Must Love Christmas Star Liza Lapira Explains The Fun Of A Rom-Com After The Equalizer And Perks Of Working With Hallmark Stars

Liza Lapira as Natalie in Must Love Christmas
(Image credit: CBS)

CBS will soon celebrate the holiday season with actress Liza Lapira taking on a very different role than what fans of The Equalizer are used to seeing. She stars as Natalie in Must Love Christmas, playing a writer renowned for her romance novels about Christmas, but the author may be the one finding love this time around. Lapira spoke with CinemaBlend about starring in Must Love Christmas on top of her role on The Equalizer, the perks of working with Hallmark Christmas movie alums Neal Bledsoe and Nathan Witte, and how this movie will stand out from the holiday pack.

Must Love Christmas will send novelist Natalie to the town of Cranberry Falls, and wind up caught between Nick (Neal Bledsoe), a journalist who wants her to tell her story, and Caleb (Nathan Witte), her childhood crush. While it’s safe to say that some kind of conflict is on the way even in a genre known for being merry and bright, it won’t be nearly on the scale of what Liza Lapira encounters on The Equalizer, currently in its third season on CBS. When the actress spoke with CinemaBlend about her new project, she shared what drew her to the role of Natalie and Must Love Christmas

Well, I'm a romantic comedy fan, especially a Christmas romantic comedy fan, so to be offered the lead in that genre is already exciting for me. Then I read the script and I got to play someone who has a real trajectory, not just romance-wise, but in her personal life.

Natalie has a journey to go on beyond choosing between two men who came to Must Love Christmas with plenty of holiday movie experience, but not the kind of journey that her character of Mel does on The Equalizer. Liza Lapira had to flex some different acting muscles for the journey to Cranberry Falls for an experience more likely to be holly-jolly than full of stunt sequences. When I asked what it was like for her to come to a Christmas movie from her work on the hit drama, she shared: 

It was so great. I have been dying to do romantic comedy. I mean, comedy is what I started doing, certainly in television, and so it's just been a genre that I'm a fan of and something I'd wanted to do as an actor. So it was just a refreshing change. If you're going to change from someone so self-assured, someone who – I feel like I do stunts a lot, especially this season – is so physically self-assured, and physically imposing for someone so petite, it's fun to just go 100% the other way, and be someone who the most physical she is is picking up her cat.

From a stunt standpoint, Mel certainly has a lot more to do opposite Queen Latifah’s Robyn McCall than pick up any pets, so Must Love Christmas’ Natalie is definitely a different direction that Liza Lapira enjoyed exploring. According to the trailer, Natalie is known as the “queen of Christmas romance” but hasn’t actually gone on a date in years, and sparks will fly with not one but two men for a potential happily-ever-after! 

Nathan Witte and Neal Bledsoe for Must Love Christmas

(Image credit: CBS)

And who better to star opposite Liza Lapira for a Christmas rom-com than two stars who know their way around a Christmas movie? Leading men Neal Bledsoe and Nathan Witte came to Must Love Christmas with some Hallmark holiday movies to their names. Bledsoe (who recently made an emotional statement in response to Candace Cameron Bure’s GAF controversy) starred in Coming Home for Christmas and A Christmas Carousel. For his part, Witte had roles in A Christmas Treasure and A Christmas Miracle as just two of his Hallmark credits.  

So, did the two Hallmark veterans have any advice for Liza Lapira in her first starring role in a Christmas movie? The actress confirmed that “they did” and she had “a great time,” then continued:

They brought their expertise. They are veterans of this. This is what they've done so many times. They brought their leading men-esque auras about them. They play leading men and they are leading men. They also brought a sense of play and presence. They were so supportive and accepting of me from the jump. They were generous actors. They gave as good as they got, they gave above and beyond. They're both inventive, funny, charming guys, and they brought that to me on screen and they brought it to me off screen. I can't say enough about how talented and handsome those guys are, and I think you can see the fun we had on screen. There's just a sense of play and a sense that we all really like being around each other. I think that translates.

While Liza Lapira and her two holiday movie veteran leading men liked being around each other while working on Must Love Christmas, will that be the case for Natalie, Nick, and Caleb? Christmas movies can usually be relied on for happy endings, and both guys probably can’t get the girl. Liza Lapira previewed how she thinks that fans will be torn about who to root for:

There's a couple misleads because it's not clear or super obvious. It is to me, but I’m too in it. I read the script and I was in it, but I heard that some people watched it and midway [through] they didn't know which way it was gonna go, and that's very exciting to me. Because there is a sense of predictability and I like that about romantic comedies and procedurals. You kind of know what's going to happen. You just don't know how we're going to get there, and so the fact that some people saw this movie and didn't even know where we were going to get to, that's just an added layer of like, 'Oh, cool. We really did above and beyond our job.'

Luckily, Christmas movie fans (and Equalizer viewers who want to check out Liza Lapira in a different kind of character), the wait for the movie is nearly over. Must Love Christmas premieres on Sunday, December 11 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, and will be available streaming afterward with a Paramount+ subscription. You can also find the new Christmas movie starring The Talk’s Amanda Kloots opposite a Hallmark leading man of her own, with Fit for Christmas streaming as well and delivering an ending (and wardrobe) that Kloots loved

If you're ready to start planning ahead for the new year, be sure to check out our 2023 TV premiere schedule for what will debut on the small screen in the not-too-distant future.

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).