Starring Candace Cameron Bure, George Newbern,
Burgess Jenkins, Dendrie Taylor, Jeanne Neilson, Eric Beck,
Anita Renfroe, Matthew West, Karl T. Wright, Sophia Sinise,
Kelsey Marie Kingsbury And Erin Bethea
Premieres Sunday, December 4 At 7 P.m. Et
Movie Inspired By the True Story of the Locke Family and Grammy Nominated Artist Matthew West’s Hit Single
ATLANTA, GA - November 14, 2011 -- On Sunday, December 4, GMC, America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family entertainment, will present The Heart of Christmas, a new GMC World Premiere Movie starring Candace Cameron Bure (Make It or Break It, Full House), Jeanne Neilson (Faith Like Potatoes), Eric Beck, Anita Renfroe, Grammy® nominated artist Matthew West, Burgess Jenkins (Remember the Titans, The Reaping), Kelsey Marie Kingsbury, Karl T. Wright, Sophia Sinise, Erin Bethea (Fireproof), with Dendrie Taylor (The Fighter, Sons of Anarchy, True Blood) and George Newbern (Father of the Bride, Justice League). The Heart of Christmas is based on a true story that made national headlines when a community in Washington, Illinois decorated their houses for Christmas several weeks early in honor of a little boy battling a rare form of leukemia. The movie unfolds as the Locke family’s grief is eased by the love and support of their community and the life-changing legacy their son Dax Locke left behind, which reminds us all to cherish every moment.
“The Heart of Christmas illustrates the beauty and the power of people uniting to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Brad Siegel, vice chairman, GMC. “This is a story about how caring hearts and love can uplift a family and a community in the darkest time. It is the kind of story that we like to share with our viewers,” he continued.
The Heart of Christmas was shot on location in Los Angeles, California and surrounding areas. Mark Burman, Candace Cameron Bure and Jay Richardson are executive producers. Suzette Schafer and Charlie Schafer produce. Joel West is co-producer. Gary Wheeler is the director. Lance Dreesen wrote the script.
GMC (www.watchGMCtv.com) is America’s favorite channel for uplifting music and family entertainment. The Parents Television Council™ recently awarded its Entertainment Seal of Approval™ to GMC for being “an authentic family-friendly cable network.” GMC is the only television network to receive the highly coveted honor in 2010. GMC can be seen in over 51 million homes on various cable systems around the country, as well as DISH Network on channel 188, DIRECTV on channel 338 and Verizon FiOS on channel 224. Follow GMC TV on Facebook and Twitter at http://facebook.com/gmctv and @gmctv or http://twitter.com/gmctv .
The Heart of Christmas
Dax Ryan Locke, born to Julie and Austin Locke on June 26, 2007, was diagnosed with AML M7, a rare form of leukemia, when he was 13 months old.
The Heart of Christmas is set in Washington, Illinois and at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, one of the world’s premier centers for the research and treatment of pediatric cancer and other deadly diseases in children. Told in flashback from the perspective of Megan (Candace Cameron Bure), a successful businesswoman, wife and mother of two, the storyline unfolds when her commitment to faith and family is renewed after reading the blog of Julie Locke, (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/daxlocke), the online journal that Julie kept after Dax was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).
In The Heart of Christmas, Megan, who has been struggling with finding time for her husband Walt (Burgess Jenkins) and hasn’t made it to one of her daughter Emma’s (Brooke Bryan) soccer games all year, has forgotten that it is Halloween until her son Jackson (Christian Nelson, Hayden Nelson) is standing in front of her in costume, ready to go trick-or-treating. After bargaining with Emma to take her brother door to door in a nearby neighborhood for a few hours so she can finish a business proposal, they race out of the house, only to find hundreds of homes lit up for Christmas on Halloween. Confused by this scene, Megan asks neighbors Mark (Matthew West) and Trish (Erin Bethea), who have rallied the community to bring Christmas holiday cheer to the Locke family upon Dax’s (Chris Shone, Nick Shone) final return home from St. Jude, to explain the scene before them. Trish hands Megan a card with Julie Locke’s (Jeanne Neilson) blog information on it and encourages Megan to read it. Before Megan is able to react, Trish sends her away with a heartfelt warning, stating, “it will change your life.”
Through Megan’s narrative, we are introduced to Dax’s father Austin (Eric Beck), who is deeply concerned about Dax’s prognosis; the type of cancer has poor survival rates in children Dax’s age. Austin is committed to being open to new forms of treatment and to staying hopeful for Dax, for his wife
Julie, her sister Melissa (Kelsey Marie Kingsbury) and Dax’s grandmother Theresa (Anita Renfroe). During their hospital stay at St. Jude, Julie Locke meets Michelle (Dendrie Taylor), whose daughter Elizabeth (Kaya Millar) is also being treated there. Michelle introduces Julie to a support system of other moms, who encourage Julie to blog about Dax’s progress and her journey as a way to keep friends and family informed. Days after initial treatment begins, we meet the team of incredible doctors at St. Jude: Nurse Lisa (Sophia Sinise), Dr. Sandler (George Newbern) and Dr. Benson (Karl T. Wright), who is charged with telling Julie and Austin that, after months of treatment and a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows, the experimental, last chance effort was unsuccessful in curing Dax’s cancer. Determined to give Dax one last Christmas, Austin Locke surprises Julie and Dax with a Christmas tree- even though it’s October. The neighbors quickly catch on and surprise the Locke’s by showing up at their home to give Dax, his family and the community a magical night to remember.
The Music Behind the Movie
The GMC World Premiere Movie The Heart of Christmas was also inspired by Matthew West’s viral holiday hit music video, “One Last Christmas,” released last year. West, who has penned tunes for Billy Ray Cyrus, Rascal Flatts and Natalie Grant, among others, heard about the two-year old from Washington, Illinois and his struggle with leukemia that sparked a worldwide outpouring of support for his family and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where Dax was treated at no cost to the family.
On the heels of releasing his hit single, West raised over $205,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. This October, West released his first Christmas album, also titled “The Heart of Christmas.” Vince Gill, Amy Grant and Mandisa contributed to the album. Songs from the album, which is a mix of original music and holiday classics, will be featured throughout the GMC World Premiere Movie. The album’s title track will be released to radio along with a music video. West will also embark on a Christmas tour with Mandisa in December.
The Dax Locke Foundation
The grief Julie and Austin Locke felt after Dax passed away was eased by the love and support they received. In October, 2010, Julie and Austin welcomed a daughter, Madeline Elizabeth Locke, named after Elizabeth Dunford, daughter of Michelle, the mom that Julie met at St. Jude, who she remains close friends with. The Dax Locke Foundation, “Cherish Every Moment,” continues to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. The Foundation aims to raise 1.7 million dollars; the cost to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for one day. For further information, visit, www.stjude.org/heartofchristmas.
Candace Cameron Bure (Megan) is one of the most beloved child stars of the 90’s, a successful actor, a New York Times best selling author, a wife and a mother. Her defining role as D.J. Tanner, the loveable oldest daughter on Full House, the hit television series that ran for eight seasons, ranking as one of the most successful series of all time, came in 1987 and subsequently marked the beginning of her career as an actor. Bure currently stars in the hit ABC Family series Make It or Break It, now in its third season. She is the author of Reshaping It All, which chronicles her lifelong struggle with food and the physical and spiritual fitness regimen that has kept her on track. Her feature film roles include playing opposite Eric Stoltz and Mary Stuart Masterson in Some Kind of Wonderful and working with Tom Hanks and Sally Field in Punchline. Bure is married to professional hockey player Valeri Bure. They have three children: Natasha, Lev and Maksim. She is the sister of actor Kirk Cameron (Growing Pains). Bure serves as the ambassador for National House of Hope. She travels the country speaking at various churches, colleges and women’s conferences, sharing her Christian faith.
A native of Little Rock, Arkansas, George Newbern (Dr. Sandler) is a film and television actor best known for his roles as Bryan MacKenzie in Father of the Bride and its sequel Father of the Bride Part II. He is also known for his role as Danny (The Yeti) in Friends. He voices the role of Superman from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited as well as Sephiroth from the Final Fantasy series and the Kingdom Hearts series. Newbern also appears in Saw VI. Additional television credits include Providence, Chicago Hope, Friends, Bull, CSI, Medium, Ghost Whisperer, Criminal Minds and Private Practice. He is married to actress Marietta DePrima. They live in Los Angeles with their three children, Emma, Mae and Ben.
Burgess Jenkins (Walt) is a film actor known for his role as Ray Budds in Remember The Titans opposite Academy Award winner Denzel Washington. He played Hilary Swank's husband David Winter in The Reaping. He portrayed religious leader John Wesley in the award winning independent film Wesley with Golden Globe winner Kevin McCarthy and Emmy nominated television legend June Lockhart. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burgess_Jenkins#cite_note-3> On television, Jenkins played Bobby Irons throughout season 6 on the hit WB series One Tree Hill while also playing a recurring role on Lifetime's Army Wives and Drop Dead Diva. He starred in the true story "Unshackled" with Stacy Keach. He was nominated as Best Actor at the Boston Film Festival for his portrayal of Bruce Snow in Insignificant Others. Jenkins is a Meisner method actor trained at the Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie and academy award nominated actor Jeff Goldblum. He lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina with his wife Ashlee Payne.
Dendrie Taylor (Michelle) is an accomplished actor who has worked with some of the most accomplished directors in the world, including Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Oliver Stone, Carl Franklin, Wes Craven, Alan Coulter, Roger Donaldson and Ivan Reitman and David O. Russell. She starred opposite Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in the Academy Award nominated film The Fighter. Her most recent television credits include the critically acclaimed FX series Sons of Anarchy and the hit HBO series True Blood. Additional motion picture credits include World Trade Center, Hollywoodland, Jarhead, War of the Worlds, High Crimes, Species, Start Trek-Generations, Golden Gate, Dave, Twins, Two Mothers, Madhouse, Shocker and The Vanishing. She has appeared on Prison Break, N.C.I.S., Criminal Minds, Lincoln Heights, Without a Trace, ER, Veronica Mars, Judging Amy, JAG, Joan of Arcadia, NYPD Blue, The Bold and the Beautiful, among others. She began her professional acting career in New York, Regional and Los Angeles theatre. She originated roles in Howard Korder’s Search and Destroy, John Bishop’s Borderline and Marlane Meyer’s The Geography of Luck, The Chemistry of Change and Etta Jenx. Among her many other theater credits, she also played Juliet in Romeo and Juliet and starred in the critically acclaimed Pyretown by the late John Belluso. Growing up in Los Angeles with a tv-director /father and a dancer/ mother, Dendrie dreamed early on of becoming an actress. She moved to NYC at age 17 to study ballet and theater, and earned her BFA in Drama at NYU’s TISCH School of The Arts. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, actor, writer Adam Lazarre-White and their daughter, Aiyana Grace.
Jeanne Neilson (Julie Locke) was born in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Her breakthrough came in the lead role of "Jill" in the multi-award winning motion picture Faith Like Potatoes (2006) and since then she has appeared in films such as The Deal (2008) opposite Meg Ryan and 'William H Macy', Free Willy: Escape from Pirate's Cove (2010) and various German, British and South African films and TV shows. Jeanne is married to her producer and aviation enthusiast husband Dominic Wilhelm.
Eric Beck (Austin Locke) was born on April 5, 1983 in Wiesbaden, Germany to Carla and Larry Beck and within a matter of hours of his birth, he was on his first flight across Europe to Greece, where is parents were both stationed in the United States Air Force. He and his family moved all over Europe and to over a dozen different U.S. states before finally settling in Aberdeen, Idaho in the mid nineties to raise dairy cattle. Beck’s interest in entertainment was clear by the age of 7, when he would crash family reunion talent contests just to perform for a crowd. His passion for the stage took him from high school theater to a theater scholarship at the Albertson College of Idaho. After one year there, he packed up his belongings and drove to Hollywood to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and ultimately, move on to study classical theater with the Royal Shakespeare Company at Balliol University of Oxford. His professional accomplishments this year include roles in The Heart of Christmas, Vile and NCIS.
Anita Renfroe (Theresa) has been described as “this generation’s Erma Bombeck.” Her latest DVD, “Big Ol Sweet Iced Tea,” was filmed in her hometown of Atlanta, GA before a sold-out crowd. The special features her off-the-wall insights, music and her trademark pop culture parodies. Renfroe tours with her own comedy concerts and inspirational women’s conferences, where she routinely packs venues across the United States. Renfroe and her husband John live in Atlanta and have three children, Calvin, Austin and Elyse, one daughter in law (Lisa), one grandbaby and a maltipoo named Maggie.
Grammy® nominated singer/songwriter Matthew West’s (Mark) discography includes acclaimed releases: Happy (2003), History (2005) and Something to Say (2008). His latest studio album, The Story of Your Life, was inspired by 10,000 stories from every state in the U.S. and 20 countries. The album released on October 5, 2010, and garnered attention from CNN Online, Fox News, Billboard Magazine, Country Weekly, American Songwriter and more. The Story of Your Life gave West the largest street week debut of his career selling over 10,000 units the first week landing at No. 3 on Christian Soundscan, and No. 41 on the Billboard Top 200. In conjunction with Harvest House Publishers, West teamed up with best selling author Angela Thomas for “The Story of Your Life” book. The Heart of Christmas marks West’s first full-length Christmas project. A multiple ASCAP “Song of the Year” winner, West has had four No. 1 radio hits.
Karl T. Wright (Dr. Benson) has made appearances on several television shows, including Heroes, Judging Amy, Everyone Hates Chris and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He is also an award winning reporter and was the host of the weekly entertainment magazine, "Backstage Pass" on Chicago Public Radio. He is married to Wendy Miller. Wright is from Chicago.
Sophia Sinise (Nurse Lisa) appears in the documentary Lt. Dan Band: For the Common Good and has appeared on television in the popular series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. She is the daughter of Gary Sinise.
Kelsey Marie Kingsbury (Melissa) is the daughter of award winning Christian novelist Karen Kingsbury. She is the inspiration behind Baily Flanigan, the central character in Leaving, the first book in a new series by her mother. Kelsey is the voice of the character on Facebook.
Erin Bethea (Trish) is best known for appearing in the Sherwood Pictures films Facing the Giants and Fireproof, the highest grossing independent film of 2008, where she starred opposite Kirk Cameron. She currently lives in Orlando, FL, where she works for the Walt Disney World Resort as an actor in the Magic Kingdom. Bethea is the daughter of Terri and Dr. Michael Catt. Her father, Dr. Michael Catt, is the senior pastor at Sherwood Baptist Church, an affiliate of Sherwood Pictures. She is married to Bill L. Shafer.