With Christmas in full swing on the Hallmark networks, beautiful holiday movies are coming in hot and heavy.
Long Lost Christmas stars Taylor Cole and Benjamin Ayres in a story reminding us that this Christmas could be our last with anyone we love.
We had the opportunity to catch up with Ben to talk about the movie and a whole lot more.
You don’t have to be watching Hallmark to get your fill of Benjamin Ayres. This year alone, he’s been in several Hallmark productions, Family Law on The CW, The Bad Seed Returns on Lifetime, and The Kids in the Hall.
Ben says that while Hallmark operates in the vein of old Hollywood’s studio system, for other roles, he’s going through the audition process.
With Hallmark, “You just get a phone call, and you’re matched up with somebody else. The first inquiry is ‘Who wrote it?’ ‘Who’s starring in it?’ ‘Who’s directing it?'”
“I made a joke the other day about it being the Batman signal. You’re just going about your day, and then a phone call happens, and the next week you’re in Vancouver starting a movie,” Ben laughed.
“The rest of the time, you’re just auditioning and waiting to find out if you’ve booked it or if you’re close to something. For example, Family Law. I did an audition, and then I had a callback, and then they flew me from Toronto to Vancouver to do a chemistry read with Jewel [Staite].
“Then I found out just kind of right after that they wanted me to be in BC for the summer, which worked out well Because I was already doing the Hallmark projects, and we like to spend our summers here. So the whole family came out and spent our summer in BC, which we love to do.
“With Kids in the Hall, Mark McKinney is a friend of mine, and I just got a phone call, ‘Do you want to…?’ And I said, ‘Say no more. I will literally stand in the… I’ll do nothing; I just want to see you guys make your art.’
“So I was very happy with the role, and it was a very intense experience, too, working on a comedy like that with such comedic legends. There was a lot of pressure, but Holy Moly was it fun!”
As you can see from the projects mentioned, Ben’s talent allows him to take on many different types of roles, which keeps him fresh. He considers himself lucky in that regard, especially since he was initially a comic actor who almost got pigeonholed in that arena.
“Comedy was always my thing. That’s what I always wanted to do. I always wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. I had a sketch comedy group. We did a lot of comedy.
“It’s what I love now about Instagram; it’s giving me an outlet to do comedic things on my own terms and have a channel to put them out there because I don’t get to do as many comedies as I used to.
After a run of comedy roles in Canada, he got an audition for the drama Saving Hope. “I remember when I had auditioned for it, and the creators really wanted me for the role to play this doctor in a dramatic series. The network was like, ‘Yeah, but he’s the goofy, funny guy from these other shows.’
“And they were like, ‘Well, I don’t know him as a goofy, funny guy. So we just like him as the dramatic actor that he is.’ So I feel like, at the right time, I got out of being known as just ‘The comedy guy.’ I went into dramatic stuff, and now people are surprised that I do comedy.
“Because I’ve developed such relationships over the years in both dramatic and comedy worlds, like producers, writers, and directors, I get to bounce back and forth, and they see me as both. Even though every actor can do both to some degree, it’s that I’ve had a lot of experience in both that I seem to get calls for that.”
If you’re a fan, you’ve seen how Ben leans on comedy as much as he cans, even if it’s a Hallmark Movies & Mysteries production. “I mean, [The Chronicle Mysteries] maybe not as much. When we were doing that, it was a little more serious, and we made a concerted effort to do that.
“We were trying something a little different, but at the same time, for sure, if they’re comedic bits, we were reminding them I loved to do that stuff. So it’s impossible to write something on a page that doesn’t even have a small laugh. If there’s the ability for a laugh, I’ll find it and have fun doing it.”
When it comes to Long Lost Christmas, Ben loved the script. His daughter described it to him best.
“My daughter put it to me the other day as we were walking to school, She’s 10 years old, and she says it’s, ‘You guys are promoting Christmas movies? Your Christmas movie is coming out already? We just finished Halloween.’ I said, ‘I know.’
“Then right after, she goes, ‘But I get it because it gives me such a warm, fuzzy feeling inside just at the thought of Christmas. It’s my favorite time of year. I don’t think it was one day, I think of it as many days as you can get out of that feeling inside.’
“She expressed what we all do who love Christmas movies, is you forget that that is baked in at such a young age, and to hear her express it in a way that we express it reminded me of just how, as I say, baked in it is. But also that it’s a real feeling of childhood joy.”
Ben was particularly drawn to the story of its message of family and hope.
“It’s going to be a wonderful film to watch with your friends and family, and maybe there’s a cousin or a brother or some relative who you don’t talk to as much as you wished you did. It’s going to inspire you to do that more. That’s something that I really loved about this movie in particular.”
Despite starting holiday projects early to get them done in time for Christmas, Ben says it doesn’t impact his joy of Christmas. While the Christmas elements are there and the set designs are incredible, it doesn’t have the same feeling when in between shots, they’re smack dab in the middle of summer.
“There are moments when it’s quite lovely. You’re like, ‘Oh, wow. This is beautiful.’ But you know it’s fake snow. It’s too hot out. It doesn’t feel right.”
If you follow Ben’s Instagram page, you know that he’s not kidding about losing the Christmas feeling when the director calls cut. He featured multiple posts of himself, Taylor, and her husband having a grand time swimming and boating. It’s not always that fun on set, he says.
“There are two reasons why this one was this fun. Taylor Cole. We just got along from the get-go. We had so many laughs we couldn’t keep a straight face. It was the first time I’ve also worked with a co-star whose husband was there. So he and I really got along, and we golfed all the time.
“My joke was Taylor was busy working. When she had time off, she got to come golf with us. And I was golfing every day, and when I had time off, I had to go work. So I spent a lot of time golfing with Cameron.
“But the thing that made this one in particular very special was that we shot it in Harrison Hot Springs, and we all stayed there, cast and crew. So it felt like summer camp. We were out there for two and a half weeks. There are only a couple of restaurants you can go to. They would make dinners, I’d make dinners, we’d go to each other’s places, and we all stayed together.
“It’s like this natural hot spring resort, so at night we’d wrap, and everybody would go to these pools that you can float around in. It was an experience I haven’t had on one of these, and I’ve had a lot of experiences on these. So it was like summer camp; it was so fun.”
It was so fun that Ben even had time to have a little more of it with some Hallmark fans who were watching them film.
When he had a moment, he turned on the camera and wandered up behind them, asking, “What are they filming over there?” When the couple turned around, they recognized him, and they turned out to be great fans of his work.
“Then I was so embarrassed that I was filming that. I turned it off, and then they were like, ‘I love you in Falling for Vermont. And ‘Oh, my favorite one is You, Me, and the Christmas Trees. We love Chronicles.’ The husband knew them all, and the speed at which they knew all the movies? I was just like, ‘You guys, that is so sweet.'”
While filming Family Law, Jewel urged him to get a TikTok channel, and he uploaded the video there and on Instagram. To his surprise, it went viral, building to almost 50 million views between the channels.
“It’s blowing up. I opened my thing, it’s like all these comments and things. So there’s this book giveaway that I was doing because I got all of us to sign it, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to post it tomorrow. I want the community to help me find her, so we can send her the book. I think she really deserves it.”
Ben’s hope is that through his engaged online community, they’ll be able to track down his megafans to share with them the cast-signed copy of Long Lost Christmas by Joan Kilby. “It’s like our own little Hallmark Movies & Mystery mystery. So I need you to go out there and find her and let’s see if we can, and let’s give her a cool birthday present.”
In the meantime, Ben hopes that the film Long Lost Christmas gives them the warm and fuzzy feeling his daughter so beautifully expressed.
“I think that people are going to take away from the movie the fact that family is really important around the holidays, and you’re never too old or too young to find new love, and when we keep ourselves open, no matter what the experience, cool things happen.”
It sure sounds good to me!
Long Lost Christmas premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Saturday, November 19 at 10/9c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.