Today I get to share my interview with Kristoffer Polaha with you all, in anticipation of his new movie, "Small Town Christmas", that airs this Sunday night! Kris and I were able to chat about many different things including what got him started in acting, why he thinks Hallmark movies appeal to so many people, favorite Christmas traditions, if he'd be interested in a musical role and much, much more! Buuut, now I'm getting ahead of myself... I cannot express how much I enjoyed talking to Kristoffer, and since I'm sure you're as excited as I am, let's get started!
Kristoffer: Yeah, my name is Kristoffer Polaha. I am a husband to a woman named Julianne Morris, she used to be an actress, but now she's a mommy to our 3 little boys. I have a 14 year old son named Caleb, a 12 year old son named Micah, and a 7 year old son named Jude. And I'm an actor who lives in LA, for the most part.
Mercy: What started your interest in acting?
Kristoffer: I got started in earnest when I was high school. It just became a thing that I loved to do. I auditioned for a school play and I got a role in it, and I just fell in love. I genuinely fell in love with acting and theater. Getting to play characters, doing research on who they are and what they think, why they would say certain things and what they would do. I love the community. The first play I did, I was the only freshman among seniors and juniors, and they were all deadly serious about the art of acting. I remember the play; A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams. I remember seeing the guy who played Stanley Kawolski, it was this guy named Chris Rosco, I saw him in the library. I was like, "Hey man, how are you doing?" And he was poring over maps of New Orleans to better understand the French Quarter, to see where his character would live and how he would get home; he was doing character study. I just thought it was so cool! I was like, "That's fun, I want to do that." And then one play led to the next, which led to the next, which led to the next, which led to NYU. NYU was an awesome place to study theater because it gave me the opportunity to live in New York City and just see every play that was on Broadway, and off Broadway, and off-off Broadway, and to star in a theater company and get involved in a theater company called The Playwrights Theater. At the theater, I did a ton of Eugene O'Neill work. We were doing the entire canon of Eugene O'Neill (he wrote Long Day's Journey Into Night, Bound East For Cardiff, and Mourning Becomes Electra. He was this amazing American playwright). We were doing all of the little one-act plays that he first wrote. Then I did a play called Bread And Butter, which was his first full-length play that had never had a world premier. He wrote it in 1916, and we debuted it at a theater that Eugene O'Neill started on Macdougal Street sort of near Greenwich Village and Washington Park. We debuted that in the summer of 1998, and the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal, and the Hollywood Reporter, and Variety were there to review it. I did okay and got some good reviews, and that led to an agent and a manager wanting to sign me. Then I just started auditioning for stuff. So it was a pretty clean line from when I was 14 all the way to 20, and then I was off to the races.
Mercy: Hallmark movies (especially Christmas ones) have become a tradition for so many people. Why do you think they appeal so much?
Kristoffer: I think that Hallmark Christmas movies appeal for a myriad of reasons. I think culturally, we are exhausted. To go really into it, sort of a darker place. When you watch the news cycle for too long, it can become extremely overwhelming. I mean, anything from the no holds barred, political landscape right now where it feels caustic from both sides, or the weather that seems like we're getting hammered by fires, torrential flooding, hurricanes, earthquakes, to what happened in France. There seems to be something every quarter that's awful, and it's exhausting. I think we are all sort of subconsciously wanting relief from that, and Hallmark has uniquely become the only place on television (and I'm not saying that tongue in cheek, I mean you literally can't get it on Netflix or Hulu) - and other people are trying, but Hallmark has been really, really true to a set of standards and values that they haven't wavered from. I think that because they're consistent, it's become almost a safe haven for people to go and sit down and watch if you want an escape, and you're going not going to read a book or listen to music. If you want to watch TV, it's become a channel for people to go to and just know what they are going to get and they can feel safe in that. There are no surprises, and I think people love that. I think it doesn't matter where you live or who you are or what your economic status is, I think it's become a place for everybody to go and feel good for a little bit.
Mercy: Is there a character you've portrayed in a Hallmark movie that you especially relate to?
Kristoffer: Well, I played a guy named Robert in A Dater's Handbook with Meghan Markle, and I really just played myself. I mean, I didn't know what the Hallmark world was, and it was a script. It was just a romantic comedy, so I just went into that one as Kristoffer Polaha. I didn't really do much acting as far as character portrayal. So he's probably the one I am most like. :)
But I've had a lot of fun. I think the joy of being an actor for Hallmark is they give you a lot of room to-- like for Pearl In Paradise, I played this kind of neurotic New Yorker. Kind of stuttering, a very different vocal inflection. And then for Small Town Christmas that's coming out, I just channeled a little bit of George Bailey from It's A Wonderful Life. Again, I changed my voice - it's ever so slight. It's not blatant, I don't have like an Irish accent or anything, but who knows - that might be the next guy! He might be a Scottish guy, you never know. :) And that's the fun of it.
Mercy: What was your favorite part of filming Small Town Christmas?
Kristoffer: There was this really sweet opening scene they gave my character Emmet, and I haven't seen it yet, so I don't know how it cut together. I don't know what they are ultimately going to show. But he comes around the corner and he donates to Santa Claus, and he catches this star that's falling off a tree for this woman named Esther, and then he does a little dance around some other people, and then he sees his buddy Steve and Mrs. Ferguson and he's like, "Hello Mrs. Ferguson," and eats a cookie, and you just see this guy and it feels very much like something from the 1940s. It was just choreographed, it had a lot of energy. It was fun! So that was a cool little moment. And then also working with Ashley Newbrough, she was awesome!
We had a great time working together, so really the whole experience became a lot of fun. The director was a guy named Maclain Nelson who was my age and super energetic, he had a lot of great ideas. His wife was up there, and she's also creative. It just felt like a bunch of friends hanging out. And when we weren't filming, we'd go to escape rooms and dinner. There was a lot of camaraderie, so the whole experience making the movie was a lot of fun, and I think that reads onscreen. I think you can see that on camera.
Mercy: If you weren't an actor, what would your dream job be?
Kristoffer: If I weren't an actor, my dream job would be to be an explorer. I would be searching for something that has not been found, and it would take me to the farthest corners of the world. I'd take my family, we'd be this little traveling group of explorers searching.
Mercy: What is the most rewarding part of being an actor?
Kristoffer: Honestly, I think the most rewarding part is being somebody in society that helps draw lines between different people, different groups, and different people/strangers. For example, you and I are talking right now and we've never met before, but we have all this stuff in common because you've seen the movies that I've made. And once I make them, they become their own little universe that exists off on their own, and I'm as much a participant as you are at that point. Even though I made it, we both end up being viewers of the thing I made, and we have that in common. I recently was telling this story about a trip my family and I took to Washington DC. A friend of ours, the Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas (almost your neck of the woods) took us on a tour of the capitol building. And this woman who worked there was in the greenroom (a room right off the main floor, it's where the senators will go and they'll have refreshments and snacks between sessions). Her name is Pat, and she's been working there since 1968. There's pictures on the wall of her with Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Jr and Sr, Obama, everybody. Tim was super proud that we were actors, and he
introduced my wife (who was on Days Of Our Lives and she played a character named Princess Greta), and Pat knew it. She was like, "Oh my gosh, I remember you, I remember Hope." And they had this connection. Tim was really proud because I had done a lot of tv and I've been in movies, and he was excited to kind of brag on me. He's like, "This is Kris and he's in ..." and she hadn't seen anything! :) Hadn't seen any of my tv shows or movies, until we got to A Daters Handbook. Then her eyes lit up and she was like, "I know that one!" So we had this connection, and I think that's my favorite part of being an actor. You get to kind of become like a sports team in a weird way. You get to become someone's favorite actor, or you're part of someone's favorite movie, or you've inspired somebody to follow their passion and get into the arts, tell stories. It's just a cool thing, and I feel so blessed to be able to do it because I think actors, while we're just people too, it's like we get to be the court jesters or something. There's a little grace given. When people meet you, they're always interested. They're like, "What do you do?" and, "Who have you worked with?" And when you build that connection with people, I think it's really special. I think ultimately, regardless of who you are or what you do, our job as humans is to find that connection and to love each other. To have a sense of community wherever you go.
Mercy: Just the other day, you posted a video of you singing and playing piano. Would you be interested in a musical role if Hallmark offered?
Kristoffer: Yeah, absolutely! I mean, I don't know...did it sound okay?
Mercy: Yes, sounded great!
Kristopher: I would very much like that!
Christmas Question Time!
Mercy: What is your must-have Christmas food?
Kristoffer: Oh boy, two things come to mind. Well, here's the deal: we do turkey in our house, and I've actually become in charge of the turkey in the later years. I'll do the whole thing with the butter under the skin, salt & pepper, stuff that little bird up with oranges & peeled apples, garlic. And then my mother-in-law makes this stuff called ambrosia, which is coconuts and oranges (mainly oranges because they're from FL) and so that's become this thing that I always look forward to. And then my mom and my nanny will make this vegetable platter with hollandaise sauce, it has cauliflower, peas, carrots, and it's beautiful and it tastes really good! So that's something that I'm always looking forward to. And finally, my wife makes this stuffing, it's just awesome. So that becomes a part of it. So those things, those three things and the turkey are the foods that are a must.
Mercy: Favorite Christmas movie?
Kristoffer: I think It's A Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. And then another one we watch every year is Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase. We watch it every single year.
Mercy: Favorite Christmas song?
Kristoffer: My favorite Christmas song is Do You See What I See. I also like The Little Drummer Boy, I remember that one from childhood.
Mercy: What is your favorite Christmas tradition?
Kristoffer: So when I was a little boy, Santa Claus would come at night and he would leave presents under the tree. In the morning, we'd open his. On Christmas Eve, our family would exchange gifts and he'd bring stuff for Christmas morning, and I would always wait up in anticipation for Santa Claus. I would try to listen for reindeer on the roof, or any kind of sign that he was about to show up at the house. I obviously never saw him, he's good at what he does. :) But when I got married, what I soon found out was one of the perks of marrying my wife was that her grandfather - and I'm not
|With his wife Julianne|
making this up - the guy's name was Tricky. A little boy named Tricky Lanier lived in Florida on land that they had homesteaded on in the late to mid 1800s. And they've literally lived there for 100 years, and he caught Santa Claus delivering presents under the tree. And I don't know if you know this or not, Mercy, or if your readers know this, but if you catch Santa Claus in the act of delivering presents, he will then hand deliver you presents forever. And not just you, but your kids and their kids. Since the gig is up and you know he's real, he just hand delivers presents. So every year, before he does a lot of the major work in the middle of the night, he will show up at the house and he'll hand deliver Christmas presents to the kids. Ever since my little kids have been born, Santa Claus shows up and hands them gifts and then he takes off. And the real Santa Claus is not this jolly guy who laughs and talks. He's very shy, he's almost like a giant elf. He comes and gives you a gift and then disappears. All of the sudden, he'll show up behind us, hand us a gift, and then disappears. It's kind of crazy!
Mercy: And lastly, can you share a little bit about Small Town Christmas and any other upcoming projects you have?
Kristoffer: Sure! So Small Town Christmas is airing Sunday night (Dec 16th) at 9/8 c. It stars me, Ashley Newbrough, and it's sweet! I mentioned It's A Wonderful Life, and I channeled Jimmy Stewart for the film. Everyone thought I was going to show up on set and be like, "Well hullo everybody, it's me, Jimmy Stewart." I didn't do that, but he's definitely in there. It's sort of this unbridled enthusiasm, kind of joie de vivre that I think he possessed, so I wanted to emulate that. And then Jill Wagner and I are working on a mystery, that's why I'm in Vancouver right now.
|With Jill on Mystery 101|
Kristoffer, thank you so much for taking the time out of your very busy schedule for this interview! It was an absolute pleasure to have you on my blog. Readers, Kristoffer is one of the kindest, talented, most genuine people I've had on my blog, and he is completely dedicated to his craft. If you've never seen any of Kristoffer's movies/tv shows, then you are missing out! Do not miss your chance THIS Sunday to see him and Ashley together in Small Town Christmas! Tune in to the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel at 9/8 c.
If you don't already, go ahead and click through the links below to follow Kristoffer on social media.