INTERVIEW: Mary Holland on Her New Film ‘Happiest Season,’ Christmas Favs, and the Importance of Accurate LGBTQ+ Representation
Actor and screenwriter Mary Holland chatted with Glitter about Happiest Season, the perfect romantic comedy premiering on Hulu this holiday season.
There’s no better way to ring in the holiday season than with a hilarious new rom-com that touches on all the quirky bells and whistles that come along with going home for the holidays. Even better, it’s the ‘coming out’ movie that we all need right now, bringing LGBTQ+ representation to the big screen. Happiest Season begins with an innocent request for Abby (Stewart), a Pittsburgh grad student, to go home for the holidays to spend time with her live-in girlfriend Harper (Davis), and her family. Swirl in the fact that Harper has not come out to her family, and her dad is running for mayor; you have a recipe for all the awkwardness and emotion that comes with a quirky but lovable home for the holidays’ film.
Mary wrote the screenplay for Happiest Season along with Clea DuVall. The film stars Holland, Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Daniel Levy, Burl Moseley, Victor Garber, and Mary Steenburgen. The film was directed by Clea DuVall and produced by Marty Bowen and Isaac Klausner. Wyck Godfrey and Jonathan McCoy serve as executive producers.
Glitter Magazine spoke exclusively with Holland to discuss the new film, what she hopes viewers gain from the film, what scenes made her emotional, what the industry needs to work on in terms of LGBTQ+ representation, and how she celebrates the holidays. Read below to find out more. Happiest Season premieres November 25 on Hulu.
GLITTER: What was your inspiration in writing the screenplay for Happiest Season?
MARY: Clea DuVall has had the idea for Happiest Season for a long time. It’s inspired by her experiences, and it’s a story she’s wanted to tell. We met working together on Veep, and she asked me if I would write it with her. So that was kind of the genesis of how we came together. The story has been one that she’s wanted to tell for a long time.
GLITTER: How important do you think it is for the LGBTQ+ community to get good, accurate representation in media when it comes to both characters and relationships? What does the industry have to work on when it comes to this?
MARY: Oh, it’s beyond important. It’s necessary. It’s something that should have already been happening and needs to happen. I’m so honored and proud to be a part of a project that I feel does that. And I think while this movie in this genre, this idea of the rom-com holiday genre, and it’s centering around a queer couple, well, I think this may be the first of that. I hope that there are so many more to come in all genres, all different LGBTQ+ experiences represented. I think this kind of move, the move to put the money and the resources of a studio like Sony and Tri-Star did behind this kind of story, is exactly what we need to see more of, and a story that is so joyful and celebratory. I think it is something we all need right now. But definitely, there needs to be more representation of that with LGBTQ+ stories.
GLITTER: What message do you hope viewers get from the film and do you have a personal favorite lesson from the film?
MARY: I think that there’s the larger lesson of self-love and acceptance and being true to your authentic self and being proud of that and sharing that with those you love the most, even though that’s so scary to do. I personally feel like a lesson I took from it was that, as somebody who has not had the experience of coming out and does not know what that feels like, I so appreciate that this movie taught me what that is like. I think there are so many moments and scenes where it really shows the audience the emotional weight and the significance of that moment in a queer person’s life. And I just really appreciated getting to learn about that and be educated about it.
GLITTER: Are there any stories from the set or favorite memories from filming that you can share?
MARY: We had way too much fun. There are so many. I mean, we would go to this Irish bar that was close to the place we were staying, and we would have martinis and play darts. McKenzie is a great dart player, but she has a style that I personally have never seen before, and I was talking about it with Clea today, and she was like, “it’s full body.” I was like, “yeah, it’s full body. That’s her style of dart playing.” Mary Steenburgen would host these great game nights in her apartment. We’re a really tight-knit group, and we played a lot of games together. So there were many moments on the set where we would be playing a game up until Clea called “action.” And we did escape rooms. We did as many escape rooms as we could in the Pittsburgh area. Yeah, we had a lot of fun with each other, played a lot of games.
GLITTER: Who made you laugh the most on set?
MARY: Oh, I couldn’t pick. Everybody made me laugh. I will say like as an actor, like playing in the scenes, the dynamic between Jane and Tipper was so specific, and we both were just completely tickled by it. Mary couldn’t be farther from Tipper like she is the warmest, most loving person. But Tipper being constantly annoyed and unable to control Jane. We just had so much fun making each other laugh with that.
GLITTER: What was your favorite character to see brought to life from your screenplay?
MARY: I don’t know if I could pick, once again. I really don’t think I can because I mean, I think about Dan and what he did with John, and it makes me want to start crying right now because it was such a beautiful performance.
And I think about Mackenzie and how she handled this role of Harper that’s so complicated and difficult. She’s just such a genius actor, and I really hope that she gets all the acclaim she deserves.
And Kristen, what she did with Abby was something that, like I could not have imagined somebody doing. She just fully embodied that character and made her such a funny, funny, but still very grounded and very self-assured person.
And then what Mary did with Tipper. She’s perfect. She was perfect. She was perfect in a way; there was just no way we could have ever done this movie without this cast. Every single one of them was perfect. Victor and Aubrey and Alison- oh, my God, such a genius- and Burl and Sarayu. Every single person completely made this movie what it is, which is so special.
GLITTER: Is there a scene from the film that made you emotional while writing, filming, or after seeing the final cut?
MARY: Oh my God, the fight scene with the whole family, massively emotional. Mackenzie’s speech, when she does finally come out, wrecked me. The scene with Dan and Kristen when they’re on the walk, I mean, the scene with Mary and Victor when they come together after this big blowup. I cry every time I watch it, multiple times, I’m always sobbing, and that’s just how it is.
GLITTER: What is your favorite thing about romantic comedies?
MARY: I think my favorite thing about romantic comedies is the celebratory feel to them. You really get a sense of the fun of a relationship or falling in love, I think, in romantic comedies. The comedy part of it really makes you enjoy the fun of it, and I love that.
GLITTER: Did filming this movie put you in the holiday spirit early?
MARY: Yeah, and what is crazy about it is that we started shooting it in like mid-January, so the holidays had just passed. “So I guess we’re keeping this party going, okay,” for the next two months. Yeah, it for sure did, and then we came back and went straight into lockdown. And then I was, you know, little did I know we’d be here right back again where it’s time for the holidays. Yeah, but it definitely did.
GLITTER: What is one holiday film that you never get tired of watching?
MARY: Home Alone.
GLITTER: Song that always gets you in the holiday spirit?
MARY: Oh, well, Mariah Carey, I mean, come on. But there are hymns; I think that actually really do it for me, like Silent Night– oh boy. I love All Holy Night. I mean, those are, because I grew up like we go to church every Sunday; those hymns were like in heavy rotation in the month leading up to Christmas. So those always really got me in the mood.
GLITTER: How do you celebrate the holidays?
MARY: I’ll go home to spend Christmas with my family, my parents, or I’ll stay here in LA and spend the holiday here with my partner. Yeah, go see friends; I mean, yeah, it varies, but I would say, for the most part, I go home and spend it with my family.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
MARY: To me, self-love, I think, what it looks like is an excitement to be in the world, like an excitement to be alive, I guess. I think that is what self-love manifests as.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share?
MARY: I mean, none that are at the point of sharing just yet, but I have some things in the works. We’ll see. We’ll see.