SN: What it was like playing Emily?
JLH: It was great. In A Christmas Carol, as you know, Scrooge goes through quite a bit in his journey through his past, present, and future. His journey into the past is where I come into play. I play the young Scrooge's love.
She's really very simple. I only have two or three scenes in the movie but she's just kind of a sweet girl who's oddly strong for women of that time. I think we think of women in that time as so elegant and so female that maybe they didn't have the strength of women today. Emily is not that person.
SN: How did you prepare for the movie?
JLH: Well, luckily I had just finished doing a film in Bristol, and I had just done an English accent, so I was pretty well prepared in that department.... Then I just had to learn the songs and that was it really. Once I was in the wardrobe and on the set and everything, it was pretty easy to do. It's a lovely part; it's an amazing script. I had a gorgeous costume, and gorgeous co-stars in Kelsey Grammer and Jane Krakowski.
SN: You probably read A Christmas Carol when you were younger. Did you happen to re-read it when you got this part?
JLH: No, I didn't.... Like I said, I'd just finished something else and I very quickly got the offer to play Emily, and I literally learned the songs, went home for a week, re-packed my bags, and went to Budapest for rehearsals....
What really sets this [version] apart is that I think you really get to know more about who Scrooge is than you do in other versions.
SN: How so?
JLH: Kelsey really brought a humanity to him that has hundreds of layers. I didn't get to see what he did the rest of the movie, but in the stuff that we got to do with him, he's this person who is really screwed up and horrible to people. You really feel for him because you know that there's more underneath, and I think that's Kelsey's power. He was able to sort of bring that forth and do all that. I think you get to know who he is particularly in our part of the movie, where he deals with the fact that he's watching himself before he made these mistakes and watching himself lose the one thing that was most important to him. It's moving.
SN: How do you think the teenagers of today are going to relate to this?
JLH: This story is classic. First of all, I think there will be people they recognize in it, which is something I think NBC did really well, really smart. It's about spending time with your family. I think it's a mistake to miss it, because it's beautiful. The songs are amazing, the people in it are fantastic, and it completely captures the spirit of what that time of year is about. I guarantee that 15 minutes into it they won't regret watching it.
SN: Do you and your family have specific Christmas traditions?
JLH: Sure, yes. It's my favorite time of year.... I kind of wait all year, actually, for fall, even though I live in Los Angeles and fall doesn't actually happen weather-wise. I wait all year just for this kind of time. My house always starts to smell like apple and cinnamon because my mom is baking. There's always baking going on, which is great for me because I love dessert and I love to eat.
I love shopping in general, but I love to shop for presents and try to guess what everybody's going to freak out over and want for Christmas and all of that stuff. That's really exciting. We always try to—my mom and my brother and sister—we always try to decorate the tree together. If we can't decorate the tree together, then anybody that's interested, friends, family and otherwise, is welcome to come over and help us decorate the tree. We kind of make a night of it. We put on a funny Christmas movie like Christmas Vacation or something like that. Things like that kind of keep our energy up and make us laugh. We have snacks and we get together and make it an event, decorating the tree.
SN: Do you remember your favorite book as a child?
JLH: Yes, I loved this book called Marjorie Morningstar [by Herman Wouk].
SN: How old were you when you read that?
JLH: I was 15. My favorite book when I was really little was Shel Silverstein's The Missing Piece, and I loved A Light in the Attic. Where the Sidewalk Ends was my favorite. I also loved the book Where the Wild Things Are [by Maurice Sendak]. I was obsessed with that book.
SN: Why do you feel that reading is important, particularly for kids?
JLH: Well, first of all, it completely defines your imagination. I mean, I know when I was younger, I was not a huge fan of reading. I didn't get it. I didn't know why it was important because I was in school all day and I had to read this and that and I didn't understand the value of picking up a good book and being able to escape in it. But I think as you get older, particularly as a teenager, reading can help you tremendously. You're completely confused, you don't know who you are, you're trying to figure it out, your angst is overriding anything else in your body. You don't feel like anybody understands you or could possibly be going through the same things that you are. It's amazing to be able to pick up a book, and for however many minutes or hours a day you want to read it, escape and be able to live someone else's life. It's a tremendous gift that I would say teenagers should give themselves more often, even if it seems at the beginning its one more kind of boring, schoolish thing you have to do. It isn't.