If you're looking for a generic gumdrops and gingerbread holiday romance film, then you're in the wrong place. Tubi's Most Wanted Santa is an edgy art heist film that leans a little more toward Pink Panther than A Crown for Christmas. And while it is still a holiday romance, it's a badass holiday romance, partly due to the storyline and partly because it features four General Hospital stars: Teresa Castillo (ex-Sabrina Santiago), Donnell Turner (Curtis Ashford), Mark Lawson (ex-Dustin Phillips), and Carolyn Hennesy (Diane Miller).
Streaming now on Tubi TV, an on-demand video streaming service that you can download for free, Most Wanted Santa follows FBI Agent Harper Winslow (Denyse Lawton), who teams up with Detective Carly Lopez (Castillo) to hunt down a mysterious "Santa" who has been stealing priceless artwork during the holiday season. The two women form a strong friendship during their investigation, but things get complicated when they realize that Harper's sexy new friend and fellow art lover Christopher North (Turner) is their prime suspect!
As guest star Hennesy brilliantly sums up in a group chat with Soap Central: "It's kind of like The Thomas Crown Affair meets the North Pole!"
But, of course, there's also General Hospital thrown into that unique mix, with fans able to see four of their Port Charles favorites mix and mingle in the film. None of the actors know if that casting was done on purpose or if it was just a happy coincidence, but they're all thrilled to be working together again.
"I was very, very excited to work with Carolyn. I had worked with her before, and she is balls to the wall with everything that she does -- she's phenomenal!" Castillo enthuses. "Donnell was coming in as I was leaving General Hospital, and Mark and I never got to work together, but now we have, and it was lovely. There was definitely a comfort there, knowing it's a family."
Hennesy also describes the casting of Most Wanted Santa as a bit of a family affair, but she says her casting as a surprise Easter egg in the film was no coincidence: she demanded that director Kristen Fairweather give her a role!
"Kristen Fairweather is a very, very dear friend. She cast me in a movie called A Snow White Christmas, where I played... the Evil Stepmother, and it was so delicious. So, everything that Kristen does now, I demand to be in," she teases. "It was just my good fortune that Teresa and Donnell were there. I was like, 'I feel like I'm home.'"
Lawson was also thrilled to work with some fellow GH stars, but it was the holiday aspect that got him super interested in taking part in the film.
"I've been actually really eager to do a Christmas film. One of the things about working on a soap is you get that kind of prequel to the holidays about six weeks ahead, and I would kind of carry that around with me, so I've always wanted to do one of these," he shares. "I'm a Christmas movie junkie. In fact, when I first came to L.A., I would put on Christmas movies if I got homesick, and I've always wanted to scratch that itch, so I was happy to do this."
Adds Hennesy, "It's a great kick off to the season, to do a Christmas movie, because it does get you in the spirit. You're like, 'Okay, now I need to start planning what I'm going to do and what I'm going to get everybody for Christmas,'" she says with a laugh, adding, "My set was all decked out for Christmas, so I just felt like opening presents! I went over and it was like, 'Oh, is she gonna shake this?' And it was like, 'It's nothing. There's nothing in it.' But I was so excited!"
As for the characters that they play in Most Wanted Santa, Castillo and Lawson report that it was quite a change for them -- but a welcome one.
"I've always had cop auditions, and I've always had an idea of what that would look like, so I was thrilled to finally get cast in a role as a cop," Castillo says, adding that while there were some similarities, there was one big difference in this role than how she imagined: "There is a lot of humor in my character, so it wasn't so super 'coppy,' if you will."
Lawson also plays a cop -- Capital Matthew McDowell -- and while he has previous experience playing the hero type, he says this role was quite a departure from what he's used to.
"He's a very different kind of cop than I've played before, and the fact that he's also a police captain kind of marks time for me in my career, and I kind of go, 'Maybe I'm not the guy who's jumping in front of the bullets anymore!'" he says with a laugh. "That said, he's got a great sense of humor and the thing that really drew me to him is that he's not that -- it's in the backstory that I wrote for myself that he was stabbed in the line of duty and now he's risen the ranks in administration but he still likes to get out in the field, and when he actually gets out in the field at the end of the film, he's like, 'Hey, I'm doing my thing!' But he's not really that guy anymore, and he sublimates his need for the action with pastry."
Yeah, that's right: pastry. As Castillo teases, "There is lots of pastry eating -- lots of pastry eating -- in the film."
"Yes, graphic pastry eating. At least, that's what it felt like when I was doing it," jokes Lawson, who shares that while it might sound like fun to get paid to eat Christmas pastries all day long, it's not all it's cracked up to be. "They were selling me on this, 'You're going to eat this mochi doughnut. It's like the big thing right now and it's amazing,' and I was like, 'Oh, I'm going to eat the hell out of this doughnut, you watch!' And we had a couple takes on all these, [but the doughnuts weren't great] so, it was one of those, 'Here's my acting' moments. 'This is why I went to LAMDA!'"
Unfortunately, the mochi doughnut situation wasn't the only not-so-jolly eating moment on the set of Most Wanted Santa. Hennesy shares that she was sick with food poisoning during her one and only day filming for the movie.
"I was literally crawling on the floor, and Teresa and Denyse were like, 'Should we call an ambulance? Should we do CPR?'" Hennesy recalls, adding that she eventually managed to get through her scenes with Castillo and Lawton propping her up as best they could. "Everyone was so kind. They were like, 'What can we do?!' It was an interesting filming experience, but Teresa and Denyse were champs."
Speaking of Denyse Lawton, she was sort of the odd woman out, being the only major cast member in the film without a connection to General Hospital. But Castillo shares that the actress immediately fit right in -- so much so, she would make a great addition to the Port Charles world.
"She was able to jump right in and we had some really great back-and-forth rapport," Castillo shares. "I think she would be great on a soap. She's lovely to look at, and I think she'd be great!"
Adds Lawson, "I felt a little bad for Denyse, to be honest, because I had not met Teresa yet, but I immediately went to, 'We both have time in, we both know what this world is like, we both have been on soaps, you worked with a friend of mine,' so, we kind of had a shorthand. Then I noticed day two or day three, 'I'm being cliquey! She's not from that world, I've got to engage with her, too!' But I think she's fantastic."
In closing, being that the film is called Most Wanted Santa, Soap Central asked each of the film's cast members what toy they most wanted from Santa when they were kids -- and all of their answers are just as unique as the film!
"I wanted macadamia nuts every year," Hennesy enthuses. "I thrill to macadamia nuts, roasted and salted. I would go and sit in a corner and just eat them all. I'd get this big jar and I would try to make that last, but it never happened!"
Shares Lawson, "Every year on my list, I always wrote 'the scariest mask in the world.' That was literally how I wrote it. I always wanted the scariest mask in the world, and I had a pretty awesome collection up until college, but I think I went home one summer, and my mom had decided it was time for them to go. And that was devastating. I even had an original Don Post Wolfman mask!"
Castillo says that she can't recall anything in particular that she hoped for every year, outside of a squishy white cow that her grandma once took from her. "My grandma never had toys as a child, so every time she would visit her grandkids, she would steal toys and take them home," the actress shares. "So, every time we would go visit her in Mexico, I would go hunting in her toy room for my cow!"
As far as we can tell, Hennesy, Lawson, and Castillo have been nice instead of naughty this year, so perhaps Santa will be delivering macadamia nuts, scary masks, and squishy white cows for Christmas this year. If so, they'll be the cherry on top of the fun gift that he's already delivered: Most Wanted Santa, which is available for streaming now on Tubi. You can also check out the trailer for the film below.
What do you think about our interview with Most Wanted Santa stars Teresa Castillo, Mark Lawson, and Carolyn Hennesy? What are your thoughts on the premise and casting of the Tubi Originals holiday film? We want to hear from you -- and there are many ways you can share your thoughts.