Brad James From A New Orleans Noel Talks The All-Star Cast And Family Magic - Exclusive Interview

Booked and busy actors Brad James and Keshia Knight Pulliam got married in 2021, per People, and their new movie together celebrates the importance of finding and holding onto the ones you love. Lifetime's new movie "A New Orleans Noel," which also stars Tim Reid and Patti LaBelle, follows Keshia Knight Pulliam's character, Grace, as she comes to New Orleans for an architecture job. Unfortunately, the job has been double-booked, with Brad James' character, Anthony, also being hired by his grandmother to restore her historic home. Though their characters' disagreements about how to approach the job provide plenty of funny moments, their on-screen chemistry also brings an extra layer of fun.

Off camera, Pulliam and James enjoyed time with their family on set, some of which Pulliam shared via Instagram. She also gushed about playing opposite her husband in the movie, captioning a photo of them on set, "When your work husband is your real husband... Life is good!!! #SetLife." In an exclusive interview with The List, the couple talked about their experience working on "A New Orleans Noel." Brad James went in-depth about his talented co-stars, just how much off-screen magic contributed to "A New Orleans Noel," and whether he ever figured out how to make the perfect praline.

The couple shot on location together

What was it like working with your spouse on a romantic comedy?

Brad James: It was hard work wrangling this one in [indicates Keshia] to be serious for scenes ... No, it was a pleasure. We worked together by choice, so we wanted this to happen. We try to identify the kinds of projects that are going to be good for us to experience together. Granted, it's not always going to be able to be us both on screen, but if Keshia's directing something and I'm producing it or she's starring in it ...

Keshia Knight Pulliam: We like each other, so it works out well.

You guys work well together as well, no matter if you're on screen or producing? That's beautiful.

James: Yes. She's always in my trailer, but other than that.

That's nice because you get to be on location together too. Are you having a good time up there? You said you were in Winnipeg.

Pulliam: We're in Winnipeg. One thing that's important to us, no matter what we're doing work-wise, is family comes first. We try to make sure that whether we're working on a project together or independently, it's still a family affair, because this right here is my support as well as my mom and [daughter] Ella. My little one comes, so it's a whole family traveling circus whenever we're working.

James: Ella would not let us leave without her. If she would have seen that snow and not been able to play in it, it would've been a problem.

That sounds a lot like the movie. It's all about family and choosing your family. How did you guys feel when you first read the script? How did you know it was the project for you guys to work on together?

Pulliam: I have to run because they're saying I need to get back to work right now, but I will let Brad take it away. It was a pleasure to work with him. 

Brad James honed his comedic skills on For Better or Worse

What attracted you to this script? What made you think that it was a good fit for you guys?

James: We look for scripts that tell adventures and stories that we'd want to go on or identify with. This one in particular ... I love that New Orleans is in the name. It's the backdrop. So many people have different memories from even visiting this place, so we wanted to make sure that we were in something that captured that feel.

When a script gets to you and it's already good before you go through your changes, that's a good sign. That's what we found in this one. It was really well written; it was very warm. Then there were the talks of the names that were going around coming to be in it — Tim Reid, Patti LaBelle.

How did you feel when you got on set and you met Patti LaBelle and she's playing your grandmother?

It was very easy. She's a very warm person. She's quick, she's kind — very allowing. We got to have fun and laugh and joke on set, and I hope it came across on screen.

It absolutely did. It's so warm and beautiful and funny. You're funny in it too — you've been known as a comedian, actually.

Jokes? I don't remember. I had jokes in that movie? I don't know.

A couple ... You were in Tyler Perry's "For Better or Worse" for six years?

Yeah — I did at least six seasons on that show.

What lessons did you take away from that set as a comedic actor or an actor otherwise?

I was pretty early in my career when I did "For Better or Worse," so it was definitely a growing opportunity and learning opportunity, being on that set and learning from so many quick comedians that would guest star. It was a very family environment, so for the most part, I learned the kind of projects that I want to work on because I love the feel that I got when I was there.

That makes sense. "A New Orleans Noel" was a family-oriented project, so that's wonderful that you were able to find that again. It isn't your first Lifetime Christmas movie — what's it like being part of that cultural craze every year?

It's great. The waiting list to get in is very long, so I'm grateful to be in here and to be able to make the kinds of films that families can enjoy together. [They're] something you can turn on in the living room, be in the kitchen cooking and the kids are running in and out of the room, and everyone can enjoy the same stories and programming. I love it.

The actor has had other exciting roles in the past few years

Will you guys watch "A New Orleans Noel" together as a family when it comes out?

Yes — December 3. We are undoubtedly going to be in front of the TV together watching. We're bringing all the parents and all the uncles and aunts and all that kind of stuff and poke fun at each other while we go on the adventure with Grace and Anthony.

Do people say, like, "Oh, you did that thing — you do that off-screen too," or joke about your acting personas?

Absolutely, especially because I do work in a lot of different genres. I do sitcoms, but we've also done action series, and I just finished another Christmas project — it was a very serious undertone character in a comedy. So yeah, I get a lot of that.

You have to be a really flexible actor to go in and out of all of those roles. Congrats on your Emmy nomination for "A House Divided." What was it like being recognized for that project?

Super cool. Sometimes when we get the opportunity to be on some of these projects, we never know where it's going to go or who it's going to resonate with. The executive producer and writer of that series, Dan Garcia, does a good job of intertangling a bunch of complex stories, and it keeps audiences engaged. I'm grateful to have played a character that people resonate with.

I've also seen you in "Outer Banks." Can we expect to see Special Agent Bratcher in Season 3? I know you may not be able to tell me anything about that.

I can't talk about Season 3 on "Outer Banks," but that's another one that you never know when you get to set, and you feel the magic. The cast on that show are everything that they appear to be on screen. That's a fun one. It's shot at mostly exteriors out there, on the banks in real life, out there on the boats, and it's great times.

It's such a beautiful location. Does it feel like you're on vacation when you're on that kind of set?

Yes. You make sure that, if you can, you're building in a little bit of downtime to take in the environment around you. I have spent some time around Wilmington. It wasn't my first project there; I did another one for Nicholas Sparks called "The Choice." We shot out there, and it's beautiful scapes.

The actors kept mementos from the set

Did you have the family with you when you were shooting for "Outer Banks"?

No. I would shoot out to that one and get right back. It was close enough that I could take a drive on a lot of those occasions. When they can come, when it's a few days there, they would come. But if I'm just doing a couple days here and there, I'll take that drive.

Did you love filming in New Orleans? What was it like being on set and off set with the family?

New Orleans is great. One thing I like to do when I go to New Orleans is hat shopping. I know it seems very random, but there's a great little shop near the Quarter called Chapel Hats. I go in there and I get suited and booted, and the spirit of that town gives you the feel of the style that you want to bring back to wherever you came from. It's killing two birds with one stone, going to a place like that, where you get your vacation time in and you get your work done.

Do we see any of these hats make their way into the movie? Did you like your character's wardrobe?

I did. It was a great experience getting to wear the kinds of clothes that I wouldn't have necessarily chosen for myself, because it helps me get into character being Anthony. Part of my profession is the dress up, and when you wear something different, you feel different. When you dress well, you feel like that. He had a very fun wardrobe, a lot of brightly colored jackets and shoes that were great for dancing in. There was some dancing — did that make it to the final cut of the film?

There's some nice dancing. Oh my goodness, and Keshia's dress — did you guys get to keep any of the pieces from the movie? Did anything come home?

We sure did. They're going to make some other appearances.

I hope she gets to keep that dress. That was incredible.

Our guy, Ronnie, is phenomenal at costumes. Our wardrobe department was really on their p's and q's. They went out of their way to make sure that we had a memorable wardrobe.

The couple makes magic behind the camera too

I'd love to hear more about Jamestown Filmworks and how you reach toward "edutainment." It's you and Keshia doing it together, right?

Yes. Jamestown is in its infant stages — I like to call it a baby giant — but we have so many projects in the works. I want to say they're amazing, but I'm biased because it's our company. We have three or four projects on the table right now that we're going through script revisions for, and a series that we're doing called "The Script," so you will hear a lot more about Jamestown Filmworks.

It's a production company and you're doing events where you talk about entertainment? I saw you were promoting an event where you guys are going to do a writers' workshop.

Actually, I think you're talking about "The Script." We've already filmed the first season of it; it's in editing right now. Essentially, we take stars from TV and film and sit them around the table, and we break out 6–12 pages of scripts from artists and authors that are known and unknown. We do live cold reads right on the air, and you get to see some of your favorite characters or talent jump in and out of six different characters in one sitting.

It's pretty interesting to watch. It's almost like if you took "Inside the Actors Studio" and mixed it with somebody coming by the radio station to drop off their mixtape. You get to see artists doing what they do live on air.

It brings to mind the Zoom era where people would do cold reads of old scripts, but this is new and exciting material. That's also a great platform for writers to get their work workshopped by real actors. Are you a part of it? Do you get in on some of the table reads?

I'm narrating that show and Keshia's selecting, so we're in on it, but there's a lot of room at the table for new talent to be on screen.

The movie is a full family affair

What was your favorite part of filming "A New Orleans Noel," and what are you excited for fans to see when they watch the movie?

Wow. I've had eight moments go through my head — the moments in the trolley, the dancing around the town and experiencing it ... There's a montage. That's my favorite part. There's a montage toward the middle where we're trying to win the contest. We're trying to win the contest and get the ornaments on the tree.

That whole experience [was my favorite], because we got to go around and make the pralines and cook the meals with the flames going everywhere and win the prizes and shuck the oysters. We got to get into the culture of it. I love the way that our writer, Angela Tucker — who's also our director on this one — made sure that she put that in there so we could incorporate a whole lot of what you can do in that town besides what people ordinarily know.

You got to actually shuck the oysters?

I'm experienced already, though.

That's awesome. The pralines are a big plot device in the movie. Did you get sick of eating them? Did you figure out the recipe?

Two things — one, I did not figure out the recipe, so don't ask me to make them. Two, I had some good ones, but there were also a lot of scenes where there were bad ones, and we had to do it from a lot of angles. The bad ones, I got tired of eating those. I have a very particular palate now for pralines. After eating Loretta's [Authentic Pralines], I can't go around eating just anybody's pralines.

I didn't realize they would make different quality pralines because your character is trying to get the recipe right. That's helpful for the acting, I'm sure.

The key is to make sure the props department is doing it and not catering.

Did you have anything else you wish we'd covered or anything about Keshia's experience that you want to tell us?

No, it was great. We had a lot of food and family, and what you see on the screen is going to be a fraction of the magic that we had when we were there. It was a great experience — really glad that we did it. I'm glad you got a chance to see it and give me a little bit of that feedback, because as artists and as people who want to enjoy the holiday season, when we get done with these movies, we want to sit back and watch them. We don't do all this work to not enjoy them ourselves, so it means a lot that other people see that as well.

"A New Orleans Noel" premieres on Lifetime on December 3 at 8:00 p.m. ET (7:00 p.m. CT).

This interview has been edited for clarity.