Interview: Hallmark’s Catherine Haena Kim, Boyfriends of Christmas Past

Catherine Haena Kim is new to Hallmark Channel movies, but her new Countdown to Christmas movie Boyfriends of Christmas Past is a charming, fun twist on the Charles Dickens classic. We had a chance to talk with the star about her role and what it was like working on her first Hallmark Christmas movie.

As Lauren, Catherine Haena Kim delights with her bright-eyed exuberance in the movie. She’s smart and fun and family oriented, and there’s no question she would do anything for the people she cares about. Lauren has been hurt before, when her mother left at Christmas and never came back.

All these years Lauren has been hiding her pain by pushing her boyfriends away from her when they get too close. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s about to lose the person who has been there for her through it all, and if she doesn’t act quickly he’ll be gone.

Boyfriends of Christmas Past also features Lauren’s wonderful Korean family, which means there’s plenty of Korean food and glimpses at a Korean-American holiday celebration. It’s a heartwarming story that’s a perfect reminder to embrace the people in your life and to not let the past dictate the future.

Interview with Hallmark Channel star Catherine Haena Kim

(Sarabeth Pollock) I love that with this movie you think you know what’s coming, but then you realize that it’s not at all what you think, and it’s actually much more nuanced than just being a play on A Christmas Carol.

(Catherine Haena Kim) Oh, that’s so nice to hear, thank you so much! I love that what you have is a modern woman and she has an amazing community. She has wonderful friends and family. She has this thriving career but she needs a little help in the love department and it’s just a funny way how she ends up getting that help.

When she realizes that if she doesn’t act she’s going to lose Nathan, it’s like that old saying that you never realize what you have until you’ve lost it. So the extra help from the ex-boyfriends is so helpful. 

Yeah, it’s so true. I also just love that Lauren is dealing with her own things, as we all are. And I think she has to just come to terms that if she doesn’t deal with her past, her past is going to deal with her. It’s nice that she does finally figure it out and it’s wonderful that she gets help from her exes.

It’s really fun seeing how different her boyfriends are over the years, but you can see how she would connect with each one in a special way. They’re all so different but they all share this love for her. 

It’s so interesting because when you’re 15, the boy that you dated is probably very different from the men that you dated at 26. I’m sure they share certain qualities, but she doesn’t have a physical type. She just loves people, really good people. And that’s why they all want the best for her.

What drew you to the script? 

Well, as you were saying I thought it was a wonderful spin on A Christmas Carol, but it’s its own thing. And I love that it’s a modern woman trying to navigate life and getting help from her friends along the way. I also love that you get a little insight into her personal life and her family. I love that we’re learning about another type of family, and this one happens to be Korean-American.

So you see some nice touches where during a Christmas dinner you’ll see some Korean food, and it’s how my Christmases are. I have a huge mixed family and there’s always some Korean food because if there isn’t rice it’s very confusing! But we’ve been raised here, so of course there’s going to be a turkey or a ham, or a roast, which is what we like to do. You’ve got to have to have some Korean barbecue!

I love that Hallmark movies are depicting more non-traditional families. Lauren’s family is wonderful. Her father and her stepmother, Yung, are wonderful people. But she doesn’t have a relationship with her mom. It’s nice to see that you don’t have to come from a perfect family to have a perfect family. It can happen in other ways.

Exactly. I also love that Nate (Raymond Ablack) was adopted and grew up in the foster care system, so he tends to be part of her family and her holidays. I’m a transplant in Los Angeles, which is where I’m based now, and I’ve slowly started to wrangle my family over from the East Coast. But I always had friends and their families inviting me to their Thanksgivings and Christmases if I couldn’t go home. It’s nice to see a very realistic depiction of what life is like now.

I spoke to Lauren Tom recently about Sweet Pecan Summer, and how she was so thrilled to have a movie with a predominantly AAPI cast. It’s so powerful to see all the elements of different cultures in these stories. 

Right, exactly, And I feel like we’re really learning that there isn’t just one cookie cutter type of family, certainly not anymore in modern times. And it’s really nice to see all different kinds of families represented because I think when you’re little you have this desire to want to fit in and belong and learn so it’s a wonderful thing that we’re getting to showcase more types of families and types of people that little boys and girls can watch and be like, “Oh yeah, that’s like my family!”

The sets were all so beautiful, which is a trademark of Hallmark holiday movies. Did you pick up any tricks of the trade to use in your own home?

Well I now have two four-foot nutcrackers sitting next to me, thank you very much! Seriously, though it was really nice because I appreciated being asked for my input. I think even coming from a Korean-American family, my traditions were different from [author] Edie Grace, who also grew up in a Korean-American household. So it’s really nice to be asked what we do for the holidays to see if we can incorporate some of those traditions. It was also nice that they included a lot of photos from my childhood, and photos of my mom with my friends.

Wow, it’s like having a living memory book!

I was actually supposed to be in a girlfriend’s wedding in Hawaii and I couldn’t do it because of our shooting schedule. And of course she’s so amazing and supportive and I had to Zoom into her wedding. There are photos of her in the movie, so I’m really excited that I get to now share the movie with her.

I love that! I’ve talked to so many Hallmark actors, from first-timers to seasoned veterans, and they all have the same enthusiasm for working with Hallmark. The experience, they say, is unlike anything they’ve had anywhere else. 

Exactly, and this was my first Hallmark movie and hopefully not the last because they set the bar so high.

And it’s so nice that you were able to leave your mark on the movie.

That’s what I appreciate so much about this one, that my input was so welcomed and encouraged. I’m excited to be able to share this with my future kids and my cousins and future nieces and nephews, and they’ll get to see me and maybe notice something that comes from our family, or even just seeing a picture of one another. And aside from my family, I’m thinking about having little girls and boys seeing themselves on screen and feeling represented. I think it’s so nice, and I appreciate that Hallmark is leading the charge to do more about that.

My gratitude goes out to Catherine Haena Kim for taking the time to speak with me about her new movie, Boyfriends of Christmas Past, which will be available all season long as part of the Countdown to Christmas on Hallmark Channel.