Kyle Dean Massey And Taylor Frey On Lifetime's A Christmas To Treasure - Exclusive Interview

Kyle Dean Massey and Taylor Frey star in Lifetime's new movie "A Christmas to Treasure," the network's newest holiday movie to feature a gay couple in leading roles. Lifetime's first LGBTQ romance, "The Christmas Setup," premiered in 2020, and Hallmark followed suit in 2022 with "The Holiday Sitter." 

"A Christmas to Treasure" features the beautiful setting of Big Bear, California, as its central fictional town, where real-life married couple Kyle Dean Massey and Taylor Frey reunite as their characters, Everett and Austin. Though Everett and Austin have grown apart since high school, their friend group reunites to find a hidden treasure in one of their town's historic homes.

Massey and Frey met while they were working on Broadway, and in their exclusive interview with The List, they shared some of the highlights of filming "A Christmas to Treasure." The couple also shared their hopes for the Lifetime network to produce more movies centering on LGBTQ stories. 

The couple was thrilled to work together

"A Christmas to Treasure" features your real-life relationship. How did the project come about? 

Taylor Frey: We had both worked with [director and writer] Jake [Helgren] and Ninth House before, so before he even had a script, he called me and said, "I'm writing this cool love story for Christmas, and it's two male leads, and I think you and Kyle Dean would be perfect." Before I even knew much about it, I knew he would probably write it with us in mind, and they're so great to work with. It's an important time to share these stories and remain visible when so many networks are just doing heterosexual couples — or [as] some people say, "traditional couples," which is pretty off-putting, a bit of a rough term. We jumped at the chance, especially because we got to play opposite each other.

How does it feel to be representing an LGBT love story on Lifetime?

Kyle Dean Massey: In the history of Lifetime's holiday movie canon, there's only been three, including this one. There hadn't been many, so it's great. I'm glad that we're able to tell more stories and make more people feel included in these types of movies.

Frey: We keep saying it would've been cool when we were kids to see this kind of material and these storylines on screen. That wasn't happening when I was 12, 13, knowing how I felt inside but not really seeing myself represented out in the media.

Did you have any reservations about playing opposite each other?

Frey: I was excited. We've never gotten to work together. We've done so many projects in the industry, and we come home and tell each other about what work was like that day on whatever set we were on in whatever city that was or whatever Broadway theater we were working in. But [in this] we got to experience it together and talk about the other cast member[s], the director, the storyline together at night and rehearse our scenes. It was really fun.

Massey: I agree. [When] shooting any type of movie or TV show or being in a Broadway show, there's a little show bubble that you get in, and you learn all these people, and it becomes your world for the period of time that you're working on that project. We've never had that shared experience. Obviously, we know each other very well, but your work persona is sometimes a little bit different, so it was fun getting to peek in to see what Taylor was like on set. Spoiler alert: It was fun. We had a great time.

The cast had plenty of memorable moments

Did you feel like your work personas were different? Was Taylor different on set than you normally see him?

Massey: Yeah, because not only are we actors, but we also own an assisted reproduction agency called Elevate, where we help same-sex [couples] build their families through IVF. I know Taylor as a CEO as well, and seeing him on a movie set as an actor was a completely different experience. He seemed probably a little bit more chill and less stressed out. We enjoyed being on set and getting to do it. Like he mentioned, the production team is terrific, so we always have a great time working with them. They assembled a really talented and fun cast. We shot the movie in Big Bear, California, so we were all in Big Bear in the snow shooting this movie back in March. We had a lovely time.

Frey: We'd go out to these lodges after and have dinner and drinks. [We] met most nights with the cast. It was really fun.

What were some of your favorite off-screen moments with the cast?

Frey: I know a lot of these movies get made, but this was a cool cast. There's six of us at the forefront of the story, led by Kyle and [me], but these other side storylines were fun to watch come to life. This was a true cast of characters. 

People talk about actors being larger than life in a lot of ways. We went to this one dinner, and one of the cast members, named Katie [Walder], thought we should go around the table and tell each other what we see in each other and our auras, and it ended up being the funniest, most unaware night possible. Everyone was dying [from] these stories coming out [about] them and how everybody else [perceives them]. They were fun. That was one of the funnest nights I had.

Massey: Yeah. We laughed a lot.

Frey: The karaoke night was fun.

Massey: We laughed a lot. We lived our best life with these people. It was great. We had cast dinners. We went out [for] karaoke.

Frey: We got lucky, though, because Ninth House — Autumn [Federici], our producer, and Jake [Helgren], the director — they know how to assemble the right people. They don't let a lot of bad weeds get through, so it's pretty great energy from start to finish.

Do you guys have a go-to karaoke song that we should know about?

Massey: I need to. I need to so badly because I've become so indecisive, I can't choose one, and I'm looking through those stupid books forever.

Frey: Poor guy hates karaoke because he sang on Broadway, starring in shows for 15 years, so when it's time to have fun singing, he doesn't know how to do it. His mind breaks down. He is like, "I can't compute."

Massey: [To Frey] Do you have one, though? You have one.

Frey: Yeah — "What's Love Got to Do with It."

Massey: There you go.

Frey: I might be changing that to "One Fine Day." I sang that song recently, and I love that song.

They acted alongside an iconic TV mom

You met when you were both performing on Broadway. Can we hear more about that love story? 

Massey: The Broadway community's very small. All the Broadway theaters are located within about a 10-block radius, so everyone who works on Broadway, even if you're in a different show, you all converge in the same part of New York City at the same time every single day. You get to meet people whom you probably don't work [with], and that was the case with Taylor. He worked in a theater across the street from the theater I worked at. We went to the same gym between shows, and we became familiar with each other and started dating maybe three years after meeting.

Frey: It wasn't immediate. It took a second. We were both exploring relationships.

Massey: Busy.

Frey: Yeah, we were busy boys. Then we met up again in Los Angeles, and I helped him find a house to stay in while he did "Wicked" and went and looked at some options for him.

That mirrors the plot of the movie a little bit. I won't get into it too much for spoilers ... Austin's mom is played by the legendary "Dawson's Creek" actress Mary-Margaret Humes. What's it like having a classic TV mom as your on-screen parent? 

Frey: It was the coolest. She was so lovely to work with. She's so experienced and has had such a long career, and it was fun to watch her approach her scenes. I always like to study people I'm with who have had such success. She takes it very seriously. She wants to do a great job regardless of what the project is. I felt very free and comfortable with her. She was fantastic. I got lucky.

There's such a great cast in this movie. Do either of you have a favorite holiday movie?

Frey: I have two go-tos that I watch multiple times a season, which I know sounds psychotic. "The Holiday," [starring] Kate Winslet [and] ‎Cameron Diaz — I will never be over that film. I love the camp in it. I love the heart in it. I love the U.K. I love the way they portray the little cottage. 

And I love "The Family Stone," [starring] Diane Keaton [and] Rachel McAdams. That's my favorite holiday movie, and it reminds me a lot of my own family. I have five siblings, and there's five in that movie as well. I love it. 

[To Massey] What are yours? The Grinch? Ebenezer Scrooge?

Massey: I love "A Christmas Story" and "Home Alone" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

Frey: "Home Alone" is a good one.

Massey: Because we do have to watch "The Holiday" and "The Family Stone" multiple times a year, by default, I end up seeing those more.

The shoot was a full family affair

Did you both see yourselves in the characters?

Frey: I did a lot. I felt like it fit like a glove.

Massey: Totally. I feel like they were written with us in mind. It mirrored our own personalities, to a certain extent.

You play exes in the movie. Is it difficult to channel that kind of animosity toward each other?

Frey: No, it's super easy.

Massey: It was harder to channel the initial love sparks because we've been together for over 10 years, and we're so comfortable with each other. I would never be nervous around Taylor.

Frey: Luckily, my character is a little less trepidatious, but yours was [nervous] a little bit. The animosity was fun to play. Any married couple can tell you about some of the hard moments they have or silly arguments, especially post-COVID, when you've been around each other so much. That was really fun, actually. I enjoyed playing that up as much as I possibly could.

And you guys have a kid together?

Frey: A little girl — we call her "the duchess." Her name is Rafa. She is the best thing that's ever happened to us. What's funny [about] gay guys ... A lot of people with different set[s] of equipment, it's so much easier for them to get pregnant or have a child. We've had years to chase a career and travel the world and spend our money on other things that weren't family-building, and now that we have this child, all the vast life experiences we've been so privileged to have — nothing will ever compare to this. Nothing will ever beat this feeling. I know other life experiences can be amazing, and there's such highs, but being a dad is it for me.

Massey: It's the best.

Frey: That's all I want to do.

Massey: We're completely obsessed with her. She's amazing.

Was she with you on set a bit?

Massey: Yes. We were trying to get her to be an extra in this coat drive scene, but it fell over her nap, and we were like, "Eh, not worth it."

Frey: As a dad, I don't want to be a stage dad or push her into something [when we don't know] if she wants to have her image out there. In parenthood, you can go into this tailspin about, "Do I post her on Instagram? When is it her choice to have a baby photo out there?" I've already put her out there on Instagram because I'm so proud of her and think she's the cutest little damn thing I've ever seen, but it's hard to know what is too much and what isn't. It's something we're trying to learn about and figure out. With social media growing the way it is, it's a scary world out there, and I am reevaluating all of that after her first year.

They hope the movie helps young people in the LGBTQ community

Everett struggles to come out to his parents as a teen, even though he's romantically involved with Austin. Did that feel like a relatable experience?

Massey: Not so much — my [experience] was really wonderful. I did come out as a teenager, and it was over 20 years ago, so I don't have clear memories of feeling that struggle, necessarily. But I've lived long enough to experience other people having those issues, so it wasn't anything difficult to tap into. Even still today, we're constantly faced with backlash just being who [we] are.

Frey: For [us as] two gay men who [have] a child, the comment sections are awful.

Massey: Yeah. That's always going to be an easy thing to tap into. But for my own personal experience [with family], not so much. My family's always been wonderful and great.

I'm sorry to hear your comment sections are such trash.

Massey: Oh, they're always trash.

Frey: It is what it is. I learned in sixth grade not to take anything to heart.

Do you think the film is going to be helpful for young kids in the queer community who are struggling with these exact kinds of questions? Do you think that they're going to learn from Everett's story?

Frey: I do. They will if it's watched. When you think about the audience for these movies, it's a powerful story to share because it's very possible it could be someone's mom who needs to see [it and be] like, "When my kid comes out to me next year, I can think back to this movie and think, 'That's totally normal, and they're going to be happy and fine and find somebody.'" Because there's more to it than just that person. In any gay story, it's all about community and acceptance and celebrating people who are different than you.

Massey: I love that. Any little window into a home ... I was raised in a very Mormon, very strict household, [and in that type of household] it might happen to be on the TV without [anyone] even meaning for it to be on. [If] a kid that felt like I did gets a glimpse into a healthy relationship between two grown men like that, that's what excites me. It's different than theater, which is what makes me feel so passionate about this form of storytelling — it reaches such a bigger amount of lives, a bigger audience.

Do you see yourselves collaborating with Lifetime in the future or helping more stories like this get told?

Frey: 100%. Lifetime's been amazing. Vanessa Shapiro's amazing. I love the network. I would do more films for sure. It's fun to make these holiday films.

Massey: This is your third Lifetime film, isn't it?

Frey: That's true. I'm a Lifetime reggie. Lifetime, where's my six-year extension deal? I have a blast because they shoot them so quickly. It's not a six-month commitment. I've shot other films where, even to get a couple scenes, it takes a month. I like the pace and the speed at which these are made to move. It works for me, and it works for my life right now, especially being a dad.

The couple has plans to rewrite a holiday classic

Do you guys have any individual, exciting projects coming up that we should look out for?

Frey: Absolutely. We're writing the gay version of "The Holiday." It's fully funded. We're selecting the cast now. It's my favorite movie, so we're playing on that without plagiarizing it, but I'm going to be able to play the Amanda Woods role and go a little bit camp, shooting a big, beautiful house in LA and fall[ing] in love with a Brit. It's going to be a blast. Actually, Kyle might be playing the Ed Burns role, the ex who cheats on Amanda Woods. I already have in my mind this Christmas wreath that I'm going to throw it in like a saucer, and he's going to duck, or maybe it'll hit you.

[Who]'s your ideal British actor to be cast as the love interest if you have one?

Frey: I don't think I can say it now, but we do have our eye on one guy who's done a lot of cool stuff and some major motion pictures, who I think will be excited to play this role, so we're working on it.

I hope that Cameron Diaz or Kate Winslet makes a little cameo.

Frey: Oh my gosh. Dream of dreams. I love it. I'll work on that.

Is it important to you to cast LGBTQ actors playing queer roles?

Frey: I'm more inclined to cast gay people in gay roles, not because people who don't identify as LGBTQIA+ are unable to play that authentically — much like how I feel [gay people] can authentically play heterosexual people — [but] it's for a lack of opportunity. People that are part of the queer community are given fewer opportunities to play characters, especially if being gay is not at the forefront of the storyline, if the major dramatic conflict is [not] being gay or coming out. To play a normal person who happens to be gay is rare. I don't think it goes back and forth as freely as it does with heterosexual people.

Anything else you wanted to note about this awesome movie?

Frey: Watch it. It's pretty heartwarming, and in a time of such insanity in the country and seemingly the world, it's important to remember to enjoy the moments with the people we love and the people we have. Part of the story talks about the passing of a member of their circle who showed them an amazing childhood, and they go back to honor her. I love movies that sometimes slip in a message about how finite our time here is and how quickly time goes and how short life is. There's no better time to remember that than during the Christmas season.

Massey: We're at a time, for whatever reason, that any type of gay movie is receiving backlash. [It] seems ridiculous, but here we find ourselves. I do think it takes some courage for networks to make and buy these movies and air them and promote them. I'm proud to be part of it, and I hope people can tune in to support these stories. That's the biggest thing people can do — say, "We want more of these." The more people support them, the more they get made.

"A Christmas to Treasure" premieres on Lifetime on December 16 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT.

This interview has been edited for clarity.