Danielle Panabaker is spreading Christmas cheer a little early this year.
The Flash star returns to Hallmark Channel for her third network movie — and first holiday film — in the cute and charming Christmas Joy, opposite Timeless and Jack & Bobby star Matt Long. In the TV film, Panabaker plays Joy Holbrook, a big city market researcher who returns home to Crystal Falls, North Carolina, to help her recovering aunt with the town’s legendary cookie crawl and gingerbread contest. There, she reunites with her former crush, Ben (Long), and as the two spend time together… well, you know how it ends — just watch ET’s adorable exclusive clip above. After all, it is Hallmark!
“They really know their brand really well. They know the stories that they want to tell and they’re really consistent and they do a great job of that,” Panabaker tells ET of the Hallmark allure. “But they also treat women well, which is not something you see across the board.”
An outspoken advocate for women’s equality through Shethority, the feminist platform she and her fellow The CW actresses formed in 2017, noted that a good portion of the crew on Christmas Joy were women. “One of the things that drew me to this movie was that it was written by a woman and it was directed by a woman. We had a lot of women on set; one of our camera operators was a woman. Absolutely, I would be interested in doing another and also potentially behind the scenes as well. I’m directing an episode of The Flash this year and I’m hoping that that will lead to more directing opportunities as well.”
Prior to Christmas Joy, the 31-year-old actress starred in 2013’s Nearlyweds and 2014’s Recipe for Love for Hallmark. But Panabaker wanted to make sure that everyone in front of and behind the camera had a good time filming this movie. “When we first sat down together, I had said to Matt and Monika [Mitchell], our director, ‘I hope we laugh every day,’ and I think we did. It was a great experience and we had a lot of fun.”
The Georgia native found a lot of similarities between her own Southern upbringing and certain aspects of the movie, most notably the cookie crawl and baking competition scenes, which kick-start the crux of the romance and drama of the story. “Christmas cookies were a huge part of my childhood growing up,” Panabaker recalled. “My mother took Christmas baking very seriously and also had at least a dozen different types of cookies she’d make around the holidays as well.”
But don’t think those never-ending snow flurries in the movie are real. Panabaker revealed it was filmed nearly six months ago; definitely not the ideal time for an authentic winter wonderland. “It felt a little bit funny making a Christmas movie in May when it was sunny and beautiful and there was not nearly as much snow as Hallmark wanted,” she said with a laugh.
Christmas Joy premieres Saturday, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.