It’s going to be an extra special holiday season for actress and comedian Anjelah Johnson-Reyes. Not only does she have a role in Eddie Murphy’s new family-friendly Christmas comedy, Candy Cane Lane, this will be the first time she and her husband Manwell will celebrate Christmas with their six-month-old daughter, Rosie.
“We’re going to be traveling to see my husband’s family and then to see my family, so it’ll be a lot of bouncing around,” Johnson-Reyes, 41, told the Current during a recent interview. “As she gets older, I’m very excited to engage in some of the fun holiday activities with her.”
One holiday activity the family will probably enjoy doing together this year is watching Johnson-Reyes in Candy Cane Lane. In the movie, she plays Shelly, one of the neighbors of Chris Carver (Murphy), a family man who gets caught up in the scheme of an evil elf who is trying to ruin Chris’s chances of winning the local Christmas decoration contest.
During our interview, Johnson-Reyes, who is best known for her stand-up comedy and for TV shows and movies like MADtv and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, talked about her experience working with Murphy for the first time. She also revealed which Christmas movie she can recite verbatim.
You’ve worked with some talented comedians during your career. Where does somebody like Eddie Murphy rank?
I mean, come on. Eddie Murphy is a living legend. To get to work with him in a holiday movie at the best time of the year was so cool. The experience was unreal. I am eternally grateful to our director, Reggie [Hudlin], for giving me the opportunity to be in this cast.
What’s your favorite Eddie Murphy movie?
I don’t know. I mean, Dr. Doolittle is a classic, but I wouldn’t want to pick a favorite because he brings so much joy to so many different eras.
As a stand-up comedian though, I’m sure you resonated at some point with something like Raw, yes?
I was definitely too young to watch Raw when it came out, but I went back and watched it when I started becoming a stand-up comedian. I think [Eddie] always has this warm presence on stage. Even when he’s not giving a punch line, the audience is smiling. It’s like you smile in between his punch lines because he has that energy he puts out from the stage.
What was your experience like sharing the set with him during your scenes in Candy Cane Lane?
I’ll be honest, I was nervous. I was very intimidated. I wanted to put my best foot forward and was hoping I was everything that he needed me to be in the scenes. I just wanted to show up and do my best and make sure Eddie had a great experience working with me.
Had you ever felt that nervous before on the set of a movie or TV series?
One other time when I worked with James Gandolfini on the movie Enough Said. He was incredible. I love James Gandolfini, but I was very intimidated by him. But he was very good about making me warm up to him and being very light hearted. So, it was a lot of fun. I’d say that’s the only other time where I felt very intimidated.
Have you noticed how many Christmas movies are premiering this month across all the countless platforms we have?
Yeah, it’s become its own genre. There’s action. There’s comedy. There’s romantic comedy.
What are some of your favorites to watch around this time of year?
Elf is my all-time favorite Christmas movie. I love a lot of Christmas movies, but that’s probably the one I can quote verbatim. I still quote it in my everyday life, not just Christmas time. I don’t know if I’ve ever ended a phone call without saying, “Bye, Buddy. Hope you find your dad.”
My real name is Francisco, so I know what you mean about Elf.
Of all the characters you’ve played in your career, which one would you want to invite over for Christmas, and why is the answer Bon Qui Qui?
(Laughs) That’s a really good question. Yes, Bon Qui Qui is a hot mess. She would be hilarious. Yeah, I would love to invite Bon Qui Qui over.
What would you give her as a gift?
I feel like whatever she got, she would have an opinion about it. That’s for sure.