Teri Hatcher and James Denton say A Kiss Before Christmas has a gift for Desperate Housewives fans
The two are reuniting on screen for the first time since the ABC dramedy ended, in the Hallmark holiday movie A Kiss Before Christmas (premiering Nov. 21). And with Hallmark's feel-good vibes, they say it's the perfect opportunity for fans of their Housewives characters, Susan and Mike, to see them finally get a happy ending. (Mike, as you might recall, was gunned down on his front steps in the final season and died in Susan's arms.)
"I think a lot about the fans, and when Jamie suggested that I could be in this movie with him, one of the first things I thought is, 'Well, the fans are going to love that because Susan lost the love of her life, and there's no replacing the love of your life,'" Hatcher tells EW. "I thought, 'Oh my gosh, the fans are going to love this. They're going to love seeing us together.'"
She adds, "It is different characters, and it is a different dynamic. But the chemistry of it feels the same, and those fans are going to live vicariously through these characters and their happy ending."
Denton, who is also a producer on the project, notes that while in post-production, many of his colleagues said it felt like watching the same characters. "People feel like they know you, especially [with] a show that's long-running," he says. "You've been in their living room for eight years. They see you almost as Jamie and Teri, if not Mike and Susan. So just having us together and a happy ending, which you're going to get on Hallmark, they'll really get a kick out of it."
A Kiss Before Christmas stars Denton as Ethan Holt, a married father of two who's dissatisfied with his lack of career progress. When he makes a Christmas wish, he wakes up to discover that he's not married to Hatcher's Joyce and is the CEO of his company. But is this business-focused existence really the life he wants? Or can he find a new Christmas wish before time runs out?
Below, Hatcher and Denton dish on what it was like to reunite after almost a decade, how difficult it was not to fall into old habits with each other, and what some of their favorite holiday traditions are.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like reuniting for the first time on screen since Desperate Housewives?
TERI HATCHER: It was so great and really felt like the perfect movie to be able to do that in because there was the right amount of drama and comedy and heart and love and chemistry — all the kinds of things that we used to get to do together. So we get to do them again.
JAMES DENTON: It was really crazy deja vu. When we first sat down and started talking on camera, it was just surreal because it's been so long and yet it felt —
HATCHER: Like yesterday. It's crazy how something can feel like so much time has gone by and no time has gone by at the same time.
Had you seen much of each other in the almost 10 years since?
HATCHER: We hadn't seen each other at all. We texted and emailed a bit, so I felt like we were connected. I don't feel like we disappeared on each other, but we hadn't actually physically seen each other.
DENTON: We had to figure that out. When we sat down and thought about it, and it was like, "Okay, when did we actually see each other last?" I don't think we saw each other after we wrapped.
HATCHER: I don't think so.
DENTON: Maybe one charity event thing, but it had been years and years. Even though we've been in touch, we hadn't actually been in the same place.
Was it easy to find that chemistry and rapport with each other again, or did it take some practice?
HATCHER: It was just instant. It was like putting on my favorite robe.
DENTON: Old, battered, and worn-out.
HATCHER: No, my favorite old cashmere robe. I'm getting to be so comfortable. For me if there was any hiccup, it was just that I hadn't — he'd been on a show for seven years [Hallmark's Good Witch] and he'd been continuing to work, and I really hadn't been that much. I had a couple of days of, "Oh my God, I'm on a set in front of a camera. I don't remember how to do this." And then of course it all came back and I had a really great time, but there might have been just a minute of a hiccup for me. But not for you.
DENTON: On the very first day of shooting, maybe the second or third take, off camera she goes, "I don't know if I can still do this?" And I said, "You're Teri Hatcher, I think you'll be fine." It had just been a minute since she had been in front of cameras. But one of the crew guys, who I barely even knew, after just the second or third take, he goes, "You guys are like you've been married for 20 years."
This story has a real It's a Wonderful Life vibe with the Christmas wish of seeing an alternate version of your life. Are you fans of that film, and was that energy something you wanted to bring to the table?
HATCHER: I do love that movie. As you age, you certainly are confronted with re-evaluating your choices. Whether that's with regret or with just observation, I do think you can get very caught up in that as you age. For me, I try to not spend a lot of time reflecting because you can't really change the past. I try to focus on what I can do with what I've learned and what I can do in the future. But in an art form, I like the idea of characters getting to reflect on "what if?" and and learn a lesson through that. Certainly for a Christmas movie, it's very heartwarming to be reminded what's important and what is truly valuable. That's what James' character gets out of the lesson in this movie.
DENTON: When I brought the idea to a writer and Hallmark, we were a little concerned about, not too much, but about the comparison. It's a Wonderful Life was, what, 70 years ago? [Editor's note: 75] There are no really brand-new ideas in TV and film these days, but we wanted to at least make it original in a way. In that movie they just spent a few minutes in the alternate reality. And he's all by himself. Nobody knows him. In this one, almost the whole movie is spent in the alternate reality. And he still interacts with his wife, and his kids are there because they were adopted. It's very different that way — that they get to interact and I try to win her over again and convince her that I'm not a crazy person. But it's the same idea that people seem to be attracted to, actually getting to live a different life and see what would have happened had you taken a different turn.
You have to shoot these far outside the actual holiday season. Is it hard to get in the spirit when it's so far from December? Did you have any tricks to get in the right mindset?
HATCHER: Well, the Christmas decorations on this movie were exponentially just off the charts. I will say one fascinating thing I really didn't know is that they had so much of the fake snow around and they actually spray it down with water, which gives it this real look. You're immersed in this amazing set decoration and set design. I felt very Christmasy, even though actually they were having some crazy heat wave in Winnipeg at the time. It was like 85 degrees.
DENTON: We're bundled up in coats and scarves, and it was in the 80s.
What was the biggest challenge of making the movie?
HATCHER: I don't know if I would use the word "challenge," but there's a pace to it and it's not luxurious in its pace. They're ready and you get a few takes and you have to move on. But the crew really showed up and tried to do their best job, and I felt like I really made some new friends.
DENTON: For me —
HATCHER: Producing it, I'm sure.
DENTON: Well yeah, because you're worrying about wardrobe and "do we have this location for next week?" while you're trying to shoot a scene. But as an actor, it was not being Mike Delfino. Working with Teri and you're a couple who have a bedroom scene — which is very different from a Housewives bedroom scene because it's on Hallmark — but we're getting ready for bed and she's tossing the pillows aside and turning down the covers and we're having a conversation about work. I felt like I went right back to that quiet, reserved, stoic plumber guy with her. Because you're doing most of the talking about school and going back to college. And I was like, "If I'm not careful…" That would have been death for this movie because that was not my character at all. In the beginning I had to realize, "Okay, I gotta reset our relationship in front of the camera."
Besides A Kiss Before Christmas, do you have a favorite holiday film?
HATCHER: I watch a lot of Elf because I always watch as I build my magical Christmas town on my piano, which I do every year. It takes me about eight to 12 hours, which is about four to five consecutive viewings of Elf, and I do that every year — including a bottle of wine.
DENTON: It's A Christmas Story for me — the one with Peter Billingsley and Darren McGavin, Ralphie and the leg lamp.
What's your favorite holiday tradition?
HATCHER: I do a lot at Christmas. The Christmas-town-building is a big, big tradition. I always build some structure out of gingerbread and that usually takes quite a bit of work, and every year it's different. Of course the tree decorating and all the food.
DENTON: We're transitioning. My kids are 16 and 18, so my son's out of high school now. It's a different thing when you don't have the little kids and all that craziness and excitement. It's more of a grown-up holiday. I'm curious how that's going to be. It's like when you leave the family you grew up with. When people talk about traditions, I think about when I was a little kid, and my mom and dad. In a way you've had two separate families and lives and traditions. We'll see what what the new traditions are when the kids are grown up.