Q:When you're creating music for this season, and for this film, what is it that puts us in that Christmas mood?
A: I think there is happiness with Christmas music. A lot of it is the sleigh bells. They're traditional through everything. So as soon as you hear the bells, you get the feeling of that sleigh. The first things you see in this movie is Los Angeles in the '60s. People are Christmas tree-hunting, and Lucy is hanging the lights on her Christmas tree. That's what I loved about how this movie starts: Immediately you're seeing and hearing the Christmas spirit, and you know it. Though you see a sunny California, it's still gonna be Christmas there, simply because it's the way it starts.
Q: What music can we look forward to hearing in the movie?
A: The music is a blast. We re-recorded "'Zat You Santa Claus?," originally recorded by Louis Armstrong. We also recorded the title track "Call Me Claus" and I got to write the gospel hymn "Ready for Jesus," which is performed by Vicki Hampton in the movie. Whoopi was able to marry this hip attitude with Christmas, and I had to accomplish that through the music.
Q: Were you concerned how you were going to weave in the serious issues within a Christmas comedy?
A: It didn't enter my mind because we had Whoopi in the lead role. She handles topics every day that are razor sharp and intense, but she somehow handles them in a very laughable way. People drop their defenses but still pay attention to what she has to say. That's very hard to do, but it seems to come easy for her.
Q: What would be your greatest hope for audiences to take away from this movie?
A: One thing you want to see is the family around watching. You want it to become a Christmas tradition that they gather around and they watch it every year. That's what you want to do when you make Christmas movies. The other thing I would like to see is some little child realize they can overcome anything regardless of what color or gender they are -- that they can see the important thing is what's inside. If that can happen, then no matter how much money and how much time was spent on the movie, it was all worth it.
Q: Do you believe in Santa, and what does Santa Claus mean to you?
A: I believe in what Santa stands for. I believe that the way to give is just trying to find out what would make your loved one happy on Christmas. I think that's what it's all about. It doesn't have to be a gift you can wrap. I think it's loving somebody enough to get in underneath the layers and find out what would really make them happy.
Q: What does Christmas mean to you?
A: Christmas is everything for me. It is a holiday where it seems all people can take down their walls for 24 hours. Although Christmas has become probably the biggest money holiday, right in the center of it all is the idea of being with family, loving one another and that everything is alright. It's the celebration of the birth of Christ, the birth of hope and love. Having three children of my own, and me probably being the biggest child out of the four, it's the perfect day for me.