I had such a great time visiting with Francia Raisa and Mike “The Miz” Mizanin from ABC Family’s “Christmas Bounty!”
You could tell from the conversation that these two had a great time working with each other on this new holiday film! Lots of laughing and joking back and forth. It was so much fun to listen to them share stories of the filming process and more!
Q: What was it that initially drew you to this role?
Mike “The Miz”: With WWE it’s theater, it’s live, you’re in front of a live audience, you only get one take. If you mess up the entire world is going to see it and are either going to boo you or cheer you at that moment.
However, acting in a movie — you don’t get that initial reaction and you don’t get that live audience feel. Doing a movie is a lot nicer on my body. I just got back from Europe for WWE — we did a European tour for 14 days of constant wrestling, so my body’s tired, my mind’s tired. When you’re shooting a movie it’s exhausting in a different way, where you’re mentally going at it and you don’t get that much sleep. But I do enjoy movies. I do enjoy WWE. I enjoy them both the same. They’re a lot different, and they’re also very similar.
I’m really excited about “Christmas Bounty” premiering on November 26, because the cast just got along so well. It’s not every day that you get to enjoy such a close-knit cast. Every time we were done with a shoot we would all go sit and just talk. I think you’ll see that closeness and that bond that we all had and that love for each other in “Christmas Bounty.” I think when a cast becomes close you can really see that they enjoy working with each other, and I think we all really had a pleasure working on “Christmas Bounty.”
Francia: I agree! Coming off of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” I am not used to doing any sort of action. This was my first time doing action scenes on camera. I did grow up doing martial arts. So, I was intimated to work with Mike, because he is a wrestler and has done this for a long time. But he was really welcoming and really encouraging. In “Secret Life” it was very “go, go, go, go”, because TV tends to have more time. It was a lot of fun and we were able to pick it up really well.
Like Mike said, we all really enjoyed working with each other; we became a family, we definitely bonded. We are genuine friends, so it’s definitely going to show on camera. I’m just as excited, because we just watched the movie and you could just tell that there was so much chemistry between all of us!
It was definitely a transition, just because I hadn’t done film in a while, but I was really happy to know that this was the first project that I was going to do outside of “Secret Life” and TV.
Q: Did either of you spend any time with bounty hunters to learn stunts for the role?
Mike “The Miz”: I definitely watched “Dog the Bounty Hunter” leading up to doing this role, just checking out exactly what bounty hunters do. So that was the extent of what we did. The casting process was put together fairly quickly, so there wasn’t an excess of time where you could find a bounty hunter and talk to him.
Francia: It happened so fast; I found out on a Sunday and I was a plane by Wednesday. So my research was with the director and my cast. I did watch “The Bounty Hunter” with Jennifer Aniston!
Q: What was your most memorable moment from filming?
Mike “The Miz”: My most memorable moment is one having to do with Francia. I’m so glad I got to be with her in this movie because she taught me a lot on the acting realm and was a constant professional. But there was one day where she was trying to do this savate kick for the movie. And let me tell you something, I can’t even do a savate kick. I’m the type of person that likes to give people a hard time, and I enjoy doing little pranks, if you will. If I see someone getting a little aroused I have to keep pushing that button. So I kept pushing it and at one point she was like, “You have to give me a moment!”
So I gave her a moment, and she did the savate kick and it was literally the most perfect kick. I think I’m going to take credit for her savate kick, because of the energy that I gave her during that moment.
Francia: That made me so mad, haha! That was a pretty memorable moment for me.
Mike “The Miz”: Another memorable moment for me was that I had my first on-screen kiss.
Francia: Oh yes! I was really excited about that!
Mike “The Miz”: I’ve been on TV for a while and I never had a movie or TV series where I’ve had a kiss with another actress, so this was my first time. I guess you could say I was pretty nervous about it, because I didn’t know what the rules were. I just went for it, and I think it was Francia’s best kiss she’s ever had on screen, to be completely honest with you. I mean I’m a really good kisser. You can ask my fiancé!
Q: What traditions or rituals do you have for the holidays?
Francia: I like to cook a lot, so I’m really excited to cook next week for Thanksgiving. I’m the only one doing it, so I will be up bright and early. Other than that, I like to sleep and watch Christmas movies. This year I will have my entire family watch “Christmas Bounty” over and over again!
Mike “The Miz”: I don’t know how to cook. If you asked me to cook you macaroni and cheese I could get you that, maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so you definitely don’t want me cooking.
Normally WWE has Survivor series on pay-per-view right around Thanksgiving, which is happening this Sunday. Then I fly to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, which is my hometown. I celebrate a day that I call “Miz Fest”, which is every Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I rent a school bus and I bring about 60 of my high school friends– yes I said high school — I basically bring them all on the school bus and we just have a blast through the entire city of Cleveland.
The next day my family goes over to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. We eat my aunt’s dry turkey and her other food that she usually cooks. I’ve never seen someone try so hard to cook great food and still cannot do it well. So my Aunt Lynn isn’t the best cook, but you have to give her an A for effort.
During Christmas, I always love the Christmas movies. I love Christmas Vacation, I love Elf, and now I’m going to be watching Christmas Bounty. I’m actually having a little viewing party on Tuesday over at my friend’s house in Cleveland, and I think everyone’s going to really enjoy Christmas Bounty, because there’s something for everyone. It’s not just for girls, it’s not just for guys, it’s not old people, young people, it’s everybody; there is something for everyone. If you like comedy, if you like drama, if you like romance, if you like a little action, guess what, you’re going to get it all in Christmas Bounty, and it’s going to show that true holiday spirit.
Q: What should fans expect while tuning in to “Christmas Bounty?”
Mike “The Miz”: It’s one of those feel good movies! I think everyone watches their special Christmastime movies. This is a movie that’s going to be right up there with all the other ones. I think people are going to really watch, and when they’re done watching this movie they’re going to come away with a smile on their face, they’re going to cuddle with their loved ones a little closer. I think it’s just one of those movies that will stand the test of time, and I think people will be shocked to see how great it truly is.
Francia: I agree! It’s just one of those feel good movies that you enjoy watching, and you take yourself away from reality a bit and you tap into someone else’s happiness, and you’re around your loved ones and you’re cozied up in your house. It’s one of those movies that’s a perfect ending to your night.
Mike “The Miz”: Here’s what I want everyone to do on Tuesday night. I want you to get some popcorn, I want you to get your most comfy clothes on, I want you to snuggle with one another, and I guarantee you by the end of that movie you guys are going to look in each other’s eyes and say, “I love you.”
Q: Can you give a brief synopsis of your characters and “Christmas Bounty?”
Mike “The Miz”: “Christmas Bounty” is a movie about Tory Bell, played by the lovely, gorgeous Francia, who does an amazing job. Tory Bell is from New Jersey, she has a New Jersey family, she’s raised there, and her family is all bounty hunters. Francia’s character wants to get out of that life. She moves to New York City, becomes a school teacher, is living the average, ordinary, everyday life like everybody else. She meets a new guy, who’s played by Will Greenberg. She has this new life.
Tory has to come back to New Jersey with her bounty hunters to protect her family, and her new fiancé tags along to meet the family. The family is very eccentric; it’s very loud, it’s very New Jersey. My character is the ex-boyfriend who is a bounty hunter with her, and we basically have to find the bad guy before he finds us.
There could be a love triangle. You’re going to have to tune in at 7:00/6:00 Central this Tuesday, November 26th to check it out.
Q: What preparations did you have to take to make it work between the two of your characters?
Francia: We met on set! I was working as an actress on “Secret Life.” I’ve been training my entire life for something like this. As I mentioned earlier, I did martial arts for ten years.
I think we both just came in with an open mind. We both just wanted to just make a great project, we both were really passionate about the script, we both loved the script, and there was no reason to not get along. Mike’s a great guy and he has a great outlook on work, his work ethic is incredible, and he was really trying to make this character great. He was really into learning how to get in deeper with the character and not just have very surface choices. I really wanted to make it look great when it came to fighting, so we worked together to make sure that happened.
I can see us being friends for a lifetime, but we’ve only known each other a few months! I’m really grateful that he’s in my life, even though he gives me a hard time sometimes, but he’s like a big brother to me.
Mike “The Miz”: Aw, me too! It was an instant connection between the entire cast; we all just clicked, and it’s not every day you get that, to be completely honest with you. I’ve been on TV shows where people don’t like each other, but they have to work with one another. This couldn’t be more opposite; everyone was truly likeable, everyone liked each other and wanted to be around each other. Some people would come to set during their off days just to hang out with one another because we were such a close-knit group.
To prepare for this movie I think “The Real World” got me comfortable in front of cameras, and then the WWE got me comfortable in front of a live audience and theater. I’ve also done acting coaches, I’ve done Improv Olympics, so to prepare for this movie I got involved with my acting coach and then just listened.
Whenever I do a movie I always like to base my character off of a couple different characters. When I was in “Marine 3: Homefront” I went with the Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis type of theme. With this one, since Gil did 10 Things I Hate About You I watched some of his movies and his work. Heath Ledger was in “10 Things I Hate About You” and really connected with me with this kind of character. I took that realm and brought it to “Christmas Bounty.”
Gil is a tremendous director, and did a great job with the entire cast. He made everyone look great and be at their best, and created such an ease on set that you can feel.
Francia: I think we all had the same goal coming into this project, and I think it really shows on camera and it really created a bond between all of us. That’s what’s important with every cast — having the same goal to get to the end result. No one was trying to be the star, no one was trying to stand out more. We all really just wanted to work together.
Dis411: Could you talk about where “Christmas Bounty” was filmed?
Francia: We were on location in Vancouver at a house. I loved it out there — We had so much fun! We were at a mall at one point; that was fun. We both live in LA right now, so we had to leave our home.
It was raining a lot, but the weather did not disagree with us at all times. There was a day where we needed to shoot outside and we could not afford to have rain, and it did not start raining until we stopped shooting and we were done for the day. It’s a great city. I loved it out there.
Mike “The Miz”: This is a very fast paced movie and anything weather wise could have really affected the movie, but luckily we got very lucky with a lot of the locations. Vancouver is gorgeous, it’s beautiful, it’s very green. I like the rain, because I live in Los Angeles now, and it’s never raining. I never get to see rain anymore. I’m from Cleveland. I like thunderstorms; I like a little rain in my life. So going up to Vancouver, seeing that rain, seeing the greenery. The people are just absolutely wonderful and so nice.
Q: Did have an action background (martial arts and WWE) help for the action sequences in “Christmas Bounty?”
Mike “The Miz”: Along with WWE, acting in “The Marine 3: Homefront” really got me prepared for all the action scenes for “Christmas Bounty.” I think WWE is as action packed as they come; it’s non-stop. It’s what we do, learning the performances, adding little things here and there to make sure that the scene flows right and it’s perfect.
Francia: I think Mike had a bigger advantage than me, because he does it all the time. First, I’m not use to action sequences. Second, when I grew up doing martial arts I actually hit people, so it was really hard for me not to actually hit some of the stunt guys or the actors. I was at an advantage, because it helped me with the choreography. It helped me really show that I make it look real. But I was at a disadvantage, too, because I did bruise some people up sometimes.
Mike “The Miz”: You did a very good job, Francia! I think people are going to debate whether or not she showed me up on these action scenes or not, because she has some really cool acrobatic scenes in there. There’s a scene where she’s on a guy’s shoulders. It’s pretty incredible some of the maneuvers that she pulled off.
Francia: You’re so sweet. Thank you. I did do all my own stunts! I was fighting to do my own stunts. The only stunt I didn’t do myself was jumping off the building in the beginning of the movie. But other than that, I’m on the car, rolling off the car, all of that was me.
Q: If you could describe your “Christmas Bounty” character’s [Tory and Mike] in one word what would it be?
Mike “The Miz”: I would say “strong”. That’s not just muscle wise, but strong mentally.
Francia: My nickname on the movie is Tornado, it’s Tory “Tornado” Bell, so I’m just going to say tornado.
Q: What was your favorite scene in the whole movie?
Francia: The fight scenes, the action scenes for sure. Seeing the chaos and having to fight all these guys and really having my dream come true to do action was amazing.
Mike “The Miz”: We did a lot of fun stuff in the bar scene! I’ve shot guns, I’ve done fight scenes, I do it all the time, so I like more of the drama stuff where you could really dive into the drama. There’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of romance, there’s a lot of people torn in different directions. I really enjoyed the emotional roller coaster that my character had to go through.
You will see in the credits, we do this little dance number and it was just so much fun. We spent the whole day doing this wonderful scene, and then at the end they were like, “Just go dance up there and see what happens,” and we all just had a blast and it was great.
Francia’s a professional dancer. Will [Greenburg] and I are not professional dancers. We know what we get from “The Grind” on MTV. Francia gets her moves from professionals. She’s hanging out with Selena Gomez and dancing around with her. I’m a little outside; I’m really good at doing the Harlem Shake.
Q: What’s your number one gift on your Christmas list this year?
Francia: The success of “Christmas Bounty.” That’s what I want – for everyone to enjoy it!
Mike “The Miz”: I don’t like giving or receiving gifts because I don’t like that initial reaction. Although I do enjoy the love and the family aspect of Christmas, and I love eating with my family and friends and reconnecting with them. I think we all can sit down and watch Christmas Bounty together and really enjoy that. So that’s what I enjoy about Christmas and the holiday time.
Q: How did you [Mike] manage to take the MTV brand that you created into your dream career?
Mike “The Miz”: I still look at my life to this day and I’m in awe of it and I don’t know how I did it or why it happened. I would say it’s all a little bit of everything; it’s preparation, it’s hard work, it’s determination, but also there’s a little luck involved. It’s not willing to settle for anything less than success. People always told me that I couldn’t do something. When I tried out for The Real World people were like, “What’s going to stand you out from 40,000 people?” And I would tell them, “I don’t know, but I’m still going to try out.” I try out and I make it.
Then once I wanted to be a WWE superstar people were telling me that, “You’re not 6’ 7”, you’re not 300 pounds, you’re not full of muscles, you’re not athletic enough,” and I just wanted to prove them all wrong. So I think it’s my motivation and my dedication to prove everyone wrong whenever they tell me I can’t do something. So I think it’s a little bit of everything, but I think it was just my mentality that I wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Q: How much of The Miz did you bring into your [Mike] character in the movie?
Mike “The Miz”: None. Whenever I come to these movies, with “The Marine 3: Homefront” and “Christmas Bounty,” I don’t want people to look and go, “Oh that’s The Miz.” I want them to go, “Oh that’s Jake Carter. That’s a new character; that’s something I haven’t seen from The Miz before.” And in “Christmas Bounty” I want them to say, “Oh Mikey Muscle is a completely different character.” I want them all to have their separate entities. But whenever I’m around backstage you definitely get to see The Miz and witness The Miz, because it’s more fun that way.
Francia: I am going to interrupt! When I met Mike he was so welcoming. He had his dog with him, and I’m a dog person. He treats her like his own daughter. So it was nice seeing the soft side to him.
Mike “The Miz”: I get it all the time, by the way, that “I love Mike but I hate The Miz.” I get that at least once a day, so it’s nice. It’s definitely one of those things I know when to turn it on, I know when to turn it off.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about each of your characters?
Mike “The Miz”: My favorite part was just how different he is compared to me. I’m not really a Jersey type guy; I don’t really wear leather jackets. He was just fun to play, because he’s very sweet, and granted I’m a sweet person, but I think Mikey Muscles is a little bit more Jersey than I am. So it’s nice to play someone different from where you’re originally from. I definitely turned on a lot of Jersey music stations. I watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey just to see how these women really talk, and it was a lot of fun putting on a little bit of an accent. So it’s cool.
Francia: I love the heart that Tory has. The minute she felt her family in danger she ran back and wanted to make sure they were okay. She has a big heart for her family, for her fiancé, and even for Mikey Muscles, her ex-boyfriend. The movie is all around love, and you definitely see Tory’s heart grow and show throughout the movie.
Q: What projects are you [Francia] currently working on?
Francia: I actually just got back from Atlanta yesterday, and I ran into Mike at the airport. I shot a pilot for Lifetime called Unreal. It goes behind the scenes of reality TV. This one in particular is a popular reality contest similar to The Bachelor, and I play a field producer. I’m working along Shiri Applebee and Megyn Price and a wonderful cast. Marty Noxon is one of the show creators, along with Sarah Shapiro. I’m excited to get that project going next year once Lifetime picks it up.
I also recorded a Christmas song, so I’m dropping that right before Christmas. It’s called “Wish List” so it’s going to be my first single coming out.
Q: Do you think you [Mike] might want to make more of an acting career?
Mike “The Miz”: With WWE I think there’s a tremendous amount of acting that we put across. The Miz is arrogant, egotistical, cocky, believes everything he is, and more, so with WWE you’re doing a lot of that kind of stuff anyways. WWE Studios has been doing a great job of dishing out some really good movies as of late, I mean Marine 3 being one of them, but also The Call. We have Scooby Doo coming out in March, so I’m really excited about that because I got to be a voice in Scooby Doo. Anytime you get to play a voice in Scooby Doo you have to be pretty ecstatic, and I was. So that’s always fun as well.
I’m also dipping into I have my own radio show on SirusXM 87, Sirius Fantasy Football. It’s the fantasy football show, but it also has a little bit more than just fantasy football; it has a little bit of wrestling, a little bit of pop culture, so I have fun with that as well. As far as acting goes, I love it. I do have the acting bug, and WWE satisfies that bug for now. Hopefully I can get more movies with WWE Studios and keep the whole trend going.
Q: What’s your favorite Disney theme park?
Francia: I love going to Toon Town in Disneyland. I’m so mad that it closes so early, because by the time I get to go it’s already closed!
Mike “The Miz”: Disneyland.
Q: What is your favorite Disney ride or attraction?
Francia: Space Mountain! Hands down is the best ride ever. But also Roger Rabbit. I don’t know why I have such a love for that little ride.
Mike “The Miz”: It’s a Small World after all. I like that one.
Q: What is your favorite food or restaurant within a Disney park?
Mike “The Miz”: Funnel cakes.
Francia: I love the chimichangas they sell at California Adventure, they’re really good. The corn dogs at the entrance at Disneyland are really good, and the churros are really good. I eat a lot. Oh, the turkey legs, you have to try the turkey legs.
Mike “The Miz”: Oh, man, turkey legs definitely. I couldn’t have said it better. Turkey leg is good.
Q: Who is your favorite Disney character?
Francia: I’m going to say Jasmine, because I want to play her if they ever do a movie.
Mike “The Miz”: I say Mickey Mouse, but I also like Roger Rabbit and Jessica Rabbit.
Be sure to tune in to watch “Christmas Bounty” on ABC Family this Tuesday (November 26, 2013)!
Photo credit: Cate Cameron