These days, Danica McKellar regularly celebrates Christmas in July – and the revelry doesn’t stop for the next six months.
The actress, still instantly recognizable from her teen role as “Winnie Cooper” in 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.
It’s also her first since becoming a resident of Middle Tennessee.
During the summer, the lifelong Californian moved with her family to a mansion about an hour outside of Nashville. She jokes that her experience making these films – which are often set in an idyllic small town – must have passed on to her.
The story behind the decision wouldn’t even look out of place in a family movie script. After two of his closest friends moved upstate, McKellar says her son, Draco, “begged me, ‘Can we please move to Tennessee?’ I said, “Honey, we can’t just move where your friends move.” But then my husband and I thought, ‘Well, we want more nature.’”
They also wanted to make it easier for Draco to visit his father, who lives in Florida. And McKellar says she and her husband, who is a lawyer, “have learned, like many people during the pandemic, that you can do a lot of things from home.”
Soon Draco’s dream came true. And while they have yet to experience their first winter in Tennessee, McKellar is thrilled with their new surroundings.
“It feels like you’re not in the thick of it all,” she says. “When I drive to get my car serviced, there are no people honking. It’s just this beautiful country road. If[your]environment is more peaceful, I think it’s just great for your whole mind-body connection.
She is proud to now live 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 author for children, and her book “Goodnight Numbers” is a staple of Parton’s “Imagination Library” program, which sends millions of free books to children ages 5 and under.
She calls the now-Rock and Roll Hall of Famer “a consummate professional and a beam of glowing, sparkling sunshine. She is everything you want her to be and more.”
Even after “Christmas at the Drive-In” airs, McKellar is still spreading the Christmas spirit this year. Next month she will travel to Edison, New Jersey for “Christmas Con,” where she and dozens of other Christmas TV stars will meet their fans. And even in her spare time, believe it or not, she keeps up with the countless Christmas movies produced by the TV Workshops each year.
“I have one lined up now,” she says. “These movies are so feel-good. They just make you feel happy. So I’m definitely into the movie as well as a fan.