Hallmark star Antonio Cayonne joined Chelsie Overocker from the House of Hallmark to discuss his new movie Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing and playing a lead role in the Christmas in Evergreen franchise.
Antonio is ready for the holidays with his tree set up in the background and wearing a Christmas sweater.
“Yeah! This is my Drake Christmas sweater!”
We love that you are dressed for the occasion and the perfect attire for talking about your new Hallmark Christmas movie. Can you tell us what we can expect in the new installment of Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing? We’re hoping Elliott and Hannah are still together!
“At the end of three, obviously, we saw these two little lovebirds, these two people who have known each other their whole lives to have been best friends, perhaps slightly pining after each other to take a risk and get together. Yeah, movie four picks up right where we left off, with the two of them deep in the relationship and deep in the feels. It really is like a match made in Evergreen that two of these people found each other, took a risk, and it worked out. What we’re also seeing this year is where watching the two of them come into their own. From a business point of view when they are each seeking out purpose. They are each trying to figure out how to make their mark. They’re trying to figure out where the ceiling is. What they’re pushing up against. What they want for themselves and for each other. So we’re going to get to see Hannah setting up a museum, and we’re going to see Elliott building up the Tinker shop. Figure out where those two things that are pulling them and where the relationship is positioned in between.”
That’s great that the story is picking up right where we left off at Christmas in Evergreen: Tidings of Joy. We are looking forward to watching Elliott and Hanna’s relationship develop. We are also big fans of Michelle [Holly Robinson Peete] and Thomas’ [Colin Lawrence] relationship as well.
“Michelle and Thomas are getting married. So watching the wedding preparation, Michelle is obviously in town, and Thomas is up at the logging camp. We are seeing Michelle and Hannah and Carol (Barbara’s character) and Ashley’s character..where seeing them all kind of show up for this wedding that everyone is so excited about.”
We are excited, too, and it sounds like a good storyline. Who knows, maybe Michelle will persuade Hannah into wanting to get married. The next movie could center around Hannah and Elliott’s wedding. (Fingers Crossed)!
So we’re assuming you don’t need to fix any snow globes in this movie.
“We broke and fixed the one snow globe [laughs]. Frankly, Elliott has in his expansion he has handed off some of his tinkering duties because the shop is getting really big. So he actually invited Henry Miller into the shop because he’s the handiest person in town. He’s also quite handsome. [laughs] So you have a handsome Henry Miller working the Tinker shop too.”
Can’t wait; we are looking forward to seeing Henry playing a handsome handyman and be on standby for any broken snow globes.
Without giving too many spoilers, Antonio is excited for the audience to watch one scene with Elliott and Hannah [Rukiya Bernard] that ties in with the third movie, Tidings of Joy.
“Any scenes between us are lovely. Rukiya and I are pretty lucky to have this wonderful chemistry with each other. We feel like we live in a space of truth when we are together. There is one scene that was very hard to walk away from. Everything to the time we called cut. So that’s the scene that I’m the most excited to see myself and to share with people. Antonio continues, “I know last year the scene at the piano kind of became a real example of who these two actually are. We do get a little glimpse of them sitting at the piano again, and what I like about it this year is that when they sit at the piano this time, you have a sense of history because we already did it. Then it offers a new lens of what we are going through, and I’m really excited for people to see what it looks like when best friends who love each other go through an obstacle.”
It makes the couple come across as more relatable. We are used to seeing the man and woman meet for the very first time and then start to develop a love connection. But there are so many people who started off as friends that turned into something more.
“Yeah, I think that reliability, you just nailed it. I think that relatability comes from watching them have to deal with something deep and something that has history. Oftentimes if you think of two people who have just met. The misunderstandings, you can have a misunderstanding almost over anything because you really don’t know each other and you don’t have a benefit of the doubt system. You don’t know what to give them the benefit of the doubt on. But with two people who really know each other, when there is a mistake in communication, it’s big, and it’s often not wanting to say something or not wanting to ask something because something inside of you is telling you that it’s going to go wrong. I think that is something that a lot of audience members would have gone through.”
Good point and there are benefits to dating your best friend. The communication is already there, and you will know how to handle certain situations because you know each other.
Antonio also had the opportunity to get to know Holly Robinson Peete while being part of the Christmas in Evergreen franchise. He shares how the lessons that he has learned from her while working on the set together.
“It’s incredible. On set, I try to keep my cool and try to keep my composure. Holly is extremely grounded and down to earth. I honestly speak of her like to my friends and family as black American royalty. I think her family in my opinion in some ways, is the first family of entertainment in the states. I know she’s not the beginning of it necessarily, but her parents were informed by the generation before them, and her parents showed up and did something really impactful. Even her father being on Sesame Street was the first time a lot of people would have seen someone that looked like them on a show like that, and space was made. She had this giant behind her, and she climbed up and stood on the shoulders and has gone on to become her own giant. Whether that’s through acting or through advocacy or ally ship or spokesmanship. Whatever it is she chooses to do, she really casts a pretty long shadow, and yet you don’t find yourself in the shadow in darkness. Her shadow is filled with light. It’s a remarkable thing..and should be a lesson that if you’re on set with her, you’re learning from her behavior.”
What a great mentor! We’re glad that you have enjoyed working with her and have learned some valuable lessons from her. Especially since Hallmark keeps boarding their horizons and providing more opportunities for diverse actors. Are you excited about this new direction Hallmark is going into?
“I’m thrilled about the new direction, and anybody who has listened to me before has heard me talk about representation. It has been a conversation that has been alive my entire life because of my own lineage and the work my father did in the world, and how my parents set me up for the direction I’m going in. So when I look at the lineup from Hallmark, I’m really proud to be a part of it this year, but if I’m being honest, the thing I’m most curious about and most excited for is what’s next. I think casting is a wonderful place to begin. I think we really want to get excited about new directors coming into the fold. Women and women of color. New producers and executive producers, and writers.”
Antonio states that this Christmas in Evergreen is a good example of new representation. Not only in front of the camera but behind the camera as well.
“Zac Hug, who is the writer on Evergreen three, made space at the writer’s table for someone else, and he ushered in a woman of color. He ushered in Shari Sharpe to sit behind him, and in doing so, he brought in a wealth of lived experiences. So when you watch this year’s Christmas in Evergreen four, you’re going to see conversations between Rukiya and Holly. There is a new person that comes to town, the actor’s name is Marci T. House. You are going to watch conversations between Marci and Holly that are so authentic, and this is the reason why. There is a person in the writer’s room sitting at the table who knew how to write that story. So it’s just not about getting the faces out there, which is monumentally important, and I’m so excited that Hallmark is taking this step, but it’s also about taking it further. It’s about shifting power, so more voices and more representation is at the table behind the scenes.”
We agree, and we’re excited to see what production looks like in the next few years. What role would you like to play next with Hallmark?
“ I would love to be in a Valentine’s Day movie. That’s my jam. [laughs] I’m also a dad. I have a two and a half year old. I’m biracial. I’m in an interracial relationship, and I would really love to show up on camera and live out that story. I would love to be partnered with somebody who doesn’t look like me. If I got to be a single dad, I think it would be beautiful to have a kid that looks more like my kid, who doesn’t show up in the world like I show up in the world, and we look different. To have that be part of the world and without it having to be a thing because, in my life, it’s not a thing. Those are the places I would like to go while telling the same formula that Hallmark does. Right? Which there is an element of happily ever after, and I think it can get more difficult, but it can still leave us on this upswing because that is what we are looking for in this network.”
Exactly! That’s why we love Hallmark. We are sure you will land a lead role in a Valentine’s movie very soon, and when you do, we will have come on the House of Hallmark again to talk about it!
Thank you Antonio for chatting with us about Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing premiering Saturday, December 5th on the Hallmark Channel.
“Thank you Happy Holidays!”
Make sure you all are following Antonio on IG @antoniocayonne and Twitter @cayonne to keep up with his latest projects.
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Watch the full interview here: