Good Witch and Killjoys star Sarah Power is starring in a moving Christmas movie for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries called Our Italian Christmas Memories.
Sarah plays a character named Anna, who returns to her family home for the holidays only to discover her dear grandfather, who they call Nono, is more advanced in his Alzheimer’s than she expected.
When Anna learns the best thing for Nono is to stimulate his mind, she begins working with him to recover her grandmother’s lost pasta sauce recipe.
Sarah understands the importance of family, as she’s raising a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. She joked that she tells anyone who asks that “this is my favorite age.”
Her family is already focused on the holidays since her daughter loves Christmas. “As soon as Halloween was over, she was like, ‘Okay, here’s what I want from Santa.”
They bake together, whipping up Sarah’s mother’s Christmas recipes for cookies and cakes, and decorating the tree can’t come soon enough for the little one.
“It’s way too early for me for that, though. I try to wait until December 1st. Then decorating the tree with her is so fun because every day she comes home from daycare and wants to rearrange them and take them off and put them in different places,” Sarah laughed.
It seems like Kismet that they’re already baking family recipes together, given the movie’s focus on recovering and retaining a recipe that could have been lost forever.
“I think that is why this movie is going to connect with people so much. It’s a bit of a different subject matter for Hallmark. It’s about our grandfather’s Alzheimer’s, and a way of trying to keep him present and make this Christmas so special is to find this family recipe that has been lost.
“It’s so important to him, and it’s so important to the grandkids. I also think that when someone in your family is sick, the holidays still happen, and it’s even more important to have those traditions and rituals.”
Our Italian Christmas Memories reminds us to be mindful of our present, remember the past, and be cognizant of the fact that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed.
“I think that’s one of the most moving things about it. They all regret so much not learning the recipe from their grandmother while she was still with them. Now it feels like this end date they have to find. I think why it’s so important to Anna, my character, is that she realizes how it’s all slipping away, and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
“I actually say that in the movie. It is so important. I was just saying I make my mom’s recipes. My mom always gave out these cherry cakes as presents to our neighbors and people in town, and I’ve started doing that. I really think about my daughter doing that, hopefully, and that it will be this great memory for her like it is for me.”
In the film, Anna has moved away and hasn’t been aware of how difficult things have gotten for the people she cares about the most, and it touches on how that distance affects her and the others in the family.
“Anna is the oldest in her family, and her father left when she was quite young, so she had to grow up really fast and, throughout her childhood, had the role of caretaker for her two younger siblings.
“When they were grown, she decided to be a kid again and have no responsibilities and travel the world and have this exciting life that she missed as a kid.
“But what she didn’t realize is that, even though they’re grown up, they still need you; your family actually needs you more the older you get.”
When Anna arrives home for a normal family Christmas, she finds a family who has been under a lot of pressure caring for Nono, and it throw her. “I think it’s a reckoning for her that now is the time to be with the people that you love because you don’t know how much longer they’re going to be here.”
Some people never get the opportunity to work with a talent like Beau Bridges. He’s a national treasure.
“Oh my God. I could talk about Beau Bridges forever. I joke all the time that Beau changed my life, but I honestly think he did. He is the nicest man I have ever met,” Sarah said.
“I was so nervous when I found out it was him because I felt like, ‘Oh my God, he’s this acting legend and he has this crazy career. That’s all true, and he is so talented, but he was so generous and so lovely. He’s so humble.
“I said to him when we wrapped that I just want to walk onto every set and have it in my head, ‘What would Beau do and how would Beau behave?’ because he was just so wonderful to every single person.”
Sarah continued, “He was so open with all of us actors, telling us about his life and his incredible career and his family. He’s such a family man. He loves his family. It was such an incredible experience getting to know him and getting to act with him.
“He’s just the best. He’s so heartbreaking and moving in this role. Then offscreen, he’s just this funny, wonderful man who loves his wife and his kids and his grandkids.”
By the end of the movie, Sarah said that she and her costars belt like a real family. The director had hoped they’d seem like a real family on-screen, and she credits the director Catherine Cyran for choosing a group who connected immediately and remained in constant contact after filming ended.
Whatever Cyran did to achieve that, it worked. The family on-screen isn’t a typical Hallmark family without troubles but a loving family not afraid to express their disappointment in one another.
“I think that was what I loved about it. The relationship between the sisters is so tense because there’s so much that’s been left unsaid, and there are so many resentments that have built up.
“I think that when people do move away, other people can feel left behind in the family, and it’s never really articulated, and these resentments grow and grow.”
Sarah appreciated that the relationship between the two sisters, especially, showed the pain from Anna’s absence and how it’s been exacerbated as Nono’s illness progressed.
“When someone is sick in your family, it causes a lot of tension, and we didn’t shy away from that in this film,” she said.
Sarah and I are both older sisters who moved away, and we know what our younger siblings have managed in our absence, especially as our parents’ age or suffer illnesses.
Because she understands what her sisters do for her parents in her absence, she said, “When I first read the script, that really resonated with me.” And there’s no doubt that many viewers will relate just like us.
Costarring with Sarah as her siblings are Morgana Wyllie (Ella) and Jesse Irving (RJ), and Parveen Dosanjh as her stepsister, Natalie.
“It was just such a special group of people. I think Catherine, the director, did such a great job casting this movie because, within two hours, I was like, ‘I feel like I’ve known these people my whole life.’ Everyone was prepared, and we were ready.
“Every scene felt even better than it had on the page. I think that’s a testament to all their talent.
“Every character felt really fully formed, and I feel like, in a lot of Christmas movies, not everyone gets a ton of screen time, and characters sometimes feel very one-dimensional. I felt like, in this one, every single character was fully thought out and fully realized because the actors were so talented.
“Beau was just this incredible leader. He was always just ready to go. He was like, ‘Okay, let’s go again. Let’s go again.’ He has been doing this for 74 years, I think he told me, so he’s such a pro.”
Sarah is in awe of Beau’s work and the research he did into Alzheimer’s to get his portrayal just right. “He’s just so heartbreaking in the scenes where he is having an episode. It was really amazing to be in those scenes with him.”
We also took a few minutes to talk about Good Witch and its shocking cancellation. “People were so disappointed,” she said, and I agreed, admitting that it really blindsided me.
“It blindsided a lot of people. I had a feeling it was coming. I don’t know why. I don’t know if that was my innate witchy sense. I feel like I was disappointed in how it ended. I think the fans were too, particularly with Abigail and Donovan.”
To refresh your memory, Abigail and Donovan had spent the better part of two seasons fighting to be together against many odds (including an ancient curse), only to find in the finale that they had broken up and gone their separate ways.
Sarah laughed, “I kept joking that they owed us a movie to get us back together and live happily ever after.”
When they filmed Good Witch Season 6 Episode 10, the cast didn’t know that it would serve as the series finale.
With the way the story ended, Sarah said, “I did think at that point, ‘Well, they must be planning on doing another season if they’re going to leave it like this,’ but they didn’t. I don’t know. The cast was so wonderful, and we all still keep in touch.
“I think everyone was expecting to come back, and it was a strange way to end because it was during COVID. It was such a strange season where we were all masked and six feet apart.
“I think everyone was a little bit shocked that it ended that way. I, weirdly, had a feeling that it was coming to an end. I don’t know why. I would love to do another movie — we used to do the Halloween movies every year — just to see everyone again.”
She’s not alone. The cancellation would have been much easier to take had they left the door open with a cute nod to how Good Witch started, hinting at more to come by way of movies, but that door wasn’t opened, after all.
Sarah said she hasn’t talked with Hallmark about the decision and that since talent is usually the last to know, they could very well be considering more films in the future. We’ll just have to wait to find out.
Still, on the plus side, Hallmark is expanding its programming and opening up different avenues, adding movies like Our Italian Christmas Memories and including incredible talent Beau Bridges and stories with real depth.
“When I read the script, I was so excited because the love story is the B plot or the C plot. It’s mostly focused on a family drama, and it’s still fun and funny, and heartwarming. I’m really excited to see what comes next at Hallmark because I feel like they’re doing a lot of different stuff.”
As we chatted about what else is making its way to Hallmark’s schedule, Sarah admitted that she’d always hoped she could have the opportunity to do a western. We didn’t talk about it at the time, but if Hallmark is listening, it sure seems like Sarah would be open to appearing on the new rodeo drama Ride!
Sarah also has another Christmas project that at least those in Canada will have an opportunity to watch. If or where it might air in the US is unknown, but The Christmas Checklist is a four-hour miniseries airing across two nights on CBC in Canada on December 12 and 13.
“It’s actually based on a true story about a woman whose mother passed away right before the holidays and left her a list of things to do before Christmas to try and help her through her grief. It’s also quite moving.
“I had the best time doing that, as well, in Montreal. I did Christmas all summer, so I am Christmased out a little bit, although I’m still excited for the holidays,” she laughed.
For now, she’s just auditioning and waiting to see what’s next, and if someone can get her onto a saddle, that will be a dream come true.
Our Italian Christmas Memories premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on November 12 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.