LeAnn Rimes is, without a doubt, a confident woman. For over 20 years, the Grammy winner has cemented her place in music history as one of the most successful musicians ever. But when it came to starring in, producing, and creating original songs for her first ever Hallmark Christmas movie—It’s Christmas, Eve, which premieres tomorrow—she was nervous.
“I’m kind of no bullshit [with work],” she tells Glamour.com. “If we have to get something done, we’re going to get it done, get it done properly, and not waste anybody’s time. But I walked into this movie very timid at first. Acting isn’t something I do all the time, and it’s not like breathing to me the way singing is. The last acting role I did was about seven years ago. I just haven’t done it as often.”
And yet, within the first 48 hours on set, Rimes says she felt a major shift in her outlook. “I realized I was doing a better job than what I thought I was,” she explains. “In moments like that, you just have to know what’s best and roll with it. If it shifts, it shifts, but somebody’s got to take the reins. I walked in feeling like I couldn’t do it, even though I’m a producer on the film—and then, in the first 48 hours, I was over that. I still find it quite interesting.”
So, how did Rimes find herself on the set of a Hallmark holiday movie in the first place? She says when she first met with the network to discuss a collaboration, it felt like a natural step after years of recording Christmas albums. Still, if she was going to star in her own movie—and produce original songs for it—Rimes wasn’t going to do it unless she could “push boundaries.” Hallmark agreed.
The end result of their collaboration: A movie in which Rimes plays Eve, an interim school superintendent who returns to her hometown tasked with ugly assignment of trimming the budget. Emphasis on superintendent—Rimes didn’t want to play the music teacher. Instead, that role went to the male lead (played by Tyler Hines). “I didn’t want to hit it right on the nose,” she says of the switch. “You want to step out of yourself. I get that a lot, where people want me to play a musician. It really takes the right thing.”
While Rimes does sing in the movie, her main goal was to show the importance of arts education programs in schools. “Storylines like music and schools is definitely a big thing and so important,” she says. She knows firsthand—rom her own experience and as stepmom to husband Eddie Cibrian’s two sons, ages 11 and 15.
Speaking of her stepsons, that was another storyline that Rimes wanted to highlight in the film. “I thought that there’s not enough light shed upon [stepfamilies] in a positive way, so this was a perfect opportunity to do so.” (In the film, Hines’s character is a single dad to a teenage daughter; Rimes’ character has a stepfather as well.) “I have a wonderful step-dad in real life, so once again, it was nice to pull in the blended family aspect into the film.”
And finally, Rimes wanted her character to be strong and take charge, while Hines’ would have more of an outwardly sweet side. “To have a man in that role, and especially with he and his daughter, I think there’s such strength in showing his softer side,” she explains. “There was a beauty to that in our character’s relationship, which is nice.”
Perhaps the only thing that took Hallmark a bit more convincing was Rimes’ wardrobe for her character. “The girls were out,” she jokes of the times she wanted to wear cleavage-baring tops. “There was one moment where I was in pajamas, but I had a full on tank top on and everything was covered and people kept freaking out about it in the other room. I’m like, ‘What are they freaking out about?! It’s covered!’ There’s very specific [guidelines], but they were OK with a little bit lower of a top.”
For Rimes it wasn’t just about the cleavage—it was that she wanted her character to dress like a modern woman. “I didn’t want her to be super stuffy,” she explains. “She had to have a vibe.” Rimes adds that the wardrobe department was incredible and worked with her to make sure each character’s color palette would pop. “That was really important, too. There’s so much work that goes into this, but to be able to collaborate from the ground up and create—like I create with music—was so fun.”
Considering this collaboration went so well, Rimes hopes she can do even more with networks like Hallmark. On the top of her list? A gay couple or interracial couple. “I think they’ll eventually go there,” she says. “The great thing was that [Hallmark] never shut my ideas down. I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”
Now, as Rimes gets ready to celebrate the holiday season, she has a renewed focus heading into 2019. “It’s so easy to just throw your name on something or step into something because you’re making a significant amount of money doing it,” she says. “But for me, it’s really about moving people and telling stories that come from the heart and aren’t superficial. It’s why I talk about this experience with such great joy.”
It’s Christmas, Eve, premieres this Saturday, November 10 at 9 P.M. ET on the Hallmark Channel.