Actors Annie O’Donnell, Susan Grace, and Maya Waterman are hoping to flip the script when it comes to challenging stereotypes, which is why Amazon’s 2023 Global Holiday Campaign, “Joy Is Shared,” is so important to show others that you can still experience joy, no matter what age you are.
The new ad, which debuted in the U.S. on November 13, tells the story of three life-long friends having a ball on a winter day.
"I think it’s important for people to know that we are vital, and we do have lives, even if we have gray hair," Grace exclusively tells Morning Honey.
O'Donnell adds: "I do think people are opening their minds a little more to the fact that older women are bada--. Earlier this year, I had an audition where I was supposed to be a grandmother who’s knitting, even though I don’t knit. I got the call that I had booked it — not as the grandmother, but as a bus driver. The oldest bus driver in history, but it worked! It was kind of the ‘button’ of the commercial. I hope that there continues to be opportunities for older people, especially women, to be cast for these types of 'nontraditional' roles. Every opportunity helps to shift cultural attitudes and debunk preconceived notions of what women are capable of."
O'Donnell wants the commercial to "inspire people to never lose sight of who they are, and never be afraid to be their authentic selves — particularly for other older women watching, I hope this commercial gives them hope, and reminds them that 'it ain't over until it's over.'"
For Waterman, the ad is "all about memories and friendship."
"I hope it inspires others, particularly older women, to keep their loved ones close and continue making new holiday memories that they’ll cherish. I have many boxes of photos from long ago and far away. I'm getting it all together so that my children and grandchildren can see a life that was blessed in old age," she says.
The original concept for the commercial was to have two men and one woman be the focal point — but things quickly shifted. "I’d met Susan before — through mutual friends — and at the callback I spotted her and sat down next to her, and we started chatting. And then this lovely, tall, beautiful English lady [Maya] came over and started chatting with us. We were having such a great old time, I think they had to tell us to shut up at one point!" O'Donnell explains. "I guess they were running low on men, because they called the three of us in to audition together, and as we walked in the door, I heard the director say on Zoom, 'I love this group.' So, it was supposed to be two men and a woman, but the three of us had bonded in the outside waiting room — just laughing and enjoying each other’s company — and somehow that showed."
Waterman adds, "I’d say it was a little bit of magic. Originally, I met Susan outside searching for parking, and then we continued our chat in the casting room with Annie, and we all just hit it off (we are rather outspoken old ladies!). You never know in casting, or life for that matter!"
Grace quips that all auditions should be willing to take a chance and do something different. "More production teams should keep an open mind and be open and willing to make spontaneous creative changes based on chemistry and how actors perform together," she says.
Though Grace grew up sledding every weekend, she was psyched to get out into the wintry wonderland.
"I had a little trepidation, to be honest, because I'm less physical than I used to be. But I thought, 'Well, I'm doing it. Whatever they ask me to do, I'll do it.' And that’s because there was so much genuine care for us that it made me want to work harder and do a better job than I might have in another situation. After we wrapped the last day at the studio, I got in my car to go home and I thought to myself, 'I don’t want to leave.' The whole experience was just extraordinary," O'Donnell says.
Waterman also was a bit nervous since she had both hips replaced, but she was ecstatic to be surrounded by "these wonderful people."
"The whole experience from the beginning to end was the most fun I’ve had in decades! My favorite part was sledding down the mountain and looking up at the snow covered peaks with the sun peeking through and my friends' joyous faces," she shares. "For me, it was a very emotional experience on the mountain, an inner and outer expression of feelings and emotions, which I hope others connect with this holiday season. The feelings of memories stirring, youthful days gone by, and embracing joyful days ahead with family and friends."
In a twist of events, the trio have now become good friends from this unique experience. "We bonded instantly at casting (who knew!). On the mountain, we had dinner together every night. Now, we talk every week in the city. I feel like I can tell them anything, and we’ll have a jolly good laugh! On set, we giggled at having a handsome young man to hang onto every time we moved! We also kept getting lost in the Lodge, which was hilarious. I feel joyful and at home in their company," Waterman says.
O'Donnell continues, "All three of us keep in touch regularly by phone, text, and email and get together for lunch. I currently have the lead role in a feature film, which has won nine major awards at film festivals, so I’ve been traveling to several festivals around the country. Recently, Maya came to one of the festivals to support me, and so did two of the kids from the commercial and their moms! I’m looking forward to more lunches with my fellow 'Maidens of the Mountain' in the new year!"
These days, the ladies are embracing this time period in their life and they want to show others they can do the same — no matter what age they are. "Just that moment when we were sitting up at the top of the mountain and Maya brought over the pads so that we could sled down —and just like that, we’re not old anymore. That was very powerful, very human. It didn't have to be three little old ladies deciding to go for it, either. It could be anybody that made a choice to not give up," Grace says.
Waterman concludes: "You can do it, just like the three of us did. In life, you have to take the moment and run with it, because you never know. For me, it was a pivotal moment on the mountain. There was so much emotion, especially when I saw my younger self. I had instant tears! I hope to continue to inspire others by writing poetry and stories that uplift the youth with my life experiences. Life is NEVER what you think. Anything can happen."