Angela Tucker (Emmy-winning producer of “Belly of the Beast” ) has stepped into the exclusive holiday film director/screenwriter club with “New Orleans Noel” — which she directed and co-wrote — for Lifetime.
The film made its World Premiere at the 2022 New Orleans Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Spotlight Narrative. You get to weigh in on December 3, at 8 p.m./7 p.m. central, where it will air as part of the cable network’s annual, “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” original programming.
“New Orleans Noel” stars Patti LaBelle, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Tim Reid, and Pulliam’s real-life husband, Brad James. Pulliam produced alongside executive producer Whoopi Goldberg (“Caught in His Web”) on her second Lifetime film this year.
The story is holiday simple and follows the life of Grace Hill (Pulliam), a gifted architect whose hired to re-do a New Orleans home, the resident of New Orleans praline Queen Loretta Brown (Patti LaBelle). To her surprise, she’s sharing the duty with an architecture colleague and former college sweetheart, Anthony Brown (Brad James) a local and the grandson of Ms. Brown.
When Anthony and his family discover that Grace will be celebrating Christmas alone, they invite her to take part in their traditions and their celebrations. Soon, fiercely independent Grace begins to learn the importance of family and community, while modern Anthony learns to embrace tradition and the magic of Christmas.
But, when Grace is offered a new job far away from New Orleans, she’ll have to decide if she’ll leave or follow her heart. Tim Reid stars as Marcel Lirette, a handsome, retired friend, who moves back to town after years away and catches the eye of Loretta.
Tucker, who has been in the industry for many years and is well respected for her quality of work and get it done attitude, poured herself into watching Christmas movies after her father passed away on Christmas Eve in 2003. Imagine the inner conflict that opened inside her heart? This was a day that had previously held years, and years and years of joy, now, reduced to a dramatic and tramadic moment that could negatively reshape her life.
It would be understandable if Tucker had stayed, hidden, inside the shadow of melancholy. She didn’t. Instead, she pushed into sharing the magic of the holiday movies and sharing those discoveries with a few thousand of her closets friends on Instagram. It was through the stories, she would record videos of herself giving reviews of these films, none of which she has ever given a grade lower than B-.
The members in Film Fatales — an inclusive community of women feature film and television directors — approached her to direct. Once the script for A New Orleans Noel was completed, the film was preparing for production with the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down. Two years later, the movie is ready.
An interesting note, Patti LaBelle’s character, Loretta, is based on the late Loretta Harrison, lovingly referred to as “The Praline Queen” who was the chef and owner of the historic Loretta’s Authentic Pralines.
Angela Tucker is an Emmy and Webby Award winning director, writer and producer. As founder of TuckerGurl Inc, a boutique production company in New Orleans, Angela is passionate about stories that highlight underrepresented communities in unconventional ways.
She received her MFA in Film from Columbia University and BA from Wesleyan University. She is represented by Corrine Aquino and Haley Jones at Artists First.
Here’s what Angela Tucker, writer and director of “New Orleans Noel” had to share about her new Lifetime movie.
L.A. Sentinel: Congratulations. It’s a very closed club of writer/directors that make these yearly holiday season movies.
Angela Tucker: Thank you, and you are right.
LAS: How did it start, emotionally?
AT: I’ve spent my whole life loving Christmas movies. They’ve gotten me through many hard times. I always had a dream that I would make one and now I can’t believe that this dream has come true.
LAS: Manifestation. I love it. But is there something more?
AT: Well, it did happen that there was an African American television executive in the room when we pitched the project, who said that it would be ‘great to make a Christmas movie about a African American family with an African American director and an African American writer’ and that’s how it happened.
LAS: That’s beautiful but we both know that’s not usual.
AT: No, it’s not.
LAS: I appreciate the quality of the film. Nice. Long shoot?
AT: Thank you and no, we had a 15 day shoot. We jumped into it and I let the actors be themselves and it was fun watching them especially Patti.
LAS: Who mentored you?
AT: In the documentary world where I still work, Emmy award-winning producer/director, Philip Bertelsen (Who Killed Malcolm X? Now, on Netflix), Jacquie Jones and of course, in the holiday movie world Emily Moss Wilson is one of the respected leaders. Let me give her a big shout out, she was a ‘God send’.
LAS: Shout out to Emily Moss Wilson. We could all use that magical, helpful person make our dreams come true.
For more information on Angela Tucker, visit: https://www.tuckergurl.com/