Liza Lapira on the Delightful New Film MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS and Mel's Trouble Ahead on THE EQUALIZER - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Liza Lapira on the Delightful New Film MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS and Mel’s Trouble Ahead on THE EQUALIZER

December 9, 2022 by  

Must Love Christmas Liza Lapira

Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Liza Lapira as Natalie. Photo: Bettina Strauss/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Liza Lapira may be regularly playing the badass sniper Mel on THE EQUALIZER, but when viewers tune into the new CBS holiday film MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, they’ll see a very, very different side of the actress.

“What a juxtaposition, huh?” she tells Give Me My Remote with a laugh. “Literally, the last [shot from the latest] episode of THE EQUALIZER is me punching a guy in his face and pulling a gun on him. And then I can’t leave my apartment because I’m this socially awkward writer [in MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS].”

Lapira has long had an eclectic career, appearing in dozens of shows (including LAW & ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT, 9JKL, NANCY DREW, TRAFFIC LIGHT, and DON’T TRUST THE B) and films like CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE. But the new film allows her to shine in a lead role, as Natalie, a Christmas-loving writer who is struggling to move on after a personal hardship. As Natalie tries to get her mojo back, she finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle.

Here, Lapira dishes on MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, and gives a tease of what to expect when THE EQUALIZER returns…

How did you come to MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS?
It was brought to me; CBS came to me with the script. And it just so happened that I was on hiatus from shooting THE EQUALIZER—it was about a month before we had to come back to New York and start, so it fit perfectly into my schedule.

What were the perks and downsides to getting into the holiday spirit during the summer?
There was so much upside. I got to go to beautiful Vancouver and Squamish[, British Columbia],and so I got to have the bucolic view, but then I also got straight-up Christmas, because they went all out—there’s so many trees. We had a Christmas market, everything was decorated so perfectly. So I got the best of both worlds: I got to have fake snow and wind from a wind machine, but also enjoy a balmy weather.

You play Natalie, a novelist best known for her Christmas stories. Where do we find her when the film kicks off?
Where we find this character is post-very public embarrassment. And much like what can happen on social media these days, it’s very easy to get embarrassed and to be publicly shamed. And so after this horrible interview that she did that shamed her, we find her at the beginning of this movie, years later, still reeling from the embarrassment of that, to the point where she doesn’t leave her house, and she’s socially awkward.

Thankfully, she also has a bit of writer’s block…[it] is the thing that finally gets her out of the house, because her editor sends her to this small town for a fan event, and says, ‘You have to get out of your comfort zone and that will shake your writer’s block.’ And in this small town, she’s thrown into this love triangle with her ex high school crush and this new guy, this reporter, who keeps hounding her for an interview.

Must Love Christmas Liza Lapira

Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Neal Bledsoe as Nick and Liza Lapira as Natalie. Photo: Bettina Strauss/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Looking at Nick (Neal Bledsoe), the reporter, for a moment. What intrigued you about the dynamic with him?
I love the relationship between those two characters. Nick, it is at first antagonistic, because he wants something from her that she’s not willing to give—that she’s unable to give. He wants it for a selfish reason, and it’s not a bad thing, but he needs this interview to revitalize his magazine. And for her part, she’s just emotionally terrified.

So there’s some butting of heads there. What I love about the relationship most is because they share this career, this love of writing, they’re able to form this weird friendship. Based on that, he helps her with her writer’s block, unselfishly, and he shares a part of his story in order to entice her to share her story…he shares the worst moment of his life, she shares the worst moment of hers. And then a true friendship is born. There’s banter, because even when they were antagonistic, they’re both highly intelligent. So the way that they dig at each other is unlike anything I’ve seen and something exciting to play.

You also mentioned her high school crush, Caleb (Nathan Witte). How does he fit into her life?

I love the romance with this guy as well, because who hasn’t had an unrequited crush? And both Caleb and Nate who plays him, are like this quintessential dream guy. He’s a part time firefighter. He started a nonprofit for kids. He’s very handsome. Well, every guy in this movie is very attractive. But he just looks and sounds and plays the part of the dream guy, and I love that.

And they, too, form a friendship. And he is actually the guy that she confides in about the traumatic event. And so through his friendship, helps pull her out of that through. So Nick and Caleb’s friendship, not even romance, those friendships are able to pull her out of this coping mechanism.

Your character is also credited as being the writer of A CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL…which was penned by MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS writer Mark Amato. How familiar were you with that film before you booked this one?
I was familiar with A CHRISTMAS PROPOSAL. I had seen it, and then talking to Mark Amato, the writer of that and many, many others, then I found out that he had done several others. And I fell in love with the metaverse of it all…if you pull back the curtain, it’s kind of like in WIZARD OF OZ. I love the fact that those movies were the brainchild of this socially awkward, neurotic New Yorker who can’t leave her apartment. I think there’s something poetic and odd and cute about that.

I had a long talk with Mark about it, and he joked, “You know, Natalie is a version of me. All she does, as a writer, is Christmas-themed romance novels.” Because a large part of what he does so well are these Christmas-themed romantic comedies!

In the movie, we also get to see Natalie literally input herself into the story to figure out what’s next. What was it like filming those scenes?
Well, I thought that was inventive. I loved that Mark Amato and [director] Martin Wood had that image, quite literally, of her going in, and that’s how she figures out a) what to write, and b) how to fix how she wrote the ending. I thought that was a wonderful device.

And I think it really blossomed, because the audience was let in, as Natalie grew. There’s a scene where Nick helped her realize that she’s a strong person, that she’s an assertive person, and then they cut to Natalie putting herself in the last scene of her novel, and she’s playing the role as a stronger, more assertive person.

Must Love Christmas Liza Lapira

Coverage of the CBS Original Holiday Movie MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Liza Lapira as Natalie and Nathan Witte as Caleb. Photo: Bettina Strauss/CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Was there anything else, in particular, that stood out to you about filming the movie?
First and foremost, I have to mention what a wonderful experience I had. To be the lead in something is great. To be the romantic lead in something is great—that’s my favorite genre. And then a Christmas romantic lead? That ups it even more.

And then the fact that I get to kind of play every man—and to be someone that looks like me, and say that I’m playing every man, every woman? Who hasn’t been reeling from a really embarrassing incapacitating mistake, and then needed to come of age vis a vis a friendship or life experience. So it was really exciting to play and I hope everybody laughs and enjoys it.

Looking at THE EQUALIZER for a moment, we left Mel going all out, trying to save her brother. What can fans expect when the show returns in 2023?
It’s great, isn’t it? You get to see layers of her family and how that affects her. We get to meet her family, which I think is huge. The writers are so great about expanding the world.

Mel might not be with her family of origin anymore, she’s with a new tribe, her friends which are like family. But you find out that Mel has three siblings, two of which make it to the episode—one is overseas.

Her baby brother, in particular, is her heart. That’s the one who is in danger and that’s the one that she’s closest to. So you get to see Mel in a mama bear role of sorts, a big sister role; fiercely protective.

You also get a glimpse of what she looks like when she’s not fully together, which I don’t know that we’ve seen in the three years, because Mel is a pretty grounded character. So we get to see all these colors. We also get to see how she does all the aforementioned while having a rift, essentially, with her best friend Robyn McCall. How do they come together as sisters and solve this problem when technically they’re not speaking?

Intrigued by MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS? Watch an exclusive clip from the film as Natalie and Caleb reunite…

MUST LOVE CHRISTMAS, Sunday, December 11, 9/8c, CBS

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