Danielle Panabaker makes her grand return to Hallmark Channel with Saturday’s Countdown to Christmas premiere of “Christmas Joy,” her first flick on the network since 2014’s “Recipe for Love.”

The actress has been busy with The CW’s “The Flash,” which premiered that same year. However, once you’re in the Hallmark family, you’re in for life, and she was ready for a family reunion. The 2018 Christmas movie, which also stars Matt Long, follows market researcher Joy (Panabaker) as she heads home to take care of her aunt. Of course, she runs into an old crush, Ben (Long), while she’s in town.

To hear more about “Christmas Joy,” how it was working with Long and filming her first Christmas movie, International Business Times caught up with the actress.

International Business Times: This is your first Hallmark movie in a few years. What made you decide on “Christmas Joy” for your return to the network?

Danielle Panabaker: Our summers are so short. We only have about nine weeks off, and, so, often times I’ve made the decision not to work over my hiatus. Last year, I got married, so I didn’t take anything else on, but this year, I wanted to work, and I wanted to do something that felt somewhat different from “The Flash.” And this was a really nice opportunity to have some fun.

IBT: What was it like getting back to it?

Panabaker: It was great. “The Flash” is its own beast, and because it’s so consuming — we film 10 months a year — it was nice to take a step out of that…and shake it up and be somebody different for a little while.

Christmas Joy original “Christmas Joy” is Danielle Panabaker’s first Hallmark Christmas movie. Photo: Crown Media / Eike Schroter

IBT: Was it easy to jump in as a new character after playing Caitlin on “The Flash” for so long?

Panabaker: For me, it was. When they sent me the script… I was really happy to see something that felt like an exciting challenge. And it was nice to get to do something different.

With a television show, you sort of never know what’s coming because it’s constantly changing and evolving, even episode to episode. When you do a movie, you know what the beginning, middle and end are. So, there’s some fun in that.

IBT: With a show, you have time to grow the onscreen chemistry. How was it quickly meeting your co-star, Matt Long, before starting filming?

Panabaker: It was great, actually. It can be a little nerve-wracking at first and go, “Oh my gosh, who are they gonna cast? Are we gonna get along?” And we got along so well. I think the world of him. I’m really grateful.

It was really fun. I had a great time.

christmas joy original 2 Danielle Panabaker and Matt Long co-star in “Christmas Joy.” Photo: Crown Media / Eike Schroter

IBT: Do you think fans will feel the chemistry between you two?

Panabaker: I hope so. I mean, that’s our job, to make them believe it, so hopefully, we did alright. 

IBT: What scene are you most excited for fans to see?

Panabaker: I think the first sequence where they see each other after having not seen each other for probably 10 years, when Joy comes to the hospital. There’s a couple really meet-cute moments.

I think they’re really sweet, and I hope fans enjoy them.

IBT: What’s your favorite part about doing a Christmas movie for Hallmark?

Panabaker: This is my first time doing a Christmas movie. I think they’re just a lot of joy. I was really able to lean into the lightness when I started this movie. You know, we don’t always get to laugh a lot on the set of “The Flash.” It can be very serious at times. And I had said to them, “I hope we laugh every day,” and I think we did. It was a really joyous time.

“Christmas Joy” premieres on Hallmark Channel on Saturday at 8 p.m. EDT.