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Westport Stores, Families Appear In Melissa Joan Hart's TV Film

Mackenzie Pretty, left, and Melissa Joan Hart, right, in front of  JoyRide in Westport.
Mackenzie Pretty, left, and Melissa Joan Hart, right, in front of JoyRide in Westport. Photo Credit: Courtesy

WESTPORT, Conn. -- If scenes in the TV film "The Santa Con," look familiar to residents of Fairfield County, that's because they are.

Several area residents and companies make cameos in the production starring Westporter and actress Melissa Joan Hart of "Melissa and Joey" and "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch". The show, which marks Hart's directorial debut, will be shown Saturday, Dec. 13, at 8 p.m. on Lifetime.

The holiday family movie stars Barry Watson ("Hart of Dixie") and TV talk show host Wendy Williams, among other well-known faces. It was filmed last summer at various locations around Fairfield County.

“I'm so proud of this project,” said Hart. “It was such a joy to be able to film in my home state -- and not only wake up in my own house but also bring some business to the local economy. Plus, I had the added bonus of putting my gorgeous and talented friends and family on the screen for fun!”

It truly was a family affair for the longtime actress, whose mother, Paula Hart, produced the movie. Her sister, Emily Hart Madar, cast it, and another sister, Alexandra Hart Gilliams, did the on-set photography. Hart’s husband, Mark, and her three sons, Mason, Brady and Tucker, all have cameos.

JoyRide Cycling Studio , the indoor cycling and fitness boutique in Westport and Darien, and Groove , the children’s clothing and gift store in Westport, dressed sets for made-for-TV storefronts.

Two Westport families – Mackenzie (a JoyRide instructor) and Tom Pretty and their kids, Parker, James, and Thomas, and Marlo and Justin Villepigue and kids Noel, Gavin and Ethan -- played extras waiting in line to meet Santa Claus. They later participated in a church nativity performance.

Andrew Kindt, another Westport resident and co-owner of Achieve Fitness in Norwalk, also played an extra as an inmate in a prison scene and as a construction worker building a house.

“It was great to be able to support Melissa as a director, like she supports me at my gym, Achieve,” said Kindt, who often trains Hart when she’s in Westport.  “I loved watching her in her element!  It was also incredible to see how much hard work goes into filming a movie.”

As for what happens after the Saturday premiere? Hart is busy with a host of other projects, including filming her TV show, "Melissa and Joey" on ABC Family and launching a new children’s clothing line called King of Harts. But she added: “Of course, I would always love another opportunity to film in my home state of Connecticut!”

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