The first thing that I ever remember seeing Poppy Montgomery in is when I watched the original Party of Five. She was playing a girl named Alison and I remember thinking – wow, she’s striking. She’s an actress that makes you take notice.
It’s probably why I loved her in Without a Trace (don’t judge me – I like to watch a lot of older television). So when the chance came up to talk to her about her new movie, Christmas on the Farm, I took it. While I could have sat and talked to her forever, I enjoyed my time talking about Christmas movies, books, Australia, the reason she wrote this movie and just how personal it is to her.
Fangirlish: I’m a big Christmas connoisseur. I feel like I have watched like every movie known to mankind, it feels like. Are you a fan of Christmas movies, and if so, what’s your go-to Christmas film?
Poppy: I love Christmas movies. I love all Christmas movie. My go-to, that’s hard because– All the Home Alone, Elf, Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I know that’s more Thanksgiving, but it’s still– I could go on and on and on. Miracle on 34th Street All of them. It’s A Wonderful Life. We do a thing in my family, which is so– Most of the kids leave like 10 minutes in, but every day in December, we try to watch one Christmas movie together because I have five kids. I end up being the one left watching the movie. They’re all like, “Yes, we’re out. TikTok, see you.” We watch all the Christmas movies in this house a lot, but Elf is my– I’m leaning into Elf this year. I’m really enjoying– I’ve watched it already, like three times.
Fangirlish: I loved the premise of a Christmas farm and how important to me, it spoke to me how important roots are, and really maintaining those roots and the traditions and the things that made you who you are. Can you tell us why you wanted to do the film and what drew you to it?
Poppy: I executive produced the film, and the story is based in my life. I also wrote it with our team of writers and Jen Shapiro. We all wrote pieces of it and came up with it. In 2019, my mom in Australia passed away unexpectedly, and with my sisters, we inherited a farm. [chuckles] I live in Los Angeles, so I inherited my mom’s farm in Australia, and I’m just really bad at it. I have no ability to do anything farm-y. Every time I would go and stay with her, I was like, “I’m just going to check-in to the hotel back in Sydney.”
I came up with the idea of very true to life. A woman whose mother passes away, and she inherits a farm and has to go home and deal with this world that she doesn’t think she wants to live in anymore, and ultimately finds that that’s exactly where she belongs. It was a tribute to my mom as well. The flashbacks of little me and the mother are all– The dialogue is taken from texts my mom wrote to me and letters she wrote, so we used a lot of her words in the film. It’s a real tribute to her.
Fangirlish: I’ve experienced loss of a mother, and so I know how that is, and so I honestly, I just have to say, and I’ll ask another question in a second. Thank you for sharing and being that vulnerable with all of us because that’s just– I feel like crying. That’s just so great. Thank you.
Poppy: You’re welcome, and I’m sorry for your loss. I know how it’s awful.
Fangirlish: Thank you. I’m sorry for your loss.
Poppy: Thank you. It’s just when you’re very close, or even when you’re not, it’s just jarring. I didn’t really know anything else I could do to keep her alive, so that’s where it came from. Yes, terrible thing to lose your mom. I’m sorry.
Fangirlish: I’m very sorry for your loss also. It’s interesting to me that you don’t like doing anything on the farm and your mom owns one, but then again, my family’s from Iowa and I don’t like doing anything on the farm either. What are you best at doing on the farm and what are you worst at doing on the farm?
Poppy: Oh, wow. In real life, when I would go to our farm, I was best at complaining. I just literally was just not good at anything. In Australia, everything can kill you. Every spider is poisonous, every mosquito is the size of an airplane. There was nothing that I did well on that farm. I guess I’m best at horse riding, if I had to pick something, but I normally didn’t last very long. My mom loved farm life, and I was raised in the city. I was raised in Sydney. When she went off to create this farm world, I was baffled. In terms of production, oh man, everything we did in that movie we didn’t have a budget for special effects, so every rooster, gag, every milking cow stunt, me riding on the horse and the horse taking off, that was all real.
Fangirlish: Oh my God.
Poppy: Yes. The giant spider that I have to capture under the glass and not be afraid of him, that was a real spider, a real huntsman spider. They bite and they’re huge. I had to face a lot of my fears. I actually came to have an understanding of why my mom loved it so much through doing the movie, because there was fun to be had, even though milking that cow, I’ll never do that again.
Fangirlish: Sorry. I grew up on a dairy farm, so I know what it’s like to milk a cow.
Poppy: Oh my God, so you know.
Fangirlish: It’s not a good time.
Poppy: I have never like it, the whole no milk came out, I sat in the wrong position, I almost got kicked in the head, [laughs] so you know. You could probably get the milk to come out. I felt like such a failure. I was like, I cannot get anything out of this cow.
Fangirlish: No, it’s not easy. You just shouldn’t feel like a failure at all. Part of watching this movie is I love seeing– Now that I know it’s you, it makes it even again, more special. I love seeing all the things that your character tried to do and really put her heart into. It reminded me of why people live on a farm and why people do things. You did a great job.
Poppy: Wow, thank you.
Fangirlish: Do you think that Emmy’s mom would’ve been really happy with the lengths that she went to, to save the farm, or do you think she would’ve been like, “Let it go”?
Poppy: No, if it was my mom, she would’ve been happy with the lengths to never let it go. That’s the thing, our farm is still in– We’ve hung onto it. Even though we all live in America, we’re not letting our farm in Australia go because it’s our mom. That’s hers. She’s all over that place. All of that dialogue where we talk about that, “We can’t let it go. This was her. Her spirit’s here,” that feels very true of our farm in Australia, our real farm.
The one we filmed on is not my actual farm because my actual farm is not quite as perfect as that farm that we filmed on. That’s like the glamor version of my farm. Yes, no, I think my mom and Emmy’s mom would’ve said, “You fight to keep it. Do what you have to do.” My mom was very much that way though.
Interviewer: I love that. Since in the movie, your character is a writer, I’m curious to know who your favorite writers are.
Poppy: Oh, I have so many favorite writers. The old ones are like Emily Brontë. I like all of those classics. I’m a huge fan of Cheryl Strayed, interestingly. I love Elizabeth Gilbert. I’m into memoirs right now, but I go through phases. I don’t have one favorite writer all the time. I go back and forth depending on what kind of books I’m reading. When I’m into thrillers, I always like Agatha Christie still. I can read an Agatha Christie book in a sitting because I just love the way she writes. I read a lot, like a lot. Right now, I’m reading, Family Game. It’s like a thriller. I can’t put it down. It’s not even super high-brow.
You know who I think my consistently favorite writer would be? Anne Lamott. I think that she’d be my one that I go back to a lot.
Fangirlish: I’m going to have to look up the book that you just talked about.
Poppy: Oh, look at Bird by Bird, if you haven’t read, you would love that by Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird is still, to me, one of the greatest–
Fangirlish: Definitely. I felt like this movie was a mixture of comedy and heart, but I felt like it was– There’s so many lessons that you can take away from it, but what do you hope most that people take away from this movie?
Poppy: When I go to movies, I tend to go to movies to find comfort, or inspiration, or escape, or to feel happy when I’m sad, or to feel like I’m not alone. For me, everything that I make, not everything I act in, but anything that I produce or create or co-write or anything like that, it normally comes from that place. That when I’m feeling bad or to anyone who might have lost someone they love around the holidays or anything like that, I always hope that it brings some kind of comfort and relief. For me, that’s why I read books, why I watch movies, I want to escape into another world and be happy.
Fangirlish: I love that. Since you wear so many hats and I, at first, remember you as an actress first, and then you’re a producer and a writer. What is your favorite part of the creative process putting, for instance, this movie together, since you co-wrote it and you acted in it and you produced it?
Poppy: What I’ve realized as I do more and more of my own stuff, because Reef Break, which I did for ABC, was also something that I created, executive produced, and starred in, and it just– Acting is, when you show up on a set, all the really [chuckles] hard work in terms of the project getting made has been done, because it takes years sometimes to get these things up and off the ground. I think, I like acting because I get to show up and just act. I do love what I’m doing now, but it’s just a wearing, like you said, many more hats, and it all takes a lot longer. Every project I have, it’s two years in between.
Reef Break was 2019, then we started develop– My mother passed away, we started developing Christmas on the Farm. It’s out now. I don’t know what I like better anymore. I love producing, I love being involved in the creative process from the beginning, but I’m also an impatient person who likes to just show up and be able to act it.
It’s so nice to be like, “Oh wow, I don’t– No, there’s no rewrite. We’ve just got a script, and here we go.” Development is probably the piece of all of it I like the least, just because it’s slow.
Christmas on the Farm is streaming now on Hulu.