By Deb Silverthorn
Alex Yonks didn’t let the pandemic stall her creative side. The young writer and now television film producer collaborated with two industry pros on “Candy Coated Christmas” on Discovery+, which began streaming Nov. 19 and will run through the end of the year. It is Yonks’ first professional credit as co-writer and co-producer.
“The holiday season has something for everyone,” said Yonks, “and I like creating entertainment that hopefully people of all ages can enjoy.”
“Candy Coated Christmas” features Ree Drummond of Food Network’s “The Pioneer Woman” in her first acting role. Drummond portrays the owner of a bakery in the town of Peppermint Hollow. Drummond’s character interacts with Molly Gallant (actress Molly McCook), who comes to the town to find start-up money for a venture.
The character’s name is a tribute to one of Yonks’ own childhood friends, Maddie Gallant, and her family. Yonks also named one of the horses “Chocolate Chip,” after her mother Melanie’s horse, and another character was named after her aunt Kim. “It’s fun to name characters after friends and family that have impacted me,” said the writer.
Yonks completed the project with Ellie Kanner and Joey Plager, entertainment veterans of dozens of television films. Kanner and Plager executive-produced the film and Kanner directed. While still in college, Yonks was introduced to Plager, a longtime family friend.
“I got a call asking if I’d speak with Alex, who was considering a career in ‘the’ business, and I was impressed with Alex from the start. Through the years she’s sent me scripts and asked for advice and I’ve given it,” said Plager. “She’s always had promise and now the timing was right to work together. She’s been incredible.”
Beginning in March 2020, the trio worked together remotely due to pandemic precautions, and in about nine months the script was done. Plager and Kanner took it to their connections and they were successful in selling it to Discovery+.
The film was shot in Bountiful, Utah, where the “snow” fell amid the near 100-degree temperatures. Yonks enjoyed being on the set and seeing the script’s characters, and story, come to life.
“Alex was terrific to work with and, as Ellie and I weren’t writers, together we realized a lifelong dream to become members of the Writers Guild,” said Plager, who produced “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah” (2021); “Love, Lights, Hanukkah!” (2020); and “Holiday Date,” all with Hanukkah themes, for Hallmark. “We’re working with Alex on some other concepts and look forward to realizing them and to watching, what we know will be, her absolutely remarkable career.”
Continuing with her desire to create entertainment that is family-friendly and that all ages can view, Yonks is now working on the adaptation of author Lisa Greenwald’s “11 before 12,” a young adult novel about the friendships of two middle school teens and the bucket list they hope to fulfill before they turn 12.
“I was particularly drawn to the story because it features a young Jewish girl finding her way and reminds me of myself at that age. I’ve escaped to movies and television shows since I was young, to the kind that reminded me of me and my friends,” said Yonks, 27. “Teens, all of us at times, are nostalgic for what our middle school years were and this story can take us all there. Eleven is my lucky number and when [I was] browsing in a bookstore, the title [of Greenwald’s book] jumped out at me.”
A Plano native now based in Los Angeles, Yonks is the daughter of Melanie and Michael and sister of Haley. Raised at Temple Shalom, Yonks attended preschool at Akiba Yavneh Academy and was a member of BBYO’s Zesmer chapter and National Charity League.
Yonks became interested in acting after attending an acting camp as a child. A graduate of Parish Episcopal School, she earned a bachelor’s degree in directing at Chapman University.
While in college, Yonks wrote and directed a short film called “A Taylor Story,” about a compassionate 15-year-old girl with cancer who finds out that her chemo has stopped working, which garnered her a TV Emmy for Children’s Programming in 2017. Through the filming of the movie, Yonks raised $2,000, which was donated to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
She interned at the Cannes Film Festival, the Conan O’Brian Show, AMS Pictures and Warner Bros. After graduation, she worked on “Big Bang Theory” and “Young Sheldon.”
At the start of COVID-19, and in the midst of a production hiatus, Yonks returned home to her family. She recently gathered with family and friends for a screening of the film.
“COVID has been tough, but the silver lining has been to have Alex home with us for almost a year and watch her continue to pursue her dreams,” said Melanie. “We are very proud of her, not just because of her talent and persistence, but truly because of the person she has become. I have faith that her success will only continue to grow.”