INTERVIEW: Janel Parrish on Her New Hallmark Film ‘Holly & Ivy,’ ‘To All the Boys 3,’ ‘Pretty Little Liars,’ and More

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Janel Parrish has officially joined the Hallmark family with her new film Holly & Ivy, which premiered this November on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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Parrish is best known for her role as Mona Vanderwaal in the hit Freeform series Pretty Little Liars, which aired for seven seasons, and in the spinoff series Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. She also appeared in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You. The actress will be in the third film as well, To All the Boys: Always and Forever, Lara Jean. Janel’s most recent film Mighty Oak was released earlier this year.

Janel now stars as Melody in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Holly & Ivy. When Melody’s neighbor, Nina (Marisol Nichols), learns that her illness has returned, Melody promises to keep Nina’s kids, Holly and Ivy, together. To adopt the children, she must renovate her new fixer-upper, which she does with help from a contractor, Adam (Jeremy Jordan).

Glitter Magazine spoke exclusively with Janel and discussed her new film, time in quarantine, how she celebrates the holidays, what parts of the entertainment industry she wants to explore in the future, having our first female VP-elect, and new projects to look out for. Read below to find out more.

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GLITTER: Your new Hallmark movie Holly & Ivy released this month; how excited were you to share it with fans, and is there a message you wanted viewers to learn from it?
JANEL: I’m so excited for people to see this movie. I mean, already we’ve had such amazing, heartwarming responses from people who’ve seen it, who just said that it helped them get through loss, and it was so uplifting for them to see, like, beautiful things can happen even through tragedy. And that’s a message that I really love about the film and the message of chosen family, and when you choose your family, and you have your family, you do anything for them. It really is just such a beautiful story, and it’s filled with Christmas! I mean, I feel like right now, we all need joyful, uplifting, family-oriented stories that we can cuddle up on the couch with hot cocoa and our family and watch it. So I’m really, really excited that people are loving it, and I’m excited for more people to see it.

GLITTER: What attracted you to the role of Melody?
JANEL: I love the role of Melody. I think what I love about her is her quiet strength. She’s somebody who hasn’t had it easy. She’s very independent. She’s had to kind of pick herself up multiple times through her life and keep going even when things seem tough. And, you know, she had this optimism that something beautiful was going to come to her and she was meant to have a family. She moves in next door to Nina, and it feels like she was meant to meet Nina and help her through her illness and help take care of these beautiful little girls, Holly and Ivy. Just the feeling of someone who will do anything for the people that she loves, and the people that she chooses, her family. I loved that about her character. And I said, I really want to play this role.

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GLITTER: What was your favorite aspect of the script, and how did you feel when reading it for the first time?
JANEL: Reading it for the first time, I just fell in love. I laughed out loud multiple times. I cried multiple times. I just thought it was such a beautiful story and so real. You know, we tackle real things, adoption, illness, death, and we attack it in such a beautiful, uplifting way. You know, these things happen, and how do we find beauty in tragedy? What beautiful things can come out of that? And, you know, the family that they end up creating, even through something sad, is absolutely uplifting and beautiful.

GLITTER: This is your first time doing a Hallmark film; what did that experience mean to you? Would you like to do more Hallmark projects in the future?
JANEL: I was so happy to join the Hallmark family. My mom has been waiting for this moment for years. She’s such a “Hallmarkie,” and she watches all the Hallmark movies, especially during Christmas. The Hallmark Channel is on in our house all day, every day during Christmas time. And she was like, “Janel, what are you going to be in a Hallmark movie?” And I said, “Mom, when they call me.” So for me to finally be like, “Mom, guess what? Hallmark called, I’m doing a Hallmark Christmas movie.” She is just over the moon. For me to join this family and to see, like, how amazing the Hallmark fans are and how excited they are and welcoming they are to us newbies because I’m new and Marisol Nichols is new. Jeremy Jordan is new, and they have just welcomed us into this family with such love and such warmth. And I would absolutely love to keep going with Hallmark. It’s been so much fun. And to watch the movie and see how much joy movies like this bring, especially right now like that’s amazing. I’m so happy to be a part of that.

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GLITTER: What do you enjoy most about being a part of a holiday film? Did working on the film put you in the holiday spirit early?
JANEL: Yes. So I’ve always wanted to do a holiday movie. Christmas time is my absolute favorite time of year. I feel like a lot of us feel that way. So to be able to do a Christmas movie was like a dream come true. And yeah, I mean, obviously we don’t shoot it during Christmas time, and you’re like, “this is going to feel weird to be all bundled up and like, see the snow, and will I feel Christmassy when I get there?” But the second you get to set, and you’re all bundled up, and you see the red and the green everywhere and the Christmas lights and the Santa Claus and the snow, it’s like immediately getting transferred to Christmas land. It’s immediately like, “oh, I’m in the Christmas spirit in July.” And especially when you watch it, you’re like, “oh, Christmas!” You know, that’s what’s so fun about these Christmas movies; we help people get in the Christmas spirit.

GLITTER: How do you usually celebrate the holidays?
JANEL: For me, the holidays are all about spending time with family. My sister and her husband will come and spend Christmas with me and my parents, you know, safely, of course. We watch Christmas movies, and my mom makes her pumpkin pie, and we have our traditions that we’re going to try to uphold this year. So it’s like, you know, looking at Christmas lights on Christmas Eve, things we can do from the car, getting a Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, decorating it together. All of our ornaments are things that we’ve collected through the years, years, and years. So taking out each ornament every year is always like a story and a memory that we share, put it on the tree, so I’m super excited for all of that.

GLITTER: Favorite Christmas song?
JANEL: Oh, that’s a great question. I think my favorite Christmas song is the Christmas Song, you know? “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” it’s just every time I hear it, it just takes me right back to Christmases as a kid listening to that in the car with my family, looking at Christmas lights with our dog on my lap, you know, it’s just nostalgic.

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GLITTER: You’ve brought so many amazing characters to life over the years; what was the most challenging one for you to do and why?
JANEL: Oh, challenging… I think the most challenging role probably was Mona on Pretty Little Liars because I played her for so long. The challenge was finding new layers, keeping it fresh, never getting bored with the character, and just kind of keeping her alive and what that means and growing with the character, because we were on the air for seven seasons, and then we did a spin-off. So Mona was growing with me, which was the challenge, keeping her the same character but evolving her. Luckily, we had great writers that gave me so much to play with, and I never was bored, and I was always kept on my toes. So I think she probably was the most challenging for those reasons, but also the most rewarding.

GLITTER: There are so many fans that follow you and your career from your PLL days; what is it like growing as an actress and having that support from them?
JANEL: It’s really wonderful. I feel really, really lucky, and like honestly, getting recognized by a fan is always great, but when I come across a fan, and they call me Janel and they know me as Janel Parrish and they followed my career, and it’s not just “Mona!” Mona, I will listen, I will turn around and go, “what?” No matter what, that’s probably programmed. It’s like all the characters from Friends, right? If someone says, “Rachel,” Jennifer Anniston is going to be like, “huh?” You know, you’re so used to it. I will respond to that, but when somebody says Janel Parrish and they know me as a person and follow my career, that is so rewarding. It’s like, thank you so much for following my career and liking my work, my body of work. And that just makes me so happy.

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GLITTER: What has social isolation been like for you, and have you been able to do anything you wouldn’t normally have time to do?
JANEL: Yeah, I feel like social isolation is something that none of us were prepared for, and it’s such a strange thing. Like the body doesn’t know how to react to it, and I feel like I respond to it like everybody does, which is just like week by week, it’s different, right? Like there are weeks where I’m just like, “I’m so bored, I’m going to start doing cross-stitching.” So I became obsessed with cross-stitching. I have so many cross-stitches. I don’t know what to do with them. Cooking, you know, it’s like when I feel bored, or I feel down, I try to do stuff that makes me happy, makes me feel like I’m doing something. There are weeks where I absolutely love it. I’m like, “I’m just going to lay on the couch and watch episode after episode of Sex and the City or Friends.” And then there are times where I’m just like, “oh, I can’t wait for, you know, getting back out there and being able to do all the things that felt normal before.” I think that we’re all just sort of taking it day by day, week by week.

GLITTER: Have you learned anything over isolation either about yourself or life?
JANEL: Yes. I mean, I think I’ve learned, I think we all probably have learned, that there’s just absolutely no way to control the future and anything that’s happening; all you can control is how you respond to it. But I’ve learned that’s the only thing I can control, and there are times where I win, and I say, “no, Janel, like yes, this sucks, but you need to control the situation. How do you make today a good day, given the situation?” And I win that week, and there are times where I lose, and I’m just like, “this sucks. I’m just going to be down in the dumps today.” And then, you know, a couple of days later, I’m like, “no, wait, no, I’m not going to do that because I can control how I look at things.” So I think that’s something again, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. But it’s something that I’ve learned, and I’m still learning.

GLITTER: Are there any aspects of the entertainment industry you want to explore more in the future? 
JANEL: Yes, and I actually am exploring it right now, which is exciting. I feel like this time has given me time to think about other side projects that I can do while things are a little slower. So I’ve actually kind of dipped my feet into the development pool, which is exciting, and I don’t want to talk too much about it, fingers crossed, but it’s been really fun to kind of explore the other side of it, development, producing. So that’s been fun, and I think another aspect that I would love to do is, you know, a lot of people know that I’m a singer and I started out on stage, musical theater, but something I haven’t done is I would love to incorporate my love of music into my love of TV or film. So I would love to do a musical movie or a musical television series. That’s something that’s been a goal for a while that I hope is coming my way.

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GLITTER: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you want to go and why? 
JANEL: Wow, that’s a good one. You know, I just came back from Hawaii, which is where I’m from, but that’s always going to be my answer because it’s home and a lot of my family is there, and it’ll forever be home, even though I’ve lived in LA since I was 15. So no matter what, that’s my favorite place in the world. It’s like my happy place. I go there, I breathe the air, and I’m just like, “Oh, I’m home.” It feels like home.

GLITTER: Do you have any favorite beauty or skincare products you can share with fans? 
JANEL: I actually recently just became obsessed with Kate Somerville, and I love them. I go to their clinic, and I get their genesis laser treatment on my skin. I’m obsessed with it, and I love all their products. So, yeah, that’s my definite number one skincare obsession at the moment.

GLITTER: What’s your favorite fragrance? 
JANEL: As far as what I wear on my skin, I really like kind of earthy smells like essential oils. There’s an essential oil blend that I found that I’m going to keep secret, but it’s this really great blend of like an amber smell. So every time I smell it, it’s calming and centering. And I love that.

GLITTER: We have our very first female VP-elect. How does that make you feel?
JANEL: It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty awesome and really empowering for little girls everywhere. I just think she’s such a boss and for little girls to look at her and be like, “I could be anything that I want to be. There’s no limit because look what she did.” That’s pretty great.

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GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
JANEL: I think that self-love means being kind of yourself, whatever that means. It could be day by day, waking up in the morning and saying, “What is gonna be kind to myself today? What do I need to be good to myself and love myself,” and doing that. Whether it’s just canceling all of your social plans because you feel like today, you really need to just be with yourself and to be introspective or saying, “You know what, I am feeling a little lonely today. I think I’m going to call my best friend and see if we can have lunch.” It’s just listening to yourself and giving yourself what you need..

GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share?
JANEL: So I have the third To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before film; it’s coming out hopefully early next year. And I have a nice little recurring role on Magnum P.I., so that season is starting next month. So a little appearance on that as well.

GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to keep up with all things Janel?
JANEL: For me, I’m most active on Instagram and Twitter, and they can find me at just my name. So it’s just @janelparrish.

If you missed the premiere of Holly & Ivy, make sure to check the upcoming showtimes for the film here. Dates include November 20, 29 and December 9, 13, 17, 19, 21, 25, 29.