Local actress Shayla McCaffrey lands role in Hallmark holiday movie
Ten-year-old Shayla McCaffrey loves to spread Christmas cheer.
The Trailside Elementary School student’s family traditions include lighting candles at her church on Christmas Eve, caroling and packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, a project of the nonprofit organization Samaritan International Relief.
Throughout the year, McCaffrey and her 7-year-old brother Cruz also donate their own money to Princess Mae of the Philippines through Compassion International, a Christian-child sponsorship organization dedicated to the longterm development of children living in poverty around the world.
On Sunday, McCaffrey will spread Christmas joy to viewers around the country when she appears in "Christmas Land," an original made-for-TV movie that will air on the Hallmark Channel.
The story is about Jules Cooper (Nikki Deloach), a successful New York businesswoman who enjoys her career in marketing and is currently in a steady relationship with her boyfriend, Mitchell (Jason-Shane Scott). After Cooper inherits a place called Christmas Land, a magical Christmas-themed village and Christmas tree farm, from her late grandmother, she is faced with the decision of selling or keeping the property.
McCaffrey portrays a younger Cooper in flashbacks.
"I was so excited when I heard that I got the role," McCaffrey told The Park Record. "The producer Sam [Irvin] sent me the script and I read it and practiced my lines with my mom to prepare for the role."
Filming started for McCaffrey in a house in Draper four weeks ago and filming also took place at Lagoon’s Pioneer Village, which was transformed into Christmas Land.
Each shoot lasted nine hours each.
"The most difficult part of it all was how long it was for me, but I enjoyed every second of it," McCaffrey said. "I got to meet the crew and everyone was so amazing and very, very nice.
"I also got to learn a lot of about the film industry and how it works," she said. "And the most surprising thing for me was meeting Maureen McCormick, who played Marsha in ‘The Brady Bunch.’"
McCaffrey said another surprise was how fast things were done.
"I couldn’t believe how quick the turnaround was from filming to putting the show on TV," she said.
"Christmas Land" is McCaffrey’s first TV project, but she has been a model and has appeared in commercials, including ones for Melaleuca Mints and Fresh Pet.
McCaffrey’s mother, Liz, said she is happy her daughter’s first show is on the Hallmark Channel.
"I honestly am glad she got the part in a Hallmark movie because I can trust the wholesomeness of that company," Liz McCaffrey said. "I told them that I am glad they still make family-friendly programs that we can all enjoy."
Shayla McCaffrey is looking forward to the airing.
"I’m most excited for my friends and family to see it," she said. "I’ve been telling my friends about it."
McCaffrey landed the role thanks to her agent, Amber Evans, at Stars Talent Studio.
"I look up to Amber, because she is full of excitement and helps with whatever I need," McCaffrey said. "She gets me into all of these auditions."
Liz McCaffrey said she is also impressed with Evans.
"Amber’s goal is to change the industry image by creating and developing healthy role models and [does] this by being kind, encouraging, inspiring and living a healthy lifestyle," she said.
Evans and her co-workers are helping Shayla McCaffrey’s dream come true.
"I would always watch the shows on the Disney Channel and when I did, I would always picture myself on TV," McCaffrey said. "I asked my mom about it and she was scared about putting me into things until she found the Stars agency."
Not only does McCaffrey act, she sings and plays guitar and piano.
"I had been dancing since I was very little, and I thought the guitar and piano would be a good thing for me in the acting industry," she said. "I love doing those things so much."
The actress also said her father, Craig, is one of her biggest champions.
"[He] is a big part of me pursing acting," she said. "He’s so supportive and also watches my brother when he comes home from a long day at work."
When her husband can’t watch Cruz, Liz McCaffrey turns to a network of friends to help out.
"Luckily we have a lot of friends, for whom I’m thankful," she said. "I was able to do some trading with play dates and was able to ask some of our friends for favors to watch Cruz."
While the acting is a major part of McCaffrey’s life, her mother keeps her feet on the ground.
"I tell her that I don’t mind her pursuing acting, but that she also need to have her attitude and school work in check," Liz McCaffrey said. "Before my kids walk into school, I always ask them to think of something good they can do for someone else and then I follow up with them at the end of the day."
The younger McCaffrey said she can’t wait to make another movie, and hopes people will like "Christmas Land."
"I’ve really loved doing this," she said. "Usually the movies that I like give a lot of holiday cheer and that good feeling of Christmas. I’m so excited to give out that good feeling of Christmas to everyone."
"Christmas Land" will air on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 6 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.hallmarkchannel.com.
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