Kristoffer Polaha is so thrilled about the new Hallmark movie he’s filming that on January 10, 2023, he wound up spilling multiple behind-the-scenes details when he surprised fans by jumping onto friend and fellow Hallmark actor Benjamin Ayres’ Instagram Live session. Polaha is in Asheville, North Carolina, where he just began filming “A Biltmore Christmas” with Bethany Joy Lenz and said he’s been blown away by the production already, even revealing the secret backstory about how the family behind the famous estate wound up collaborating with Hallmark.
Kristoffer Polaha Says New Production Feels Like ‘A Real Movie’
When Ayres noticed Polaha had logged in to watch his solo Instagram Live session on Tuesday morning, he asked him to jump on for a quick, casual chat. Polaha soon appeared live from his hotel room in Asheville, laughing as he put on a ballcap to cover his bedhead hair.
Revealing that he’s there filming through the end of January, Polaha stepped outside his room to show Ayres — and nearly 200 fans tuning in — a sweeping view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Polaha said that they’d just begun filming the day before and expressed his gratitude to be working on a movie with such an incredible location, cast, and crew.
“We’re making a good old-fashioned Christmas movie,” he said. “And you know how it feels when you get a gig, you just feel so grateful, so excited to start the year off with a job. It helps a lot!”
But Polaha said this is not just any acting job. He revealed he’s been blown away by everything about this production which, according to Hallmark’s December press announcement, is set in the 1940s and marks the first time the historic Biltmore Estate has served as the setting of a full movie.
For starters, Polaha said, he was blown away by the “amazing script.” Saying that the screenwriter, Marcy Holland, “deserves a little shout-out.” Both actors said they weren’t familiar with Holland but, according to IMBd, she has written for numerous Hallmark projects in recent years including the “Time For Me To Come Home” series of movies, multiple mysteries including 2022’s “Nikki and Nora: Sister Sleuths,” and Holly Robinson Peete’s 2021 film, “Our Christmas Journey.”
Polaha said, “Amazing script, man. Like, it’s really tight. You know, when you read scripts and you’re like, ‘There’s a lot of fat in this scene’ and ‘This isn’t necessary?’ Every scene pushes the story forward. It’s like a real movie! It’s a really fun, great script.”
Ayres then shared with fans that when they arrive on the set of a new movie, Hallmark’s lead actors often wind up tweaking scripts and changing their lines to bring the story to life. Polaha agreed, adding that he always assumes he’ll have to pitch in as a writer and producer on each movie, wanting to have some “creative control” over the finished product to ensure it’s something he’s proud of starring in. So, he said, he was pleasantly surprised that he didn’t need to do that with this new project.
He said, “I think Joy and I were both like, ‘Okay, we’re ready to roll our sleeves up’ but we got here and like, the producers are amazing, the guy — John Putch is directing — he’s amazing, the executives at Hallmark…it’s a really amazing team and all cylinders are firing.”
Kristoffer Polaha Reveals ‘Cool Story’ of How Hallmark Wound Up Working With Biltmore Estate
Constructed in the late-1800s, the massive Biltmore Estate was the family home of famous entrepreneur George W. Vanderbilt, set on 8,000 acres of land. According to the Associated Press, the 250-room French chateau opened up to the public in the 1930s but was spiraling into debt by the 1950s. The Cecil family, who are descendants of Vanderbilt, took over operations and more than 70 years later, the estate is thriving, overseen by siblings Bill Cecil Jr. and Dini Pickering, and is a National Historic Landmark.
In his Instagram Live with Ayres, Polaha said that the family is “deeply involved in the co-production of this movie,” adding that he’d already toured the Biltmore and had dinner with Chase Pickering, who is Dini’s son and a Biltmore executive.
When Ayres asked how the family connected with Hallmark on the project, Polaha replied, “Well, do you want another really cool story?”
Figuring the story will “get out” eventually, he told Ayres that years ago, after Chase graduated from the University of North Carolina, he had been an intern for entertainment executive Wonya Lucas. Lucas, who has her own historic lineage as the niece of baseball legend Hank Aaron, became CEO of Hallmark in 2020.
“So they were friends from, like, back in the day,” Polaha exclaimed. “And I think he just called her up and said…’Our family, we love the Hallmark Christmas movies, and would you ever want to do a Hallmark movie here?’ and Wonya was like “A hundred percent!'”
Polaha said that after Hallmark executives visited the Biltmore in May 2022, VP of Development Samantha DiPippo came up with a proposed storyline and “Chase loved it.”
“So, cut to less than a year later,” Polaha laughed. “That’s kind of the beauty of Hallmark, isn’t it? We’re in this rare corner of the business where you can have an idea in May and it’s turned into a movie in January. Like, that’s unheard of anywhere else.”