Brooke Elliott And Brandon Quinn Reunite For A Country Christmas Harmony - Exclusive Interview

As the holiday season fast approaches, TV viewers can expect to see numerous Christmas movies vying for their attention. One that stands out is Lifetime's "A Country Christmas Harmony," starring Brooke Elliott of "Drop Dead Diva" fame, Brandon Quinn (whose numerous credits include such TV series as "Entourage" and "The Fosters"), and "Who's the Boss?" alum Danny Pintauro. 

Elliott stars as country music superstar Chrissy Kessler, whose career has been on a downward spiral for some time. When an exec from her record label strong-arms her to return to her hometown for a live Christmas concert, she reluctantly agrees, accompanied by her loyal assistant, Eugene (Pintauro). When she arrives, she unexpectedly encounters Luke Covington (Quinn), her ex-boyfriend and one-time partner in a country music duo. Luke, however, is still reeling from her abrupt exit to pursue a solo career all those years ago, blowing up their relationship and musical partnership in one fell swoop. When a heavy rainstorm forces the exes to take shelter in Luke's ranch, they come to realize that the only way they'll survive the holidays is with the help of the other.

In an exclusive interview with The List, Elliott and Quinn — who also co-star in the Netflix hit "Sweet Magnolias" — revealed how they came to reunite for this new holiday flick, teased what viewers can expect, and looked back at their most memorable roles.

Reuniting in this film after co-starring in Sweet Magnolias wasn't planned

Tell me about the movie, "A Country Christmas Harmony." 

Brooke Elliott: It is a very sweet, very fun movie with some fantastic music — and a great love story, and a story about returning home and coming back to yourself and your own sense of who you are. 

Brandon Quinn: This movie is unique because there are different stories being told. It's a story of love and forgiveness, and going through hard things and discovering what's within us to overcome those and allow them to help us to grow and become better people. There's a lot that can be taken from this film.

Having worked together on "Sweet Magnolias," were you specifically looking for something you could work on together, or was this a happy accident?

Elliott: This was a happy, lucky, by-chance opportunity. I would never say that I am not always looking to work with Brandon, because I will always be looking to work with Brandon. I cannot say enough good about Brandon Quinn. I would work with him till the end of time, and I hope we do. But this opportunity was a surprise. The executive producers brought the idea to me, and I was so fast on board. Then they reached out to Brandon, and luckily, he said yes.

Quinn: I easily said yes. But [it was] same thing. It's not that I wasn't looking for a project to do with Brooke, but this was a total happenstance, and a very great one. I was a little nervous because ... even though I know Brooke so well, and in some ways, she feels like family to me, I wasn't sure.

I didn't know that she knew that they had approached me with this film, and I wasn't sure if she would [want to do it]. I don't know why I second-guessed her, but I felt nervous about Brooke, and "This is weird," and "Does she want to do her own thing?" I remember texting you [Brooke] and being like, "Hey, I have a question I want to ask you. Can you talk really fast?" She knew exactly what I was going to say and immediately called me up ...

Elliott: I wanted to reach out to you, but I wanted to keep it in the order it needed to be in. I was like, "I don't want him to feel pressured and feel like he has to do it." We were both having a bit of a —

Quinn: We were second-guessing the other. But man, I was so excited for the opportunity to work with Brooke again on something different. I was so nervous to do the music. Brooke is probably one of the only actors that I would've done it with because she makes me feel comfortable and free, and she's so supportive and encouraging. If I was going to step out of my comfort zone, she's definitely the person that I would've wanted to do it with.

Elliott: That's nice of you. He's great.

They had different approaches to singing in the movie

You get to sing in this movie. Brooke, with your Broadway background, was that something that you were looking for in a movie, something that you could actually bring those other talents to?

Elliott: It's something that I was always very open to. When this one got presented to me and it had that aspect to it, I was very enthralled and interested in wanting to do that. It worked really nicely in that way, and I was very excited about it. I still am.

I sang a bit in "Drop Dead Diva," but other than that, I haven't sung since I've been on Broadway. I sing, but I hadn't sung in those particular ways since Broadway. I miss it. It was the perfect project for that.

Brandon, what about your musical background? How did you approach that?

Quinn: Considering that it's nonexistent, my approach is the complete antithesis to Brooke's, which is I actually literally almost didn't do the movie because of the singing. It intrigued me so much, and I loved that aspect of it, but it did terrify me because I have no musical training. I taught myself to play the guitar. I could play a little piano. The only singing I've ever done was in musicals back in high school.

There was maybe a little insecurity with singing in front of people. I was worried and I was concerned to the point of talking to the producers and the director about it and being like, "Listen, I'm having second thoughts." They were like, "We'll work around it. We'll make it work. Please."

Elliott: We're like, "Don't think. Don't think anymore."

Quinn: "Don't think. Just do." I'm glad I did because it truly was a fear of mine, and I learned a lot as a result of it. We went to a recording studio to do all the music, and it took me a second to let go of my fears and my inhibitions. The moment I did, and Brooke came in and we sang one of our songs together ... As I mentioned earlier, I'm so comfortable with Brooke, and she makes me feel safe when we're performing, and I let it go and I sunk into it and I was obsessed.

I was like, "This is the coolest job in the world." I was surprised at how artistic it felt and how it fulfilled that artistic flow that I love about acting in a completely different way. They had to pull me out of the recording studio. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I'm so glad I pushed through that fear because it was such an incredible experience.

Would you do any musical theater now?

Quinn: Heck, yes. I would do it all again. I still have issues singing in front of people — when we were filming that scene, I had to lock into Brooke. There's still that fear that I would imagine that the more you do something, the more comfortable you're going to get. But I would love to train my voice and get into it. I'm hooked, literally.

Brooke Elliott and Brandon Quinn loved recreating Christmas

I've interviewed quite a few actors who've done holiday movies, and the consensus seems to be that there's something very heartwarming about recreating Christmas at a time of year when it's not Christmas. Brooke, can you talk about that experience?

Elliott: I'm a huge, huge fan of Christmas, so getting to have ... We filmed in February. A lot of those, they'll film more in June. We filmed in February, so it was like I got this extension of Christmas, and that made me very, very happy.

I don't know what it is, but even when you walk into that bar that Luke owns and it's all decorated and the lights and the Christmas tree, I don't know how you don't love it. I don't know how somebody doesn't love that. It's beautiful, and it's heartwarming, and it looks magical, and it's sweet. I'm a big sucker for it. I'll fall for it every time. I love it.

Quinn: These films are so much fun. The feeling of Christmas is contagious. When you're filming these movies, no matter what time of year — and usually, as Brooke said, they are during the summertime — everybody's feeling it. The crew's feeling it. There's this energy that surges through these sets when you're filming these movies.

It's funny that I've been fortunate. I've done some great projects and some of these Christmas movies, [and] in this one in particular, there's some of my favorite memories because there's this lightness and breeziness and energy to them that everybody is involved in. It's a great thing to be a part of.

Why A Country Christmas Harmony 'felt like an indie film'

With these holiday movies, especially the romantic ones, there seem to be one or two plots that go through every single one that are very similar. But your movie isn't that. It's unique in a lot of the Christmas movies that I've seen. Was that an appeal to you, the fact that it wasn't that "big city career gal goes to her hometown and meets her high school sweetheart again" thing?

Elliott: Yes. We have aspects of that, but what I loved about our movie is that it did have other progressive beats in it ... Not that there aren't in other movies — I certainly wouldn't say that — but for our characters, there were definitely some authentic things that many people in life could identify with what our two particular characters were going through. 

I loved how progressive it was. I loved the little changes to the story that this particular one had. Brandon and I have talked about it in the fact that it read and felt more like an indie film in ways — that was enticing for both of us. Not to speak for Brandon, but I know he feels that way.

Quinn: No, I have nothing to add other than the things that I had stated before with the music and working with Brooke. The script was appealing to me because of everything [she] just said. It felt a little bit different than the other movies that I've been a part of in the genre. It felt like an indie film, and it felt relationship- and character-driven, and that was a fun aspect to play.

I'm happy you said that. I'm glad that came across, because we talked about that throughout the whole experience, how it felt a little different, and it was fun to be a part of that.

Elliott: There's different beats that were put in. The ending is a bit different than you would normally see. Even in the middle, there's things that don't follow the norm, and both of us liked that.

Working together previously on Sweet Magnolias made a big difference

You've worked together before, and you're playing people who have a history, who are reconnecting. There's a lot of different levels to that. Did that bring more of a comfort level than maybe you would have with other actors?

Quinn: Absolutely.

Elliott: For sure. It was one of the things that when the executive producers brought Brandon's name to me, I jumped at it for many, many reasons. As we have said, I would work with Brandon until the end of time. One of the other reasons was because these two characters had a very specific familiarity. They had a very specific history with each other. Brandon and I have that now because of "Sweet Mags," so it's built into who we are.

[There's] the fact that we've become such good friends — you [Brandon] are like a family too. We know each other. We're getting to know each other and do know each other so well that I thought that was going to help the Chrissy and Luke storyline in a way ... Yes, he could also act, but the fact that Brandon and I have that was helpful.

Quinn: It is so helpful. It makes perfect sense, at least on my end. It is our job; you work with whoever's in front of you, and you don't get a lot of time to make these movies ... With that relationship — because it felt like an indie and it was relationship-driven — it was important that that chemistry be there right away.

Sometimes, you do get that right away with another actor, and sometimes it takes a while. That was one thing where we were like, "We have this in the bag. We will not need that sort of familiarity time to get to know each other and figure out how each other works." It was literally hitting the ground running, and it made that part of it a lot easier and really great.

Brooke Elliott and Brandon Quinn dish on Season 3 of Sweet Magnolias

What's the status of "Sweet Magnolias"? Will there be a third season?

Elliott: Yes. We just shot it.

Quinn: We wrapped Season 3 about two weeks ago, actually.

Elliott: We've been shooting that. I don't know when that comes out, but we have a Season 3 for everybody.

Is there anything you can tease about that? Anything you can say without getting into trouble?

Elliott: What can we say?

Quinn: Gosh, I feel like we can get in trouble for everything.

Elliott: I know. We're not allowed to say anything.

Quinn: Other than the fact that it will continue to be as great as the other two seasons. Our show under [creator] Sheryl [J. Anderson], she and everyone involved — they're so wonderful. It's such an incredible group of people. To write for that many characters ... I'm not a writer, but it doesn't seem like that would be an easy feat, and she does such a great job of writing so many compelling storylines for so many compelling characters. That continues through Season 3, and I'm excited for everyone to see it. There's some exciting stuff coming up.

Elliott: There's lots of ups, lots of down, lots of the drama and the fun and the beauty and the comedy and all of it. People won't be disappointed.

Quinn: No. Genuinely.

Elliott: They'll love it.

Elliott and Quinn look back at their favorite past roles

Brooke, you worked on "Dolly Parton's Heartstrings," and this was a big weekend for her being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Did you get a chance to meet her or interact with her at all?

Elliott: I did, and I was stupidly excited about meeting her. I was very, very, very excited. I got to meet her ... She's lovely, and she was kind and giving and supportive. At the table read, she sang a cappella for us. I was sitting there at that table read about three seats away from her, and I was like, "I don't understand what ..." 

It was surreal because I'm a huge Dolly Parton fan, so it was amazing and she was lovely. She took us all out to dinner, and we got to sit at dinner with her and hear fun stories. She was so lovely. She let us all take a picture with her. I swear to God, in this picture, I'm so excited in this picture. Sometimes I'll look back at this picture and Dolly is lovely and gorgeous and perfect, and I'm like ... I was so excited to meet her.

But she was great. She was wonderful. That was a great experience. I had a great experience on that show.

Brandon, you worked with Kevin Hart in "Die Hart." I wanted to ask you a bit about that experience because that was a pretty out-there concept.

Quinn: I loved that show. It's one of the productions that I'm most proud of. I hadn't done comedy in a long time, and Kevin is one of the funnier men alive. John Travolta — I love John Travolta, and he was so funny in our show. It was a remarkable experience. Any time you can be around performers of that caliber, you're always going to learn and grow, and it was a really great experience.

Brooke, so many shows are being rebooted now. Is there any talk of "Drop Dead Diva" maybe coming back?

Elliott: Being a reboot? I don't know. ["Drop Dead Diva" creator] Josh Berman would always love that, but I actually think he sold a version of the reboot with a twist on it, although I could be wrong about that. But Josh always loved that show, and I will always be in love with Jane. I loved playing her so much. It would be fun. 

"A Country Christmas Harmony" airs Friday, November 18 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on Lifetime.

This interview has been edited for clarity.