Television, we all know, is an educational medium.
So here’s today’s lesson, via a Christmas movie: A tasty confection is not pronounced “pray lean,” as much of the world assumes. It’s “prah lean.”
“We learned that really fast,” said Keshia Knight Pulliam, the producer and star of “A New Orleans Noel” (shown here), at 8 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 3-4) on Lifetime.
Brad James, her husband and co-star, also had to learn this. But Angela Tucker, the director and co-writer, was well aware of how to say it … and how to eat it. “I had a praline, probably, for breakfast, lunch and dinner” while filming, she said.
This is important because the movie needs regional flavor. In most ways, it’s your standard Christmas tale: Two people are thrown together for a project; they squabble for a while, but in a telegenic way.
The difference is that Pulliam wanted the film to reflect details of New Orleans and of Black life. “We have a culture that’s all our own, that’s very specific.”
In this case, that included Loretta Harrison, who for 35 years owned Loretta’s Authentic Pralines, with two French Quarter stores plus food stands at jazz festivals. The film has a character a lot like her (played by Patti LaBelle, shown here with Pullim and James) hire two people to remodel her home.
From there, “Noel” spends a lot of time on pralines (the dictionary confirms that “prah-lean” is correct, but lists “pray-lean” as a second choice) and other details. James said he was especially impressed by “the architecture. You could explore the city for its historic value.”
James, 41, and Pulliam, 43, had opposite routes to acting. She started young and had an Emmy nomination (as Ruby in “The Cosby Show”) at 6; he got small TV roles in his late 20s.
He had joined the Marines as a teen-ager and did four years, in combat units. Afterward, he was a model, did commercials, got minor guest roles, then was in Tyler Perry’s “For Better or Worse” (as Todd, a co-worker and friend) for five years. He’s gone on to do five Christmas movies and other TV films, including “Pride and Prejudice in Atlanta” (2019), where he met Pulliam.
They married a year ago and also shot “A New Orleans Noel” last year. Harrison, one of the films inspirations, died (of breast cancer, at 66) on Feb. 16 “We showed it to her before she passed,” Pulliam said, “which was amazing.”