AnnaLynne McCord Dishes On Lifetime's Latest Holiday Movie, Dancing Through The Snow - Exclusive Interview

From her early parts in "American Heiress" and "Nip/Tuck," to her starring role in "90210," AnnaLynne McCord has been a regular on our screens for almost two decades. And just in time for the holiday season, McCord is back in Lifetime's "Dancing Through the Snow," starring opposite "Virgin River" actor Colin Lawrence, and which debuts on November 19.

In "Dancing Through the Snow," McCord plays Olivia, a single ballet teacher running a local dance studio. As the festive season approaches, Olivia meets Michael (Lawrence), a hunky firefighter, and quickly realizes that she teaches his daughter, Lily. Needless to say, the course of true love never did run smooth, and both Michael and Olivia find themselves hit with the realities of everyday life. But this wouldn't be a Lifetime movie without at least a little romance, and viewers will not be disappointed, especially thanks to the immense chemistry between McCord and Lawrence.

Nicki Swift caught up with actress and activist AnnaLynne McCord to talk about Lifetime's "Dancing Through the Snow," her "Unzipped" podcast with Shenae Grimes, and all things "90210."

The actor was ready for Dancing Through the Snow

Lifetime's "Dancing Through The Snow" is such a cute Christmas movie. What drew you to the project?

You know what, actually, I saw the viral video that the story was based on. There was a video a couple years ago where the dad dressed up and was doing ballet in the living room with his daughter because she was trying to make sure that she didn't miss her things for her recital, and I don't know, I think one of the family members filmed it and it just went viral. This dad in a leotard dancing through the living room. And when I read [the script for "Dancing Through the Snow"], I was like, wait, I know this video. And the timing of it was really great because I was already filming in Vancouver, which is where we filmed it. And I was like, okay, it's serendipity. It's something that I already know.

And some of the stories [of Christmas movies] are a little cheesy and they're fun. They're all fun, but some of them are hard to read, but this one read so beautifully and I felt like it dealt with real issues. People experiencing loss on the holidays, especially everything we've gone through in the last year and a half. Everyone's been touched by this, in some way, shape or form. So it had a little bit of that, not too heavy, but enough to be real and based in reality. And it kind of put the conflict there that would be there for parents, when that moment where you balance having a small child who's lost their mother, their parent, but then you also want to find love again and the holidays are hard. And I thought that that was a really nice aspect. I love Lifetime's commitment to diversity and inclusion of everybody's stories and making sure everyone feels represented. And I got to work with Colin Lawrence and Bianca, who are dad and daughter in real life. And they were so wonderful. It was just, it was awesome. It was super fun to be a part of it.

I didn't realize it was based on a real thing. I need to find that viral video now.

A viral video, and it was the cutest thing. I remember watching it a few times and you know how you send it to everybody you know. I was like, this is so precious. And then I read the script and I was like, "Oh my God, that's so clever." We really should use viral videos now that we're doing more of that good news movement, which I really appreciate. We should do more viral stories going to film. I think that'd be cool.

AnnaLynne McCord had easy chemistry with Colin Lawrence

You have such great chemistry with Colin Lawrence in "Dancing Through the Snow." What was it like working with him?

Oh, I absolutely hated him. No, we really do have good chemistry and just from day one, we were just shooting the s*** and bantering. And we really worked in the short period of time that we had, with the limited resources that we were given because of COVID really making things difficult as far as having limited crew and limited accessibility to certain venues and things that we would typically be able to easily have access to. We really just tried to float with the tide and make things work, and we had moments where days got difficult, because everybody has to test and everyone has to do all the different protocols, and it was a very tight schedule.

We just pulled out some Christmas movie magic and made it work. So it was great working with him, but really cool watching him and his dynamic working with his daughter, being both an actor and then dad, and then dad of an actor. He was playing a lot of roles and wearing a lot of hats on that project so it was cool watching him manage that, and his beautiful wife was on set and came to hang out too. So it was really cool. ... It was a family affair.

She is ready to work behind the camera

Last year you did a holiday movie as well — "Feliz NaviDAD" with Mario Lopez and now you're releasing "Dancing Through the Snow." Could we see more holiday movies in your future?

I do it all for my mother, so definitely as long as Lifetime will have me. I do want to talk to them about moving into directing, producing, or developing a little bit, because working with Melissa Joan Hart on "Feliz NaviDAD" for the last holiday season was really, really cool, and watching her work and do her thing. And she's been in the industry for so long so it's just clockwork for her. But I really love writing and directing and development too, so I think it could be cool to maybe put on a few more hats myself next time around or in the near future, depending on schedules and everything like that. So that would be a cool thing to maybe move into.

90210 was a huge learning experience

So many of us know you from "90210." What impact did that show have on your life?

It was the classic coming of age moment, but I had done "Nip/Tuck" just before. So "Nip/Tuck" really put me in a position where I was feeling like I was breaking in and there were more opportunities. And as a result of that, I did have a little bit of the 19-year-old ego. I was like, "I'm working on a critically acclaimed show." I was having a whole meltdown. And I think that after it, when it finished, I had done a couple projects and I was kind of in this space of ... Acting I loved, but everything that came with it was a lot. And I think I was a bit overwhelmed, and also the trailer park in me was like, "I can't deal with these people. I don't fit in. I'm a nonconformist."

So I had a split moment where I thought I was not going to be an actress anymore and I actually talked to other actors and they're like, they all say they go through that moment, but I was like, I'm quitting my career, moving back to New York, I'm going to work at Starbucks and find a new passion. That was around the time that "90210" was being offered to me. And I really, I think I didn't have the gratitude and the appreciation you start to learn when you're a little bit older and experience has taught you a thing or two about life, but I was going through this moment in my life where everybody was telling me that I'd made it and I got my big break and it was the thing, and I just was dealing with a lot of anxiety and depression.

And I talk about a lot of mental health things out in the public because of the fact that things ain't what they always seem like they're cracking up to be, as we say in the south. It ain't all what it's cracked up to be, because we're sold a lie. We're all sold a lie. We drink the Kool-Aid in our little sippy cups when we're babies and we think that if you get there one day all your problems will go away. And what happens is it almost doubles down and you kind of feel like, "Oh, now it's so much worse because I have to now pretend and play into the story that everyone told and be happy and yay." So "90210," there was a duality to it.

I'm incredibly grateful for all that it has provided me in so many different aspects of my life, but it also was highlighting a really dark period in my life where I had to find myself. And I realized that in my nonconformist ways that it was okay to also appear weak, which was the story that I was telling myself. And at that time, especially, I think the story in the world was that to admit to any kind of mental health concern whatsoever would've been a no-no zone. So now I'm grateful that several things in the last decade or so have changed and we are talking more about this with openness. And my biggest thing is I want access for children to not have to do the work I've done. I would love for children to have tools where we don't give them the Kool-Aid in the sippy cup and make them think that they've got to go out there and hustle, hustle, hustle, and then that's going to pay off and they'll be so happy forever, the end. It's like, no. Let's get you happy now. Let's keep your happiness because children actually just find a way to play.

And so "90210" has provided me also this demographic where I get to speak about these important things that are dear to my heart. And it resonates with the next generation, the youth. And I think that out of everything, that's not what I would have foreseen as my 9-year-old self wanting to be an actress in Hollywood, but it has been the most gratifying, I believe.

AnnaLynne McCord is getting Unzipped

You recently started a podcast, "Unzipped," with your former "90210" co-star Shenae Grimes. How is it going and do you have any dream guests?

Yes, actually I was just thinking, it's going really well. We're navigating, learning the ropes on how to do a podcast and doing it in different cities and all the things. But I was like, I need to text Sara Foster. I would love to have her and Erin [Foster] on because, oh my God, they're so hilarious, but also "90210" reunion. We should definitely have Sara on.

And dream, dream guests, Shenae and I both really want to have Russell Brand. I'm like, I don't know why Russell Brand would want to be on a little chick podcast. But we would love to have him. He's amazing, but he brings so much humor and presence and an insane amount of knowledge to these really important topics and a lot of them that I really care about.

It's a funny dynamic between Shenae and I. Right now, she's like, "We need to do more of pop culture, because you want to have Reiki Healers and breath work specialists on the show." And I'm like, "Because my demographic cares about healing." So we're always trying to balance our extremely different interests, and what's happening is there's this crossover that's really finding its home. But we also have noticed that our listeners really like when it's just the two of us, and so we're also doing more solo episodes of just us catching up, and we're kind of finding our flow. And to those early listeners who are like, "They do not know what they're doing." We're very sorry. Please come back. We're learning.

It's been really nice to watch your friendship with Shenae Grimes grow, especially as you've talked about how that wasn't always the case.

I couldn't stand the girl. She was awful. It was so funny. Especially when we hashed it out in the first episode [of "Unzipped"]. We literally had the worst images of each other in our minds. And it's funny now, because one of the things I say in friendships or relationships and people who have known me for a long time, I'm like, "You're talking to me in 2009 and though I understand why you're talking to me as her, I'm not her anymore and I'd really love to have a conversation with you and me now." And we do that, right? Think about the people you've known, especially your family you've known the longest, you have this idea of them from a time and then you keep that [version of] them alive and they're hopefully moving and changing and growing and you're the first one to be like, "Look at all the change I've made!" But we forget to offer that space for someone else and that's what's been really cool with 'Nae and I is we're all about redemption.

The star's thoughts about shame culture

I came up very early on in the podcast talking about how I'm all against shame culture. I do not support the cancellation of people at the level that we're doing it. And people wrote in, "We don't like that you're talking about cancel culture." And I was like, "Oh cool, then I'm going to talk about it more." But the point being, if you don't feel comfortable having a conversation about something, you aren't solid enough in your stance. And if you can't sit there and sit across from someone and hear them say an opinion that differs from yours, and you be strong enough in yourself to own your conversation, but also be strong enough as a human being to realize that you're not the only person in the world and your opinion isn't the only opinion, then you should go back to the drawing board a little bit and figure out why believe what you believe. Did you read it on a bunch of memes and then you agreed because everybody was saying it?

And because I'm such a nonconformist and so is Shenae, we want to talk about these topics, because if you don't ever look at the other side, you only get on the bandwagon, you only follow the trends. You don't invite in redemption for one, which is what Shenae and I had. If we had bandwagoned it and canceled each other, we would never be friends after ["90210"]. We would never have figured out that we actually were being lied about by certain people to each other and didn't know that this was happening. And we certainly wouldn't be doing a podcast together. So I think that there's a lot of room for gray area where our world has become incredibly black and white and cut and dry.

And so it's nice to go "Unzipped" and talk about things that we get s*** for later and be like, "Thank you. You're voicing an opinion. Do you understand how that makes the world diverse and beautiful?" You might be trolling us and saying it in a way that could be done better, but we are still going to welcome that negativity even for the simple fact that someone is offering an opinion. It's very hard to offend me. I would like people to try. Go ahead. Let me see, because I am solid and strong in who I am and I spent a lot of time building, taking off the layers of what was put on to me, and unbecoming so that I could return to who I am. And you cannot change my mind on s***. You better have a solid argument if you want to change my mind on something because I know why I feel the way I do.

I've lived it. I've experienced it. I've gone through the pain of it. I have seen all the sides of it. And if someone comes in and has that much strength in their opinion and they show their very well thought out argument, I'm all ears and I'm ready to change my mind, but you better be on your toes because I'm going to poke holes in your theory so hard. So "Unzipped" gives us that platform to be able to kind of dive a little bit deeper than short form, and that's what's really fun about it.

People on the internet especially can be so closed off. So I think it's refreshing you're having those conversations.

It's nice. It allows for whoever is able to pop in and listen in. And hopefully at the very least, they give themselves the room to have a different opinion from someone else because sometimes it's us. You don't want to be trolled. It's not fun, but at the same time if you aren't giving yourself that exposure therapy and putting yourself out there, we're just all going to have a singular note world and that's really boring and we've done that. We're over that. We want diversity and inclusion now.

AnnaLynne McCord is bringing The Love Storm

You're also an activist and you're working on something called The Love Storm. Can you tell us about that?

Yes. I'm very excited that it's actually becoming more of a thing. We had to put it on hold a little bit because of COVID-19. So we launched it on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day here in the U.S. last January, and we got L.A. and New York in ... our 22 city global tour. And then COVID was like, "Bye girl. You're staying home." So we have 20 more cities, and I am hoping 2022 is going to open the doors for us a little bit more. We're looking at being able to have actual live events again. We did a few virtual events throughout this time. But it's a really powerful thing, the work I've done fighting human trafficking for the last decade, almost decade and a half, combined with in the last three years my own personal journey of healing from similar traumas to what the girls I work to rescue have gone through.

And that process is so crazy. My doctor even was like, you created a community of people around you who went through what you went through, and then you remembered the trauma that you survived as a child. And I was able, within 10 days of my memories resurfacing, so very common, severe trauma. It's very common to have memories resurface 20, 30 years later because your brain is protecting you. Your brain wants you to stay alive. That's all it cares about. Doesn't care about quality of life. It doesn't care if you're hanging out in your bathroom wanting it all to end. It's like, whatever. You're still technically alive right now and so that's the brain. Thank you brain. But it was time for me to have a quality of life that was something more than actually being able to live.

So I started doing that work, and layer by layer I held it off, and 10 years into working and fighting human trafficking, I remembered childhood sexual abuse. I went through all of that and in the process of healing it, I was using all of the techniques my girls from Cambodia have been doing for years, which is compassion practices, meditation, breath work, yoga, all of these wellness practices. And they're all really well and good and lovely and all that until you actually need them. And you're like, "Oh, these are healing modalities. These are tools. I actually won't be able to function properly in the world without them and I began to implement them."

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Meditation is a powerful tool

One of them was very powerful. It's called the meta meditation. It's a compassionate meditation and it's loving kindness to yourself, which is really hard surprisingly. It's the hardest thing. It's like, "Oh, I've got to love myself? No, no, no. I didn't sign up for that s***. Okay, I can love every child in the world. I could send love to my trolls. I could send love to every ... No, no, I can't love myself. What are you talking about?" So that was the first step, learning that self-compassion, and then extending it to the people you care about, you just feel so good. It's all this energy in your body while you're doing meditation, you just want to hug and squish your people. And it feels so yummy. 

And then it's like, now take all of that energy and send it to someone that you hate or send someone that you're estranged from or someone who's hurt you really badly. And then you're all back to like, "Nah, I didn't sign up for this" again. But gradually I got to a point as I practiced and practiced this, and I started sending that compassion to the person who perpetrated those sexual abuses onto me as a child for years and years and years. And the only way to describe it is alchemy because some kind of crazy explosion happened in my body of emotion and energy and it was anger. And I was like, "I hate this person, blah." And then it was like, "Wait, I feel so much love. What's happening?" And my doctor explained it like this. She said, "You were building on four walls and a cracked foundation with no scaffolding, no support beams, nothing to hold up, and you just kept putting layers of rooms on top of rooms and it was going to cave. It was going to collapse doing this work, put up those pillars, that reinforcement. It refilled the concrete foundation."

And I had a solid foundation and I started to be able to actually build a quality of life where I feel now, every day I wake up with gratitude and I feel grateful to be alive. And I didn't want to be on the earth for a very long time. So in that process, The Love Storm was born because it was this storm inside of me that I was able to turn into love. And that's what my girls who are survivors of human trafficking that I work with had taught me, was we forgive the pimp, we forgive the trafficker. I'm like, "No, I'm from America. We blow them up. We go kill them. We get big guns and we go shoot them." And they're like, "No, sister, we don't kill them. We forgive them." And I'm like, I could not get into that. That was a really hard one for me until it happened to me.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

AnnaLynne McCord wants to end human trafficking

And I had gotten to this place where I didn't ... It's not that it's not about justice. We are going for justice. We do that with our work, and I absolutely do that in my own life. But healing first is so crucial and this is not something that we talk about a lot, so that's really important. So The Love Storm became this amalgamation of all the work that I had been able to be a part of for a decade and a half with this issue, fighting human trafficking, and then how personal it became for me.

So what we do at The Love Storm is, once we're able to fully do it again, traveling to cities, raising awareness for human trafficking, educating local organizations who are doing the work in each city. And the way I see it, it's like every little organization's like a wave on the ocean and I want a big tsunami. So it's creating a network of like-minded individuals who want to end modern day slavery.

But within the event, we invite you to come out and have a beautiful moment for yourself and if you only ever end the slavery you experience, right here in the mind, your own mental slavery — because that's what it felt like for me. It felt like I was imprisoned in my own mind because of the beliefs I had about myself and my inability to love myself and be compassionate towards myself. So we do this event. We have that meditation, the meta meditation during the event, and we invite you to end slavery from the inside out, and if you walk away and you don't get involved with the charity and you only ever end the chains, the invisible chains that are on your life, I'm happy. I'm happy with that because that's someone who got set free. It's about setting free all the children of the world, including the children that are trapped inside the big people. 

The actor isn't exactly a tree hugger

So it is a love storm. It is storming the planet with love. And I didn't want it to be something that was silly. I'll hug a tree any day of the week, but I'm not a tree hugger. I will punch you in the face with my love. It is intense. It's fierce and ferocious so it's a storm. And we're going to come to England. We're going to come to Australia, Johannesburg, South Africa. We have a lot of cities around the world to visit. And like I said, as soon as everything is really up and going, we'll probably hit our U.S. cities first just because travel is a little bit easier domestically right now, but that's the plan.

And hopefully it will continue to expand as we build out the network of these organizations around the world, and that also allows people to have a place where, if this has been an issue that really is on their heart, you can click and like, "Okay, in my city, where can I help? Or in this country, I'm going here. Is there something I can do to support an organization in this country that I'm visiting?" We really want you to feel like you're not constrained to any one organization. Obviously, I'm biased, but if your heart is somewhere local or something different, you should be able to have access to that as well. So that's the point of The Love Storm in a very long drawn out tangent.

That's amazing. I love that you took something so personal to you and threw that into this big organization, because that's not easy. You did that hard work for yourself and now you're helping others.

It's honestly how I can say thank you because my girls really ... I can't imagine remembering the things that I remembered that happened to me, and not know that they were there. Ten days after my memories returned, I got on a one-way flight to Cambodia and I was there with 78 girls who have similar stories to mine. Eleven of which had my exact same story, and I was able to just be one of the girls and be in that healing peer-to-peer energy where you don't feel shame and you don't feel yucky and gross and all those icky things that your mind tells you. I just got to be loved, and it's my forever, the rest of my life, it'll be a love storm thank you note to my girls.

AnnaLynne McCord has developed her own style

Is there anyone that you're dreaming about working with that you haven't yet?

That's a good question. I've always had a lifelong Angelina Jolie dream, that just is a very big dream, but I wouldn't mind working with her on sociopolitical issues or humanitarian issues, in whatever capacity. I love that human being. As a human she's incredible to me. So she's always been on the bucket list, but ... That's a good question. Anthony Hopkins would be a dream. ... My head has been in this campaign, so I've been thinking of what are the activists that you want to work with? I'm like, "Oh yeah. I do need to remember that I actually have to pay the bills also."

And do you have any style icons? Probably Angelina Jolie again? She is amazing.

She is. I love her style. I will say my style recently has changed. I never really ventured out with crazy colors until Naomi [in "90210"], or even with color until Naomi. And then recently I have been obsessed with this Brazilian brand that's all colors all the time. It is just a blast of rainbow colors, but it's somehow all the patterns, and all the things just really work and I'm literally doing another event with them on Thursday. They're called Farm Rio, but I also love them because they plant a tree. Every time you purchase, they plant a tree. I was like, "Okay, see. I'm doing a good thing. I have to buy more because ... I'm shopping, but it's good. I definitely get yelled at by my makeup artist though, because he's like, "You're so off trend. What are you doing?" And I was like, "This is my trend. Thank you very much." So I do dance with the beat of my own drum a little bit.

Is there anything else readers need to know about "Dancing Through The Snow"?

It's this Friday, November 19, at 8:00 PM on Lifetime. You'll be joining my mother from wherever you are. She will be also watching and has a whole watch party planned. So that's it. That's what you need to know. 

"Dancing Through the Snow" premieres on Lifetime on November 19, at 8/7c.