NEWINGTON - Martin Kellogg Middle School student and budding actress Isabella Longo joined a Hallmark Channel film crew in Old Wethersfield on two hot September days, wearing a winter parka and hat.
Her parents surprised her with the casting call and she was thrilled when the company chose her to participate.
“I was in awe,” said 11-year-old Isabella, who goes by “Bella.”
Scheduled to premiere on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, Nov. 24, at 9 p.m., “Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane” follows the story of Emma Reynolds, returning to her fictional hometown of Oliver’s Well to celebrate Christmas with her siblings. Following the death of their parents, they make a difficult decision to sell the family home. When Reynolds takes charge of appraising and selling belongings, she discovers a family secret.
Bella was cast as an extra during the filming of several scenes on Main Street in Wethersfield. It was an exciting opportunity for the young actress.
“They had me in winter clothes, running around fake snowmen and making the background look natural,” she explains. “It was definitely very different than my other acting experiences.”
The Newington Children’s Theatre Company is “like a second home” to Bella, who has acted in at least 20 different NCTC productions. She plans to audition for Kellogg Middle School’s upcoming production of “Mary Poppins.”
“I love singing, dancing and acting. Just putting it all together makes everything perfect,” she says. “I feel alive and forget anything stressful going on in my life.”
Filming took place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. both days and scenes had to be shot and reshot again.
“It was a lot of hurry up and wait,” Bella says. “The hardest part was standing around in winter clothes. It was hot.”
The film crew instructed her to bring several cold-weather outfits and picked her final ensemble for the camera. As they worked, people passing through town stopped to check out the unusual commotion. Several businesses opened their doors to cameras, though their names will be changed on-screen. Locals may recognize the storefronts and interiors of Lucky Lou’s, Aroma Bistro and Comstock & Ferre.
“I can’t wait,” Bella says of the upcoming movie premiere.
A Hallmark Movies and Mysteries synopsis beckons: “While antiques expert Morgan Shelby appraises Emma’s mother’s collection, they find a hidden surprise in an antique desk that takes them on a journey to discover the power of love and family during the holidays.”
The Longo family and Bella’s friends will gather around the television that evening.
“We’re extremely proud of her,” says her mother, Romana.
Her father, Robert, points out that the experience was a show of Bella’s passion and sense of commitment.
“For eleven years old,” he says, “she really pushed herself.”
Bella plans on continuing to pursue the performing arts, while juggling dance, cheerleading, schoolwork and just being a kid. She also plays the violin and ukulele.
“I want to be a singer and actor when I grow up,” she says. “This is very time-consuming, but I’m going to try to do more of it.”
CenterPoint Community Church at 840 Silas Deane Highway, Wethersfield, will have a film showing on Sunday, Nov. 25 at 7 p.m. All are welcome.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.