Without much in the way of action or special effects, Nothing Like the Holidays relies heavily on the solid acting of well-known actors and the moving story of the Puerto Rican Rodriguez family reuniting for Christmas. During the holiday, conflicts arise and secrets are revealed – not to mention lots of laughter, discussion, song, and dance when two adult sons and a daughter return home to see the family.
The Cast of Nothing Like the Holidays
Casting took three months and was crucial to making the movie a success, according to award-winning director Alfredo De Villa (Washington Heights).
De Villa rounded up big stars for this project, including John Leguizamo (Ice Age), Freddy Rodriguez, who also executive produced, (Six Feet Under), Debra Messing (Will & Grace), Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2), Elizabeth Pena (Rush Hour), Luis Guzman (Fast Food Nation), Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Melonie Diaz (Be Kind Rewind), and Vanessa Ferlito (Death Proof).
Although Molina (who plays the father) was British-born and raised, he speaks fluent Spanish; Ferlito is an Italian-American from Brooklyn, New York.
Pena, who plays the mother of the three adult siblings, is only three years older than Leguizamo, who plays her oldest son.
The Locations in Nothing Like the Holidays
Shot on-location in Chicago in Humboldt Park, the cast and crew had to deal with record-low temperatures (25 degrees below zero with the wind chill factor) during the shoot.
The filmmakers used practical locations and sets built on soundstages to shoot interior scenes for the movie. Production designer Dan Clancy toured local homes, walked through the neighborhood and conducted thorough research in recreating the colorful look and feel of the area. Thousands of photographs from local home interiors inspired the creation of the interior and exterior Rodriguez house, which Clancy and his crew built from scratch.
Producer Robert Teitel had been thinking about this idea of a Latino family reuniting for nearly five years. He and Freddy Rodriguez grew up near Humboldt Park (which was the film’s original title), and since the 1950s has been Chicago’s best-known Puerto Rican neighborhood.
The Holiday Season in Nothing Like the Holidays
Rick Najera wrote the script along with Alison Swan, Teitel’s wife, who got her inspiration from visiting Teitel’s family at Humboldt Park for Christmas each winter.
One of Humboldt Park’s annual traditions is a Christmas caroling parade through the neighborhood, which is featured in the film. The event begins with one family going to another house to sing Christmas songs outside. The residents invite them inside and the Christmas caroling continues. Then, the family serves food and drinks before joining the first family in the caroling. From there, the parade of carolers continues and grows from house to house.
Costume designer Susan Kaufmann noted the styles and colors of the winter clothing in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. She observed women wrapped up in warm coats with hooded fur collars, hoop earrings, and tight jeans tucked into boots. These styles (and the popular colors pink and purple) are evident throughout Nothing Like the Holidays.
To keep her warm during production (with those record-low temperatures), Messing (who plays a red-headed Jew who married the oldest son in the Puerto Rican family) researched Antarctic explorer’s clothing, and purchased a jacket and liner designed to keep her warm at 60 degrees below zero. The jacket didn’t arrive until the end of the shoot with only five days left of filming.