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“The dog stole the show on set!”: Asa Butterfield, Cora Kirk interview

Sex Education's Asa Butterfield and newcomer Cora Kirk play idealistic couple James and Hayley in Amazon Prime Video movie Your Christmas or Mine

Asa Butterfield and Cora Kirk in Your Christmas or Mine

Although James (Asa Butterfield) and Hayley (Cora Kirk) play star-crossed lovers in the uplifting Amazon Prime Christmas movie Your Christmas or Mine, the pair are actually apart for the majority of the film.

After the young couple decide to surprise each other last minute, they find themselves spending Christmas Eve stranded with the other’s family, where festive mayhem and awkward secrets end up giving them more than they bargained for.

With the Christmas movie now available to watch on the streaming service, The Digital Fix sat down with Asa and Hayley to find out more about their own Christmas traditions, their experiences on-set, and how they brought their on-screen romance to life. And that’s not all: we might even have a bit of gossip about Sex Education season 4!

The Digital Fix: What attracted both of you to this movie and your respective characters?

Asa Butterfield: For me, I’ve never done a Christmas film; and I love Christmas and Christmas spirit. And I think it’s really hard to find original Christmas movies because there’s so many, like all the classics have been done. So, this [movie] is actually a really good idea because it’s a kind of classic setup, but then takes it in a totally different direction. And then you’ve got these two wildly different, super specific Christmas experiences, which everyone will be able to relate to one way or another. And it managed to do that while also being really funny and really well-written and having all of these colourful characters. And it’s great. 

Cora Kirk: Well, I got the audition on my birthday last June! Really good stuff has always happened on my birthday in terms of, like my career, so I was like, ‘Well, this is it. I have to do this film.; But aside from that, I think reading the script, I’ve just never met a character that was so easy to read. 

I don’t want to dismiss like how much work Tom Perry already put into scripts, but when I read [Hayley’s part], it was just it’s effortless. It was easy. Reading Hayley I just had this thing where I was like, ‘Wow,’ like, ‘Yeah, this is great. This is beautiful.’

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TDF: The film focusses a lot on different family Christmases and traditions. Do you guys have any unique family Christmas traditions you follow for the festive season?

AB: My Christmas traditions are actually not dissimilar to the Taylor household [Hayley’s family in the movie]. We have a real Boxing Day games fest. There are always games because we give each other games on Christmas Day, and we always get at least one more game on Boxing Day. One we made up is a Pictionary-slash-racing-slash- wrestling game [He says to Cora: ‘I’ll tell you about this another time’], but yeah, we love games! We also love a song we also get a few drinks. So it’s very close to their [the Taylor’s] Christmas, isn’t it?

CK: When I was a lot younger, we used to always go out to my neighbor’s house because I was obsessed with learning the piano only on Christmas. I didn’t have the will to ever learn it any other time. So I’d be like, ‘I want to play the piano this Christmas,’ and we’d go to the neighbor’s and we’d have a big singsong with me not playing the piano ‚— I’d be trying, but I wasn’t able to play — and we’d sing, and yeah, just be there. When I got older, it got much more alcohol-fueled. So when I was younger, it was very wholesome. And now it’s just a day of Prosecco!

Cora Kirk in Your Christmas or Mine

TDF: Given both of you spend most of the movie apart, how did you manage to build realistic chemistry with each other?

AB: We had a chemistry read like once before we actually started shooting it, but that first big scene at the train station kind of establishes a lot of our characterization in the film as a whole. I remember practicing that a few times, just chatting with Jim [O’Hanlon, director] and just trying to capture this sort of excitement of being in a new relationship. So being in love and making sure the audience could really root for us I think is really important from the get-go.

CK: Asa is so loveable, building that chemistry really wasn’t that difficult!

AB: [To Cora] Aw, thanks!
Asa Butterfield in Your Christmas or Mine

TDF: Asa, there are arguably some similarties between your Sex Education character, Otis, and James — both are reserved, well-to-do, romantics: do you ever worry about being typecast?

AB: I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of comedy recently, which I enjoy. But I’ve also done a few other roles recently that felt totally different. While there might be some similarities between James and Otis, James has a sort of competence to him, whether that’s from just being a bit more grown-up and coming from a more wealthy background. But to answer your question, I’m not particularly worried about being typecast!

TDF: Cora, as a relative newcomer in the game, what was it like working closely with acting veterans like David Bradley? Did any of your co-stars give you useful advice about moving forward?

CK: All the time, because I’d turn up to work, I’d be like, ‘Help what’s happening?’ And they’d be like, ‘Calm down. It’s fine.’ Even if we didn’t have many scenes together, Angela [Griffin, Cora’s on-screen mother] was so supportive. And Alex Jennings, who I did a lot of scenes with, was incredibly brilliant to work with. I could just watch him and David Bradley, to be honest,  observing just how more relaxed they were with the work.

That was the biggest education for me, because they didn’t come to work like, ‘I’ve got it nailed this scene,’ because at the end of the day, this is a really wholesome Christmas film. And we were just reminding ourselves that we can have so much fun and, like, actually having fun in a movie like this is the key thing.

Asa Butterfield in Your Christmas or Mine

TDF: Cora, you share a lot of scenes with the mischievous dog, Peanut — is the dog you worked with as cheeky as their character?

CK: He honestly, stole the show, in my opinion! I thought I had a lot to prove being, like, a relatively new actor in like film, but Peanut, I just learned so much from him! Whenever he did a really good job, he got a treat. So, after a while, I was like, ‘If I do a good take, can I get a treat?’ [laughs].

Jim, our director had a somewhat set view of how he wanted the scenes to go, and sometimes the dog just wouldn’t you know, follow direction. The dog is a dog — he isn’t always going to do what the human says. So sometimes, there’ll be moments on set where the dog was sort of just doing what the dog wants to do, and time is ticking on and Jim’s getting stressed, and I just sat there like, ‘I’m so happy!’

Cora Kirk in Your Christmas or Mine

TDF: Asa, can you provide any updates on Sex Education season 4?

AB: We’re still shooting until January, so we’ve got another couple of months left on the show. Yeah, it’s exciting. It’s always nice to be back with again, because we’ve been doing it for four years now. So you know the characters really well.

There’s no kind of pressure that you might get coming onto a set for the first time. The director and teams are very comfortable with what they’re doing — but there’s always gonna be evolution from the last year with new locations, and new characters.

You can catch Asa and Cora in Your Christmas or Mine now on Amazon Prime Video.