'12 Dates of Christmas' Garrett Marcantel on Being Its Gay Lead & the Search for Love

12 Dates of Christams Garrett Marcantel
Q&A
HBO Max

What do you get when you combine the charm of a rom-com and the drama of a dating show with a sprinkle of holiday magic? For HBO Max, the answer is the reality dating show 12 Dates of Christmas. Shot in Austria, the racially and sexually diverse show features Garrett Marcantel, Chad Savage, and Faith Fernandez, who all hope to find love and someone to take home for the holidays.

TV Insider spoke with Marcantel, a real estate agent and developer, to learn more about his  Yuletide adventure. 

Melissa Joan Hart on Lifetime's Holiday Movies, & Working with Jason Priestley (VIDEO)See Also

Melissa Joan Hart on Lifetime's Holiday Movies, & Working with Jason Priestley (VIDEO)

The actress, who rules three Lifetime holiday flicks this year, talks starring, producing, and directing.

How did this opportunity come about? 

Garrett Marcantel: A casting person reached out to me over Instagram. They described it to me as a Christmas dating show. I was like, “A Christmas dating show? This is interesting.” Then I said, “Hey girl, I think you got the wrong guy. I’m gay.” She goes, “No, no, no, we are actually having a gay lead.”

I started the interview process and one Skype led to another Skype. Then they wanted to Skype with my mom, and before I knew it, I was in L.A. meeting the executive producer. 

Garrett Marcantel

HBO Max

What's it like to tell your story and to be a representative to the LGBTQ community? 

First off, I’m really honored. Second, I’m shocked it has taken this long to get here to be honest, especially when it comes to dating shows. I think it’s a really exciting time that we are finally in a place where you can be anywhere in America and can watch gays go through this dating process simultaneously like straights do. This is something I would never have thought I would be experiencing, but it feels right, too. 

Are the holidays a big deal at home? 

I grew up in Louisiana. We have a different type of Christmas — we have a Cajun Christmas. I moved away once I graduated high school, so the only time I would really come home was around Christmas. It’s a really important time for me to spend the holiday with my family. Bringing home someone for Christmas isn’t just a light decision. 

You know how these types of dating shows go, the emotional toll it can take. How did your family respond to the idea? 

I talked to my mom about it and asked her if she thought I should do this. She was so supportive about me finding love. Everything just fell into place. I’m a big traveler. My family is used to me going off to different countries. I think they were really excited for me. My mom is just so ready to have a son-in-law. She's like, “OK, it’s time for you to find the love of your life.” 

'Buddy vs. Christmas,' 'The Great British Baking Show' & More How-to Shows for the HolidaysSee Also

'Buddy vs. Christmas,' 'The Great British Baking Show' & More How-to Shows for the Holidays

'Buddy vs. Christmas,' 'The Great British Baking Show, and more to check out.

Had you been to Austria before? 

Yes, actually! I went on a ski trip with some of my university friends who are German. I had skied the Austrian Alps before. When I found out this was going to be in Austria, my first question was, can we ski? ... We started production in early February and wrapped right before COVID shut all the borders down. We were done by early March. We got very lucky. 

You staying in a picturesque castle where individuals pop in out of nowhere, keeping you on your toes. What did you make of the overall environment? 

I was preparing myself to have low expectations, to not get my hopes up. Once I arrived I was like, “What did I get myself into? This is insane.” The castle was beautiful. It’s a real castle. We don’t have anything in the States on this scale. When you’re living in it, then it becomes this interesting reality. Everything is decked in Christmas. You’ve never seen Christmas decorations like this in your life. Then you have all these people coming from all over the United States to the  Alps. You can’t help but feel the romance. It really is a movie scene. It was really beautiful. 

Garrett Marcantel on 12 Dates of Christmas

HBO Max

What is your go-to Christmas movie and rom-com? 

My favorite is Love Actually for Christmas. My favorite rom-com overall is How to Be Single with Rebel Wilson and Leslie Mann. ... I think both represent the full scope of real life stuff.

How much did you lean on Faith and Chad for support? Did it make the process easier to get through? 

We had each other throughout. That was perhaps the most crucial part of our journey. We were able to ask each other questions about what they heard about a particular person in the castle, if they thought a person was genuine. When we would decide on elimination night,  I used Chad and Faith. They used me as well to ask my opinion. I think we got very comfortable doing this throughout the show. At the end, it led us all exactly where we needed to be. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without them to be honest. 

12 Dates of Christmas

HBO Max

How hard has it been waiting for the show to air?  

We were not allowed to talk about it with people. My friends knew I was going somewhere. I’m excited to share that with them. This has been a crazy year. We started it thinking it was going to go one way and entered the show thinking we would go back to our normal lives. Then when we got back to the States it wasn’t. It felt like this crazy experience continued but in a different way. This is the perfect show to have right now. 

Have you mentally prepared to be in the public eye? 

As much as I can. I probably am in denial about. I like to think I’m a nice guy. I want to share my experience with everyone. 

12 Dates of Christmas drops November 26, HBO Max