, Erin Freilich, we’d like to welcome you to our final panel of the day for our CBS original movie, “Fit for Christmas.”
Amanda Kloots, cohost of our Emmy-award-winning daytime talk show, “The Talk,” wears many Christmas hats for this film, both in front of and behind the camera. In addition to starring as Audrey, Amanda developed the movie, cowrote the film concept, and serves as an executive producer of the film. “Fit for Christmas” premieres Sunday, December 4th, on CBS and will be available to stream live and on demand on PARAMOUNT+.
“Fit for Christmas” follows Audrey, an enthusiastic, Christmas‑obsessed fitness instructor teaching classes at her beloved, financially beleaguered community center in quaint Mistletoe, Montana. Audrey begins a holiday romance with a charming mysterious businessman, which complicates his plans to turn the center into a more profitable resort property. That’s what I call a Christmas conundrum. Sorry. Had to do it.
I would like to welcome our panelists today, Amanda Kloots; Paul Green, who plays Griffin; Rebecca Budig, who plays Lisa; our movie screenwriter and executive producer, Anna White; and our movie director and executive producer, Jessica Harmon.
Before I have Amanda kick things off with a few opening remarks, just a reminder that, if you have a question, please raise your hand in the chat feature and I will call on you by your screen name when it is your turn. Now over to Amanda, who would like to say a few words.
AMANDA KLOOTS: There we go. Thanks, Noelle. By the way, Noelle, I need that sweater. That’s amazing. You look incredible.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Done. In the Amazon cart.
AMANDA KLOOTS: I just want to thank everyone for being here today. I want to thank my incredible cast and Anna and our director, Jessica. This has been an absolute dream come true for me. I can’t still believe that it happened. And it was a lot of fun to film. And I’m so excited for everybody to see it. Thank you for watching and thank you for being here. And let’s get this ball rolling.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Okay. Let’s hop right in.
QUESTION: Thank you, Noelle. I’ve got two for Amanda. Hi, Amanda. Hi, everybody.
AMANDA KLOOTS: Hi.
QUESTION: Hi. First of all, I know when you talked about this first on “The Talk,” I think it was in early fall, so can I assume that you filmed this during a break from “The Talk,” during a hiatus during the summer?
AMANDA KLOOTS: That is correct, Jay. We went on hiatus in August, and I pretty much flew a couple days later off to Vancouver to shoot the film on my hiatus, finished the movie, came back, and started Season 13 of “The Talk.” No rest.
QUESTION: For the weary. Sure.
The other question, I spoke with somebody else who wrote a movie they starred in recently for the holidays. It’s one thing to star in a holiday movie, but to see characters and perhaps dialogue ‑‑ I know you cowrote it with Anna, but to see words and characters come to life that you developed, not only for yourself but other actors, can you talk about that feeling, being on set and observing that?
AMANDA KLOOTS: Absolutely. I didn’t cowrite the movie. Anna is the writer of the movie, Anna White. I co-created the idea and, you know, definitely helped, you know, conceptualize the entire movie, right up until we were filming. And it was amazing. I have to tell you there was a day on set ‑‑ I’ll never forget it ‑‑ it was ‑‑ we were filming at the Mistletoe Inn. And I just ‑‑ it was so perfectly Christmas. And I looked around and I just ‑‑ I couldn’t believe it was happening. I literally pinched myself because I remember being in my bed in July of 2020 thinking of this idea at 3:00 a.m. in the morning and then having it come to life, and it was just so beautiful. The set that day where we were filming, it was so gorgeous. And I think it was like right in the middle of filming, so the cast had really bonded, and we were all just, like, really gelling that day. And it just felt like magic, literal Christmas magic.
QUESTION: Thank you. Anna, sorry about that misstep about the writing. I’m sorry about that.
QUESTION: Amanda, this is for you. When you were dancing on Broadway, did you say, “Oh, I want to be a producer some day and I want to star in a show that I’ve influenced”? Or was that just ‑‑ was it just in an evolution? And where did “The Talk” play in all of that evolution?
AMANDA KLOOTS: Oh, my gosh. It was a complete evolution, Bruce. I can’t believe what I’m doing right now. I think ‑‑ when I look at my life and how much has changed, especially in the last three years, I mean, just ‑‑ I moved to LA three years ago, and I ‑‑ my sole job was my fitness business. And since then, in those three years, even just since joining “The Talk,” my life has completely changed.
And I can’t believe what I get to do now. I can’t believe that, you know, CBS, they were so generous in taking a chance on me and this concept and allowing this to come to fruition. I’m so entirely grateful to them for doing this with me and having faith that I can act and that I can executive produce and create something. It’s amazing. I just am constantly, I think, blown away by the idea of how life can change and how it can change so quickly and how dreams can come true.
QUESTION: That’s great. Thanks so much.
AMANDA KLOOTS: Yeah.
QUESTION: Hi, everybody. This is for Amanda as well, and then I have a question for Paul. Amanda, what was it like working with Anna White? Can you talk about that?
AMANDA KLOOTS: Yes. I feel like I have met my creative soulmate with Anna White. I could not feel like a luckier human being. She is just the brightest light. She is so funny, consistently creative, and on top of every idea and pun and concept. We met through a friend, a new friend of mine and an acquaintance of hers. Thank God this woman put us together. And ever since we chatted on the phone ‑‑ I think it was October in 2020 ‑‑ and I told her of this idea, we ‑‑ I just knew. It was like stars aligned. And I hope there’s so much more to come from us, because we’ve got a lot of ideas in the bank. And I just ‑‑ I love working with her.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) films that you’ve starred in? Can you talk about that?
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: You’re a little hard to hear. Do you want to repeat yourself?
QUESTION: Yes. Sorry about that. I was just asking Paul, how (inaudible) starred in?
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: We’re still having trouble hearing you. I think you’re asking ‑‑ I think you’re asking Paul how did this film “Fit for Christmas” differ from the other holiday films he starred in. Does that sound accurate?
QUESTION: Correct. Yes.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Perfect. Paul?
PAUL GREENE: Awesome. Well, thanks. So it was super ‑‑ it was so unique because I’ve worked with Anna before on a movie prior, and that was a really great experience, and there’s a lot of serendipity with Anna, and I going 20 years back. It’s a long story and a good one.
And then ‑‑ but what made this so different is, you know, working with Amanda in this way, knowing that this was her first experience like this, that it just had this crackling newness and possibility to it that was really unique. There was ‑‑ it was very improvian, in the moment, and spontaneous and exciting.
And then just, you know, immediately, there was this chemistry and friendship between us ‑‑ all of us actors, really, and especially between Amanda and myself, like from the first minute. We were just like long lost friends. And that translated really quickly into a feeling of having each other’s back in the scenes and improvising and ‑‑ which Anna loved when we improvised.
And, yeah. It was ‑‑ and what’s unique, too, is having our writer on set, which is the first time I’ve had a writer on one of these Christmas movies, or even a romantic comedy like this, be on set from front all the way through, which was really unique and special, because we went to her with all these really nuanced questions about character and where we were headed and arc, and it was ‑‑ yeah, it was cool.
And for me, it’s special because it’s my first of these with CBS. And so there was a lot of excitement and a lot of trust and a lot of newness to it that made it just super fun.
QUESTION: Yes, hi. My question is for Rebecca. I’m a big fan of yours from “All My Children” and “General Hospital.” This is the first Christmas movie you’ve been in, right? And is there anything that surprised you about it?
REBECCA BUDIG: Thank you so much. That’s really sweet of you. Yes, it is the first Christmas movie I’ve done. And I would say ‑‑ I mean, I’ve shot in all different kind of situations, but definitely shooting with, you know, heavy sweaters and coats in 100 degree heat wasn’t that fun. But actually being with this group of people, it ‑‑ to what Paul said, it really was kind of a magical grouping of people. And I felt like I was in an episode of “Three’s Company” a lot of the time. But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.
QUESTION: Thank you so much.
QUESTION: Hey, thank you very much for speaking to us. I have two questions. I’m wondering, first, how long did it take to shoot the movie? And secondly, for any of the actors, I’m wondering ‑‑ I always love to ask this question: When the show ‑‑ when the movie will air, will you actually sit down and watch it? And when ‑‑ if you do, can you actually enjoy watching it? Or do you watch to review yourself? Anybody.
REBECCA BUDIG: Well, I ‑‑
QUESTION: Nobody likes to answer that question, ever.
PAUL GREENE: Ladies first.
AMANDA KLOOTS: You know, I’ll say to your second question, Mark, that because I’m an executive producer on this film, I’ve already watched a lot of ‑‑ a lot of the cuts. So I do feel like that day, on December 4th, and watching it ‑‑ we are all going to watch it together, actually, except for Paul because he’ll be away. But we’re all going to watch it together. I do think that I’ll be able to watch it on the 4th and finally put, like, my producer hat off and just watch it and enjoy it. And I plan to live tweet that night as well and just really celebrate the premiere of the movie and all the hard work that we all did.
REBECCA BUDIG: I will say, like, my first run‑through, I’m always looking at it, you know ‑‑ at myself with a critical eye. But like Amanda said, like, I think on the 4th when we’re all watching it together, it will just be just really fun and to relive those moments.
QUESTION: Paul? Your thoughts?
PAUL GREENE: This took us about 15 filming days, I’d say. Right? Crazy enough, that is the average for these romantic comedies that happen, these holiday movies, and a lot of the kind of seasonal movies that you see. 15 ‑‑ 14 or 15 shooting days. I know. There’s some long weeks and long days, especially for number one on the call sheet and sometimes number two as well.
And for me, I love to watch them. Like, I ‑‑ I haven’t seen this yet. And so I ‑‑ I sometimes try to watch just little pieces and ‑‑ but never the whole thing so that it’s a good surprise. And so I’m looking forward to watching it, yeah. I don’t have ‑‑ I don’t have too much of a hard time watching it. It makes me ‑‑ I get so excited about ‑‑ you know, I love the nostalgic feeling of Christmas movies. And then just that I’ve been a part of a lot of them and got a chance to do it and get to do that for my job and knowing that so many people are at home and they’re getting so much out of it, it’s a great feeling.
QUESTION: Thank you.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: And I actually have a question for Jessica, our movie director, Jessica Harmon. Jessica, you work in front of and behind the camera. You are a movie director for this, but you also act. And I’m just wondering, is ‑‑ do you prefer one over the other now? Do you want to continue to do both indefinitely? It was just ‑‑ it’s so great to see that you work, you know, in front of and behind the camera and was just curious about that process for you and how that works just for yourself and for your own ‑‑ for your process.
JESSICA HARMON: Well, thanks for the question, Noelle. I’m just only obsessed with your outfit and the whole look right now. It’s kind of awesome. People are answering questions, and I’m just watching Noelle like I’m loving this.
Do I have one over the other? Yeah, directing, because I think directing is so incredibly exhausting that I can’t put myself in front of a camera anymore. So it’s ‑‑ for me, I think, you know, I was an actor for 25 years, and it was wonderful and I loved it, but I found, personally, my favorite thing was when I started directing, to kind of come in and have these ideas and work with the crew, who I love. And the crew on this film should get a pretty solid shoutout because, you know, it’s really difficult, like Paul was saying, for everyone to do a film in 15 days and in that heat that these poor actors had to sit in. It was ‑‑ you know, in Canada, it was 30‑something degrees, which in Fahrenheit is a whole other situation. But it’s hot, for you Americans listening. It’s a lot. And the crew, you know, puts their all into this. And this film, this cast, and this crew all kind of came together like lightning in a bottle, and it was amazing.
And there’s something that happens when you spend the time directing and you have a vision and you’re working with people like Anna and, you know, people like Amanda who come in with this incredible idea and this incredible vision themselves and they trust you to kind of take it and go forward with it. And then so many people get involved, but at the end of the day, when all of that work kind of comes together and you’re speaking to the actors on set, and they come in and they do something and it’s wonderful, and you kind of come in and you collaborate together, and you step back and you watch it, there’s a feeling that is so special to me as a director now that when I get to watch fellow actors light up the screen, especially in the way that this cast did ‑‑ and no offense to my other casts ‑‑ but that this cast, the chemistry that these people had with one another, and the work that they put into this, and what they brought to ‑‑ the emotion that they brought to these characters, it’s so much more than just kind of a sweet rom‑com, you know, holiday movie. We’ve all seen these movies be made before, but watching these people just explode on camera and the chemistry that they had with each other and bringing these characters to life, it’s like ‑‑ it genuinely brings emotion to me that I don’t ‑‑ I couldn’t even pull myself as an actor.
So when it comes to one or the other, I have to side with directing because I just love working with actors, and I love working with actors like this. And these guys just light this movie up. It was a wonderful script to begin with, but it’s ‑‑ what they’ve done and what I hope the audience ‑‑ you know, what I know the audience will see from them is it’s explosive. Like, the chemistry between all of them is incredible. But you look at Griffin and Audrey’s storyline and where they begin and where they end, every day on set I was shocked by them, because I just ‑‑ I didn’t see them bringing the characters that they brought. I saw Griffin played a different way in my mind. I saw Audrey a little bit different in my mind, and they showed up and they surprised me every single scene. And it was just ‑‑ it was a wonderful, wonderful thing to watch.
So directing wins, but…
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: No. Thank you for that. We will miss you in front of the camera, but we understand and we appreciate your work. And the chemistry does feel very special for the film, so thank you.
QUESTION: This is for Rebecca. This movie, like a lot of movies, a lot of the Christmas movies, makes it feel that a small town, growing up in a small town, living in a small town, you’re very lucky. I sympathize with that. I’m from a small town myself. But on the other hand, you got to go to, like, the Cincinnati School of Performing Arts. And if it hadn’t been for ‑‑ you know, if you hadn’t been in a city, you wouldn’t have been able to do that. A million people from that school went on to become really successful. So when you look at the what’s good or bad about growing up in a small town or a big city, how do you look at it?
REBECCA BUDIG: Yeah. You make a good point, Mike. Because, you know, when you’re in a bigger city, you’re exposed to a lot more opportunities, and there’s maybe a lot more culture and things to experience. But I also really, really, really ‑‑ especially as I get older ‑‑ really appreciate a small town and what that has to offer, because that’s ‑‑ it offers a lot more heart sometimes, a lot more familiarity, and that’s what I think this movie brings, like, warmth to it, because everyone’s connected. You’re more connected with other people. I think in big urban towns, in cities, you get a little disconnected, even though you have your friends and things, but you don’t get to really, like ‑‑ things don’t matter as much as they do in a small town, and that’s what I think this movie brings to it, you know, like, things that matter.
QUESTION: Okay. Cool. Thanks.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Next, I just have a question for Anna White, our movie writer. Anna, I’m very curious, what was the process like for you working with Amanda and really shepherding this concept and this idea that she had and bringing that to the screen and writing the script? Can you tell us a little bit about that?
ANNA WHITE: Yeah. I’d love to. It was ‑‑ it was great. Because, actually, I followed Amanda’s story and, like, I ‑‑ my heart went out to her. And then when our mutual acquaintance said, “Hey, Amanda has a great idea for a Christmas movie. She needs a writer,” and we had our first, like, FaceTime and just, like, everything clicked. I thought it was a great idea because we hadn’t seen a fitness instructor Christmas movie yet. And if anyone was going to do it, it was going to be Amanda Kloots.
And so I just ‑‑ yeah, honestly, from there, we kind of went back and forth. We came up with a longer synopsis. We pitched it to CBS I think that December. And then kind of just worked on it and wrote. And every draft of the outline, every draft of the script, Amanda ‑‑ I’d send to her first, she’d give her notes, and then we both would be on the notes calls with CBS. So that way, anything that came up that they wanted to change, like, Amanda and I can bounce ideas off of each other. And Amanda is so creative and thinks outside the box in such great ways, and she knows ‑‑ I mean, like, my workout is walking to Starbucks every day. So Amanda was able to work in a lot more of the “this is the fitness lingo,” and ‑‑ for, like, the fitness scenes and stuff like that, which was very helpful because, you know, I couldn’t write what I know ‑‑ I did her class in Vancouver, though, and let me tell you, I need to work on my endurance.
But the point being, it was great having Amanda there as a partner the entire time. And, you know, any time ‑‑ like if a note was frustrating, I’d be like, “Isn’t this note crazy?” And she’d be like, “Yeah, this note is crazy.” And then we’d figure out how to do it better together. So that was really cool.
And then seeing her come alive on scene as the character was just ‑‑ I’m so glad I got to be part of it and see it. You will not believe that this is her first scripted movie/television role. When you watch it, she was a natural. She went like that. She was so present. I just like ‑‑ I can’t wait for everyone to see ‑‑ I mean, no one’s surprised she has all these talents, but I’m excited for everyone to see her acting chops.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Thank you, Anna. And that is a great callout regarding this being a first for Amanda in many, many ways, which makes this such a special story around the movie overall, but thank you. And I, too, will not be fit for Christmas. I might be fit for Easter. We will see.
Thank you. That’s all of our time for today, so I think I’m going to throw to Jessica, our movie director and one of our EPs, just to make some final remarks and give us some final thoughts.
JESSICA HARMON: No pressure or anything. Thank you, Noelle, amazing panel, everyone. It was good to see everyone again.
I kind of touched on this with answering your question earlier, but having done this for ‑‑ not this specifically, but having been in the film industry for 27 years, I can honestly say that, you know, I love my job, I love being on set, but it’s not always the easiest thing to pull off. And I think Christmas isn’t always the easiest thing for everybody. Holidays aren’t the easiest time for a lot of people. And I know for Amanda, this movie was, you know, borne out of a very difficult time in her life and grief, and what she’s done with that is an incredible thing that the world has watched and seen. And I know every single person on this cast and every single person watching has also had difficult times in their lives. And this film, for me, I was going through something difficult prior to it, and it was such a wonderful, wonderful experience to make this movie. And I really, really do believe that the performances that these people gave really came from the heart. And I think the audience is going to recognize that and see that.
And, you know, Christmas isn’t always the easiest time for people. And I really do just hope that this movie coming from a group of people that has all had hardships and has all been through difficult times in their own lives and brought beautiful emotions to this story, I really hope that that translates for people. And in my opinion ‑‑ and I’m likely biased, but in my opinion, it really did. And anyone that I’ve shown the film to agrees that there’s just something really incredibly joyous about this.
And I think that, you know, sitting around at Christmas with your family, this is a wonderful movie to watch. Because if you’re in a great mood, it’s going to keep that great mood going; and if you’re feeling a little down, it’s something that you can watch and it’s going to elevate you because it’s just ‑‑ it’s a group of really, really talented, wonderful people who really put their all into it. And I think it’s something that everyone here can certainly be proud of. And anybody that worked on the film I know is very proud of it. And I just can’t wait for everybody to watch it and love it the way we love it.
So just thank you. And I’m just proud to be a part of this film. And seeing all these faces again ‑‑ I’m in Bulgaria shooting a movie right now. And seeing their faces, I’m like — I just feel happy. I think people are going to be happy to watch. So thank you.
NOELLE LLEWELLYN: Thank you for that. And, you know, that’s such a powerful message of triumph and hope and, you know, something that we all ‑‑ a lot of people do need at the holidays. So thank you for pointing that out.
And thank you all for being a part of what is an incredibly fun film. And we are very much looking forward to it. So thank you to our panelists today. We appreciate you.
And everyone, this concludes our CBS holiday collection press junket. I will be immortalized in your mind for the next year in this sweater. Do I regret it? No. We thank you for joining us, and we wish you all a very, very happy holiday season.
CBS ORDERS THREE NEW ORIGINAL HOLIDAY MOVIES FOR 2022
Award-Winning Musician Sheryl Crow to Executive Produce and
Write the Title Song for “When Christmas Was Young”
“The Talk’s” Amanda Kloots to Star in and Executive Produce “Fit for Christmas”
Prolific Holiday Film Writer and Producer Mark Amato to Pen
“Must Love Christmas”
CBS announced today that it has ordered three new original holiday movies to air in December 2022.
Award-winning singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow will executive produce and write the title song for WHEN CHRISTMAS WAS YOUNG, a Nashville music-themed movie from a script by screenwriter and bestselling novelist Robert Tate Miller (“Hope at Christmas,” Forever Christmas). The story follows a headstrong music manager in desperate need of a hit song for his last remaining client, who finds himself falling for a gifted singer-songwriter with abandoned dreams of making it big, as he attempts to secure the rights to a Christmas song she wrote years ago. Tom Mazza, David Calvert-Jones and Karen Glass (Everywhere Studios) will executive produce, together with executive producers Shawn Williamson and Jamie Goehring for Lighthouse Pictures.
THE TALK’s Amanda Kloots will star in and executive produce FIT FOR CHRISTMAS from writer and executive producer Anna White (“Christmas Wonderland”), the tale of Audrey, an enthusiastic Christmas-obsessed fitness instructor at a beloved, financially beleaguered community center in quaint Mistletoe, Mont., who begins a holiday romance with a charming, mysterious businessman, complicating his plans to turn the center into a more financially profitable resort property. The movie will be produced by Brad Krevoy’s Motion Picture Corporation of America.
Mark Amato, who has created a dozen holiday-themed films, including last season’s CBS Original movie A CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL, as well as “A Kiss Before Christmas,” is writing MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS. In it, a renowned romance novelist famous for her Christmas-themed books finds herself snowbound in the charming town of Cranberry Falls, where she unexpectedly becomes involved in a love triangle between her childhood crush and a reporter determined to interview her to save his dying magazine. The movie will be produced by Brad Krevoy’s Motion Picture Corporation of America.
In December 2021, the CBS Original movies “Christmas Takes Flight” and “A Christmas Proposal” were the first original holiday television movies to air on CBS since 2012, and the newest additions to CBS’ longstanding holiday programming slate, which includes family-favorites like The Thanksgiving Day Parade on CBS and the annual broadcasts of beloved animated classics, including “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
Proofread and Edited by Brenda