In the Disney’s “Christmas Again,” every day is Dec. 25, and the stars of the movie (premiering Dec. 3 on Disney Channel and Disney+) are left to gallivant around Chicago in a fresh, candy-striped version of “Groundhog Day.”
Starring Scarlett Estevez of TV’s “Lucifer” and “Bunk’d” as Ro, an impish 11-year-old stuck in a Santa-induced time loop, the film centers on her parents’ divorce and the changes to her Latino family in Ravenswood.
For Ro, that means juggling a new kind of Christmas, with an attention-hogging future stepsibling, Dad’s girlfriend mistakenly finishing the Christmas candy, and a flatulant abuela who toots in her face.
“She has just such a big personality,” Estevez said of her character. “I just think she would be such a fun person to hang out with.”
With each Christmas Day starting with a triumphant “Good Morning Chicago!” from her alarm clock, Ro she decides to discover what Chicago has to offer. Guided by a snippy Santa who drives an eight-wheeled stretch Hummer limo, she travels from Navy Pier to the Museum of Science and Industry to Millennium Park and more.
“It was so amazing,” the young Los Angeles resident said of Chicago in autumn. “The scenery, all the trees are orange [with fall leaves], and it was snowing — it was so pretty.”
For Estevez and Alexis Carra, who plays Ro’s warmhearted mother, filming in the city was a memorable experience.
“I always say that if Chicago had California weather, everyone would live there,” Carra said.
Much of the cast stayed in the River North neighborhood in late fall of 2020 and spent time walking around downtown and admiring the Christmas lights, she said.
“Chicago, it’s got that magic of the big town, especially downtown. It’s just such a beautiful city,” Carra said. “Being able to shoot in a Chicago neighborhood in an actual Chicago family home, It just felt really magical, all of it.”
For food, Estevez’s spot was the Nutella Cafe on Michigan Avenue, where she and co-star Ashlyn Jade-Lopez wolfed down croissants and hot chocolate. Carra said she dined on all Chicago has to offer, including Giordano’s deep dish, Portillo’s hot dogs and the “insane” carrot cake at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse.
“I tried to walk as much as I could since I was eating that whole kind of thing,” Carra said with a laugh.
“Christmas Again” also meant something deeper to the actress. She said playing a divorced, confident Latina mother was empowering, given her background.
“I appreciate Disney’s seeing me in this way because, maybe because I have Argentine and Cuban background, I don’t maybe look Latin at first glance,” Carra said. “I think it’s a recognition that Latine people come in all shapes and colors and sizes and ethnic blends.”
And for Estevez, starring in a movie centered around the value of family — no matter what that looks like — made the experience important on its own.
“I hope that this movie means a lot to people,” Estevez said. “And I felt really like I was in such an amazing place.”