Madelaine Petsch, the star of The CW’s hit teen drama “Riverdale,” and Mena Massoud, who brought Aladdin to life in Disney’s blockbuster remake, instantly clicked when they met first time as guests on the talk show “A Little Late With Lilly Singh.”
So, it felt like a natural fit to play (eventual) love interests in “Hotel for the Holidays,” a Christmas-themed romantic comedy. The Manhattan-set movie follows Petsch as a hotel manager who finds her attention torn between a guest (who also happens to be an ex-prince) and the resident chef (Massoud). It lands on Amazon Freevee, a free, ad-supported video platform formerly known as IMDb TV, on Dec. 2.
What’s the appeal of making a holiday-centric romantic comedy?
Petsch: I’m a big Christmas fan. There’s a certain charm to holiday films, and a warmness that brings people together. I’m excited to make something that people come back to year after year and feel good when they watch. I also like that there’s a magic to holiday films that you wouldn’t necessarily find with other rom coms.
Massoud: I have a niece and a nephew. They’re young. I have another film coming out next year that they certainly can’t watch; I like to do family films that everybody can watch.
Both of your characters work in the service industry. Do you have experience with similar jobs?
Petsch: We’re both actors, so I think the answer is a solid “yes.” Am I correct about that, Mena?
Massoud: Yeah. I worked at a Mexican restaurant for three years in Toronto. My girlfriend and I have a gin company together, and I’m also an investor in some restaurants. I’m big in the food and beverage space.
Petsch: I used to work in a lot of different service positions. But when they wouldn’t let me go for an audition, I’d quit.
“Hotel for the Holidays” shakes up the Hallmark-esque formula of only casting straight white leads. Is it important for holiday films to have better representation?
Petsch: Absolutely. It’s important across the board for the industry to have representation. Holiday [movies] seem to be taking the longest to catch up. Putting together a cast of different kinds of people makes the story more rich and more interesting.
Massoud: Interracial relationships are becoming more prominent. I grew up in a very Egyptian community where Egyptians were just getting married to other Egyptians. With my generation, that’s definitely changing. Art should reflect real life.
What are your favorite Christmas movies?
Petsch: I’m personally a big fan of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” which I know is aging me. I have that on VHS, and “Frosty the Snowman.” I don’t even know if you know what I’m talking about. They were two movies that were made in the 80s.
Massoud: “Home Alone: Lost in New York.” I grew up in Toronto, so that reminded me of home. And “The Grinch” with Jim Carrey is a good one.
How do you usually celebrate the holidays?
Massoud: I go to Hawaii. I know that sounds very anti-Christmas because of the climate, but we’ve made it a tradition. I’ve been enjoying that to relax because usually before that time, it’s really busy with work.
Petsch: It’s the only time I’m guaranteed to see my family, so I look forward to spending quality time with them. My mom and I bake the entire time. It’s the therapy that I need to reset into a new year.
Massoud: What?! You never told me that before. What are you baking?
Petsch: Oh, everything. I’ll send you photos this year. We go ham — ironically, because we’re vegan.
You’re both busy on your other projects. Madelaine, what can you tease about the final season of “Riverdale”?
Petsch: We are shaking things up. Everyone is dating everyone.
Do you ever read a script and think, “I didn’t know the storylines could get crazier, and yet they have”?
Petsch: Yes. I wouldn’t say so much this season, though. There is one pretty major thing in my family life that’s bizarre and amazing. Other than that, this season is very grounded and focused around relationships. You’re really getting what made the show so special in Season 1, which was the relationships in the town. This season is more pared down with the craziness, but there are some bizarre things happening.
Mena, do you have any updates on the “Aladdin” sequel?
Massoud: I don’t know that there is movement. There was a change with the writers, and they are working on a brand new draft. That’s all I know. If “Aladdin 2” happens, that’s fantastic. I think it should happen. Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich of Rideback Productions, who did the “Lego” movies and “Aladdin,” want to make sure they get this right. So if we do see “Aladdin 2,” it’s not going to be based off the animated version at all. This is going to be a brand new original story.