Mia Kirshner is not Jenny Schecter. The Canadian actress has taken on her most wholesome role yet in the film Love, Lights, Hanukkah! Part of Hallmark’s ‘Countdown to Christmas’ event, this feature explores Jewish identity and faith, revolves around the festive Hanukkah and helps provide diversity to the usually red and green heavy holiday lineup.
We caught up with the talented actress and activist to talk about her new holiday film, her activism work and how to make the holidays a little less lonely this year.
Here’s what you can expect from the feel-good film Love, Lights, Hanukkah!
Though audiences may be familiar with Kirshner’s usual darker, more complex characters from shows such as The L Word and Vampire Diaries and films such as The Black Dahlia — this time around, the actress is playing her kindest, sweetest character yet. “Everything she does is with love and joy,” says Kirshner.
Love, Lights, Hanukkah! centers on Kirshner’s character, Christina, as she enthusiastically prepares her restaurant for Christmas. “She’s a walking decoration,” Kirshner shares, “[She] wants to decorate everything. I identify with that, I love decorating for the holidays.”
The story really starts when Christina receives the results of a DNA test that reveals she’s Jewish — opening her life (and the plotline) to new family and an unlikely romance over eight exciting nights.
Responsible casting brings audiences positive Jewish representation with an actual Jewish cast — and Kirshner is happy that Hallmark is telling this story and feels it helps bring more abundance to the network and brand. It was on the set of this holiday film that the actress had a unique experience.
“I had this moment when we were on set and people were singing this prayer in Hebrew — I sort of stepped back and left this scene,” says Kirshner. “And I had this moment; wow, this is incredible. It’s something my grandparents would have never expected to see.”
Representation matters and what we see on-screen can influence how we behave in real life. Exposure to diversity can help us better understand the world and each other. “It’s important — we’re more alike than people think. To see that is very important,” says Kirshner.
With love, family and food at the heart of this film, Kirshner hopes that this light-hearted story will help provide some comfort and offer warmth for folks who will be deprived of family this strange year. “When you’re alone and lonely, sometimes the best company is television,” says Kirshner.
She’s not wrong. Safety first has been an overall theme of the last year.
This is what it was like filming Love, Lights, Hanukkah! during the pandemic
Safety precautions were taken seriously on the Vancouver set of the Hallmark holiday film. It was Kirshner’s first film during the pandemic — and the fastest post-production the actress has ever experienced.
“We rehearsed in masks, the crew had to wear masks at all times,” says Kirshner, who also emphasizes the high quantity of hand sanitizer readily available and social distancing measures that were put in place. Tom Cruise would be very proud.
The American folx involved in production quarantined for 14 days, everyone was tested weekly for the virus and social distancing practices were put in place. Kirshner had a good attitude about it all. “This was no hardship, I stayed in a hotel and watched romantic comedies,” says Kirshner.
Sounds on brand for the star of Love, Lights, Hanukkah!, who describes her own holiday romantic flick as a perfect film to make you feel good during a difficult time when people may feel more alone and lonely than usual.
Bringing audiences something warm and soothing this holiday season was part of the motivation for taking on the role for Kirshner. After all, her interest in humanity extends beyond her film roles.
Kirshner is helping to make the world safer for womxn through activism work
While we know her best as an actress on film and television, Kirshner is also the founder of Rosa, a Canadian digital platform funded by the government and the Justice Partnership Innovation Program. The comprehensive platform aims to offer survivors of workplace sexual harassment understanding of their legal rights, what they can expect in terms of process and how to prepare for legal forums in Canada.
She’s a co-founder for AfterMeToo too, another digital centre that offers resources for survivors — and was part of the group who formed and took action in their own hands following the #MeToo movement. The AfterMeToo group, that was co-founded by filmmaker Aisling Chin-Yee, held a symposium and released a report with recommendations in efforts to stop workplace sexual violence.
The actress and activist promotes intersectional feminism, hoping to help many people and emphasizes the need to believe survivors. “This is for vulnerable, precarious workers,” explains Kirshner, who came out with her own experiences on the subject. “Really advocating for the survivor to due process.”
Kirshner recognizes her position and power to do something and understands that not everyone is afforded the same opportunities when it comes to taking on activism. “It’s a privilege to be able to speak out — I have the privilege to be able to do that,” says Kirshner. “It’s really a question of ‘are you safe to do this?’ Do you have the money to do this?”
But just because people can take action doesn’t mean they will. Of course, there are people like Kirshner who take action in big ways to help create a safer world for womxn.
“Life is short, I want to live a full life and do my absolute best,” says Kirshner.