How Must Love Christmas' Emotional Ending Was Originally Very Different, According To Star Liza Lapira

Nick and Natalie get a happy ending in Must Love Christmas
(Image credit: CBS)

Spoilers ahead for CBS’ latest holiday movie, Must Love Christmas.

CBS delivered a special kind of holiday cheer with Must Love Christmas, starring Liza Lapira in a very different role than she plays on The Equalizer. The actress played Natalie, a reclusive writer famous for her Christmas love stories… although short on any real-life love story of her own. Before too long, she had two (seemingly) eligible bachelors vying for her attention in the quaint town of Cranberry Falls, and there were some unexpected twists before the emotional ending with Natalie sharing a kiss with Nick (Neal Bledsoe) after learning the truth about Caleb (Nathan Witte). According to Lapira, the ending as originally scripted was different from the finished product. 

First things first, however! Let's dig into what happened to lead to the happy ending. Must Love Christmas (featuring some familiar faces from Hallmark movies) really seemed to be setting Natalie up for an impossible choice in Cranberry Falls, when she bonded with Nick over the article that he wanted to write about her to save his magazine, while also still carrying a torch for her childhood crush Caleb, who grew up to become a volunteer firefighter with a passion for raising money for kids. As Liza Lapira had previewed, there was no easy choice about who to root for as Natalie’s best fit. 

Not at first, anyway! Unfortunately, there was more to Caleb than met the eye, and Natalie didn’t find a Christmas romance worthy of one of her books with him in Cranberry Falls. Once back in New York, however, she realized that without her even noticing, Nick hit all of the key points required for her soul mate – including the one she hadn’t even decided on just yet herself. The movie ended with Natalie shedding her reclusive persona and rushing to find Nick on Christmas Eve. 

In a scene absolutely worthy of a Christmas romance novel, Natalie found him as he was cleaning up at the Brooklyn train museum after volunteering for a potluck for the less fortunate. They opened up about how they changed each other, grew, and were reminded of how it felt to fall in love, and then sealed the conversation with a sweet kiss right after midnight. 

That’s where the story was originally scripted to end, but Must Love Christmas went a little further with Natalie stepping back and saying “The end.” It was a perfect line for the love story involving a romance novelist, and according to Liza Lapira, it was one that she came up with. The actress shared with CinemaBlend: 

I actually pitched that after the kiss I say 'The end,' because it just seemed like a Natalie thing to do. As scripted, it was just supposed to end in this beautiful kiss, like we do, and it's happily ever after. No, this woman is work-obsessed, and there's no line, clearly! Probably saying this would also annoy him or throw him, and that's our banter. So of course she goes 'The end' and, like, 'Dude, this is gonna be a book!' [laughs] And he's like, 'No, no, no.'

The original ending sounds like it would have been lovely and fitting with the happily-ever-afters that make Christmas movies so popular with so many people, but “The end” was a perfect closer for the character of Natalie and the way that her relationship developed with Nick. She may have grown a lot from the beginning of the movie to when she surprised Nick with romance on her mind, but she was still a novelist in need of material for the next holiday season! Liza Lapira continued:

I love that Martin Wood, the director, then superimposed the cover of her next book. She totally turns their story into the next moneymaker. I even ad-libbed – it didn't make it in – when he's like, 'No, Natalie, this is our love story.' I ad-libbed, 'Listen, you gotta make the cheddar baby. You want this life? You got to sell our story.'

Liza Lapira’s ad-lib may not have made it in, but what better way for Must Love Christmas to end Natalie’s tale than with the cover image of her next holiday novel? Nick certainly didn’t object enough to her idea that it ruined the Christmas magic, and viewers could enjoy a classic holiday movie happily-ever-after while also keeping that humor between them intact. When I noted to the actress that it was fitting for the movie to end on a laugh after how Nick and Natalie’s relationship started, she responded: 

Yes, that was the goal!... That was my wish going in. Before I even boarded the plane, I thought, 'Oh, man, if there could just be some injection of laughter that's from a really grounded place.' I mean, I kind of feel like that's the point of me. Why hire me if I'm not gonna run my mouth, [laughs] and hopefully make something funny or find the humanness and the humor in humanness.

Must Love Christmas was the second of CBS’ new Christmas movies for the end of 2022, following Fit for Christmas with The Talk’s Amanda Kloots as the leading lady. While that movie also had a happy ending (and one that Kloots said she “loved”), it definitely wasn’t exactly the same as what viewers got with Liza Lapira’s first holiday movie. Lapira also only had good things to say about working with Hallmark alums for her project, and the movie aired not long after Neal Bledsoe made an emotional announcement about his own career path.

If you missed Must Love Christmas on CBS or are just in the mood for a rewatch, you can find the holiday movie streaming with a Paramount+ subscription. You can also start planning ahead for the new year with our 2023 TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).