By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C., [email protected]

Despite the religious history behind the celebration of Christmas, the holiday season’s message has been transformed to one of spending and gift-giving.  TV One’s “Coins for Christmas,” however, flips the script: The main characters are strapped for cash during the holidays and end up giving and receiving gifts that make them better people and teach them life’s true values.

“[‘Coins for Christmas’] is a great film with a great message and the story line is not at all what typical Christmas movies are all about,” said Stephen Bishop, who plays the role of Alec in the film.   Bishop, from “Being Mary Jane” fame, stars alongside “Marlon” actress Essence Atkins who plays the character of Madison.

‘Coins For Christmas’ (Courtesy Photo)

“Alec is an NFL player that’s coming off of an injury, and because of his [braggadocian] and arrogant nature, very few people are wanting to work with him and he needs to get that together.  And Essence’s character (Madison) is a single mother who is trying to scrape money for Christmas because her bank accounts have been seized due to her ex husband’s behavior.  They come together and they teach other how to be better people and how to get past what some would see as perceived flaws,” Bishop told the AFRO.

Bishop said the lessons Alec and Madison learn are relatable for audiences across demographics.

“I think across the board it’s a good message to take away.  For Essence’s character it’s a good lesson in self-esteem and confidence.  For Alec’s character it’s a good lesson in humility.  There’s a duality there, where we’re converging on both sides.  One guy is completely arrogant and full of himself and the other character is completely humble and doesn’t give herself enough credit and they teach other how to be the opposite,” Bishop said.  “So there’s messages all over: How to treat people.  You never know what the next person is going through, so how to be kind.  And then there’s a message of friendship there.”

Particularly during an era of political, nationwide and world tension, Bishop said that “Coins for Christmas” offers cheerfulness packed with a message.

“It’s a good addition to the holiday spirit and the family time,” the actor said. “It gives a bit of levity to people during the holidays. Where they’re coming into the holidays maybe burdened with a lot of angst from what’s going on in the country and around the world and it gives them the opportunity to breathe, and have some lighthearted moments and learn some good lessons.”

Besides the message behind the film, Bishop told the AFRO he got involved in the project because he’s always wanted to add to families’ holiday cheer by having a role in a Christmas film.

“Every year a new slate of Christmas films comes out, some of them turn into classics.  And it’s just for me, it’s always been a thing where I wanted to have a chance to be in people’s living room’s or on the screen during the Christmas time, because it’s kind of like its own little season of films and television,” he said.

Additionally, Bishop wanted to join the film when he found out he’d be acting with Atkins.

“I got a chance to work with a good friend of mine Essence Atkins, who is just amazing.  I’ve wanted to work directly opposite her since we worked together in a different film, but we weren’t directly opposite each other,” Bishop told the AFRO.

Bishop also highlighted director Jamal Hill, who he said did “an excellent job.”

The cast also included TC Carson (“Living Single”), Kelly Price (“Saints and Sinners”) and Karlie Redd (Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.”)

“Coins for Christmas” premieres on TV One on Sunday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m. Eastern with an encore at 9 p.m.

For those in the Washington, D.C. area, TV One and Xfinity will be hosting a special premiere of the film on the Dec. 16 from 2-5 p.m. at the Studio Xfinity Store (715 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001).  A free event for the whole family, the premiere will include special giveaways, in-store promotions and a post-screening discussion. For more information go to Eventbrite.com .