Every corny Christmas rom-com must check off a list of must-haves: a heroine with an extremely charming job, a romantic scene where it begins lightly snowing, a conflict that can be ironed out as easily as a wool sweater, and to cap it off … a kiss through plexiglass? That last item is a new addition to this Yuletide canon, but Lifetime’s Christmas Ever After, which premieres on Sunday, dared to do a test run.
To investigate exactly how one creates the illusion of a butterfly-inducing lip-lock while separated by a plate of glass, we spoke to the movie’s star, Tony winner Ali Stroker, about what the shoot in Canada was like, how they cleaned the glass between takes, and more. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Slate: So what was it like to briefly step out of our pandemic world and into a Christmas utopia?
Ali Stroker: It was the highlight of my year. It was so wonderful. We only had 15 days to shoot the entire movie, so we had to be really efficient, but I also felt like Lifetime and our producers did such a great job keeping us safe so we could really focus on the work.
This is such a touchy-feely movie, like many Christmas rom-coms, and I actually found myself wincing whenever you all would hug each other. But I was also trusting the process!
[laughs] Yeah! The actors all tested every two days. Daniel [di Tomasso] and I both came from the States, so we quarantined for two weeks. And we wore masks like literally until the moment before we shot. So I had a mask and a shield on for almost the whole day. It was like this alternate universe. It was this moment where we could all take a deep breath because our lives have changed so much.
Speaking of how our lives have changed, your rom-com had you kissing someone through plexiglass! I feel like we’ve seen different ways that the entertainment world has adapted to the pandemic—like one soap opera was even using mannequins for their kissing scenes. But did you actually kiss the glass?
Yes! I kissed the glass, and it’s just movie magic. At first I thought that we were going to actually kiss [each other] because we’ve all been tested, but Lifetime was like, “No no no, we’re going to put the glass between you two!” He giggled so much when we were rehearsing, because we were like, “This is crazy! I feel like I’m in high school at a party and we’re playing Truth or Dare!”
Did they clean the glass with Windex? Were you getting a mouthful of Lysol?
No, thank goodness. They used a natural cleaner so we weren’t kissing chemicals and it didn’t even smell at all either. It also looked like glass that had just never been touched.
When you mentioned how it felt like high school, it brought to mind the way teens practice kissing at home on their mirror. Did you practice?
I didn’t practice, but that’s exactly what it felt like. When you are in middle school, you have this crush, and you think maybe you might have your first kiss, so you want to practice. I certainly have kissed a mirror before! It was sort of like that.
I’m curious about how you go about staging a plexiglass kiss that you still want to be properly swoon-worthy. Did you have to change the way you angle your body? Were things carefully choreographed?
I think the way the kiss works is that it’s all about each piece. It’s about capturing each part of it: the feels of like, Oh my gosh, is he gonna kiss me, is he gonna kiss me, is he gonna kiss me? Then the actual connection is not necessarily, I think, the part that makes people feel those butterflies. It’s all the anticipation leading up to it. And then of course, afterwards the euphoria of what it’s like to kiss somebody for the first time that you really like.
So in your official list of people you’ve kissed—which we all presumably keep—will Daniel be added to the list?
That is so funny! I guess… Well, I don’t actually keep a list, but I would say that this goes down as one of the most memorable working kisses that I’ve ever had to do.