Christmas 2022 is already proving to be a special one for father and daughter Kelsey and Spencer Grammer. Thanks to Lifetime and the movie The 12 Days of Christmas Eve, they are celebrating the holiday by fulfilling the dream of finally working together. 12 Days, a merry mix of Groundhog Day and A Christmas Carol, tells the story of Brian Conway (Kelsey), an over-achieving businessman whose focus on work has caused a serious rift in his relationship with daughter Michelle (Spencer). After an unfortunate accident, he finds himself continually dying (in a series of hilarious demises), only to be revived by a benevolent Santa (Mitch Poulos), who gives him 12 chances to get his relationships on track and regain his Christmas spirit before his holiday lights are forever dimmed.
"The idea of being able to play my dad's daughter in a film has always been a dream of mine," shared Spencer while promoting the project. "Also, being able to do a holiday movie together I feel was really special and unique. It's the first holiday movie I've done, and hopefully I'll do many more, but to be able to work with my father, who is such a legend, and such an incredible comedian and talented actor was an honor. We honestly had so much fun."
"We developed this movie over the last couple of years and pitched it at Lifetime not too long ago," added Kelsey. "They were very enthusiastic. We loved the idea of Spencer playing my recalcitrant, unwieldy daughter. It was a perfect fit all the way around. Lifetime green-lit it and off we went to the races. [Once] the script was in it was like, 'Oh, by the way, my daughter should play my daughter.' Everybody was like, 'Will she say yes?' It was an ideal experience, and we had the loveliest time. It was just like love is supposed to be."
Following Kelsey's divorce from Spencer's mother Doreen Alderman in 1990, the father/daughter bond fostered as a child was left fractured. Although their relationship was healed over time, Kelsey (like his character) can't help but reflect on those years, with a little regret.
"Spence was always there in the early years," he said. "She was front and center of everything I ever did. She went everywhere with me from about three months to three years of age. I don't think I missed a day with her. But then success, divorce courts, and all kinds of nonsense invades your life and this precious bond I had with my little girl was rent apart by the powers that be. Things that happened, people made assumptions; they attach themselves to whatever success you may have. Nobody cared until I got on a television show and suddenly there they were. I don't blame them."
"I was always a part of my father's life," Spencer recalled. "I think when you're a child of divorce, you are kind of put in between two different worlds. A lot of that stuff is at the mercy of the courts. I've always included my son in my life like that. I'm the firstborn of my family, so I give everyone the most help. In becoming a mother [myself] I've learned a tremendous amount of empathy for what it's like to be a parent, and what it's like to balance a workload and be there for your child.
"It does take a toll," she continued. "One of the most incredible gifts in my life was becoming a parent. Understanding what it was like for my parents to do the same has been healing for me. I hope we convey that in the movie. I hope people who may not have thought about that can also feel some of that catharsis, and maybe have a conversation or two. [In the film] we get to try it over and over again. Not everyone gets that [opportunity]."
Despite what has transpired in their lives, Spencer is grateful for the opportunities that come with having Kelsey as a father. In fact, she credits him with a lot of the tools she uses in her career. "I grew up going to watch him work all the time," she recalled. "Especially in the last few years of Fraiser. I'd go to the tapings every Tuesday because I knew I wanted to go into acting or some kind of art form. It was a time for me to learn and I loved the excitement of 'showtime!' I'd always wanted to work with him and thought we would probably do a play of some kind before we showed it to the world.
"Some of my comedic timing and some of my ideas have come from him," she added. "I learned from him, and from things passed down through other comedians like Jack Benny and many Vaudeville performers. Lucille Ball is 100% somebody who influenced some of my comedy. Her physicality, her heightened sense [of comedy] and the positive things. Those were things I really learned from Kelsey, too."
With one film done, sharing another co-starring credit is definitely on the Grammers' Christmas list. However, when it comes to life do-overs (as depicted in the film), both are fine with the way everything as it is. "I do [sort of] like the way things played out," admitted Kelsey. "A few years back, there was a study done asking people if they could, would they trade a big ailment [for another], and almost everybody said, 'I'd rather just stick with the one that I have.' I'd rather stick with what I've had and what I've gone through and gotten through."
"There are some things in my life I wish hadn't happened," offered Spencer in closing. "But I think they influenced and continue to influence the rest of my life. We have to move ahead. Life is very short. We can't get stuck on those things -- just keep moving ahead."
The 12 Days of Christmas Eve will be telecast Saturday, November 26 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.
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