Janel Parrish stars as Brandy in the new holiday comedy, Christmas is Canceled. The film will be released December 17 on Prime Video.
I had a wonderful chat with the actress about how this character is different from her other roles, being able to improv for the film, her favorite on set memories, what she is most excited for fans to see when watching Christmas is Canceled, what dream genre is on her bucket list, and much more! Keep reading for everything she shared with me.
First off, I want to say that the film looks absolutely hilarious. It’s so nice to see you in such a different kind of role. I love all of your work, of course, but this role looks so interesting.
Janel Parrish: Yeah, honestly, I’ve seen it and it is so much fun. It’s just hilarious, but there’s also a lot of unexpected heart to it as well and it’s gonna be knee-slapping, holiday mayhem.
I’m not gonna lie to you, I am so excited to see you and Hayley share the screen together. I’m such a fan of both of you and the dynamic between your characters looks great. What was it like creating that?
It’s so easy. I mean, we never met before, but we sat together on the plane on the way to Chicago where we filmed it, and we just talked nonstop for the entire flight and really vibed. You know when you meet somebody, you’re like, “Oh, you’re my people,” like it just fits. That’s what it felt like with Hayley, so honestly, we were besties the entire time we were staying there. We were staying in the same hotel, we’d get dinner on the weekends and wine, and shut down the place. So working with her was just so easy and so natural. I just think she’s hilarious, we had lots of giggle fits on this set, because we’d ad lib a little bit and just crack each other up. It was a blast.
What attracted you to the role? Which aspects of Brandy were fun for you to play with as an actress?
Kind of what you said about how it’s different from any other role I’ve played, but it’s also like one of the closest to my personality that I’ve been able to play before so that was really fun. I got to wear my tattoos, be like a little edgy, have my nose ring in, and Brandy is definitely — like if I’m a four, she’s a fifteen. She takes things straight to the extreme, but we’re similar in that we’re very outgoing, we love people, we wear our hearts on our sleeve, we can be a little feisty, we mean well, and when we love, we love deep. I think it was fun to be able to play a role, like I said, where I could kind of tap into some of those things. I was like, “Oh, that is a little bit like Janel. I can insert a little bit of Janel in there,” but at the same time play a character that is so over the top and elevated that it’s just hilarious and really fun to be able to like play a girl like Brandy. She’s just a badass, she doesn’t give a shit, she says exactly what she means at all times, and I love that about her.
This isn’t your first Christmas movie, I actually got to watch your Hallmark one for this year (Coyote Creek Christmas) and it was great. But this film is definitely a change of pace from the holiday romance genre to just true comedy.
I was gonna say, if you see my Hallmark Christmas movies, this is literal and exact opposite. Of course, Christmas movies always make you feel good and this is no exception, but this is more about the comedy of messy family Christmas dynamics that I feel like all of us know in some way. It’s like Christmas Vacation, you watch it knowing it’s gonna work out, they’re gonna have a great Christmas, but there’s gonna be some hilarious bumps along the way. And of course, Hallmark is feel good at all times and I love being able to do both. I think it’s really fun that I just had a Hallmark Christmas movie come out and then a month later, this Christmas movie and they could not be more opposite. The characters could not be more different and I love that. That’s what I really love to do in this industry. I thrive on being able to put out different types of projects and play different characters. So, I’m really happy about that.
I have to imagine that filming this sort of movie gets you in the holiday spirit early because I’m sure you’re not necessarily filming them during Christmas and have to really use the setting around you to get in that mood.
No, it’s usually hot as hell when you shoot these Christmas movies. At least for Hallmark, right, it’s usually somewhere very warm and we’re piling on the coats. Christmas is Canceled was a little different in that we filmed that all the way in May and it was spring in Chicago. So it was actually kind of nice and fall weather, and I was loving it because I could put on my coat and not be like dying, stuffing ice packs in there. It was kind of nice, I enjoyed it. But yes, I’m such a Christmas person. I love Christmas so much. So to be able to have Christmas on set at any time of year makes me really happy.
Do you have a favorite memory or a specific moment that just makes you crack up when you think about it?
Oh, a couple. I would just like to say, I only talked about working with Hayley, but the entire cast was a dream, like truly a dream team. Our director, Prarthana Mohan, is unbelievable and she would just sort of be like, “Okay, we got it. So if you guys just want to play now, if you just want to improv,” and we’re like, “Oh no. Do you know what you asked? With these people, do you know what you’re going to get?” And those are some of my favorite memories. Some of them made it into movies, some of them didn’t, but like standing there with Dermot, who is hilarious, like we know him for playing a lot of serious roles, but he’s so funny, he’s so goofy, and he loves to improv. Hayley, Emilie Modaff, who plays Charlyne, Michael Naizu, and I, the scenes where we’re together and we’re just being goofy, trying things, and making each other crack up for every take are always my favorite. The beer Olympic scene in particular is such a fun scene and we filmed that in a very long night shoot, but we had so much fun just going for it, ad libbing, and playing off of each other that it didn’t even feel like work. We were just hanging out, being silly and I think it translates in the film. When you watch it, you can tell that everybody has chemistry working with each other because it’s real. We really did love being around each other.
Of course, I have to ask you about the improv aspect. What is it like when you feel free like that? I feel like those scenes can be the best result for the film sometimes.
Yes, it’s so much fun and I haven’t really gotten to do a lot of improv in a lot of the more serious roles that I play, like there wasn’t really a time for improv. It’s just kind of like you get yourself in the feels, you emote, you act, and that’s what it is. But this is one of the very few comedies I’ve done, true comedies, and I loved that freedom. I mean, again, Prarthana Mohan was just the best director to work with because she’d be like, “Great, we got what was on the page. Now, play,” and I was like, “Really, I’m allowed to do that?” How fun, and I’m doing it with people who do it often and are such giving scene partners. It’s the whole like, “yes, and” of improv. It was kind of my first time really getting to to do it and I just loved it. It was so much fun.
Christmas comedies are obviously part of getting yourself into the holiday spirit. Do you have a list of favorites that you have to watch before Christmas?
Oh, yeah. We’ve already watched a few. We started with Elf this season, obviously, that has to happen. Then we did Christmas Vacation, The Family Stone — I know Dermot is in it and honestly, I know everyone freaks out about Dermot Mulroney from My Best Friend’s Wedding, which I definitely did, but for me, the one where I was like, “I’m going to be working with Dermot,” is from The Family Stone because that’s just my ultimate favorite Christmas movie of all time and he’s so wonderful in it. So that’s a definite one. Love Actually, I’ve already seen that this season, and The Holiday. Yeah, we love them all. Also, Hook, which I know is not necessarily a Christmas movie, but they always played it around Christmas and it feels very Christmassy so that’s also on my list.
What you most are excited for your fans to see with this film? Obviously, you have the PLL fan base and they’re so passionate about that show, but it’s awesome to see them so excited about all your other work. I personally have loved seeing your career evolve.
You’re right, I am very lucky that I have wonderful fans who have followed me since Pretty Little Liars, and like to watch the fact that I do different types of roles and kind of dip my feet into different pools. I’m most excited because, well first of all, I’m so proud of the film. I knew the script was hilarious when I read it and then when they casted it, I was like, “Oh, great!” Then we were on set, I was like, “This feels good,” but it’s a whole other thing to watch the whole thing come together and just be like, “Yes, this is exactly how I dreamed it would be.” I just think it’s so funny, has so much heart, and I loved working with these actors so much that I think people are just gonna love it. But also I’m excited that for them to see like a different Janel than they see on their screen and one that’s like tapping into the more extreme version of my personality. That was really fun to kind of be like, “Well here’s a little bit of Janel that I can interject into this character,” and I don’t know if fans have really been able to see that yet. So I’m excited for that. I think they’re gonna love it.
Is there a dream genre or role that in the future, you’re hoping to check off your bucket list?
Yes! One thing that I I would love to do is a musical movie or musical TV show. I mean, I started out on stage, that’s where my heart is, and I’ve been able to do a lot of stage performances. I did get to sing a little bit as Mona, which was so nice of the producers to let me do because they know I sing, but to do like a true musical, maybe even a musical that I grew up watching that’s adapted like West Side Story — I can’t wait to see that, I’m so excited. Something like that, where it’s like, I know this musical, it was part of me growing up realizing that I wanted to be a performer; to be able to do something like that would just be bucket list.
You got to share the trailer for the film, so when you do get to release things like that into the world, what is it for you to see the reaction to it?
It feels so nice. I have so many wonderful people in my life who show so much support and that includes the fans. So, seeing them get excited about something that I’m excited about, it’s just very fulfilling. I hope and think they’re gonna love it as much as I did. So I’m very excited to see what people think when they get to see the film on December 17!
If you could choose a Christmas song to describe the film or your character, what would you pick?
Oh my goodness, that is such a hard one! Hold on, I’m thinking of all the Christmas songs. It would have to be one that’s like a little bit naughty and a little funny, but also has heart in it. There’s a new Kelly Clarkson song that’s called, “Christmas Isn’t Canceled,” which is hilarious, because when that came out, I was like, “Is that — that’s not in our film, is it?” That would be amazing — it’s not, but that’s pretty spot on. I’m gonna go with that.