Canadian actress Vanessa Lengies is trading in her usual quirky, funny girl characters on-screen to play the romantic leading lady in Hallmark’s Heart of the Holidays. We got a chance to chat to the Montreal-born triple threat about the upcoming heartwarming flick, her always-on self-care routine and so much more.
From Los Angeles to Toronto to Vancouver: Filming Heart of the Holidays during a pandemic
Heart of the Holidays invites viewers to join the journey of ambitious, career-driven Sam, portrayed by Lengies, as she heads back to her hometown for the holiday season. Of course, no movie would need to be made if it was just a relaxing trip home — the excitement really begins when she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Noah (Corey Sevier), she’d left behind when she took off to New York City to chase some dreams eight years ago. Cue the conflict and cute here.
The on-screen reunion isn’t the only significant one as there was a reunion behind the scenes at play here too. Lengies and lead actor Sevier, who also directed and edited Heart of the Holidays — which was written by his wife, also came together again to make this romantic film. “We met 23 years ago — we filmed together when I was 11 on Canadian Lassie,” says Lengies.
The actress points out that some of the greatest love stories we see are rooted deeply in friendship — so, when it came to generating great chemistry on-screen, that was her secret. “I did see him as my 12-year-old self saw him — with our parents at a function. He’s my friend from when I was little,” explains Lengies, who acknowledges that the young boy she shot Lassie with had grown into a very handsome, sexy man. “When you see great love stories, hear great love stories or live great love stories — you know that those people are deep friends before there’s lusty, sexy chemistry. So going into this movie, I trusted that Corey and I’s friendship would come across to the audience — and that would represent the deep love we have for each other.”
The warm, connected-family vibe wasn’t exclusive to the lead actors. According to Lengies, the entire cast and crew of the production valued safety and care for each other while they filmed Heart of the Holidays during the pandemic. Before arriving to Vancouver, Lengies quarantined in Toronto for two weeks after hopping off a plane from Los Angeles. Folx on set got tested twice a week for covid — and everyone had a mask on at all times unless they were shooting on-screen. Still, it was one of her best experiences on set.
Vanessa Lengies talks being a Canadian in the entertainment industry and looks back at her time on Glee
From child star to leading lady, Lengies got her start in Canadian media before moving to Los Angeles — where she’s been living for the last 20 years. The proud Canadian actress looks back fondly from her days on Popular Mechanics for Kids to her work on the film Stick It with Jeff Bridges and more. It wasn’t until she returned north of the border and worked with a twenty-something crew, did she bubble over with Canadian pride. Though she’d been in LA for the last two decades, the people on set doubled as her former audience who used to watch her on TV as kids. “It was cool and it helped me drop myself into my roots a little more,” says Lengies.
The Heart of the Holidays actress attributes much of her overall success to her Canadian training — it’s helped her be a more prepared actress in LA. Looking back at her time on set of the hit musical dramedy Glee, she took on 18 plus hour days and was warmly embraced by the cast when she took on the recurring role of Sugar Motto.
“One of the reasons the cast accepted me immediately was because the first day I showed up, Cory [Monteith] was on the drums rehearsing ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’,” says Lengies, “And he saw me on the other side of the auditorium walk in — I was just there as like a meet and greet to say hi, ‘cause I wasn’t actually filming that day. But I remember him stopping and just lifting up his drum sticks and saying, ‘Vanessa!’”
The two knew each other through Canadian actor Dustin Milligan. “I think I owe it to Cory how immediately I was accepted into the family there,” says Lengies.
Of course, a lot of tragedy has taken place since the show ended. “I miss Naya, who we lost this year,” says Lengies. “I mean, you can watch interviews of her, clips with her — she was just magic on screen and in person. And her personality was electric and truth-telling and she was beautiful — and she was a wonderful person to be around or watch.”
Self-care is key to mental health and here’s what she’d say to young womxn interested in acting
“Find support, find people you can share all the feelings that come up along the way,” Lengies suggests to aspiring actors. “Looking back, it wasn’t hard — the acting and entertaining and playing the character — I think what was hard was I didn’t really know that I needed to be expressing all these behind the scene feelings that were going on. I was someone who swallowed it and kept going.” She suggests finding a support team — people who can help digest and process the feelings that come up.
It wasn’t until the last five years that Lengies started to prioritize her self-care and mental health routine. “I started meditating — I could feel my own eyes roll, six years ago, if someone had told me that — but I love meditating,” admits Lengies.
Her daily self-care routine includes journaling (free writing and gratitude lists) and meditation each morning. When she experiences an intense or high-energy day, Lengies cares for herself by running a hot salt bath. “It brings me back in my body and slows me down,” says Lengies. She adds, “Orgasm. Our bodies and our pleasure — a really important part of self-care.”
She’s not wrong. We also asked her if she had to quarantine with any one of the characters she’s brought to life — who would it be?
“I would quarantine with Roxanne Bojarski from American Dreams,” says Lengies. “Because she was funny, rebellious, no-nonsense, truth-telling and also had a great 1960’s wardrobe.”
Watch Heart of the Holidays on November 23rd on the W Network at 9pm ET/PT.