Maria Menounos on Lifetime Movie, First Leading Role and More
Maria Menones has been on television for more than two decades. Whether interviewing celebrities on “Access Hollywood,” hosting a WWE special or “The Challenge,” or performing an arc on “One Tree Hill,” he’s been a television staple. However, it wasn’t until this year that she landed the lead role in her first film – and a Christmas TV movie was the perfect opportunity.
“I’ve never had to carry anything by myself,” Menounos says. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a Christmas movie series. I put it on my watch last year.”
The vision came alive. Last year, Ryan McPartland, who has appeared in a few holiday movies over the years, hit it at just the right time.
It was right after my mom passed away, and she’s like, “Oh, we’re going to be in Connecticut shooting a movie.” I say, I’m in Connecticut. This is so crazy. Then I was chosen as a sister,” she recalls. After playing a supporting character in Jana Kramer’s “Holiday Fix,” director Brian Herzlinger contacted her last summer — this time with a lead offer for Lifetime’s “Holiday Vacation Dating Guide.”
He had always loved movies and vacations, but the thought of acting in the lead role was nerve-wracking.
“I’ve been told by psychologists that I’m going to do more acting,” Menounos says. While her focus was on her show, “Better Together” and the world of spirituality, she had put starring in a Christmas movie on her bucket list.
“It was really special because it was going to be my first Christmas without my mum and it really gave me something to look forward to. So it got me through last Christmas and then this happened.” He says about the last two years.
Menounos’ mother, Litsa, died in May 2021 after battling stage 4 brain cancer. The journalist has been very public about her experience, as she was diagnosed with a benign tumor called a hemangioma in 2017, just months after her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
Vacation movies have always helped him and his mom — and now they’re part of his work life.
I remember when I was in the hospital with my mom after her brain surgery, I realized how important it is to have fun and what we do. We really needed a laugh and we really needed an escape. During the holidays, having Lifetime and watching these Christmas movies was a wonderful escape for all of us from what we were dealing with. And then he came and saved me when I really needed to escape myself.” “It’s a beautiful way it’s come about and I think my mom certainly played a part in that from the other side. It’s so important for all of us to be able to have decency in those times. Those are the times when you feel the most pain. And I know because I’ve been there.”
For a long time, Menounos was not sure that he could be both an actor and a journalist. So, he tried his best to “walk both ways.” and it worked In 2004, he had a brief stint on “One Tree Hill” — which turned into a 10-episode arc.
“One Tree Hill” was a wonderful escape for me at the time too. I felt like I was always trying to escape scenarios. “They were so welcoming and lovely that I cried so hard when I had to leave.” “That was the worst! I was like, ‘Please don’t make me come back!’ “And they took the character and it went on for the whole season. I’d go out for a short period of time, maybe three episodes, then I got a job and I had to go.”
Now, as a leading lady on “Holiday Dating Guide,” she experienced nerves she’d never had before.
“I had a heart attack the night before I was in all the scenes. “I started freaking out and then I remembered my favorite line from a Christmas movie that got me through, which is ironic.” “Just put one foot in front of the other in ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town,'” they say.
It’s advice Menounos lives by. In 2020, she launched Better Together, a video series about healing, wellness, and emotional health. He’s going to continue to grow — and hopefully grow in the holiday movie space as well.
“I want to live a really fun, adventurous, purposeful life. That’s the umbrella. Underneath that, I want to do more with my Better Together show. I want to take that show on the road and therapy events.” “To do and really help people on their healing journeys and take control of their health is incredibly, incredibly important to me and a huge passion of mine.” I want to start a production company for Christmas holiday movies because I really want to make one of these a year. I love it. It just makes me so happy every time. It’s the most fun. I really want to get back into filmmaking. You know, me and Kevin. We came together to make the movie together. On this movie in particular, working with the crew and the team we had made me really fall in love with the idea of making movies again—as a producer and as an actor. You have to keep growing and improving. “Give up and try new things. Life is too short.”
“Holiday Dating Guide” airs Saturday, Dec. 17 at 8 p.m