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Christmas

Wingman Wednesday

Catherine Lough Haggquist

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Starring in two Christmas movies this holiday season, including “Jingle Around the Clock” premiering Saturday on Hallmark Channel, Catherine Lough Haggquist has been surrounded by festive fare since September. Excited to be a part of the seasonal content consumption traditions of television viewers, the Vancouver native promises her films carry more bang for your Christmas buck than one of those yule log videos that we all can’t get enough of.

We recently sat down with Lough Haggquist about her prolonged holiday season, the reason Christmas movies continue to excite audiences, and the behind-the-scenes magic that makes “Supernatural” so successful.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers here for a feel-good Christmas movie. You happen to be in two of them this year, “Christmas Pen Pals” and “Jingle Around the Clock.” Has your holiday season felt extended because we assume you’ve been surrounded by festive flare much longer than most of us given the production schedules of both films?
Lough Haggquist: I always love the holidays, so yes, it was great to get them started early. Usually, Christmas movies film in the summer, which makes it hard to get your Christmas jam on. In this case, we filmed “Christmas Pen Pals” in September and then “Jingle Around the Clock” just before Thanksgiving in November, so it just really felt like the holidays started early and haven’t really ended yet.

TrunkSpace: Projects like “Jingle Around the Clock” continue to grow in popularity each year, with networks like Hallmark being one of the few to build its audience. What do you think the draw is for audiences to tune into holiday films, especially in such an over-saturated market?
Lough Haggquist: I think holiday films are like holiday carols, in that they are a unique celebrations and representations of the season. In each case, you’re always looking for the new one that will become part of your holiday tradition. I know people who keep their TVs on holiday movies all day long, like other people play Christmas radio stations – as a nice way to create a holiday feeling at home – and besides, holiday films usually have better plots than the Christmas fire log video.

TrunkSpace: Television is well-known for having breakneck production schedules, but it is our understanding that films like “Jingle Around the Clock” make other television projects look like marathons. Does a quicker production schedule force you to approach performance in a different way? Do you have to try and find an understanding with your character prior to shooting your first scene?
Lough Haggquist: I think that in general when working in television, you have a shorter timeline to create than you would on a feature film. As such, you have to come prepared and in turn, you will work with others who are similarly prepared. In my case, I enjoy the fast pace, because it forces me to make clear choices quickly and it creates an interesting energy on set. The energy pushes all of us to do good work in a shorter time period. You have to bring your A-game and you have to come to slay!

TrunkSpace: Not only are we suckers for Christmas movies, but we’re also suckers for “Supernatural.” You’ve guested on the series twice over the years, playing a different character each time. From what we’ve heard, that is one of the smoothest-running series in the biz. What was your experience like working on that show at different moments in your career?
Lough Haggquist: The first time, I was a little bit thrown off by how much fun everyone was having on set. They were fully prepared and committed when it was time to shoot, but between takes, there were lots of jokes and the atmosphere was so relaxed. In television, the long days and time constraints don’t always lend themselves to that kind of working environment, so this experience was new to me at that time.

When I returned to “Supernatural” again, I knew what to expect, so not only was I welcomed back, but I got to be part of the fun, myself. I have no doubt that the show’s longevity is related in no small way to the fun and playful atmosphere that is created by the cast and crew.

TrunkSpace: How important are shows like “Supernatural” and “iZombie,” which you have also appeared on, to the acting community in and around the Vancouver area? Would it be a different landscape if such high profile shows like those and others were not actively shooting there?
Lough Haggquist: Having so many series available for actors to work on is necessary for the overall talent pool and sustainability of our creative community. With more work being available, it makes acting a viable career choice and I’m very grateful for episodic television as it’s offered regular work to myself and others.

That said, I think that the volume of film and television projects in Vancouver inspires all of us because it keeps the city vibrant with creative energy and makes everyone – whether we were actors, filmmakers, or another vital part of the industry – want to contribute and be part of it in our own respective ways.

TrunkSpace: As you look back over your career, can you pinpoint a single “big break” that took you to the next level, and if so, what was that role or project?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the project that was essentially my “big break” was when I was hired to be Holly Robinson’s stand-in on “21 Jump Street” because even though it wasn’t an acting job per se, it was the first time that I had ever had any extended exposure to the television-making process. Prior to that, I had only done commercials and a music video, and I hadn’t really had a chance to observe the process of making a television show.

That project was the first step for me towards building a meaningful network of people in the industry and there are friendships that I formed on that show that are important to me professionally and personally today.

TrunkSpace: Again, looking back over your career, what project or role taught you the most about the craft? Essentially, what job gave you more than a credit and paycheck?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the job that gave me a true insight into the craft while also offering me the most creative challenges as an actor was being able to inhabit the role of Nora on “Continuum” for three seasons.

The opportunity to work from the core of the character that we established and share her journey as new things happened around her was a great way to develop my own craft and give me many rewarding experiences along the way.

TrunkSpace: You founded Biz Books in 1996. How important has it been for you to maintain active interests in things other than on-screen work, and how do you juggle focus between the various endeavors?
Lough Haggquist: Since the beginning of my career, I have always been active in the acting and entertainment communities at large. Through this, I realized that there was a significant need in the marketplace for a local source that could provide creative types in Vancouver (and elsewhere) with essential books, plays, scripts and products that could help them along.

I started Biz Books because I wanted to lead by example in supporting my community, but my desire to support others in trying to reach their artistic dreams has also expanded into other work I’m involved with like teaching and coaching. If we aren’t supporting each other, we have already failed.

As far as focus goes, I enjoy the fact that my career has balance to it and that I’m fortunate to be able to shift between different challenges, endeavors and mindsets. Acting taps into skills that I have developed, while other activities like teaching or Biz Books bring out knowledge that I have gained that can assist others. All of these are equally rewarding to me.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lough Haggquist: The highlight of my career so far was having the opportunity to attend a fan convention in London for “Once Upon a Time.” While there, I got to meet a number of men and women who shared their stories about how “Once Upon a Time” and the characters we had created had brought them joy, entertainment, and most importantly, community.

I am still in touch with a number of people that I met there. The whole experience really re-connected me with the importance of stories and storytellers.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lough Haggquist: No, because the best part of this whole adventure is the journey, not the destination.

Jumping ahead would only show where I end up, not what brought me meaning along the way. I have arrived many places that were not nearly as amazing as the trips to get there. I want to discover and create, not anticipate and expect.

Jingle Around the Clock” airs Saturday on Hallmark Channel.

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Trunk Stubs

98º

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Artist: 98º

Tour: 98º at Christmas 2018

City Attended: Medford, MA

Venue: Chevalier Theater

Concert Date: 12-08-18

The Reason We Went: Discovering fun holiday-related things to do throughout the month of December always gives a shot to the arm of the ye olde spirit meter. The childhood-like nostalgia of hearing harmonized vocal renditions of Christmas classics is about as good as it gets in that regard, an audible tree topper on the entire season.

What We Thought: At their peak in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, 98º was a chart-topping, platinum-producing, hit-making machine. Lumped into the boy band craze of that particular time period, they were often compared to the Backstreet Boys, yet always considered themselves more Boyz II Men. Like its four members, the fans who adored 98º two decades ago have since grown up, but apparently absence has made their harmony-loving hearts grow fonder. Screams permeated the theater as the quartet delivered a two hour set of both holiday favorites and some of the biggest hits from their own catalog of music, which the mostly middle-aged crowd of women excitedly unwrapped like presents on Christmas morning.

Show Highlight: We’re suckers for the classics, especially the off-beat ones. The group’s rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was extremely entertaining, highlighting the fun that they themselves are having reconnecting with old favorites, both songs and fans alike.

For upcoming dates, click here.
To read our interview with 98º member Jeff Timmons, click here.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega

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Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

For all of those who made watching Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” an annual tradition, the holidays and dancing go as well together as ribbon and wreaths. In the new movie “Enchanted Christmas,” premiering Sunday on Hallmark Channel, real-life couple Alexa and Carlos PenaVega tap into that nearly 65-year-old classic to once again put festive frolicking into the spotlight, and warm the holiday-loving hearts of viewers in the process.

We recently sat down with the PenaVega pairing to discuss how their comfortableness with each other enhanced their onscreen chemistry, why they’d work together on every project if they could, and what makes Hallmark Channel the best in the business.

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of Hallmark Channel holiday films relies on the chemistry of the two leads at the center of the story. Do you feel like you had a leg up on that because of the actual chemistry that exists between the two of you?
Alexa PenaVega: I have to say that Carlos and I are the goofiest, dorkiest public couple out there. (Laughter) But it’s really fun and entertaining to watch, so I think it really does help. There are little quirks that you just can’t write into a script that happen naturally when you’re married, and we were able to add that to the project.

TrunkSpace: From what we’re told, things can move pretty quickly on one of these films – you get the job and you’re shooting before you know it. Again, having the existing relationship must have allowed you to really hit the ground running.
Alexa PenaVega: 100 percent!
Carlos PenaVega: And Hallmark is amazing. Unlike most other projects, they’re really flexible with the script, which really led to Alexa and I…
Alexa PenaVega: We were able to explore.
Carlos PenaVega: It really led to, because of our relationship as a real married couple, bringing things to the screen and to life that you normally probably couldn’t get.

TrunkSpace: How did it all come together? Was one of you cast first and then the other brought in?
Alexa PenaVega: It was actually Hallmark. They knew how much we’d been wanting to shoot a film together, and we actually had a film set up last year, “Destination Wedding,” and unfortunately Carlos’ shooting schedule didn’t allow it so he had to drop out. But, when this one came up, they were like, “We think this is great, the timing is right, and you both will be able to dance.” And I love dancing!

So, they really presented it to us and were really looking for a project for us to do together. And we couldn’t be happier because our goal… if we could make it happen, every project we could do would be together for the rest of our lives.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the dancing side of “Enchanted Christmas,” which seems like a great throwback to classic holiday films like “Whit Christmas,” something we don’t see much of anymore.
Alexa PenaVega: I totally agree. And you know, we shot this in Utah and everybody was so friendly and it blows my mind how much Hallmark movies just nail that Christmas holiday spirit – they have it down. And I think the script was special. Rick Garman did such a good job with it and more than anything, we had a director, Terry Cunningham, who just wanted that chemistry to be right there, up front. He’s like, “Look we have the script, the script is already good, but what you guys can bring to it will just transform it into a very beautiful project.”

This is my favorite Hallmark project that I’ve done thus far.

TrunkSpace: Because of that extra element of dance that was layered into your performance, did you have more time to shoot this than you normally would?
Alexa PenaVega: No, we wish. (Laughter)
Carlos PenaVega: (Laughter) Not really, no. We had about a week of rehearsals in the middle of filming.
Alexa PenaVega: For about eight dances.
Carlos PenaVega: Thankfully the magic of TV…
Alexa PenaVega: Editing!
Carlos PenaVega: You can have different angles that you can edit and it all looks great. (Laughter)

Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your characters, what did they offer you from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle with previous projects?
Carlos PenaVega: Definitely the dancing, for sure.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, we never had to put that into a project.
Carlos PenaVega: It was interesting. Alexa and I had never been on sets where… the call sheet is like one, two, three, four… we’d never been the one and two. So as actors, normally the one and two set the tone for the entire production. They’re the ones in every day. So as an actor, it was really interesting coming in, in that position, where it was like, “Hey, you know what, I’m setting the tone with my wife,” which was really cool. She said it to me… “It’s the best experience I ever had working on a project.”
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah. Ever, really.
Carlos PenaVega: It was cool to come in and kind of just, I don’t want to say run the set, but we set the tone from day one.
Alexa PenaVega: We both had experiences where we worked with other people who really… it takes one rotten egg in the bunch to kill the whole vibe on set. So, to be working with my husband… it did not feel like work. We had fun every day.
Carlos PenaVega: She said it in one sentence. I said it in three. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Christmas is for spending time with family and building memories. Here you two are, shooting a Christmas movie as a family and building memories in an entirely different way. It almost sounds poetic.
Carlos PenaVega: Yeah. I like Christmas. Alexa LOVES Christmas! And Hallmark is amazing about families. Ocean was on set every day and the experience of just having him…
Alexa PenaVega: That’s our little boy.
Carlos PenaVega: Just the experience of having our family there and then having a good time… I think yes, that’s gonna to stay with us forever. But what’s amazing about film is that it also lasts forever. We’re always going to be able to go back and watch this. Our kids are going to go back and watch this.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, and we also worked with a team that I would love to work with again and again. Terry Cunningham and our producing team, they are incredible. It was unreal. Normally when producers come on set, people are like, “Oh boy, the producer’s here! Here we go!” Ours, her name was Cindy Bond, was so kind and loving to everyone, but also got work done, worked super hard, and nobody had to yell. Nobody ever had to get angry. It was just a pleasant experience for everybody.

They genuinely care. It’s not like these productions where it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna slap this together and we gotta go.” They genuinely care about the happiness and quality that they’re putting out there and it shows. It really does show.
Carlos PenaVega: We haven’t had the craziest careers for years and years, but we’ve worked for some really big studios and companies, and I will say, Hallmark is my favorite. It’s Alexa’s favorite. They care about their talent. They care about their movies.

Enchanted Christmas” airs Sunday on Hallmark Channel.

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