Netflix’s ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’ Stars Talk Holiday Magic [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
What’s better than curling up under a warm blanket while laying on your couch with your loved ones around the holidays? The only thing that comes to mind is adding a Christmas movie marathon to the mix. From the heartwarming classics like A Christmas Story to Christmas-movie-legend Home Alone, you’re bound to find something that your whole crew of family and friends will love.
Whether you start watching on Thanksgiving Day, keep watching on New Years Day, or find your eyes glued to a holiday movie any day in between, it’s never a wrong time for a wonderfully corny yet awe-inspiring Christmas movie. And while Netflix has copious amounts of holiday flicks, African Americans often want holiday movies with protagonists that look a little more like them and feature familiar faces like the late Whitney Houston in Preacher’s Wife, the suave, Morris Chestnut in The Best Man Holiday, and yes, Tyler Perry in A Madea Christmas.
After four years filled with national trauma, community division, and a global pandemic, many people — especially African Americans — have become cynical and skeptical of the days ahead. Even Christmas has felt more like a hollow tradition than a magical, hopeful time of the year. Now, more than ever, we need something to remind us to believe in the best of ourselves and each other. Fortunately, our prayers are answered in Netflix’s instant holiday classic Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, showcasing a Black all-star cast and revealing a musical adventure perfect for this moment in history.
Set in the gloriously vibrant fictional town of Cobbleton, the David E. Talbert-directed film follows legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle (Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker) whose creative inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when his trusted apprentice (Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key) steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his equally bright and inventive granddaughter (newcomer Madalen Mills) — and a long-forgotten invention — to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within. With the support of his wife (Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose), they remind us of the strength of family and the power of possibility.
Kontrol Magazine had a chance to sit down with two of the new movie’s stars and talk about what this film meant for them during the holidays.
Anika Noni Rose
Anika Noni Rose is a busy power-house actor and singer known for her work in Dreamgirls, For Colored Girls, and Disney’s The Princess and The Frog, featuring the first African American Disney Princess. On Broadway, she has won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in Caroline, or Change, A Raisin in the Sun, and Cat On a Hot Tin Roof.
With this being her first Christmas-themed work, Anika was elated to lend her talents to Jingle Jangle, expressing “the gift that is the wonder of Christmas.”
“I love the true spirit of Christmas,” Anika shared. “I think that is often lost when we start talking about Christmas because it’s become so business-oriented.” After expressing her deep concern for seeing Christmas commercials before Thanksgiving, Anika sounded even more excited to tie her personal holiday cheer to the movie. “With all the losses we have all incurred this year, I hope Jingle Jangle allows us to really loop into the spiritual and family aspects of what Christmas means.”
Recently seen in Hulu’s adaptation of Celeste Ng’s New York Times bestseller Little Fires Everywhere alongside Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington and starring alongside Mary J. Blige in Malik Vittahl’s Body Cam, Anika has been busy. While the Tony Award winner wants to be watching the premiere of Jingle Jangle at home, Anika will likely be hard at work filming. She will star in the supernatural thriller, Limbo and will recur on the Amazon series Them: Covenant. “I would love to be home watching it, but I will be celebrating from wherever I am at the time.”
Anika is no novice to big stages and celebrity casts. She has performed all over the world, including singing at Carnegie Hall and the Vatican, and she spent time shoulder-to-shoulder with Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson on Dreamgirls. While Anika enjoyed being on a welcoming, laughter-filled set with a star-studded cast, it was young Madalen Mills that stole her heart. “Madalen is a child who, at turns, she’s thirty-two, and at turns, she’s eight. She’s a brilliant girl, and…you’ll see that she is talented and can sing. She can sing!”
Even the nearly 3-minute trailer leaves you inspired. You can feel love and joy woven throughout all of Netflix’s candy-colored holiday musical. Here, newcomer Madalen Mills makes her film debut this fall in Netflix’s first original live-action musical. Mills landed the leading role of Journey after a global talent search in 2019. She can be seen singing, acting, and dancing alongside Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, and will be featured in two songs from the musical’s soundtrack, produced by Atlantic Records.
When reminiscing on her time on set, Madelen said, “It was so uplifting to be around such incredible actors who look like me. My mother and I were in awe of everyone. I was especially honored to be around African American women I look up to.”
Uninhibited joy was seeping from Madalen’s every word as she spoke about being on set with some of her sheroes. “My mom said, ‘This is Black excellence right here.’ And she reminded me that she didn’t get to see films like this when she was growing up.” It was apparent why Anika fell in love with this girl. She was able to connect past and present and honor the moment of creating something that other little black girls can use as a guidepost to a brighter future. “I hope to be a role model for other little girls to look up to.”
And she is off to an incredible start. On her ninth birthday, Madalen was the youngest child performer ever cast in a year-long run of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s School of Rock on Broadway in 2018. She is also a thumpin’ bass guitarist and burgeoning pianist. In 2017, she made her first professional theater debut at age eight in the Broadway National Tour of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Musical. Madalen recently wrapped her latest film in the lead role as Sistine, in The Tiger Rising based on Kate DiCamillo’s children’s book by the same name, also starring Queen Latifah and Dennis Quaid.
“I love Christmas,” Madalen said, excited about watching the movie premiere on Netflix. “I can’t wait to have a watch party with my cat and my mom. We are going to stay up as late as necessary until it drops, and I’ll probably watch it every day until Christmas.” Madalen was feeling the Christmas spirit that we all hope to encounter.
The Netflix Special We Need
So, if you can not wait to settle in with a hot cup of apple cider or hot chocolate to watch one of those cheesy, yet oh so uplifting Christmas movies, you are not alone. Holiday movies are now deeply ingrained in how Americans celebrate the holiday season. Last year, The New York Times reported a massive increase in new holiday movies. Disney, Netflix, Lifetime, and Hallmark were all in direct competition for viewers’ attention, with both new releases and reruns of the classics. It’s clear that holiday movies were so popular because they were “escapes” from the world as it was and a glimpse into the world that we all know it can be.
We watch Christmas movies because most of them are not religious in the traditional sense. For the most part, they don’t introduce any political jargon, sexist overtones, or lude intimate displays. They are often the purest things adults have to watch during the year. They serve as an alternative reality that reflects the most sincere longings in our hearts: to live simpler lives full of love and laughter. In the end, as the narrator says late in A Christmas Story – after the family has overcome a series of unfortunate circumstances, the presents have been unwrapped and they’ve gathered for Christmas goose – these are times when “all’s right with the world.”
Netflix got this one right! First, it boasts a starry cast also including Keegan-Michael Key, Sharon Rose, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin, Kieron Dyer, Justin Cornwell, Lisa Davina Phillip, and Hugh Bonneville. Then, you hear powerful original songs by John Legend, Philip Lawrence, Davy Nathan, and “This Day” performed by Usher and Kiana Ledé. The final result is a joyful spectacle from director Talbert that deserves to become a new Christmas classic.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey hits Netflix globally on Nov. 13.
Watch the trailer below.
Written By ByronJamal