If you’re planning on enjoying a cosy weekend indoors, we’ve got the perfect film to add to your watch list right now. Streaming on Netflix from today, Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is set to be the festive movie of the year. Expect a musical adventure and a visual spectacle for the ages, starring the likes of Forest Whitaker, Keegan-Michael Key and Ricky Martin and featuring feel-good songs you’ll have stuck in your head all throughout the holidays. To get you even more excited, we spoke to the film’s stars Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose, Madalen Mills, Keegan-Michael Key and Ricky Martin to ask them what this magical story is all about…
This year, more than ever, we’ve been reminded of the importance of bringing families back together and this film showcases that in a lovely way. Do you think that’s something that will resonate with people even more now given the current times?
Anika: I know it will resonate with people more now. The truth of the matter is that so many people have lost people, or were afraid they were going to lose someone or even afraid they would lose themselves. This year is a year to find connection in every way that you can. Even in a time of technology people have been lonely, so there’s no way to step into this holiday season without a greater appreciation for your loved ones.
The film shows that anything is possible if you believe in it, is that something you think is true in real life as well?
Phylicia: I really do think that. I know that! This film is a beautiful story of belief and possibility, isn’t it?
It also highlights that different is being special, so do you want people to take that away from watching this?
Madalen: Yes definitely. At the beginning of the film people will see my character Journey trying to figure out who she is, who she wants to be and how she fits in. Throughout her whole journey in this movie, she really finds herself. Maybe she doesn’t fit in, maybe she does and, either way, that’s okay! I hope that especially kids my age will take away from Journey and from this movie that it’s okay to be yourself and to be unique and special in your own ways.
The incredible music brings this story to life, was that something you especially enjoyed about working on this film?
Anika: The thing about musicals is that music moves on wavelengths and our bodies move on wavelengths. That’s why even people who say ‘I hate musicals’ start crying when they see one and don’t know why. But it’s because that wavelength connected with them and moved through them and that allows for an emotional connection that’s much bigger than if you were just speaking words. The music wasn’t a necessary aspect to tell this story, but it was a welcomed one. And I miss doing musicals, the last one I did was two summers ago – an opera off-Broadway. This was really just going back to what I do and I was really happy to be able to do that again.
Keegan and Ricky, you guys are the villains in this story, was that arguably more fun to play though than being the nice guys?
Keegan: Oh yeah, because you feel like you have a little bit more license when you play the bad guys. You can be a little more outrageous and get to play out some things that I guess you wouldn’t do in real life – like steal a person’s livelihood. The other part is that working with the director David E. Talbert was great, because we worked together in the writing process to give my character Gustafson some layers. Part of that was probably influenced by watching Black Panther actually and the fact that Killmonger is a layered human. He’s not just a one dimensional character and he has motivations for why he does what he does. We got to infuse that into the character. But then you still get to take these big swings as the villain, so I felt like I got the best of both worlds there.
Ricky, your character is a puppet named Don Juan – was it fun playing that?
Ricky: It was amazing. Working in CGI was a new experience for me and I had all these cables around me that created the movement. Like Keegan said, David gives you the opportunity to fly. He allows you to improvise. Our characters ask for that extra spice, so it was very special. It wasn’t as physical for me as it was for Keegan, even though I was doing the CGI, but I was fascinated by the whole process and it was something that was completely new for me. I’ve never done this before but it’s about growing as an artist, so this project has definitely helped me grow.
Keegan, do you think your character would have turned out differently if Jeronicus had paid more attention to his inventions in the beginning?
Keegan: I do yes. I think that had Gustafson exercised a little faith and a little bit of patience, everything would have been different for him. You see him get his comeuppance at the end of the picture, but my hope is that it’s tragic. I hope it’s not just ‘thank god they got the bad guy’ but that you see that he learns a lesson, he just learns it a little too late. It would have been a completely different movie had he had that patience or believed in himself. Don Juan, even though he’s only 12 inches high, he had a lot of power to just push him over the edge there.
This is an amazing cast, did the energy feel special on set?
Keegan: The energy on set was always very positive. David is now living out a dream that he’s had for over 20 years and that has now come into fruition. He came to work every day with this grateful spirit and this infectious excitement that leaked down to us. We had a lot of fun. In between takes when the sets were being changed around we would have a blast standing over at the monitor watching this magical fantasy world. The effects are amazing, the production design is unbelievable, the wardrobe is meticulous and beautiful so it would be fun to sit with him and joke around. Every now and then you’d like at the monitor and say ‘look at this world you’ve created’. I would say the energy on set was delightful. And we sorely missed Ricky because he filmed his scenes separately.
Ricky: It’s important to have that energy on set, imagine if it was the opposite! It must be a nightmare.
Keegan: Yeah I don’t even understand how people make movies in another environment.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is now streaming on Netflix