Danica McKellar hasn’t lost sight of how much her life resembles that of some of the characters she’s played on screen recently.
The wonderful years alum, who will next star in Christmas at the drive-in (released Nov. 25), has lived in Los Angeles since she was 7, but recently decided to take a slower pace of life away from the spotlight by moving to a rural farm in Tennessee. Now she’s settling in just as the festive winter season begins and enjoying all that small town life has to offer.
Sound familiar? The holiday movie veteran is also feeling deja vu and she’s happy to embrace it.
“I love that my Christmas movie characters have rubbed off on me,” McKellar, 46, told PEOPLE exclusively about his move. “I think it’s just a wonderful example of life imitating art.”
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Last summer, the actress, her husband, attorney Scott Sveslovsky, her son, Draco (whom she shares with ex Mike Verta) and her mother, Mahalia, packed up their lives on the West Coast and moved about an hour from Nashville. .
“My husband and I have wanted more nature for a long time,” says the lifelong Californian. “We were kind of ready to not be in a city anymore.”
Although neither McKellar nor Sveslovsky have ever lived in Tennessee, the couple — who have been married since 2014 — already had history in the area from the early days of their relationship. McKellar recalled how, after only about a month of dating, the two “couldn’t stand to be apart” as she filmed on location in neighboring Kentucky.
“He flew to Nashville, and I drove about an hour and a half from Kentucky to Nashville,” the star explains. “We had this great weekend together.”
In addition to their romantic ties, McKellar was drawn to the place because of its country music ties. “Memphis and Nashville are both entertainment cities. They’re known for music,” she says. “Being from Los Angeles and being an artist, it’s nice to have creative people around.”
Now that she’s finally found her perfect blend of nature, family, and art, she’s working to turn her new home into her dream home. Although she says she’s “not a designer at all,” McKellar makes sure the space is right for her family. They are currently building a full kitchen on the ground floor of the house, which will be reserved exclusively for his mother.
However, in the eyes of the TV star, the house’s greatest asset does not need updating at all.
“For me, honestly, it’s mostly about the backyard,” says McKellar, who has gone from a small garden in Los Angeles to living on several acres. After two seasons exploring his new surroundings, McKellar says his favorite sights include the giant, fluffy clouds caused by the summer humidity and the fall leaves on his maple trees, which take on shades “of gold and pink and orange and red”.
Plus, she’s living her childhood dream – and not just being a movie star. After spending his whole life wanting one, McKellar finally has a giant trampoline in his backyard.
“I jump on this thing all the time,” she says. “We’re thinking about putting a pool at some point, but I’m like, ‘Yeah, you know what? I’m having a lot of fun like this.'”
Even with the beautiful (and bouncy) adventure that awaited him when he moved, McKellar felt the natural stress of moving across the country. For the first three quarters of the year, the star steered clear of major acting roles as she focused on the challenge of deciding what to keep and what to give away from her West Coast home.
“I wanted to give it my attention and be very present,” said McKellar, who recently left Hallmark Channel and signed with Great American Country. Once the family had successfully moved, McKellar traveled to Canada to work on Christmas at the drive-inhis second film with GAC.
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Now that she’s back home, she can’t wait to make her own vacation memories of her first winter in Tennessee. For Thanksgiving, she welcomes her family and a few out-of-town cousins to the new home, but she’s already thinking a month ahead.
“I’m probably going to have a Christmas tree next week,” she told PEOPLE in early November. “Let’s go.”
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