First look at BET's The Christmas Lottery, which features an LGBTQ couple and a mother with dementia
BET is betting that you'll be seeking out extra Christmas cheer in a year that has seen everyone spending more time than usual by the fireplace due to the pandemic. The cable network, which entered the burgeoning holiday-TV movie game in 2018, is offering up three new flicks in December, and one of them is set to hit the jackpot. Premiering Dec. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, The Christmas Lottery features the promise of a multimillion-dollar windfall. It's also the network's first-ever Yuletide movie with an LGBTQ couple among its main characters. And it includes a matriarch who's battling dementia. Plus, there's a gummies side plot that takes a few characters higher than Santa flying through the sky.
The movie stars Reginald VelJohnson as Gerald, who wins a $10-million lottery and informs his three daughters — Diedre (Asai'h Epperson), Nicole (Brave Williams), and Tammy (Candiace Dillard Bassett) — that they must mend their broken relationships with each other if they want to share in the riches. There's just one problem. Well, a few actually, but here's a big one: Their lovely mother and Gerald's wife, Diane (Kay-Megan Washington), suffers from dementia and has forgotten where she hid the ticket. Can this family heal its rifts and find the ticket in time for Christmas? Or is it totally fine if they don't wind up locating the ticket, because the richest reward of the holiday season can be the love of a family? (That's debatable, but reconnection is a whole lot more fun with stacks of cash under the tree.)
Big money stakes aside, the movie is designed to a reality rarely reflected in holiday TV movie land, according to Christmas Lottery writer and executive producer Angela Burt-Murray. "One of the great things about working with a network like BET is they're not looking for a cookie-cutter Christmas movie, no pun intended," she tells EW. "They really want to tell an authentic story and something that people can really relate to. Everybody doesn't have a picture-perfect Christmas. It's the drama of the holidays. It's the family relationships. And it's also the real-world challenges that people are facing."
To that end, a matriarch struggling with dementia felt like a relatable story — "a family figuring out how to best support their loved one during the holiday season, as well as for families to figure out how to prioritize when you're faced with a challenge like this," sums up Burt-Murray. "What's really special is the beautiful relationship that Gerald has with his wife and how he is grappling with how to care for her as her memory starts to deteriorate. They have this beautiful scene where she talks about, 'I don't want to forget you,' and he's saying, 'I'm not going to let that happen.' He's just this really loving, supportive, devoted husband who's challenged because he's watching the love of his life slip away."
That angle resonated with MarVista Entertainment senior VP of development and production Larry Grimaldi, who's also an executive producer of Christmas Lottery. "As we're really looking at what makes a family, we realize that there are a lot of family members — sometimes parents, sometimes grandparents — who have early-onset dementia and Alzheimer's, and they are a part of the fabric," he says. "There is a fear and an anxiety about how to deal with those family members. And we wanted to make it a positive experience for people to say, 'It's okay to come home. It's okay to have different people in the family at the Christmas table and feel like we're not sweeping anything under the table.'"
Which brings us to Diedre and her wife, Belinda (Phylicia Morgan). While the TV industry has been painfully slow to portray same-sex couples on screen in Christmas movies, 2020's slate is making strides. In addition to The Christmas Lottery, LGBTQ characters also factor into main story lines of such films as Lifetime's The Christmas Setup, Hallmark Channel's The Christmas House, Hulu's Happiest Season, and Paramount Networks's Dashing in December. "I wanted it to reflect the people that I see in my family," says Burt-Murray. "Our LGBTQ couple was a couple that I recognized in my family and that I wanted to celebrate. They're just an adorable couple that people are gonna fall in love with. And I think it's important that we have this representation — and not just as funny side characters, but as a really impactful and important narrative in the story."
More specifically, the story centers on the fractured bonds of the three sisters, which involves Nicole and Tammy not attending Deidre and Belinda's wedding. "While it's ultimately somewhat of a misunderstanding, it's a choice that two sisters made that really hurt one sister that she hasn't been able to get over," Burt-Murray says. "What they have to learn is that you have to be there for one another, even when it isn't convenient. It's important to her because not only is she getting married, she's marrying a woman and she's like, 'Were you ashamed of me?' Or what really was that issue?"
As if that weren't enough drama to contend with, The Christmas Lottery finds comedy in everything going to pot, literally. "One of the sisters' boyfriends [Spyder, played by Terayle Hill] may bring home a little recreational edible marijuana," teases Grimaldi. Adds Burt-Murray: "We had the opportunity to explore some special holiday edibles that lead our story down a very interesting path. It's something that a lot of people, um, enjoy. And our characters are no different."
You can preview the action in the first-look photos, as well as the trailer above.
- The Lincoln Lawyer season 2 first look introduces Lana Parrilla, Yaya DaCosta
- Finn Wolfhard says financiers thought he was too young to direct his slasher comedy
- After Heartstopper, Coven of Chaos star Joe Locke shows he's more than just 'sickly sweet'
- Ariel Winter thinks her Stars on Mars competitor Lance Armstrong is late astronaut Neil Armstrong: 'Google him!'