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Lifetime's THE CHRISTMAS SETUP Q&A Interview w/ Cast Ben Lewis, Blake Lee, Fran Drescher & Ellen Won

Maj Canton - December 12, 2020





On Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 8pm ET/PT, Lifetime premieres THE CHRISTMAS SETUP, the network's first Christmas movie with an LGBTQ storyline as its lead story. New York lawyer Hugo heads to Milwaukee with his best friend Madelyn to spend the holidays with his mom Kate, who is also in charge of the local Christmas celebrations. Ever the matchmaker, Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick, Hugo's high school friend and secret crush, who has recently returned after a successful stint in Silicon Valley. As they enjoy the local holiday festivities together, Hugo and Patrick's attraction to each other is undeniable and it looks as though Kate's Santa-style matchmaking is a success. But as Hugo receives word of a big promotion requiring a move to London, he must decide what is most important to him. This is a warm, wonderful holiday romance … remember Love is Love.


The cast includes Ben Lewis and Blake Lee, who not only play love interests Hugo and Patrick in the movie, but are also married in real life; television icon Fran Drescher, who plays Hugo's mom Kate; Ellen Wong who plays Hugo's best friend Madelyn; and Chad Connell who plays Hugo's brother Aiden.


Last month TV Tango participated in a virtual Lifetime press event with the cast of THE CHRISTMAS SETUP. We edited the transcript for clarity and rearranged the order of some questions to improve readability.



Question: Did you feel any pressure as to getting this right as far as the first representation of a gay couple front and center in a Lifetime holiday movie?

Ben Lewis: When we read the script I think we thought it was really fun and sweet. It was just up to us not to screw it up. I think there was a certain amount of pressure to that because we've been together for 10 years, but we've never acted opposite each other. We feel good about what we did.

Blake Lee: We were really pleased to know that there was so much queer representation behind the film as well, our producers, writer, director and everyone was working really closely with GLAAD so we felt like all of the boxes that needed to be checked were checked by a lot of different people. And then when we found out Fran had signed on, we were driving and almost crashed the car. It was so incredible and we just knew that the LGBTQ audience would just freak out as much as we did.

Question: Were you cast before COVID happened?

Blake Lee: We were not cast before COVID. We found out only weeks before we left for Canada to shoot the movie so it was it was great because I think the walls of our house were starting to really close in on us and we were like this is an amazing opportunity. We get to work together, but also we got to get out of this house.

Ben Lewis: We were in the middle of like a heat wave in LA in August, so I think Christmas was kind of the last thing on our mind. So this was this was a really great opportunity to sort of like take us out of the reality that we were in and to sort of live in this like idyllic, alternate reality where Fran Drescher is my mother.

Question: Fran, being Jewish, did you ever think you would be starring in a Christmas movie?

Fran Drescher: I love Christmas and I love anything that is feel good and spreads joy and so I always get a Christmas tree, I always have friends over. They all bring ornaments and the Christmas tree that I always end up decorating with my friends and family. I was in lock-down for months. It was nothing but me and my dog. Then out of the blue Lifetime called and said, do you want to do this movie and if so pack your bags you going to Canada in a week. And I got my negative COVID test and my work permit and I busted across the border with my pup. It was great to be celebrating Christmas in September, and it was such a dear and lovely group of people. And actually, it turns out that Ben and I share the same birthday. So we got to celebrate with the cast. I'm very proud to be part of the Lifetime family. In fact, when THE NANNY was going, one of the first places that THE NANNY went after CBS was Lifetime. I had also done a little Lifetime reunion on THE NANNY on Lifetime, and I've always felt a connection to that network. And it's so nice that you know, for me, playing the mom of a gay son, and a straight son, having a gay son is as normal as having a kid with brown eyes. It's a non-issue. I just want them both to be happy and find their significant other. And in the movie I'm a much better matchmaker than I am in real life.

Question: What kind of discussions did you have about working together? Was it a lengthy discussion and did you think your first project together would be something kind of so important?

Ben Lewis: I don't think that this is something that we ever sort of pictured for ourselves. And to be honest, I think that the impact or the implications of it didn't really sink in until later until the announcement was made online and we could sort of like see the feedback, and it's probably good that it happened later, because otherwise I think we would have felt too much pressure --the weight of being the first or something.

Blake Lee: We were nervous because we've never worked together, we might have marital spats onset, and it's going to be so embarrassing. But I don't remember any like lengthy discussions.

Question: Ellen, why did you want to do this movie?

Ellen Wong: Anytime you get to work with your real friends is for sure a “Yes,” and a pleasure. I actually found out about the movie before my agents called me. It was Ben and Blake texting me saying this deal's coming in, by the way, so like that was a funny thing that they were the ones telling me before my reps were that something was coming my way where I would get to like spend Christmas with them and knowing that there are a lot of people that are from the LGBTQ community supporting us. I was just really happy to come on board and to be part of Lifetime's first LGBTQ Christmas film and it's just a film that is about a family and loved ones coming together like it doesn't play on stereotypes. It's about humans that love one another that come together that celebrate Christmas and we had the best time.

Question: What Christmas movies are your favorites?

Ben Lewis: My favorite Christmas movies still probably is THE MUPPETS CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Blake Lee: Growing up, my favorite Christmas movie was HOME ALONE. Also a favorite is LOVE ACTUALLY. I almost divorced Ben because when we had gotten married and I like I wanted to watch LOVE ACTUALLY over Christmas and he's like, I hate that movie. I was like, I don't know if I can be with you and so anyway, we just don't talk about it anymore.

Ben Lewis: And also, like about family in that movie, is like so rooted in love. They love each other so much and Fran loves her kids in this movie so much and you know his friendship with Ellen's character like everyone just like love so much love, and I feel like that was also a lot like the image.

Question: How do you avoid being competitive?

Blake Lee: I think it once we started seriously dating, we had a conversation where it was, you know, if one of us is up for a part, like seriously in the mix for it, then we wouldn't allow it. We would never go against each other. So I think that like on my first series I did was this show called Mixology. And we both auditioned for the same part. And then like we were just like OK, how do we if this happens again like what happens and we haven't had to drop out of anything, but we do audition for some of the same parts. I just feel like it's like if one of us gets the job benefits both of us.

Ben Lewis: As actors, employment can be sporadic, so as long as one of us is working we're happy. The other one gets to stay home with our dog – it's a pretty good deal.

Question: Ellen, how was your experience working on a Lifetime Christmas film in comparison to SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD, GLOW and DARK MATTER?

Ellen Wong: My God. I mean, first of all there a decade apart, but also Ben was in SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD as well. He played other Scott, so that's actually where Ben and I met. And so we've been friends since that, but working for Lifetime has been really amazing. And you know, to be on a Christmas movie. I mean, it's really the best time of the year. Unlike other projects where you really want to dig deep into like the nitty gritty of this dramatic darkness like this was a really nice refreshing project to be part of where everything felt cozy. We're just excited to go to work because we're in warm clothes all the time. We never had to worry about being cold, and it was just the warmth of the story, the warmth of the characters, the warmth of the people on set. It was just a whole different vibe entirely, and I think just being able to work on a Christmas movie in the middle of COVID was also, something that we were also grateful to be able to do.