What When Christmas Was Young Star Karen David Loved About Playing Melody And The 'Serendipity' Ending

Karen David and Tyler Hilton in When Christmas Was Young
(Image credit: Dean Buscher/CBS)

Warning: spoilers ahead for the When Christmas Was Young movie on CBS.

Karen David came to CBS to star in her very first holiday movie, and When Christmas Was Young saw the former Galavant star delivering as an actress and a singer. She played Melody Douglass, a talented singer and songwriter who had given up on her Nashville dreams after never being given the chance she deserved, opposite Tyler Hilton as music manager Luke Dawson, who went from arrogant to earnest over the course of getting to know Melody. David spoke with CinemaBlend about what she loved about playing her character, and the "serendipity" of Melody getting a happy ending in more than one way with Luke. 

Melody and Luke didn't get off to the strongest start after he made a bad first impression, and then started pestering her for the rights to her Christmas song – of course called "When Christmas Was Young" and penned in real life by none other than Sheryl Crow – so that country superstar Lindsay Wyatt could perform it at her holiday concert. It didn't help that she had an extra reason to hold a grudge against him, which he didn't even know about initially: she'd attempted to meet with him as a potential manager before she gave up on her dreams and lost her mother, only to be brushed off and ultimately become his last resort when Lindsay heard her song by pure happenstance after he'd lost nearly everything. 

Luckily, Melody wasn't one to let some bad memories ruin the Christmas magic, and sparks were flying with Luke as he showed his true (much softer) colors and even bonded with her daughter Bailey. Of course, something went wrong before they could get their happy ending, but Melody was able to kickstart her music career by dueting on "When Christmas Was Young" with Lindsay at the concert, and sealing the night with a kiss with Luke. 

Karen David (who tried performing country music for the very first time for When Christmas Was Young) opened up with her thoughts on Luke's persistence and what she loved about Melody's reactions to him trying to win her over:

She remembers her experience when she first tried to meet him as manager years ago. This is before she had her family, before she had her daughter. This is when she was really pursuing her dreams, and she didn't even get a look in. She was a bit naive, which is something that I can relate to at the beginning of when you start on this journey, you think, 'Oh, I want to sing, I want to write songs. Okay, what do we do? We just go to a record company and just like show up and say, hey, sign me?' So there's a bit of that, but it's part of the learning experience, and that's part of the journey for Melody.

Melody's life might have gone in many, many different directions if Luke had just taken an actual meeting with her all those years ago. She built a solid life for herself and her daughter even after being abandoned by her ex-husband, but was never given the shot that she deserved... as even Luke had to admit when he finally listened to her song. Karen David continued:

She remembers all too well Luke's persona and he was known as the hot music manager, and that went to his head. He was a bit full of himself. So I think for her at this point, when you're Melody and you've been through so much – she's a single mom, the husband left the family – that's trauma in itself. Then she loses her mother. She's been through the worst of the worst! So her tolerance for, shall we say, BS is really minimal.

Luke didn't make any headway with Melody until he slowly but surely dropped his BS, starting with helping spread Christmas cheer and even having a nice dinner with her and Bailey, all while toning down the relentless requests for the rights to her song. It was clear that the song was too personal for her to give up just because she'd make a lot of money, and it would take most of the movie for him to understand what she'd been through. Karen David shared what she saw as fun about her character at the beginning, as well as how she changed:

So what I love about Melody is we see a very sassy Melody in the beginning. She doesn't give a toss who he is, and she's just who she is, and I love that about her. She's very grounded. She's very real. She knows who she is, and so anyone who comes into her space that's not that, she'll call them out. And she's not afraid of that. I think that's one thing that Luke's not used to, [is] being told! And he's not used to having someone ground him in that way. But I love the dynamic between the two of them, and how that evolves.

Melody went through a lot to get to the place where she could be sassy and grounded, which was what she needed to stick to her guns until she found the right reason to let Lindsay sing her song, and what Luke needed to realize some truths about himself. The duo who started When Christmas Was Young as an extremely mismatched pair came together by the end to deliver a classic happy holiday movie ending. 

And while romantic Christmas movies can usually be counted on to end on a happy note and often a kiss (with Amanda Kloots loving that ending for Fit for Christmas and Liza Lapira sharing what changed for the end of Must Love Christmas' big kiss), Melody didn't just get a romantic win. She also got a professional win by showing the world her talent with the duet, all while staying true to herself. Karen David weighed in on Melody getting her win in more than one way, saying:

It's always when you're not looking for something, and you're not expecting something like this to happen. It's funny when serendipity comes into play, and how that plays a huge factor in the trajectory of our lives. There's things that we never even thought about, but maybe that's the magic of life, and how wonderful things can happen to good people. Here's a song and a demo that she sent years ago that somehow finds its way in this pile of CDs in Luke Dawson's box when he's leaving the office and just how [it's] right place [and] right time, and you never know. I am so happy that a good person like Melody was able to shine and she had her moment to shine.

Serendipity was certainly in play to bring the music manager and singer who'd once dreamed of a career in music together! If Luke has listened to her song and signed her all those years ago, Melody might never have had Bailey and built the strong bonds with her friends and family that she had in When Christmas Was Young, but still achieved her dreams. If Luke had signed Melody, he might have had another star than just Lindsay as a client. Melody was finally ready for her big break in the movie, and rose to the challenge when she got the surprise of her life on stage. Karen David continued:

She's completely not expecting to go on stage to sing. So when Lindsay Wyatt calls her onto stage, she's so shocked, completely petrified to go on stage. But she turns around and looks at the two people that she loves and adores and cares for: her daughter and Luke. I think what's just so wonderful [is] we can only hope that we can find a partner in our lives that truly sees us, and values us, and appreciates all the wonderful things that sometimes maybe we can't even see in ourselves. That's what I love so much about not only her daughter, but also with Luke. He sees her and he's cheering her on, and he's the real impetus to to make Melody really take stock and pause for a second and say, 'Hey, you've got something really special, and you need to love yourself and have faith that you can do this because we all believe in you. And now we need you to believe in you and to go and shine.’

Melody definitely did shine once she took the stage, and showed that she truly has star power as she held her own while singing with Lindsay as an established country superstar in the When Christmas Was Young world. Karen David likened the moment to what happens on a popular real-life competition show:

It was kind of like an America's Got Talent moment. You know, when you see this character walking on stage and she's so like,' Oh my gosh, I'm on stage in front of all these people.' And you really want to cheer her on. You were like, 'Yes, yes, do this! This is so great. Melody, go shine!' It was just such a magical moment, especially with a song that came with so much emotional attachment with her mother, and her love for her mother and celebrating the mother-daughter relationship and seeing her father in the audience, and her best friends and the people that she loves backstage. I couldn't have hoped for a better ending than that. [laughs] I'm kind of like, 'Wow, I just want that happy ending with everything now in my life.' [laughs] It was so magical.

If this was America's Got Talent, I know that I would have hit the golden buzzer for Melody Douglass! The NBC competition show often highlights singers, with one coming close to winning the most recent season. Melody getting her moment in the limelight on stage to recapture her dream before the big kiss with Luke guaranteed that this Christmas movie packed more than one happy ending into the final moments, and what better way to finish a holiday movie? 

If you want to revisit When Christmas Was Young with Karen David as Melody Douglass, you can find the movie streaming with a Paramount+ subscription now. The days are running out in 2022, so start planning ahead for the new year with our 2023 TV premiere schedule now.

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).