Tatyana Ali Calls New Lifetime Holiday Movie 'Christmas Hotel' an 'Awesome Experience' (Exclusive)

With an endless stream of feel good, holiday movies, Lifetime is back with a whole new roster of festive films this year, officially marking it the most wonderful time of year! One of the stars taking part in the beloved yuletide pastimes enamouring audiences this season is actress, Tatyana Ali. The former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air star is starring alongside Sean Patrick Thomas in Christmas Hotel airing Dec. 21. In an exclusive with PopCulture.com ahead of the film's premiere this month, Ali dished on what it was like shooting the film and the "awesome experience" with her co-stars.

Tatyana Ali and Sean Patrick Thomas CHRISTMAS HOTEL Dec 21
(Photo: Lifetime)

"I enjoy all of the people that I get to work with. This movie for example, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Telma Hopkins," Ali told PopCulture.com. "In the past I worked with Jackée [Harry], and who else? Della Reese. I get to work with legends, and people that I grew up admiring, and who paved the way even for me to be an actor on television."

Starring as Erin, the hotel manager of a high-end luxury resort, Ali's character has big aspirations of running the proposed Rome location her chain, Windsor, is planning to open. However, she winds up being tapped to help open a newly re-branded hotel in her hometown of Mt. Holly, where she got her start in the hotel business. Along the way, she finds herself in the midst of a dilemma, as the people she grew up with are not fans of the Windsor coming into town and changing things up. To complicate things even more, Erin reconnects with her ex-boyfriend Conner (Thomas), and finds herself in the middle of a budding romance she hadn't planned for.

This is not Ali's first holiday film, as over the past few years she has appeared in a handful of them. One thing in particular that she enjoys about acting in Christmas movies, is how eclectic they have the potential to be.

"Genre-wise, you could have a sci-fi Christmas movie, you could have a rom-com Christmas movie, you could have a drama Christmas movie," she explained. "They just play around in all these different genres, and they're really fun. And, especially where I'm at in my life, it's also a really family-friendly atmosphere. So, I love doing them."

When it comes to Christmas Hotel, one thing Ali really enjoyed about the experience was getting to work with Hopkins, who viewers will remember from her time as Aunt Rachel on the classic '90s sitcom Family Matters.

"We had a ball, not just offset, but even while we were working, and creating the scenes, and bringing them to life," Ali said of working with the beloved actress. "She's amazing, and we both work the same way. We like to feel our way through it. So, I would love to work with her again. We had such a good time."

Ali went on to share some of her thoughts on why Christmas Hotel works so well as a film, admitting that a lot of it had to do with its script focusing on a hotel as the driving force for a heartwarming story.

"The cool thing about having a Christmas hotel be the concept that drives the movie, is that you have this automatic tension between, I think what everybody feels, which is the commercial part of Christmas," she said. "The shopping, and the stress, versus what we all really love about the holidays, which is just being with our families, being with our friends. It's a time where we can relax and not feel guilty about it. It's the only time of year where that's allowed."

In addition to its phenomenal cast, Christmas Hotel was directed by actress-turned-filmmaker Marla Sokoloff, who Ali praises and shares really loved working with thansk in part to their similar backgrounds that helped them connect.

"Right off the bat, we had a shorthand," she said. "And, these movies are done on a really tight schedule, so having a shorthand is really helpful. But, I knew what she wanted, and needed, from me in a half a minute conversation. We'd go back and forth real quick. So, it was literally like, 'Yes, I know.' The reason is that she knew how to talk to me, knew exactly what to tell me, for me to understand what she needed, and that was so much fun. And, then, also, I just loved her as a person too. "

Ali went on to joke about some of her personal holiday traditions, revealing that while she and her sisters "are absolutely adults," their parents "still head the holiday," further sharing how their mother has always managed to get them "matching pajamas for Christmas Eve." The 40-year-old admits it's not only a lot of fun, but they like to "roll around in them all day."

"There was a time that, as teenagers, where it was just like cringe, 'Oh my God, mom, what are you doing?' But, now if she ever didn't do it, there would be an uproar," she laughed.


Christmas Hotel debuts on Lifetime Saturday, Dec. 21, at 8 p.m. ET. It will be the final special movie presentation of the network's special Christmas programming, dubbed "It's a Wonderful Lifetime."

Photo credit: A&E Networks / Lifetime