Janel Parrish on Joining the Hallmark Family, 'To All the Boys 3' and 'Pretty Little Liars' Reboot (Exclusive)

Holly & Ivy
Crown Media

The actress stars in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' 'Holly & Ivy,' premiering Sunday.

This year, Janel Parrish made one of her mother's wishes come true: star in a Hallmark holiday movie. A newcomer to the network, the Pretty Little Liars alum stars in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' holiday tearjerker, Holly & Ivy. The movie kicks off when Melody (Parrish) learns that her neighbor, Nina's (Marisol Nichols), illness has returned, and she vows to look after her young daughters, Holly and Ivy. But in order to adopt the children, she must renovate her new fixer-upper, which she does with the help of contractor, Adam (Jeremy Jordan).

"My mom is Hallmark Christmas movies' No. 1 fan... It's on all day, every day, no matter what we're doing," Parrish tells ET. "She'd always ask me, 'When are you going to do one?' I'd said, 'Whenever they call me, I will do one.' So she's over the moon about me doing this movie."

"These movies bring so much happiness and so much Christmas cheer. Especially this year, to be bringing Christmas cheer to people feels pretty amazing," she adds later. "We're all trying to find joy where we can. This Christmas, being with our families and snuggling up and watching movies that make us feel good will be part of that." 

ET spoke with Parrish about joining the Hallmark family, what drew her to the story of Holly & Ivy, the upcoming final movie in the To All the Boys I've Loved Before trilogy and HBO Max's Pretty Little Liars reboot.

ET: This is your first Hallmark movie. Were you a fan of them before jumping aboard Holly & Ivy

Janel Parrish:
Yes. Growing up in my family, Christmas is always our No. 1 holiday. Even as an adult, once I moved out of the house, I usually go and stay at my parents' house for two weeks for Christmastime. We just snuggle in and we have family time and we have all of our Christmas traditions. But yeah, Hallmark Channel is definitely one of them, especially my mom. I think my mom is Hallmark Christmas movies' No. 1 fan. And she always asks me, "What are you going to do with today? Pop in my Christmas movies!" It's on all day, every day, no matter what we're doing. She's seen all of them multiple times. She'd always ask me, "When are you going to do one?" I'd said, "Whenever they call me, I will do one." So she's over the moon about me doing this movie. I'm overjoyed to be joining the Hallmark family.

What about the story of Holly & Ivy drew you in?

When I got the script, I cried, I laughed. I felt all these characters. I fell in love with all of them. I think that the relationship that she builds with Nina, and Holly and Ivy, her daughters, and the relationship that she built with Adam, they're all such special, amazing relationships. They become chosen family and I love the message that people come into your lives for a reason. And when you find your chosen family, you do anything that you can to help them. I thought it was such a sweet message and so heartwarming. I can't wait for everyone to see it. I think they'll shed lots of happy tears and I think they'll hold their family close while they watch it.

Was there a particular scene that really got you choked up?

I don't want to give anything away, but I will say there are a few scenes throughout this movie that are pretty emotional. All my scenes, especially with Marisol Nichols, who I could not say enough wonderful things about. She's amazing. All of my scenes with her, we get pretty choked up every time. The characters formed this incredible bond instantly and they both feel like they were meant to meet each other. When Melody finds out that Nina's illness has come back, she suddenly is like, "I now know why I was sent to you. I was meant to help you through this and help out your daughters." That scene when Melody says to me Nina, "I would take your girls." That scene is... I can't wait to see it because when I read it and when we filmed it, we both got goosebumps because it was just such a powerful scene. I think that scene for me, I'm most excited to see, because it's so beautiful. Their friendship is so beautiful.

This movie has a great cast. You mentioned working with Marisol and then you're working with Jeremy Jordan. And the young actresses playing Holly and Ivy are also delightful. Did it feel like an embarrassment of riches?

Yeah. I felt so blessed to be working, especially this year with everything, on such a beautiful heartwarming, uplifting film with the most amazing cast ever. I mean, Marisol Nichols, she's unbelievable. Jeremy Jordan, I've been a fan of his for forever. I kind of fangirled over him and made myself sound like an idiot because the first time I met him, I was like, "I'm so sorry but I'm a huge fan of all your Broadway stuff. Like, you're amazing." He was so sweet about it. There was lots of singing of musicals happening backstage. And then, yeah, my Holly and Ivy, [played by] Sandy Coleman and Piper Rubio, they're so cute and sweet. They have so much charisma onscreen and they were just a joy to work with. Plus, we had adorable puppies on set. Every day was like, how is this my job? How is it my life?

Did you film during quarantine?

We filmed it at the end of July in Salt Lake City where the numbers were lower and we were very safe on set. We had so many great people making sure we were safe every single day, which is another reason why I felt so blessed to be there working. To work during this time during the year, I was like, "I probably won't work again until next year." So this felt like such a blessing. And yeah, it was kind of crazy because I found out about this movie at the end of June. I had been in full quarantine; my husband and I were taking this very seriously, not seeing friends, just basically self-isolating. So when I heard about this movie, I was so excited. But then my first thing I said to my husband was like, "I'm so panicked." And he's like, "Why?" We've been in quarantine for so long I feel like it's going to be sensory overload. I'm just going to freak out. And I said, "What if I lost it? Like, what if I'm rusty? I no longer can act." And he was just like, "You're silly. It's going to be like riding a bicycle. You're going to get to set. You're going to be so excited to be around people in your industry. It's just going to feel like riding a bike." And it really did. Every day I looked around and was like, oh thank God. This is such a blessing right now.

You also have the third movie for To All the Boys I've Loved Before coming. What can you tell us about the new film?

We'll be happy to give people content with To All the Boys 3. I believe it's going to come out in the beginning of the year. I think that's the plan, but yeah, I'm really excited for people to see that. It's a wonderful closing of the chapter for Lara Jean. Her graduation is coming up and it's another big life moment for her. Another transition in her chapter. What I love about this film though, for me selfishly, is that there's lots of sister time. I got to hang out so much with Lana [Condor] and Anna [Cathcart, who plays Kitty,] and we really have become real-life sisters. We are so close. We got to go to Korea for two weeks to film and that was incredible. Being there with them and exploring Korea and the culture and being able to eat the food and filming there, it was wonderful. I can't wait for people to see that you get a lot of the Covey sisters coming their way for movie three.

There's also a Pretty Little Liars reboot coming to HBO Max. Have you texted with anyone in the cast about it? What are your thoughts about the new take on the story?

Yeah. We're so excited for this new iteration of the show and honestly, we wish it well. We're very grateful to have been a part of the OG PLL family.

Circling back to Holly & Ivy, what do you hope people take away from the movie?

Hopefully cathartic, good, happy tears. And then they'll reach for their loved ones and they'll hold them close and it'll be a good cry for them to share together. We're so happy that we can bring any type of joy when we can, however we can right now.

Holly & Ivy premieres Sunday, Nov. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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