The work of Jaime M. Callica spans genres, from Netflix’s recent horror film Hypnotic to Tyler Perry’s drama series Ruthless. But the actor’s also racked up an impressive list of holiday titles on his IMDb page, including the Kelly Rowland-led Merry Liddle Christmas trilogy, leading some to call him the “King of Christmas.” Callica took time out from a busy slate to virtually sit down with Casting Networks and share his casting story for one such film that premiered at the start of this holidays season, OWN’s A Chestnut Family Christmas.
It’s nice to virtually meet you, Jaime, and I’d love to start with your character in the movie. What can you tell us about Kyle Chestnut?
Kyle’s a lawyer who’s going through a challenging time. He and his wife recently split up, and their teenage daughter Rogue is having an especially hard time with it. The connection he shares with Rogue has been negatively affected, and Kyle’s frustrated that he’s starting to lose some contact with her. He just wants to be a good father and hopes to reconnect with his daughter over the holidays. Kyle normally hosts his siblings for Christmas, but he hasn’t yet told them about some recent financial hardship he’s facing and doesn’t want them to find out. So he fibs about his house undergoing renovations to get out of it, and his sister ends up hosting all the Chestnuts. But she has secrets of her own that she’s trying to keep under wraps.
I like how you left our readers on that intriguing note — they’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens. So how’d you land the project?
Back in March, I was at the pet store buying food for my birds when I got a call from Todd Murata, the executive producer of A Chestnut Family Christmas. He and I have done a number of movies together in the past, and now he thinks of me for projects. So he called to let me know that he was doing a new movie and checked in about my shooting schedule for Ruthless. The timing worked out, and after I wrapped filming the most recent season of that series in Atlanta, we talked again about the A Chestnut Family Christmas role that he originally pitched me for, Jason Chestnut. He’s the younger brother in the family, and that character is supposed to play basketball. The people at OWN wanted him to be more than 6 feet tall, which I’m not, and they didn’t think I’d be right for that role. Todd kept pushing for me, though.
He sounds like a good person to have in your corner.
Todd deserves all the shoutouts — I love that man. He called me back a few days after they passed on me for the role of Jason and asked if I could play a 45-year-old. Kyle’s the eldest of the Chestnut siblings, and they wanted someone who looked like he could have a 14-year-old daughter. Todd was like, “If it were up to me, I would just offer the part to you, but I have to get network approval and the director on board.” So I sent them a tape of me as Kyle, and they liked my performance but thought I looked too young. I have to give one last shoutout to Todd here because he didn’t quit fighting for me. He texted me at like 11 p.m. asking for photos of when they aged me up for a Disney Channel movie I did called Upside-Down Magic. I sent them his way, and I got a call from Todd the next morning telling me that the role was mine. They’d already loved my rendition of Kyle, and with those photos to show how I could be aged up, it was a done deal. He told me to expect a call from my agent later that day, and shortly after, I went off to Ottawa to shoot A Chestnut Family Christmas.
Wow. That’s the dream right there, to have an executive producer fighting for you. And now let’s fast forward to shooting the project. You shared in a post about the movie that you’d never had a more fun filming experience, and I’d love to hear a story from set.
In the post you’re referring to, I mention that my castmates Meagan [Holder], Brad [James], and Klarc [Jerome Wilson] drank all my wine so I can tell that story. It happened the night after a long day of filming. We were shooting in Ontario during the summer so it was as muggy as it could be and 110 degrees Fahrenheit. It was Christmastime in the film, though, so I was wearing pants, a collared shirt, and a sweater over that. Plus, there was a fireplace on set that they couldn’t turn off, and everybody was just sweating buckets. It was an eight-page day, which covered two scenes, and we shot it all on the same hot set because everything took place in one setting. Production normally stuck to a 12-hour day, but not that day. We went for 14 hours, and after we finally wrapped around 11 p.m., I was spent.
I was walking into the hair and makeup trailer when Meagan ran up and suggested going out for just one drink. I told her that I’d make an effort to rally, and when we got into the trailer, the hair and makeup people already had shots poured out for us because they knew we’d had a hard day. Brad came in and took some shots, too, and we chased them with coolers. So we all left the trailer a little buzzed before being taken back to our hotels. Then Meagan called to ask if we could all just meet up at my suite instead of going out, and I was all for it. I always have a few bottles of wine on hand — running out of wine is like running out of water. [Laughs] My driver went and picked them up, and we started listening to Drake and dancing and having a good time. Klarc, Brad, Meagan, and I went through three-and-a-half bottles of wine before we knew it. We probably called it a night around 2 a.m.
And you all still showed up to set the next day?
We were rolling up in sunglasses, but we made it. Kalista, who’s 16 and plays Rogue, was looking at us like we were a bunch of degenerates. [Laughs] But she was really sweet about it, and her mom did like three runs to go get us the hangover cure: apple fritters and [non-alcoholic] honey coolers. The best part about it was that when they were ready to start filming and called for first team, all of us instantly went into work mode. We got up, dusted ourselves off, went to set, and performed. No one dropped their lines, and everyone brought the emotion on each shot, regardless of if it was their coverage or not. It was like that every day of filming — we showed up for each other. I’ve never been a part of any project like that, where everyone took care of each other on set and had so much fun together off set. I miss those guys so much, even if they did drink all my wine.
[Laughs] It sounds like you all were a little family off-camera, as well. And before we wrap, I’d love to hear how the opportunity to be in A Chestnut Family Christmas impacted your career.
Getting to do the movie was huge for me. It was the first time I did a project for Oprah’s network, it was another opportunity to collaborate with Todd, and I was directed by Roger Bobb. He’s a heavy hitter, and I would put him as one of the top directors I’ve ever worked with. The project turned out to be this wonderful movie that audiences seem to be really enjoying. So I’m really grateful for it and hope to work with the same people again in the future.
Those interested in seeing behind-the-scenes photos from Callica’s experience filming A Chestnut Family Christmas can find him as @JaimeCallica on Instagram and Twitter, two platforms on which the “King of Christmas” frequently posts about his work.
This interview has been edited and condensed.