Netflix’s new holiday movie Christmas With You hinges on the premise of a longstanding celebrity striving to remain relevant. So, it’s weirdly meta to be asking one of the stars of the film, Freddie Prinze Jr., how he feels about his own career evolution as he’s gone from playing the hot high school heartthrob to the supportive (and still hot) parent. Luckily, Prinze Jr. is more than game to discuss his latest career era and how he’s getting introduced to Gen Z audiences.
“I don't know what meta means and I don't know what Gen Z means,” he jokes. “But I [can speak to] chapters in a career. I had a little taste of playing a father for the first time when they did the reboot for Punky Brewster. That was, I think, the moment where you go, ‘Oh, I've never done this before.’”
To be fair, Prinze Jr. has done it before... just IRL versus as an actor. He has two children with his wife, fellow actor Sarah Michelle Gellar. But living something and incorporating it into your professional life turns out to be a bit different. “I had never applied any of that life experience to a role before,” he says.
In Christmas With You, Prinze Jr. plays Miguel, the love interest of pop star Angelina (Aimee Garcia) and father to Cristina (Deja Monique Cruz). Having already played a dad before, Prinze Jr. says this role was “much, much easier” this time around. “I'm the father of a 15-year-old daughter in this one, so I just looked at her the way I would look at my kid and try to teach the lessons that I try to teach my kid,” he says. “I know what it feels like to fail. I know what it feels like to succeed. I know what it feels like when they're just not really listening and you know you're going to have to have the conversation again the very next week. Every one of those scenes, I'm incredibly proud of.”
This is a far cry from the roles that originally made Prinze Jr. famous, most notably popular high school dreamboat Zack in She’s All That and cartoon hunk come to life Fred Jones in Scooby-Doo. But for viewers who are just getting to know Prinze Jr. through Christmas With You and want to see more of him, he recommends starting even earlier in his career, with I Know What You Did Last Summer. “I promise, even if you hate horror movies, you'll love I Know What You Did,” he says.
That said, Prinze Jr. admits his knowledge of his own filmography is a bit limited. “I've only seen three of the things that I've been in in my life,” he says, citing I Know What You Did, The House of Yes, and Brooklyn Rules. So you might want to watch all of his projects from the late ‘90s and early aughts, just to be safe.
Christmas With You hits Netflix on Nov. 17.