We Need More Black Holiday Films. A ‘Family Matters’ Reunion With NC Ties Fills the Role.

From left to right, the 'Christmas in Carolina' cast: Jessi Niccolet, Terrence Shingler, Darius McCrary, Kellie Shanygne Williams, David L. Rowell, and Joslyn Y. Hall of Charlotte. (Image via The True Story Photography)

By Max Millington

December 8, 2020

‘Black Lives Matter’ changed the way we look at screen representation. ‘Christmas in Carolina’ film had that in mind.

It’s been a difficult year for many reasons, but one locally-filmed holiday movie starring a NC actress serves as a celebration of love and joy among friends and family. 

Starring Joslyn Y. Hall of Charlotte, “Christmas in Carolina” is a holiday rom-com that made national news for the reunion of former “Family Matters” stars Kellie Shanygne Williams and Darius McCrary, who played Laura and Eddie on the beloved 1990s sitcom. 

Filmed on location throughout South Carolina, the movie follows Elle (played by Hall), an investment banker who is jaded by the dating scene until she meets Wesley (played by David L. Rowell), a former NBA player and CEO of a small marketing firm. Despite being spurned in a prior relationship, Wesley takes a chance and invites Elle home for Christmas in South Carolina. 

Wesley’s mother and uncle are played by Williams and McCrary. Also for the “Family Matters” die-hards, Shawn Harrison, who played the lovable nitwit Waldo Faldo, was involved in the film. 

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Williams’ mother, Peggy, directed the film and told Cardinal & Pine that the production had just wrapped up before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived on our doorstep. 

“The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect,” said Peggy Williams. “If (production) would have gone into another month or two, we would have been shut down, it would have been a wrap. So this was a blessing in disguise.”

The film was written and produced by Stacie Davis, an HBCU grad from South Carolina who now calls Charlotte home. Like “Family Matters” throughout the 90s, the cast of “Christmas in Carolina” is majority Black and free of stereotypical tropes and negative representation. 

“There’s not a lot of (Black) Christmas movies out there,” said Jessi Nicolet, who plays “Blythe” in the film. “Just to celebrate Black families and Christmas and Black love, it matters and representation matters for all of us to see.”

‘Black Lives Matter’ on Screen 

The importance of positive and accurate Black representation in television and film re-entered the national discussion in the wake of police-involved tragedies like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s deaths, as well as Jacob Blake’s shooting. 

White voice actors like Jenny Slate of Netflix’s “Big Mouth” and Mike Henry of FOX’s “Family Guy” chose to step down from their roles as animated Black characters. “Persons of color should play persons of color,” said Henry, via Twitter

In September, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced new inclusive standards for the Oscars’ “Best Picture” category. However, these developments were just a few steps toward making Hollywood more representative of the world we live in. 

“It’s a positive change, because this has been a market where it has been dominated by a vast majority,” said (Peggy) Williams. 

“The representation (in the film) is phenomenal,” said Hall. “We need to be seen in this type of light.” 

You can check out “Christmas in Carolina” now for free on the Roku Channel or purchase on Amazon, YouTube, and Google Play. 


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