By Nathan Wildes
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 12/2/17 – This Sunday Lifetime presents the first Christmas movie of the 2017 holiday season. My Christmas Prince stars Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect) and Callum Alexander in his debut performance as Prince Alexander of the fictional kingdom of Madelvia. Iconic actress, Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi – Star Trek: The Next Generation) sweetens the pot of this family-fun Christmas staple of a movie in the role of Felicia, personal assistant to the king and queen. THT sits down with Marina talking about the movie and looking back on Star Trek.
THT: Talk about the heart of this story as you would describe it
Marina: Basically, it’s a tried and tested formula Christmas movie; a royal prince goes off to America and falls in love with an American commoner that he meets. The royal family, the king and queen back in his home country not happy about this situation because he’s kind of betrothed to a much more suitable young lady back home. I get sent to America to fix the situation and thereafter much hilarity ensues.
THT: I imagine it’s kind of nice sometimes when you get a little bit of synergy with real life as we’ve had a real announcement of a royal engagement. How perfect is that?
Marina: I paid Prince Harry ten bucks to announce the engagement this week. Haha. No, isn’t it perfect? This is amazing. I mean we couldn’t have planned it better if we had like match-made them. Because, this is exactly what has happened. You know, a royal prince has fallen in love with an American commoner and not only is she American, she’s mixed race. This is even more bells and whistles for us in England, we’re just so happy that the actual royal family is in the 21st century with the rest of us. It’s fantastic because, if you actually go back a little further, Prince William married a commoner too. I mean if you think back to Edward VIII who had to abdicate his throne because…
THT: ..He chose to marry an American
Marina: Well, she was divorced as well. Now, Meghan is divorced as well; not an issue anymore. So, we can make these wonderful Christmas movies and it’s like life imitating art; it actually happened. When people ask us what this movie is about? We should just say Prince Harry ‘cause it’s exactly what happened.
THT: Life imitating art, that’s what we try to do in this business and that’s what you’ve done.
Marina: I wish we’d done it on purpose, but we didn’t. It was just synchronicity; the universe coming in to help us out.
THT: There is a bit of a modern take in this story isn’t there? What you think you’ve heard before in a royal-commoner relationship isn’t really there, you move past what we’ve seen before; your character moves past what we’ve seen before
Marina: The difference is that in our movie the girl doesn’t know that he’s a prince. He tells her he’s a diplomat, he’s working at the British embassy…They fall in love and she pretty much only finds out that he’s a prince once it’s kind of too late, they’re already in love. But the lovely questions it throws up in our movie is, and in some of the scenes I have with Callum (Alexander), he says “if I can’t be with the woman that I love then I don’t want to be a prince.” And, I say to him “Don’t modern leaders change the rules? Once you’re in charge, you can make things better. You can change things cause you’ll be in charge.” So, it’s a lovely, Christmas-y, family-fun movie. But, it also for me has some kind of adult themes (I don’t mean like people rippin’ their clothes off)…
THT: These are all adults; they know what’s going on, they’re not ignorant
Marina: It brings up certain situations and it brings up certain questions about the responsibility of leadership. You know, the things we’re talking about in a relationship today. It brings it up, in a very light-hearted, fun, warm, kind of cozy way so it doesn’t do your brain in.
THT: In a sentence how would you sum up Felicia?
Marina: Felicia is a woman who is absolutely driven by duty. Duty is her driving force, and her duty is to her king and queen.
THT: Each character is its own thing, but there is a touch of Deanna (Troi) in Felicia. Am I wrong in saying that?
Marina: I know exactly what you mean. In those scenes with Callum where I’m kind of being understanding and loving and yeah, there is…advisory; very advisory, yes. You know, I think maybe I get cast in these roles to bring that little bit with me from her. I mean, don’t we cast people who were a certain way before and happen to be that way in our movie?
THT: Well, I don’t know if Demona (Gargoyles) would be considered Deanna Troi
Marina: No, no, Demona is Marina through and through
THT: Oh, really?
Marina: Well, not through and through because I’m not quite as evil as her. Let’s just say, personality-wise, I’m a little more like Demona than I am like Deanna.
THT: It’s been 30 years now since you were introduced to us as Counselor Deanna Troi. When you get a character like that, there is a very real and definable relationship isn’t there; between you Marina Sirtis, accomplished actress with many credits to your name and a fictional person, Deanna Troi, who you embody from time-to-time?
Marina: It’s funny, because I was playing a psychologist, and I have never been to a psychologist. We didn’t do psychology or therapy in England when I left 30 years ago. We had a cup of hot-sweet tea and cigarette and we got on with it, you know. So, I knew nothing about therapy, and so I decided I should go and like do it, and see how it works. So, I did. I went to see a therapist for a few sessions. I said to her, at one point, “she (Deanna) is nothing like me”. You know, we’re total opposites, I mean in every way. I said “I think we’re the same height, and that’s about it.” She (the therapist) said, “No.” “(Deanna) is the part of you that you choose not to show the world.” And, I went away and thought about that. There is a total element of truth in there, because, in life I do not allow myself to be as vulnerable as Deanna Troi. But, in reality I have to draw on myself to get her. So, kind of, yeah she (the therapist) was right.
THT: How do you embrace what Deanna means to the public and how much Deanna Troi is part of your life without letting it take over your life?
Marina: I think if you said to any actor, starting out in their career, you will play many roles but there will be one part that you will be defined for, for your whole career, do you want to still be an actor? I mean, would any actor say no? I mean, what a blessing that I have played a part…First of all, when I’m dead and gone, it’s probably still going to be on TV. (A role) that has affected people; I mean I have people who when they meet me break down and cry because they say things to me like “you don’t know that you saved my life. Because my life was such hell, and I would look at you and listen to the things you said as Deanna Troi and it gave me hope, and it gave me strength to get through the terrors I was going through.” Can you imagine how privileged I feel? So, you know what, if I never played another part as long as I live, which isn’t gonna happen. But, if I never did, or even if that was the only part I ever played, that is so huge. Not many actors are iconic in one role. I remember when I did Grey’s Anatomy playing a lady with early-onset Alzheimer’s; a Persian lady. There I am sitting in bed on the set in my ugly hospital gown and Patrick Dempsey walks on the set for the first time in the scene, and he says “Quiet everyone, I hope you all realize that we have an icon on the set today”. And, I looked around and I’m like who, who’s here, who’s working? And, it’s like you, you stupid woman, and I’m like ooh okay. It’s amazing. Probably after Star Trek was done, in the first two years after it was done where the only thing I was getting offered was more sci-fi and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do more sci-fi, but if I didn’t do that I wasn’t going to work at all, you know there was this kind of stuff going on. But since then, I really haven’t done sci-fi. But, I love Deanna Troi. She gave me everything I have in my life. She made my life; she and Gene Roddenberry made my life
Nathan: and Majel (Barrett)
A: and Majel, absolutely. And so, I effing love her and I love Star Trek. I love everything that it gave me, and I love the friends that it gave me. And, if that’s the only thing that people want to talk about in 20 years I’ll be quite happy to talk about it.
Nathan: Well, between now and then, this weekend you get remind us how beautiful love can be; how beautiful Christmas can be; so I look forward to seeing how this movie is received on Lifetime on Sunday.
A: Me too. Let’s hope it does well.