Ariana Ron Pedrique and Rodrigo Massa star as Gaby Diaz and Alex Alvarado in Merry Textmas. The new holiday movie will premiere on Sunday, December 4 at 8/7c as part of Lifetime’s “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime.”
Gaby Diaz (Ariana Ron Pedrique) is an app developer from Austin, Texas, and the last unmarried sibling in her very close and very traditional family. Every year, the Diaz family gathers at abuela’s house in Oaxaca, Mexico, a town renowned for its “12 Challenges of Christmas,” which playfully ignites the entire town’s Christmas spirit. When Gaby accidentally adds Alex Alvarado (Rodrigo Massa), a handsome graphic designer who’s lost touch with his own Mexican roots, to the family group chat, her well-meaning family decides to secretly invite him to join them in Oaxaca for Christmas. As they begin to play matchmaker for Gaby and Alex, can the Diaz family help Gaby and Alex recognize that each of them is actually the other’s perfect Christmas present?
I had the chance to ask the actors about the authentic Latino representation portrayed in the film, what they learned from their characters, their favorite thing about the holiday genre, and more! Keep reading to find out what they shared.
What did actually filming in Oaxaca, Mexico add to the experience?
Ariana Ron Pedrique: Oh, it was so special! Oaxaca’s architecture, food, streets, and of course, its beautiful people welcomed us with open arms adding veracity and soul to the film. I truly believe the film wouldn’t have been the same without it.
Rodrigo Massa: It added so many different colors and flavors to Christmas! Having lived in Mexico for so many years, it was very emotional for me to go back and see our set fully decorated with papel picado, alebrijes hanging from our Christmas trees, the smell of ponche navideño… if there is a place where you can fully experience Mexican traditions, that’s Oaxaca. Lifetime couldn’t have chosen a better city to film Merry Textmas.
When it comes to representation, what is the first thing you look for in the script and characters?
Pedrique: Authenticity is always key for me. With over 20 countries in Latin-America we all need to be able to see ourselves represented on the screen and behind the camera as well with original characters and content. This is crucial in both film and TV because this is the most effective reminder that we are all worth being seen. And I must say, one of the very reasons that made me want to be part of this film was that Merry Textmas is the first Lifetime movie with an all-Latino cast and crew! We worked hard to hopefully open doors for the next generation of Latinos to come. It was an honor for me to be part of this.
Massa: I am very picky with the language that is being used. I have come across so many scripts that are trying to represent Latinos, for example, but with words and expressions that we just don’t use. Not the case here! Timothy Kuryak did an amazing job capturing even the most subtle nuances intrinsic to Mexican Christmas. My fellow Latinos will be impressed!
What do you hope the movie gives viewers this holiday season?
Pedrique: I hope they enjoy the film! I really hope Merry Textmas brings them joy, lightheartedness, and happiness. We have all gone through so much these past couple of years with the pandemic that I think this is exactly what we need right now. I am also very excited for the viewers to dive into our Latin-American culture a little bit more and learn how we celebrate the holidays.
Massa: I hope that when the final credits start rolling they all say, “Hey, let’s spend Christmas in Mexico next year!”
Is there a message or lesson that you personally took away from either the film or your characters?
Pedrique: One of the things that Gaby (my character) and I both share is the love for our family and the need to control everything! And I’m grateful for this film because it personally taught me so much on so many levels! I learned how to trust my gut feeling, to let go of control, to surround myself with the people I want to work with, and most importantly to enjoy life with my loved ones.
Massa: Having left my country at the age of 20, I relate to how we sometimes forget what it feels like to be home. We adapt to a new culture and then get too caught up in our daily lives, always in a rush… I’ve gone up to 5 years without going back to Brazil at all. And then when I do go, I can notice the difference in my breathing pace, the constant smile on my face, how peaceful I feel. Alex taught me that I can’t take it for granted. I need to make time to travel back home more often!
What are some of your personal favorite holiday films or shows?
Pedrique: Honestly, I am a sucker for Christmas. I’ve always been! So, I love everything from Harry Potter, Home Alone, The Holiday, A Christmas Carol, Klaus, and most recently Spirited.
Massa: I know Home Alone and Love Actually by heart, obsessed with those two. You can quiz me any day!
What do you enjoy most about the holiday genre as either an actor or viewer?
Pedrique: The holiday genre always helps me regain perspective of what really matters in life. We all tend to work so hard all year long, focus on what we want to achieve, and then Christmas comes and it’s the best feeling in the world for me! To just let go of everything, being grateful, and simply enjoy with the people you love the most. Nothing else matters that much.
Massa: I love how playful and goofy we get to be on set. Creating those lighthearted moments that we know most people will watch with a smile on their faces. I’m also a big fan of happy endings! There’s nothing like turning off the TV and going to bed after watching a film where everything turned out okay.
What is the one thing or tradition that always gets you in the holiday spirit?
Pedrique: Listening to Venezuelan Gaitas – our Christmas music – always gets me in the holiday spirit! Without a doubt. Putting up the Christmas tree, cooking with my family, gaitas in the background, wearing our pj’s all day long— never fails!
Massa: Singing! I always look forward to having the whole family gathered around the piano, singing our favorite Christmas carols.