The Real Love Story Behind Melissa Joan Hart’s ‘Mistletoe in Montana’ (VIDEO)

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Lifetime

Melissa Joan Hart is making Merry…literally!

In her latest holiday movie, Mistletoe in Montana, she stars as Merry Cartwright, a Big Sky wrangler who gets roped into an unexpected romance when a dashing single dad (Duane Henry, NCIS) and his kids (Hero Hunter and Mallian Butler) book a holiday stay at her dude ranch. This isn’t Hart’s first time at the Christmas-movie rodeo, but it may be the one closest to her, well, heart. She fills us in.

This story is inspired by actual events, right?

Melissa Joan Hart: I went to my cousin’s wedding, and this is kind of her love story. It’s the opposite, though: She went to the dude ranch, fell in love with a wrangler and then they ended up getting married at the ranch. Instead of ripped from the headlines, it’s ripped out of our real life.

How much experience did you have with horses before this?

When I was a really little girl, I could only afford one summer of riding lessons, but I was obsessed. And then in L.A., sometimes I would go on trail rides. Now that [I live in] Nashville, I was trying to get comfortable and talking to all the cowgirls. Everybody holds the reins differently, I found out. So I’m sure people will have lots to say about my horseback riding. [Laughs]

Duane Henry, Melissa Joan Hart in Mistletoe in Montana

Lifetime

This is the fifth year in a row you’ve starred in a Lifetime holiday movie. What keeps you coming back?

They allow us to go outside the formula a little more, I think. There’s a bit more comedy infused.

But every movie still needs to deliver that comfort.

People at Christmastime want a happy ending. They want to know the girl gets the guy. It’s hard to stray from that when it’s worked for so many years.

The ending of this film leaves the door open for a sequel. Maybe a Christmas wedding?

I would love to. You know what? I’m having lunch with the head of Lifetime next week—I’ll tell her you said so!

Who’s at the top of your costar wish list?

I’m madly in love with Donald Faison [from Scrubs]. We went to high school together. I had him on Sabrina [the Teenage Witch in the late ’90s], and that’s the only time I ever got to work with him. I’ve been trying to find any reason to [do it again].

Watch an exclusive clip from Mistletoe in Montana below, in which Merry has a heart-to-heart with her father about chasing her true love.

Mistletoe in Montana, Movie Premiere, Friday, December 17, 8/7c, Lifetime