By the time Melissa Joan Hart was 10, she was a veteran actor, having appeared in commercials and on Broadway since she was 4. Now that her son is that age, she's iffy if she wants him to follow her into the profession.
But she allowed him to be a member of the cast of Santa Bootcamp, the new Lifetime movie that she directed.
"He's really talented in so many different ways. And he's just a little bit crazy enough to be an actor, I think," Hart tells Yahoo Entertainment. "But I'm not gonna encourage that. I mean, I did in this case, because I think he was the best person for the job, and I thought it would be really fun to work with him. But I knew he could pull it off. I would never have forced my child in that position if I didn't think he had the talent to do it. But he wanted to do it, and he was good at it. And it just seemed natural."
Still, Hart insists that she won't become a momager or whatever you want to call it.
"I am not, however, gonna be taking that kid to auditions, and being like a stage mom, dragging him around and studying lines. Ya know? Fighting with him to go to auditions and then taking him to sets," she says. "Like, if he wants to do it after college, that's fine."
She has mixed feelings about it.
"I will say this: Being a child actor, it's interesting because the thing you really get out of it is you learn to take rejection well. Which, I don't really want that for my child, to have to be rejected constantly," Hart says. "But it does teach you something. It does teach you a work ethic. It does teach you to not take people’s opinions too seriously, cause it will damage your ego. It will damage your self-confidence if you let it."
Hart did get confirmation that her son has something special when her leading lady in the movie, no less than EGOT winner Rita Moreno, told her as much. Tucker was enamored with Moreno anyway.
Hart recalled a moment on set when her son was "being a total diva" until he learned that he couldn't have what he wanted because it didn't fit into the schedule of "Miss Rita." Then, he was fine with it.
"She was just lovely with him," Hart says. "She texts me all the time... And she texts me, like, 'Say hi to my Tucker for me.'"
Besides working with her son and Moreno, Santa Bootcamp was a chance for Hart to work with her friend — and past co-star — Melissa Jaret Winokur, plus Emily Kinney (The Walking Dead), Justin Gaston and the Backstreet Boys, who provided a song for the soundtrack. The premise is that Kinney's character, an event planner named Emily, has been hired to throw an elaborate Christmas gala, so she visits a bootcamp for Santas run by Moreno's larger-than-life Belle. And, if you watch Christmas movies regularly, you already know that she spends the movie getting into the spirit — thanks to Belle — and falling in love, with Gaston's Aiden.
"It just has so much heart to it," the actress-turned-director says. "But also a nice amount of comedy, which is really important to me. You know, a lot of these are full of heart and full of romance, and this one, I love that the main story is really between the women, and there's romance blooming for sure, and we have a lot of great scenes about that."
Hart, who's appeared in many Christmas movies over the years, thought the Santa Bootcamp story was just a little different than the others out there. The script had actually been floating around for a few years, she says, intended for a specific deaf actress, so, when Hart received it, it included a storyline involving American Sign Language. The "magical element" is a nod to scene in Miracle on 34th Street.
After all, in addition to having starred in and directed holiday projects, Hart is a fan of all things Christmas. She started celebrating this year right after Halloween, and some of her cards are already addressed, although she'll hold off on mailing them until Dec. 1.
"Because I do these Christmas movies, and they tend to be during the summer, I'm always in Christmas mode, like, I'm always ready for it," Hart says. "The music's always in my head, the decorations are always nearby. The one thing I can't find is my Christmas jewelry, but I think it's cause I donated it to all the movies, it's in the wardrobe somewhere."
Santa Bootcamp premieres Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.