‘Christmas Tree Lane’: Alicia Witt & Andrew Walker on Finally Working Together
That changed with Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Christmas Tree Lane, in which the two stars play a will-they-or-won’t-they potential couple. Witt’s Meg runs into Walker’s Nate (and keeps running into him) before she learns he’s partially why her music store may have to close; his company is seeking to redevelop Christmas Tree Lane. You can guess where the romantic complications comes in.
Here, Witt — who is also an executive producer and wrote an original song for the movie, Christmas Will Never End — and Walker preview their characters’ journeys.
Introduce your characters. What’s missing in their lives?
Alicia Witt: Meg’s going through a period in her life where she’s happy, but she senses that something is missing; not only someone special to share her life with, but also her music, which is a great big part of her soul and her spirit. She has long since stopped seeking a life where she’s making music professionally or seeking to be a recording artist for a living. She gets great joy out of working with her students and running the family music store they’ve had for generations, but such a big part of her identity is composing and writing songs and putting those out, expressing herself in that way, and, when we first meet her, that’s something she has squelched for quite a long time.
Andrew Walker: When you’re met with similarities in your own life … it’s like this exorcism in a way. Nate is very similar to me in a lot of respects. He’s constantly on the move, constantly got things happening, but he’s been trying to find some sort of peace in his life, hence him moving back home. His dad and him have been working together. He’s been going city to city, developing properties for his father. Kids in general have their issues from time to time with their parents and, in this respect, Nate and his father have butt heads for a long time. Nate is more creative. He’s trying to find a new sense of what his norm would be, just trying to connect with himself and his family.
Then he’s met with this challenge in trying to convince Meg this could be a good thing for her and her family, and also trying to appease his father. He’s been a guy that’s been on the run from facing reality and maturing, and [I’m] very similar. I feel like I only started maturing after the birth of my first child; I’m still on that journey. … I do meditate now, and this is something Nate would probably be doing as well, just trying to be a better version of himself and, when he meets Meg, she is the catalyst to him being [that]. That’s scary, when you meet somebody who has that much of an impact on your life.
What initially draws each to the other and keeps bringing them together, other than her friend playing matchmaker?
Witt: [Laughs] I’m just remembering how much fun we had filming those scenes with my friend just constantly shoving us together and vanishing. For Meg, a big part of this is what Andrew brought to the role of Nate and how he embodied him. It felt like there was some purpose Meg was aware of without even knowing exactly why. It seemed like she was supposed to be talking to this guy. The fact that they keep running into each other is meaningful enough. Meg, like me, is somebody that pays attention to coincidences that seem too strange to merely be a coincidence.
It’s such a strange time, where her whole life as she knows it is about to change with Christmas Tree Lane having been sold and everything she grew up with seemingly about to shift, so it’s true when she says, “I’m focused primarily on saving Christmas Tree Lane.” But at the same time, this guy’s coming in and causing her to feel inspired and alive in a way she hasn’t allowed herself to in a few years, and the fact that’s happening at the same time as all these other changes, her life is already so strange that it isn’t any more strange to have this wonderful, new human that’s shown up.
It is, for her, also very scary, and he’s also opening that door for her to start creating again and feeling inspired. For myself, when I meet somebody and all of a sudden I can’t stop coming up with ideas for songs that I know are largely about them, I know those are some big feelings coming up.
Walker: On Nate’s side, being challenged in a relationship is the best place to be. When you’re open to that challenge, to change, there’s something there. My wife and I own a business, and she challenges me, but as reluctant as I am sometimes, I am open to that. When Nate does meet Meg, he doesn’t really realize it, but she pushes him to be open and available and accessible, and that’s scary for anybody.
Alicia, what did you specifically want to showcase with that original song?
Witt: I thought the most important thing for Meg to express though that song is this sense that, whatever the future holds, it’s going to be alright and a large part of that has to do with Nate, and it’s all tied into the history and the memories of Christmas Tree Lane: her whole life spent there, her family, her closest friends. But then there’s this sense that this newness is now going to come in, and whether it continues on Christmas Tree Lane or elsewhere, he’s going to be a part of future memories and in so doing that, he’ll be a part of all the past memories.
There’s something about Christmas that ties together everything we’ve ever experienced anyway, which is what I loved about the idea of creating a story set in this world of vintage stores that have been around for over 100 years, and at Christmastime, we automatically find ourselves flashing back to where we were Christmas Eve when we were 4.
I wanted there to be a sense of hope, and what Meg would want, as I would want, in creating any Christmas song is something that hopefully whoever’s listening can relate to, even though it’s specifically about Christmas Tree Lane and our love story. And it’s also tricky writing a song like that because it’s too soon for, “I love you with all my heart and we’re going to spend the next 30 years together without question,” but it’s hopeful, saying, “I have a feeling, you could be all of this, and let’s go for it.”
You both have been in quite a few Hallmark movies, but you’ve never worked together before now. What made this one the right one?
Walker: That’s a question for Alicia because I feel like I just lucked out in being available and chosen for this role and taken on this journey with her, but she held the power in that.
Witt: Hallmark suggested Andrew. I knew of Andrew’s work but I just watched a few quick things to remind me, and I think it took me about a minute and a half to say, “Oh yes, absolutely, 100 percent, no question.”
Walker: Two minutes maybe?
Witt: Maybe two minutes. [Walker laughs.] It wouldn’t have been two minutes of watching time, it would’ve just been two minutes of searching time to try to find a sample of a couple different types of roles.
There’s such an obvious, genuine, playful, completely guileless, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, but also super-intelligent and deep, and a quality that makes you want to know more. I thought that Nate was such a complicated character in many ways to find the perfect spirit to embody because you need to not be 100 percent [sure] who he is at first, but you have to like him a whole lot, and you have to also question just a little bit where his loyalties lie when you find out his allegiance to Cloverfield.
But at the same time, you have to really root for him and believe what he’s saying is true and he really wants to save Christmas Tree Lane and there was every quality and more than I ever could have dreamed of in Andrew. I was so, so grateful he was available and able and said he liked the script. I like him even more now that we’ve worked together, and I truly can’t wait to do it again.
Walker: That’s very sweet, Alicia. I couldn’t have picked a better person to work with, honestly, coming back from COVID and this journey we’ve been on and both of us felt so grateful to be not only working but also working together. I had known of Alicia, obviously, for years, and I’ve seen her work many times, and to work with somebody like her, the caliber of game that she brings in every role, it was nice to see her work off camera and what goes into that and how devoted she is.
It felt like most of our scenes, even though there was a framework to it, we improvised a lot, and you don’t get that with somebody you don’t trust and feel has your back. I felt we could sit there and not say a word to each other and just feel like there was progress in the scene. I have wanted to work with Alicia, and I feel like this was the perfect time, the perfect project, and I feel so honored she supported Hallmark’s decision in bringing my name to the table. I would love to have another opportunity down the road to work with Alicia again.
I made a point of not listening to Alicia play piano or sing before we started this movie because I had heard through the grapevine that she was uber-talented, but I left it for the scene, when Nate and her are sitting there and she does a test run on the piano for me, and you’re incredible, Alicia. This movie is your quintessential Hallmark movie, but the added flavor of having her sing and play and the musicality this movie has in it is amazing. And it was nostalgic for me because every single holiday was based around music [for my family].
Christmas Tree Lane, Movie Premiere, Saturday, October 24, 10/9c, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries