The Hallmark Channel movie “A Christmas Love Story” is set in New York and was filmed in North Carolina — yet there’s a distinctly Utah flavor to it.
One of its stars, Scott Wolf, lives in the Beehive State, drawn to Park City while starring in “Everwood” after his breakthrough role in “Party of Five.”
The other star, Kristin Chenoweth, might as well be a resident, with recent visits to perform and promote her work here.
“There’s something about Utah,” Chenoweth said during a recent trip to Salt Lake City. “It’s sort of how I feel when I go home to Oklahoma. And Scott loves it here. We talked about it a lot when we were working on” the TV movie.
Chenoweth and Wolf star in “A Christmas Love Story,” which airs Saturday, Dec. 7, at 6 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel. She plays youth choir director Katherine, who loses one of her main vocalists just before the choir’s big holiday concert.
But then she discovers that a new teen volunteer, Danny (Kevin Quinn), has an amazing voice. Just one problem: His widowed father, Greg (Wolf), wants Danny to concentrate on college applications … until he starts to fall for Katherine.
There’s a major plot twist — but no spoilers here. “It is a subject that Hallmark has never tackled before,” Chenoweth said.
She’s not just an executive producer on “A Christmas Love Story”; she co-wrote the TV movie’s main song. “I’m very proud of it,” Chenoweth said.
Between takes on the set, she and Wolf talked about Utah “all the time.” It remains an ongoing topic between the two. “I get texts from him a lot. And he’s like, ‘Look at this hike. Aren’t you jealous?’” she said with a laugh. “And I am!”
CHRISTMAS MOVIE PHENOMENON • Hallmark and Lifetime are churning out Christmas TV movies at a remarkable pace. Hallmark produced 40 originals this season for its two TV channels, the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries; Lifetime produced 30. And four of those were filmed in Utah:
• “The Road Home for Christmas”(premiered Oct. 26 on Lifetime) • Rival musicians (Marla Sokoloff and Rob Mayes) travel together to their hometowns and have holiday adventures. Marie Osmond appears. (It’s available for streaming at mylifetime.com.)
• “Check Inn to Christmas” (Nov. 26, 6 p.m., Hallmark Channel) • A New York lawyer (Rachel Boston) goes home to her family’s inn in the Rocky Mountains and falls for a man (Wes Brown) whose family owns the town’s other inn.
• “Staging Christmas” (Nov. 29, 6 p.m., Lifetime) • A woman (Soleil Moon Frye) who stages houses for real estate agents is hired by a wealthy widower (George Stults) to stage his home for the holidays in an attempt to cheer up his daughter.
• “Christmas Hotel” (Dec. 21, 6 p.m., Lifetime) • An employee at a high-end New York hotel (Tatyana Ali) is transferred to her small hometown in the mountains, where she battles/falls for the man (Sean Patrick Thomas) who’s leading the efforts to keep the chain hotel from opening.
Those four bring the total number of Christmas TV movies filmed in Utah to 16, including “A Christmas Wish” (2011); “The Mistle-Tones” (2012); “Christmas Under Wraps” (2014); “Christmas Land,” “I’m Not Ready for Christmas” and “12 Gifts of Christmas” (2015); “My Christmas Love” (2016); “Enchanted Christmas,” “Switched for Christmas” and “Wrapped Up in Christmas” (2017); and “Christmas Made to Order,” “Jingle Belle,” “My Christmas Inn” and “Christmas Wonderland” (2018).
“Our snowy mountain peaks and small, unique neighborhoods offer filmmakers incredible diversity that is easily accessible,” said Utah Film Commission Director Virginia Pearce. “And the ease of doing business here is what keeps filmmakers coming back.”
FEELING RIGHT AT HOME • Chenoweth performed with the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square for its 2018 Christmas Concert. That performance will be telecast Monday, Dec. 16, at 8 p.m. on PBS/Channel 7, and it’s been turned into the CD “Angels Among Us.”
She returned to Salt Lake City in October to promote and sign copies of the CD; in August, she performed (for the second time) at Deer Valley; in 2017, she performed at the BYU Spectacular. And she jokes that, yes, she’s considered moving to Utah.
“I kept trying to tell them — I don’t take up much room,” she told The Tribune during an interview at the LDS Church’s Conference Center. “I could live in that room right back there. And there’s a kitchen. This could be my apartment. And then I have that stage in there, which is incredible, isn’t it?”
She rhapsodized about performing with the Tabernacle Choir. And about performing at BYU. Chenoweth said she the former “blew me away. I mean, I floated home.” And she was “so inspired” by the latter.
“It’s no secret that I have a connection here. That I feel very safe,” she said. ”And I’m with people of like spirit.”
She doesn’t spend all of her time with other performers while she’s in Utah. During her visit in October, she visited Encircle’s LGBTQ+ center in Salt Lake City and sang with teens there.
“It was amazing, because I had the opportunity to meet some teenagers who have either not been welcomed in their homes or don’t feel that they have found their people yet,” said Chenoweth, a longtime LGBTQ activist. “We sang a ton and we talked about God loving you no matter what.
“I left happy. See, that’s the secret about giving that people forget. My mama always says, ‘When you feel like crap and something bad is happening to you, go out and give somebody something. And you will be surprised.’”
WOLFS IN PARK CITY • Scott Wolf said he and his wife didn’t choose to move to Utah. “It actually chose us first,” he said.
The 51-year-old actor had just married Kelley Limp (“The Real World: New Orleans”) when he was cast in Season 3 of “Everwood,” which filmed in Utah.
“So my wife and I were, like, ‘Yeah, we’ll do Utah for a year,’” Wolf said. “And as soon as we hit Park City, we fell madly in love with it. … We just kind of got sucked in and hit hard by the place.”
Work takes him elsewhere; he’s currently commuting to Vancouver, where he’s co-starring in The CW’s “Nancy Drew” as Nancy’s father while his wife and kids remain in Utah.
Wolf, his wife and their three children — 10- and 7-year-old sons, and a 5-year-old daughter — go “skiing and snowboarding and snow-shoeing and all kinds of great stuff in the winter.” And in the spring, summer and fall (“Which is, like, in total about four months,” Wolf joked) they go biking, hiking and swimming. “And we’ve got dogs. So we’re outside with them a lot.”
“You don’t have an excuse to be bored in Park City, really.”
Wolf has sometimes taken his family along as he worked on series on-location. But Utah has remained their home for 15 years.
“Our family is the most important thing in the world, and and our kids are everything to us,” Wolf said. “And so the environment we’re putting them in is the most important decision we can make.”