With hugely successful recent hits like Set It Up, A Christmas Prince, and To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Netflix has become the center of the rom-com return. And the star of their heartwarming tale may be one of the least likely actors to step into one of these roles. Despite not being fan of the genre in general, Kat Graham shines in The Holiday Calendar, the streaming service's new romantic holiday film, out Nov. 2. Speaking over the phone in late October, she explains why this movie — against all odds — caught her attention.
"I don't like romantic comedies normally and I'm not somebody that goes to see a holiday movie," Graham admits. "I'm so anti-romantic anything, and I just want to do edgy sh*t."
The Holiday Calendar, which is as festive and sweet as you'd expect, its clearly an exception. But what did it take to win her over? "If it got me then I knew that it was going to get a lot more people too. I think it was really special. I couldn't not do this movie," she says.
In the feel-good Christmas film, Graham stars as Abby, a struggling but super talented photographer who's gifted a unique advent calendar that seems to predict her future and affect the course of her life. Sure, the premise isn't terribly complex. But Graham saw so much potential for the film to go a bit deeper and share impactful messages audiences need right now.
For one, Graham strongly relates to Abby having parents of different races. "I have never seen a holiday movie centered around a biracial family where the mother is white and the dad is black which is exactly what I had," she says, explaining that her mother is of Russian-Polish descent and her father is West African. "It's never been done before and I think with everything that's happening in the world right now, especially in America, it's really, really important to show love and family and community and relationships in that way."
Graham seized the opportunity to show that even rom-coms can be eye-opening and speak to societal issues, even around race. "Even though I'm a silly person, I think a lot of the issues that are happening in Hollywood and in America and in the world... I want to do characters that explore the different dynamics of being an African-American... and [play] different things that maybe were more reserved for Caucasian characters."
Of course, Graham acknowledges that The Holiday Calendar is a rom-com above all, saying, "This isn't a movie about race or religion or anything like that." However, it has the ability to get substantial messages across in a disarming and subtle way. "This is a beautiful family movie. It's not polarizing... [but] will still affect people's subconscious and how they view family and how they view race and how they view the holidays," she says.
And although she feels so strongly about The Holiday Calendar and what it represents, she probably won't be scouting out any more rom-coms in the near future. "Unless we do a Holiday Calendar 2, I don't think that I would do another romantic comedy anytime soon unless it was an incredible script," she explains. "Because I still think there's a lot of cornball movies out there."
So don't expect this to the beginning of Graham's career as a romantic lead. "Fight Club and The Matrix and Being John Malkovich, those are my favorite movies. That's my sh*t, you know?" she says. "I think the next thing I should do is like really like a cool thriller or something. Kind of a sci-fi epic."
While those plans may seem contradictory given her latest endeavor, the former Vampire Diaries star also doesn't feel the need to explain herself to people who question the movie or her role in it. "I'm too busy working and creating... I'm not going to say, 'Well I'm an R&B singer because I did one record with Babyface," she says. "I'm not going to put myself in a box just because people might not understand. Catch up, b*tches!" No need to explain more.