It wasn’t just the script that convinced Eureka-raised actress Katlyn Carlson to audition for her first lead role in the movie “Holly Star,” nor even the opportunity to work for the highly regarded executive producer Edward Burns.
To some extent, she jumped at the opportunity because of writer-director Michael A. Nickles — not for his writing or directing, but for his acting.
“I really geeked out about him because I figured out that he appears in ‘Wayne’s World 2’ as Jim Morrison, who appears in Wayne’s dream and tells him to follow the weird naked Indian, and that leads him to start Waynestock. It has a special place in my heart,” Carlson says.
“Holly Star” is a Christmas film about a down-on-her-luck puppeteer who returns to her small hometown in Maine after losing her job and apartment in New York. It will be available Tuesday for streaming on a number of digital platforms and video on demand.
“I think of it as a sweet homecoming movie about learning to appreciate what’s important in your life during the holidays,” Carlson says from her Brooklyn home on a recent snowy afternoon.
The story hinges on a childhood memory her character has of seeing Santa Claus burying a bag of money. Desperate for cash, she tries to find where it’s buried, all the while reconnecting with her childhood sweetheart, her best friend and her grandmother.
“I thought the script initially attracted me because it has a lot of female friendship in it, and it’s not completely focused on the romantic aspect. I thought that was very refreshing. I just loved the thought of celebrating female relationships,” she says.
“This character isn’t your typical quirky, chipper protagonist. She is in a dark place in a lot of this movie. We don’t always get to see enjoyable but flawed female characters in a comedic way.”
“Holly Star” isn’t as dark as Carlson makes it out to be. It is a Christmas movie, after all, with a feel-good ending, romance, a Christmas-tree farm and lots of snow.
The snow part was a problem, though, because the film was shot last December in frigid Portland, Maine, where the temperature dipped below zero.
“You can’t really fake ‘made in the winter,’” she says. “It was so gorgeous. It was insanely cold, and most of the time we were shooting outside, but it was worth it.”
Still, she says, “every night I would go back to our little hotel and go sit in a steaming hot bathtub and try to warm myself back up. It was crazy.”
Carlson has been on the big and small screens in some smaller projects, including as the love interest in a 2009 film called “Jerry.” In February, she makes her Broadway debut in “Be More Chill,” a sci-fi musical about teenage angst.
But she is probably best known, at least for now, for a couple of commercials she made for Citi Double Cash Card, where two people on a first date say exactly what they mean. Carlson’s character says, “I’ve made plans for later in case this date doesn’t go well.”
The ads got a lot of play and notice, though Carlson says she is rarely recognized from them.
“That was really fun and trippy, making dinner in my kitchen and having the TV on and hearing my own voice come on,” she says.
Carlson, 35, first knew she wanted to be an actor at Eureka High School. She says she grew up “a performative youth, doing routines after dinner for my family.”
But she started out as a gymnast and a cellist, “and I was very focused on academics — an egghead kid.” She would go on to get a degree in English from the University of Chicago, but her path was determined when she performed in her first high school musical.
“It was the feeling of getting laughs and having those butterflies, and getting the response from an audience was the best feeling I’d ever felt,” she says.
From the start, her parents — Frank and Nancy Carlson, who still live in the house in which she grew up — were supportive of her ambitions as an actor. (Her brother Alex owns Red Guitar Bread, a wood-fired bakery.)
“They always claim that they don’t have a creative bone in their body, but my father was a musician … and my mother used to perform on a riverboat, doing magic and juggling machetes,” she says.
Her parents did not just support her; they gave her sage advice.
“My dad always said, after I started acting professionally, ‘Do a Christmas movie and get a sitcom, and you’ll be set.’”
“I’m still working on the sitcom part,” she says.
What ”Holly Star” • When Available Tuesday for streaming • Where iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, FandangoNOW, iN DEMAND, Comcast, Dish • More info hollystarmovie.com