Joy D. Perry, who plays Tess on The Christmas Bow, brought a great deal of authenticity to her Hallmark character. Perry has CMT in real life, just like her character. The movie’s creative producer sought out someone with the neuromuscular disorder so the film would bring an authentic message.
The Creative Producer & Director Wanted To Cast Someone with CMT for Authenticity
Robert Moore shared about the casting choices in a story for Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation (HNF.) He said the movie’s creative producer, Maclain Nelson, wanted to cast a woman with CMT for the role, and reached out to Moore’s wife, Allison Moore. Nelson’s wife, Clare Niederpruem, was directing the movie.
Perry was ultimately cast for the role, Moore wrote for HNF. Perry needed a COVID test before she could join the set and her first scene was filmed on August 5. Perry told Moore that Michael Rady — who played her son — was wonderful to work with. It was Perry’s first acting role, but the cast said she caught on quickly.
Perry is a physical therapist assistant, so she also helped make sure the medical aspect of the movie was accurate. She told Moore: “I had to review with Dr. Burke (Nate Bynum) over and over the correct pronunciation of ‘proximal interphalangeal joint’ and show him where to point on the ‘X-ray’ until he got it right. Clare even asked that I come in one day to assist. I helped with hand placement and appropriate exercises for Patrick the PT. Michael and Lucia were so complimentary of my assistance. I loved this part!”
Moore wrote on HNF that for Perry, the days were tiring since she has CMT, and her feet and legs would hurt and cramp late at night.
Perry First Noticed Symptoms of CMT About 10 Years Ago
Perry first noticed that she had symptoms of CMT about 10 years ago, USMS reported. She was an athlete who competed in triathlons, but started feeling more tired and achy after she’d run, and noticed her calves were getting skinny. She was diagnosed with Type 2 CMT, which can cause nerve damage in the arms and legs, affecting one in 2,500 people.
Perry still swims, USMS reported, but she had to give up running. She can’t open jars sometimes, and has to walk from her hips because of how weak her legs are. The disease is progressive and there’s no cure, but Perry subscribes to the idea of working as hard as she can to make her body stronger, in order to hopefully slow the progression.
Nelson told USMS that Perry is an example to anyone who deals with adversity. “She’s someone who deals with adversity every day but doesn’t let it define her life. It’s just a part of her life. She swims, mountain bikes, does everything. She’s really motivating, no matter what your background is. Her smile and attitude lift you up,” Nelson said.
Perry told Lake Mary Life that she could emotionally relate to the character she was portraying. “Tess is trying not to let CMT hold her back,” she said.