Christmas Everlasting’s Dondre T. Whitfield Reveals Why Working With Patti LaBelle Is Incredible!By Delaina Dixon | December 20, 2018 | Entertainment
The holiday TV movie season isnΓÇÖt over yet. We caught up with Dondre T. Whitfield, who stars in Christmas Everlasting, Hallmark Hall of FameΓÇÖs first-holiday feature starring an African-American cast. Put it on your viewing list for the pre-Christmas weekend!
Describe Christmas Everlasting in your own words.
Lucy comes back home to deal with the loss of her sister who had special needs and to deal with her estate. I play Peter, and Peter and Lucy had a relationship in high school. Of course, Peter is the sisterΓÇÖs attorney for the estate, so Lucy is literally forced to deal with the things that she ran away from in the past. Peter becomes the glue between Lucy, her life and their hometown.
What qualities did you want to bring to Peter when you were creating the role?
As the saying goes, Peter is All-American. We often hear that term thrown around for a particular individual who is of a wholesome nature and embodies qualities that all of us would like to be around. I thought it was pretty awesome that as a cast of color we would be able to have an All-American guy like Peter who happens to be African-American. It really shows that all colors experience love and grief; that is universal.
WhatΓÇÖs your favorite scene in the movie?
ThereΓÇÖs a scene in the film where Peter and Lucy are on the ice together, but she doesn’t know how to ice-skate. Peter is giving her lessons and she really has to rely on him and trust that he will take care of her. I think that was one of the Gorilla Glue points that really bonded Peter and Lucy together.
Christmas Everlasting has an all-star cast! What was it like working with Tatyana, Dennis┬áand Patti LaBelle?
Dennis Haysbert is such an underrated talent and I think that much of it comes from that many people identify him as a spokesman for an insurance company. They don’t realize his level of artistry. He is a consummate professional and truly authentic at what he does.
Tatyana Ali, who plays Lucy, is such a great and giving spirit. We work together in such a great way. We had such a tenderness about being spouses and parents on screen and such responsibility for being the very first African-American cast for a Hall of Fame Hallmark movie. She truly is like the sister I never had. I can’t wait to work with her again.
The highlight for me working on this film was working with Miss Patti! Her music has really been like a soundtrack for my life. One of the things that I learned from her at a very young age is that when youΓÇÖre given a platform for your passion, you’re supposed to treat with such high regards that you give it a thousand percent. Whenever you watch Miss Patti perform it’s like she’s performing for her life.
It does sound like sheΓÇÖs made a great impact.
Before we started shooting Christmas Everlasting, my wife directed Miss Patti in a TV show. So my wife called me and put me on the phone with Miss Patti because she┬áknows how big of a fan I am. I said, ΓÇ£Miss LaBelle you’ll never know what this moment means to me. I’m going to tell you something, one day you and I are going to work together. And she said, ΓÇÿDarling I would love that.ΓÇÖΓÇ¥ Three months later she’s playing my mother in a Hallmark holiday movie.
There are so many holiday TV movies featuring actors of color this season. Why do you thinking itΓÇÖs finally happening now?
I believe it’s coming from a space of our country really and truly understanding that The Human Experience is universal. It isn’t black, it isnΓÇÖt white, it isnΓÇÖt brown, itΓÇÖs truly universal in that we really need to tell the stories of humanity by including human beings that look like our country looks and that should be depicted on television. IΓÇÖm so glad we get to be a part of that landscape.
Christmas Everlasting is available On Demand and other streaming platforms.
photo credit: Hallmark