Food Network and discovery+ are taking the leap into scripted content with its first-ever Christmas movie.
“Candy Coated Christmas” is a fictional story set during the holiday season. Directed by Ellie Kanner, the film follows Molly Gallant, played by Molly McCook, a young woman from a wealthy family who finds herself in a bit of a money predicament that ultimately leads her back to her late mother’s hometown.
“Molly grew up pretty spoiled with money. She planned on going on her annual Christmas tradition with her father in Hawaii, only to find out that her father is facing bankruptcy,” said McCook. “She wants to make sure she has money for a business venture and goes to late mother’s old town of Peppermint Hollow to sell the house and get the money she needs.”
When she reaches Peppermint Hollow, she meets the Winter family, who is renting her late mother’s home. Among the family members are Noah Winters, played by Aaron O’Connell. Molly gets to know the whole family over the course of the movie and her reasons to stay in Peppermint Hollow start to change.
“She meets this wonderful family and falls in love with all of them,” said McCook. “They grow mint and make mint products as a family, and she decides to throw her hat in the ring with business ideas.”
“Noah Winter lives with his mom and niece in the house that Molly’s mother grew up in. We invite her to stay and reconnect,” said O’Connell. “The bond shifts from not knowing who this person is, and as the Winter mint business has been struggling for so long, the family can’t afford to rent much longer. They work to see if they find a way to help each other, and a romance blossoms over it.”
As Christmas lovers themselves, McCook and O’Connell were both very excited to take part in this project.
“I have always been in love with Christmas,” said McCook. “It was kind of an easy thing for me to sign on for, my first Christmas film.”
“Any chance I have to be a part of holiday film or a lot of family get together and watch movies, it’s something I try to jump at,” said O’Connell. “One thing my family always did was watch holiday movies. I’ve been in the business for 13-14 years, it’s ironic to see myself at home on screen while watching with my family.”
Additionally, the two were both excited to make history by being a part of Food Network/discovery+’s first scripted movie.
“I’m so grateful to play a part in what I hope to be many scripted movies for Discovery. This market is such a sought-after market, and we could use a breath of fresh air with all the craziness going on,” said O’Connell. “I was a little bit nervous in beginning, being first in anything makes you want to put your best foot forward. I’m incredibly grateful that they trusted me with the role of Noah in a pivotal moment. It’s a great foundation for future scripted content.”
“It was exciting to know that this was the first scripted movie for Discovery,” said McCook. “There are so many outlets for these Christmas films, this just adds a layer that the audience hasn’t been able to see yet. Everyone loves a first, it’s exciting for us and the audience.”
There are a few things that truly set “Candy Coated Christmas” apart from other Christmas movies. For one, McCook says that her character isn’t particularly likable in the beginning of the film.
“I’ve seen a lot of Christmas movies that are textbook. I really like this character not so easy to love in the beginning,” said McCook. “We get to learn what it’s important in life and where your heart is. It’s not about materialist things, and we show that arc and change her feelings about things in her life. It was a challenge to make her likable.”
The film has the added bonus of adding Ree Drummond to the cast, who is known for her Food Network Show “The Pioneer Woman,” making this her feature debut.
“When [Drummond] first showed up, it is her first acting role so she was nervous. She’s just a beautiful human being, she needed less takes than me!” said O’Connell. “She really brought it to the table. It was fun to have that cross-over from other areas join the cast.”
Both O’Connell and McCook agree that they hope the film helps others feel connected to each other during the holiday season.
“I think there a lot of elements to the movie that many can relate to, whether it is becoming obsessed with material things, and I think the big lesson is about family and being surrounded by loved ones,” said McCook. “Molly and her father, Fred — who is played by my dad — for them, they have a sort of surface-level relationship since her mother passed away. There’s a really special father-daughter bond, where not only Molly but Fred see the importance of family. It’s not just a regular girl meets guy love story.”
“I hope that ‘Candy Coated Christmas’ gives people an opportunity to connect as a family,” said O’Connell. “There isn’t one thing that these characters go through that we haven’t gone through, too. You can live through characters and live and grow through issues that develop throughout the story and connect and enjoy and laugh with us as we tell the story.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” premieres on discovery+ on Nov. 19.