Mario Lopez on Recruiting His Mom & Daughter for ‘Holiday in Santa Fe'(VIDEO)

Family is at the heart of Lifetime’s Holiday in Santa Fe, in more ways than one.

After the death of beloved artist Milagro Ortega, known for her Mexican ornaments and holiday decor, her business-savvy son Tony (Mario Lopez) entertains an offer to sell the family shop to a Hallmark-like chain. To close the deal, determined exec Belinda Sawyer (With Love’s Emeraude Toubia) will need to win over Tony’s sweet father José (Efrain Figueroa) and skeptical sister Magdalena (Aimee Garcia).

Meanwhile, Tony tries to open Belinda’s eyes to the charms of the New Mexico capital at Christmas. Cue the chili pepper-eating contest: “We were eating [real] hot chilis…for the first few takes!” reveals Lopez, who notes that he loved being able to showcase the historic city’s culture. “Not beating you over the head with a tortilla by any means, but just a sprinkling of flavor.”

The location is unique for a Christmas movie, but Lopez is now a seasonal staple (Santa Fe even gives a shout-out to his 2020 flick, Feliz NaviDAD). Still, this particular project is special to the dad of three: It costars his daughter Gia as Tony’s spunky 10-year-old niece, Frankie. “She came up with the little TikTok dance in the movie,” he boasts.

And there’s a third Lopez in the credits. “Every time there’s a picture [of Tony’s late mother], it’s my real mom,” he says, quickly adding, “She’s very much alive! I like keeping everything in the family.”

Holiday in Santa Fe, Movie Premiere, Friday, December 10, 8/7c, Lifetime