What a year it has been for Steve Guttenberg. In the past few months alone, he has scored a recurring role on Veronica Mars (as politico Woody Goodman), gone (upside-)down with the ship on NBC's The Poseidon Adventure, and now he's back making merry (and trying to get married) in Hallmark Channel's Meet the Santas (premiering Dec. 17 at 9 pm/ET), a follow-up to the 2004 TV-movie in which his Nick Claus met his would-be missus (played by Crystal Bernard). But as busy as he is, Guttenberg always finds time to play a real-life gift-giver to those in need, and that's one of the topics TVGuide.com spoke to him about in this Q&A.
TVGuide.com: Does it make an actor feel all warm inside doing a holiday movie like Meet the Santas?
Steve Guttenberg: It makes an actor feel warm inside mostly because it's a can't-miss movie.
TVGuide.com: The original, Single Santa Meets Mrs. Claus, was the highest-rated Hallmark Channel movie ever.
Guttenberg: Yeah. We got so lucky in that people really liked it, and this one is even better than the first one. It's just jam-packed with all kinds of good holiday cheer, good storytelling and great characters. I think it's going to be a blast.
TVGuide.com: How soon after the original aired did you know there would be a follow-up?
Guttenberg: I guess the original aired on Dec. 15 of last year, and the director, Harvey Frost, and I pitched the [sequel] on Jan. 6 of this year. When the numbers came in, Harvey and I were so overjoyed we just said, "Let's do another one."
TVGuide.com: Did Hallmark say yes even before you finished your sentence?
Guttenberg: I don't know if it was exactly that. [Laughs] The Hallmark Channel and the production company — we all knew we had the opportunity to do something special again. It was a smart thing to do.
TVGuide.com: What's it like having Mariette Hartley for your Santas mother-in-law?
Guttenberg: Mariette is a terrific actress and a wonderful, really interesting person. I happened to do a small part in one of her Polaroid commercials about 25 years ago.
TVGuide.com: That ad campaign she did with James Garner?
Guttenberg: With James Garner, yeah. She and James were supposed to be taking pictures at the Malibu Pier, and a waiter serves them some coffee. That waiter was me.
TVGuide.com: Did Mariette remember you?
Guttenberg: I actually thought she did because she gave me such a big hello, but no, she didn't. [Laughs] She remembered of course the shoot, but she didn't remember me.
TVGuide.com: So what do we do next, if the sequel breaks the ratings record? "Meet Son of Santa Claus"?
Guttenberg: Of course, for the kids. We're going to do a different spin on the third one. We're going to Hawaii.
TVGuide.com: A place not usually associated with wintry Christmases!
Guttenberg: True, but you know, Hawaii's a beautiful place.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about Veronica Mars. What did they tell you about Woody before you began filming?
Guttenberg: Just that he's a very rich man, the owner of a burger chain, who comes into town wanting to be mayor. He's got a great wife and a great daughter, and he's going to try to make a difference in Neptune.
TVGuide.com: Did they tell you to play it as if your character had some secrets in his closet?
Guttenberg: It's a very savvy show and one that is written very well, so I expect I'm going to have some good stuff to do.
TVGuide.com: Which film franchise do you have the fondest memories of — Cocoon, Police Academy, Three Men and a Baby or Short Circuit?
Guttenberg: They all have a special place for me, they're all special victories in a very tough business. They've afforded me a way of living as an actor that's much more human than [the way] 98 percent of the Screen Actors Guild, who are unemployed all the time, live. Out of 100,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, 2,000 make over $7,500 a year. I expect that you make over $7,500 a year?
TVGuide.com: As a matter of fact, I do.
Guttenberg: But 98,000 actors who aren't on Friends or in the latest Star Wars make $7,500 a year acting.
TVGuide.com: That's very sobering.
Guttenberg: I look at my [track record] and go, "Bro, I'm the luckiest guy in the world, and I just want to keep doing what I'm doing."
TVGuide.com: Is it true that there might be another Police Academy entry?
Guttenberg: They keep threatening.
TVGuide.com: Have you seen a script or heard ideas?
Guttenberg: Yeah, I've heard a ton of ideas. A movie this big, a franchise this big, it's like building another stealth bomber.
TVGuide.com: You have the whole nostalgia thing working for you.
Guttenberg: More than that, you've got this brand that was built up with a lot of good will. Police Academy is still a very popular film in this country, and in the world. It's played constantly. Millions of people a year see it. This is a 21-year-old movie from Jerry Weintraub, one of the greatest producers of all time.
TVGuide.com: I think Leslie Easterbrook helped me through puberty.
Guttenberg: Leslie Easterbrook is one hot lady.
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about the real-life Santa you play. Tell me about Gutten House.
Guttenberg: Gutten House is a nonprofit organization that takes care of emancipated youth, children who come out of foster homes and have nowhere to go, who might go to the street, but if they're lucky, they get to go to these halfway houses, where they learn life skills — like how to balance a checkbook, how to do laundry — and a social worker guides them through it. I was lucky enough to work with a team who made it happen.
TVGuide.com: How long has the organization been around?
Guttenberg: Since June 13, 2005.
TVGuide.com: Now tell me about Sight for Students.
Guttenberg: Sight for Students is a great program in which all these super companies from around the country have donated their time and expertise so that any kid in the United States who needs glasses — no matter who you are — can get in touch with Sight for Students and they'll provide you with a pair of glasses.
TVGuide.com: Do your charitable efforts increase during this time of year?
Guttenberg: I work all year in charity. I'm also a member of the Optimist Club, which is a terrific place that enhances children's learning abilities and tries to spend a lot of money on education. I'm real supportive of St. Mary's Hospital for Children. I'm a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and I try to be active making sure young people are going to have a real good idea of what is going on in show business.
TVGuide.com: So all in all, it's been a good year for you?
Guttenberg: You know what? Every year's been a good year for me. I've been a lucky guy my whole life. I'm really blessed. I've got a great family and great people who love me and whom I love.
TVGuide.com: Steve, it sounds like nothing brings you down.
Guttenberg: No, of course there are always things that bring you down, like a ding on your car door, but you remember that they're just little things. The big things — and there are very few of them — are the things you have to worry about.