Essence Atkins has over 25 years in the Entertainment Industry; possibly explaining our loyalty to support her continuous body of work, and also that sister-type bond we have built in our heads when watching and relating to women who look like us on the television-and-movie screens. No stranger to lead roles, we last followed Atkins as she starred opposite Marlon Wayans in the NBC series, “Marlon,” and in the BET Plus independent feature, “SameDifference.” An actress achieving longevity in an unpredictable and fickle industry is an amazing feat; yet, to learn and build upon that craft in order to prepare a table for others or to advance a community, that's true purpose... that's doing the work!
CHRISTMAS DILEMMA, a TV One original movie coming this December, is Atkins' Directorial debut. She says, “I am blessed to have the opportunity to collaborate with TV One once again to direct my first movie,” remarked Atkins. “I am immeasurably grateful for the opportunity to helm a film that I can declare I’m proud of. This entire experience has taught me so much and was a true delight.”
In a virtual, media teleconference hosted by TV One and moderated by Lameka Lucas (TV One Senior Manager, Public Relations), W4TC goes inside the film with the CHRISTMAS DILEMMA cast to chat about the importance of feel-good films for the culture.
Brittany Hall, plays "warm-hearted Monica" celebrating her first Christmas as husband and wife with her on-camera mate "Jay," played by BJ Britt.
While we can all relate to experiencing some sort of Christmas Dilemma over the course of our lives, the cast made sure to highlight the central theme of the film... love, family and togetherness.
Legendary Actors, Carl Anthony Payne II and C.B. Duncan recalled specific experiences growing up that were certainly deemed "Christmas Dilemmas." For Carl, it was the Christmas cards in the shape of a tree on the wall, with the gifts underneath full of defective gifts. He remembers it as "one of the saddest Christmas'," yet says "we couldn’t see past it at the time, that at least you tried (speaking of his mom)." He continues, "it wasn't about gifts, it was about being together; about love, and family."
For Duncan, it's pride. He recalls memories of his mother and how news organizations would come to their home each year to interview and take photo/video of his mother's Christmas decorations. He was proud when it was time to introduce his soon-to-be wife at the time to his family and "soak up all that love... the love in our home, the love of the relatives that would stop by in Colorado." He says, "It was a phenomenal experience" introducing his wife to his family for the first time.
Whether your memories are fond or drama filled, CHRISTMAS DILEMMA is what the culture needs this holiday season. We, as a society, are missing the connection and physical love lost due to Covid-19, quarantine and social distancing. We need an escape from reality. Hall says, "Covid has shined a light on the importance of connecting." The cast had one goal in mind... to "shine a light, and remind people how important connection is," Hall says.
Speaking of Covid... with the decrease of in-person interactions and physical touch, we saw an increase on the representation front. More than ever before, we see a rise in roles being filled by actors and actresses of color. As we demand the roles we deserve, and that people of color actually fill and voice the roles/characters portrayed of color, the journey towards further inclusion doesn't seem so far away.
Hall says, teaming up with TV One for this role was intentional and a full-circle moment. She says, "The more Black Women (directors and producers) I can get on my resume..." that's the goal! She continues, "there's magic behind the scenes and working with a Black, woman director." Representation Matters. Hall also recalls the first time she saw "herself" represented on the big screen; it was watching Journey Smollet in Eve's Bayou. Hall remembers saying, "that's me!" Watching Jurnee Smollett, as a kid, was inspiring.
CHRISTMAS DILEMMA is Hall's first "poster film." She cannot wait to put up her post at her house and another at her mom's. Not only that, but it's her first television lead... her first time doing a press junket via Zoom... just tons of firsts for Hall. It "fills her heart with joy," and she's grateful to be given the opportunity.
The love between the cast is evident and makes the story even more believable. The chemistry from on set played before our eyes during the teleconference.
The cast reveled in the way in with Atkins shot the scenes; calling in one particular scheme to account, the strip club scene. Even Hall said it was her "favorite day on set." The cast died laughing.
The light-hearted, escape we didn't know we needed; CHRISTMAS DILEMMA airs December 6 at 7 p.m. EST on TV One.
In the meantime, we leave you with a tip from Hall when feeling uninspired. She says, when she's feeling uninspired, she watches a good show on television... "other people's art and work keeps me inspired." She adds, "my family;" saying, "I'm very honest in the moments when I feel down. Whenever I feel down, I express it to my family and I get the love poured into me that keeps me inspired." Pay attention to the those who inspire you and talk to those who understand you; for Hall, she says, "they inspire me and keep me going."
For more information on CHRISTMAS DILEMMA, visit urban1.com!
ABOUT CHRISTMAS DILEMMA
CHRISTMAS DILEMMA follows a newlywed couple Jay (Britt) and Monica (Hall) as they struggle to decide which set of in-laws they should join for their first Christmas. After each pleads their case and even attempts a little trickery, they decide to bypass the guaranteed disappointment of picking one family over the other. Unbeknownst to them, the decision is made for them when their families show up at their home unexpectedly. Drama ensues as the in-laws clash, long-lost relatives decide to make an appearance, and Jay's grandmother joins the holiday festivities accompanied by her caretaker who just happens to be Jay's gorgeous ex-girlfriend.
ABOUT BRITTANY HALL
Brittany Hall was born on September 30th in Washington D.C. where she discovered her love for the performing arts. At an early age she began performing in school plays, community plays, and dance recitals. As a member of her high school theatre group, Brittany wrote her first play which she performed with the group in front of the entire school during the Annual Holiday Rally. In 2009, Brittany was cast in VH1's hit reality Show "Real Chance of Love 2," where she was given the nickname "Hot Wings." She appeared on series such as ABC's "Ravenswood", BET's "Being Mary Jane" and a supporting role in VH1's Drumline 2. In 2017, Brittany joined Season 3 of HBO's Ballers as Amber. She was upped to series regular for Season 4 and 5. She also appears alongside Sanaa Lathan in Netflix's original comedy "Nappily Ever After." In 2018 Brittany founded ACTORS PLAY LA, a community organization and training studio for actors located in Hollywood, California. Brittany starred in her first lead role, as well as served as executive producer in Test Pattern, a feature film written and directed by Shatara Michelle Ford.