If you think Christmas is a big deal in your neighborhood … well, compare that to Puerto Rico.
“Food is abundant,” Rita Moreno said. So is commotion.
“You go from house to house and make a lot of noise,” she said in a video press conference. “Everyone has homemade instruments. And if it’s 1 o’clock in the morning, it doesn’t matter. You open the door.”
Now Moreno – who moved to New York when she was 5 — co-stars in a film filled with the tamer traditions of the mainland. “Santa Bootcamp” shown here) is 8 p.m. Saturday and 10:03 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19-20, on Lifetime. It has her running a school for Santas and such.
She’s sort of a Mrs. Claus, but not fitting the usuual picture. “You suddenly get the image of a rotund lady who does cute things,” Moreno said.
That’s not her. At 90, she remains dancer-thin, sort of like when she was winning an Oscar for “West Side Story,” 60 years ago.
But yes, she does make some allowances for age. “I’m an old woman and I don’t know expressions like ‘drop the mic,’” she said.
She also was worried about long stretches of dialog. “I got cue cards,” she admitted. “But to my delight, most of the time, I didn’t need the cards.”
There was help available from Melissa Joan Hart, an expert on Christmas movies. Hart has starred in many of them and directed this one, which her mother produced.
The story has its complications, silly and serious. Among other things, it uses a fair amount of sign language. The central character (played by Emily Kinney, shown here with Moreno) is a party-planner; her mother is played by Deanne Bray, a hearing-impaired actress who starred in the “Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye” and whose husband (Troy Kotsur) recently won an Oscar in “CODA.”
Those scenes – with a Deaf West Theatre consultant – were fascinating to direct, Hart said. “It was silent on-set all day.”
Other problems were less expected, she said, including “torrential thunderstorms …. It was like the clouds had to follow us everywhere we went.”
At one point, she had to rent a hotel ballroom and move an outdoor scene inside. It’s all part of the process, when trying to create sunny holiday cheer.