These days, Danica McKellar regularly celebrates Christmas in July – and the holiday cheer doesn’t let up for the next six months.
The actress, still instantly recognizable from her teenage role as “Winnie Cooper” on the original “The Wonder Years,” is now part of another small-screen institution: the made-for-TV Christmas movie.
Earlier this year, she filmed her ninth: “Christmas at the Drive-In,” which premieres Friday at 7 p.m. CT on Great American Family.
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It’s also her first since becoming a Middle Tennessee resident.
Over the summer, the lifelong Californian moved with her family to a country home roughly an hour outside of Nashville. She jokes that her experience making these movies – which are often set in an idyllic small town – must have rubbed off on her.
In fact, the tale behind the decision wouldn’t be out of place in a family movie script. After two of his best friends moved to the state, McKellar says her son, Draco, “was begging me: ‘Can we please move to Tennessee?’ I said, ‘Sweetie, we can’t just move where your friends move.’ But then my husband and I were like, ‘Well, we do want more nature.’”
They also wanted to make it easier for Draco to visit his dad, who lives in Florida. And McKellar says she and her husband, who is a lawyer, “learned, as a lot of people did during the pandemic, that you can do a lot of stuff from home.”
Soon enough, Draco’s dream came true. And though they’ve yet to face their first Tennessee winter, McKellar is thrilled with their new surroundings.
“It feels like you’re not in the middle of all the hustle and bustle,” she says. “When I drive to get my car serviced, there aren’t people honking. It’s just this beautiful country road. Having (your) surroundings be more peaceful, I think it’s just wonderful for your whole mind-body connection.”
She’s proud to now reside in the same state as Dolly Parton – who was her co-star in the 2019 Hallmark movie “Christmas at Dollywood.”
McKellar is also a best-selling childrens’ author, and her book “Goodnight Numbers” is a staple of Parton’s “Imagination Library” program, which mails millions of free books to kids 5 and under.
She calls the now-Rock and Roll Hall of Famer “a consummate professional, and a ray of glowing, sparkling sunshine. She is everything you want her to be and more.”
Even after “Christmas at the Drive-In” airs, McKellar’s still in the business of spreading the holiday spirit this year. Next month, she’ll travel up to Edison, New Jersey for “Christmas Con,” where she and dozens more Christmas TV stars will meet their fans. And even in her free time, believe it or not, she keeps up with the countless Christmas movies churned out by the TV workshops each year.
“I’ve got one in the queue right now,” she says. “These movies are so feel-good. They just make you feel happy. So I’m absolutely both in the movies, and a fan.”