Photos: Hallmark Media
Ann Pirvu appears in “Undercover Holiday” a new, original movie premiering Saturday, December 4 (8 p.m. ET/PT), on Hallmark Channel (US) and on W Network (CAN) as part of the network’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” programming event. Ann portrays Margot, Jaylen’s (Noemi Gonzalez) best friend.
I had the opportunity to chat with Ann about her role, what she hopes the audience connects with and what’s next.
Kat: You’re in an exciting new holiday movie, how did you prepare for the role? Did you find any similarities between yourself and your character?
Ann: I’m very grateful to be a part of this beautiful project, thank you so much for chatting with me about it! It’s definitely exciting.
From our first table read, our incredible Director, Bradley Walsh, told us we were working on something “different,” and I knew exactly what he meant as soon as I read Nina Weinman’s clever “Undercover Holiday” script. Not only do the characters jump off the page (brought to life by a truly stellar ensemble cast, I CANNOT wait for you to meet the Rodriguez family) but…the MUSIC! It will give you LIFE! And the fresh, holiday twist, on this beautiful love story that blossoms among the mega pressures of being a breakout star in the entertainment industry —while juggling magical Christmas traditions with the family that’s shaped and facilitated the very essence of who you are as an artist. The scale of this project is truly amazing, and the lovely Noemi Gonzalez, who plays pop star Jaylen, struck such a perfect balance in her performance — her natural warmth, kindness and collaborative spirit was something I resonated with right away and it was genuinely wonderful to get to play her best friend Margot.
I felt so comfortable in this role and I actually did pull a great deal from my own experience when working on Margot because she’s the “rock,” as Bradley says; the steady hand, the bridge between the personal and professional worlds that collide for her best friend — and I truly love being that for all my friends. Consistent, honest, reliable; I love hard, lol, and tend to be pretty fiercely protective of my loved ones, so I found it particularly easy giving Stephen Huszar’s bodyguard character Matt… a tough time. Ha! I relished every opportunity to antagonize him, in creatively playful ways, just constantly looking out for my girl and making sure her big, beautiful heart was protected from all angles. I’m also her assistant in the film, and I immediately connected with how important it is to have someone who knows you, and is genuinely out for your best interest, also managing the whirlwind of your life in the public eye. There is a level of trust there that’s immensely important — even though the bodyguard’s literal job is to protect Jaylen, and even though Stephen really does give Kevin Costner’s The Bodyguard a good run for his money in terms of all the feels… everyone should have a Margot in their life.
I also happen to have a lively European family, in my own life, so Christmas with the Rodriguez clan felt like a natural fit. We built such a rapour with each other, so quickly, filming was an absolute riot —and there’s never a dull moment between takes with Juan Chioran (who plays papa Rodrigues) and kept us in stitches with his impressions.
Kat: Was there anything about your role that was particularly challenging?
Ann: Shooting Ontario fall to look like LA winter – ha! Kidding, our art team did an impeccable job dressing everything in chic and trendy ways, and the weather was even unbelievably cooperative for the time of year— we must have had the hottest day in east coast fall record when we shot the bits at Jaylen’s LA mansion, it was shockingly perfect. I spent a great deal of time in Los Angeles over the course of my career, so working on this project (and with Noemi, who’s an actual Angeleno) was a real treat.
Kat: What were some of your favorite scenes to shoot and why?
Ann: Soooo many! One of my favorites, for sure, is a Rodrigues family tradition… involving a live recreation of the nativity scene. There is WONDERFUL situational humor the incredible Nina Weinman wrote, where Jaylen’s pregnant sister-in-law happens to be playing the Virgin Mary… and, as you can imagine, goes into labour. There are amazing moments involving a baby Jesus doll I won’t spoil for you, but the scene is actually designed to show us, for the first time, the bodyguard’s caregiving nature and skillz… in action. Stephen Huszar will melt your heart.
Our in-studio opener scene was a true standout experience. It was actually the last thing we shot of the film, and a VERY long day… but there was such excitement in the room, and we shot cool walk-and-talk sequences with many moving pieces. Noemi is a brilliant performer (she was a knock-out in all of her concert scenes) but her look and her pop star vibe in the opener was KILLER!
I also really, really did enjoy giving Stephen Huszar’s character a hard time. Lol! There is such a fun scene at our small town bar called Hannigans where I instigate a sing-off. Much of the cast was in this scene, so it was an amazing day, but the question of how Jaylen and Matt met comes up and, of course, our bodyguard is undercover… so I have to lend a helping hand and make up a palatable meet cute story for them, so the family doesn’t get suspicious — It. Was. So fun! And there might have been some ad-libing involved…. epic scene.
Kat: Feel-good movies are more popular now than ever, what message do you hope fans take away from these types of movies?
Ann: If you ask anyone who truly knows me, it’s a bit of a running joke that I very much wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve always been a romantic, an eternal optimist, with a sprinkle of childlike wander about life at the core of who I am. And no matter what life throws my way, or how often I reinvent myself as I learn and grow, I’ve come to accept that about myself—I love hard. Ha! (I mentioned it before) and that’s ok! I am a wholehearted person, deeply rooted in love.
But the thing about that is… it’s not just me!
Human beings thrive in nurturing, loving environments. We seek meaning and purpose through connection with each other— and love is at the heart of what we are all naturally rooted in. So it’s not a surprise to me that romance films, romantic comedies and wholesome, family-friendly content is so sought after. I think we are hard-wired to gravitate towards it, naturally.
This genre is such a natural fit for me, so I feel very lucky to get to participate in this visual medium and create content that uplifts and guides us back towards the essence of what truly matters in life; what truly speaks to our souls… and what brings balance amidst the chaos that this journey of life could be sometimes. Staying rooted in love is the foundation that will always help us be the best versions of ourselves and aspire to that, every step along the way —every story is different, but I’m personally thankful for this message, this reminder to stay rooted in love, every time I watch a Hallmark film. And I hope everyone else takes that away as well :).
Kat: Do you have a favorite holiday movie?
Ann: “Home Alone” and “Elf” are two of my all time favorites, but my fiancé has introduced me to classics like the original “A Christmas Carol” and “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).”
What a special little film, I had heard the story but watching the film is just adorable. And more recently, “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
I had missed these, growing up in Romania; half my life was spent outside of the North American sphere with other wonderful Christmasy customs, but they are now annual watches in our household :) to immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of the holiday spirit.
Kat: Do you or your family have any special holiday traditions?
Ann: I feel like the older we get, the more meaningful bits of the holidays become the actual time spent together — life can get so busy, but quality time fills up your cup like nothing else.
My happy place is spending the holidays with my family, extended family and friends!
Christmas Eve, however, is definitely a big deal in our Romanian family. My mom insists we sing carols, gathered around the Christmas tree, and prep a yummy traditional Christmas meal together.
Now, what I remember most about the holidays growing up in Romania, which I feel like North American kids would really enjoy— is the arrival of THREE (yup, you heard that right) 3 “Santas.” BIG incentive for good behaviour throughout the whole month of December guys, LOL!
Santa Nicholas would kick things off December 5th. Kids— better shine those shoes well and leave them by the front door if you’re hopeful for some yummy candy treats in the morning (not coal, that’s for the naughty ones).
Then, of course, Santa Claus is the headliner—
I wrote letters, I was nice, and Santa Claus always delivered! In fact, my parents have never dispelled the magic of this larger-than-life gift-giver… to this day. Somehow presents magically still appear under the tree, for all, sometime before Christmas morning (: and that is a tradition I hope to continue with my kids one day, and is specific to my family for sure, so I’m very grateful for that.
And of course, let’s not forget Santa Gerila—our New Year Santa; delivering yummy treats or books (or simply good wishes/good energy) into the new year.
BAM— 3 Santas! Highly recommend it xox
Kat: What’s next?
Ann: I feel incredibly blessed to have a number of projects either currently airing somewhere, or on the way to your screens. Undercover Holiday premiers December 4 on Hallmark in the US and W Network in Canada. Another beautiful MOW I worked on called A Tiny Home Christmas air on W Network December 11, and just recently premiered on UPtv in the States.
There’s been an exciting development at the American Film Market last month for a psychological thriller I worked on called Around Robin. It will get a limited theatrical run in the US next year before it transfers over to a streaming platform, the details of which should be announced in Variety soon! And I’ve got upcoming thrillers The Path of Totality and A Dangerous Romance slated for 2023 I hope you will keep an eye out for.
On a personal note, what I’m most looking forward to next year is embarking on a beautiful new chapter with my best friend. We’re just under a year away from adding some magical vows to our own love story, and I’m excited for a planning process… rooted in love :)
Connect With Ann: https://www.instagram.com/annpirvu