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Genie Star Paapa Essiedu on Why it's the Christmas Movie to Watch Right Now

The cozy movie, Genie, set in New York during the holidays, has a nod to Mission Impossible you won’t want to miss. 

By Stephanie Gomulka

Paapa Essiedu (I May Destroy You, The Lazarus Project) thinks families gathering during this holiday season are going to love Genie

The British actor and Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids, The Little Mermaid) are the comedic duo at the center of the instant holiday classic. The movie follows a down on his luck father named Bernard who wants to make things right with his family and then links up with a chaotically fun genie named Flora. She knew Jesus Christ, grants unlimited wishes, and has a newfound love of New York pizza.

Essiedu was “really, really excited” to finally get to talk about the movie in a chat with NBC Insider

Melissa McCarthy and Paapa Essiedu Star in New Christmas Movie Genie 

Paapa Essiedu and Melissa McCarthy stand outside in a scene from the new movie GENIE

If you haven't watched the fairytale comedy penned by Richard Curtis (Love, Actually, Notting Hill) and directed by Sam Boyd (Love Life) yet, it's time to warm up the hot cocoa and snuggle up on the couch. 

RELATED: Genie With Melissa McCarthy Becomes the Most-Streamed Peacock Original Movie

Essiedu, who plays Bernard, felt lucky to be surrounded by so many “comedy legends.”

Marc Maron, Melissa McCarthy, Lou Guzmán, like real, real, real people who’ve been like deep in the game so for me like every single day was... like the best day at school,” Essiedu said. 

When it comes to working with McCarthy, the scenes had a way of transforming from start to finish once the cameras started rolling, according to Essiedu. 

“They begin as one thing and they end up as something completely different,” Essiedu explained. “She’s like a wild entity that cannot be shackled by saying the lines.”

A lot of moments were improvised between them, Essiedu said. Filming on set with McCarthy was “equal levels of like thrilling, hilarious, and terrifying,” he added.

Does Tom Cruise Know He’s Brought Up in the Movie Genie?

Key Art for the Peacock Original movie, GENIE

In between trying to wish his life and family back together, Bernard is able to give Flora a New Yorker’s welcome to the 21st century. She has been locked away in an antique jewelry box for about 2,000 years after all.

One pit-stop is a night at the movie theater to watch a Mission: Impossible movie and Flora quickly develops a crush on actor Tom Cruise. 

Curtis asked Cruise’s permission to reference him in the Peacock comedy, Curtis told PEOPLE

Although the movie features pictures of Tom Cruise on Flora’s temporary bedroom wall and a sweater with his face adorned on it, Essiedu hasn’t had the chance to meet with him yet. 

“I think it’s something that maybe I won’t lead with when I meet him,” Essiedu said about the Genie references. Though he noted, “I think he comes out really well in the movie.”

Genie is the Family-Fun Christmas Movie to Watch Right Now

Split of Alan Cumming and Melissa McCarthy in Genie

The movie holds the “dry, acerbic wit” Essiedu views as familiar traits of Richard Curtis films. A filmmaker Essiedu says “needs no introduction.”

“It’s just like heartfelt fun and warmth,” Essiedu said. “That is what you’re going to leave this movie feeling, is you’re going to feel like you’ve been like wrapped in a warm bath of just like good vibes and giggles.”

RELATED: Your Wish is Granted: Where to Watch the Holiday Comedy Genie

Essiedu is also a longtime fan of director Boyd’s work and touched on his love of watching movies at Christmastime. 

“I love the, you know, the feeling of like you’ve got family and like people have actually got time to sit down and watch and like congregate together,” Essiedu said. “Genie’s a perfect movie to kind of underpin that…Family’s particularly are really going to love that.”

The concept of the movie is based on the 1991 TV movie Bernard and the Genie with Alan Cumming starring as Bernard. In a charming nod to the original, Cumming plays Bernard’s dreadful boss in the Peacock version.  

“Alan was so kind and humble and generous and you know a lot of fun,” Essiedu said about working with Cumming. “It kind of felt like a full-circle moment coming back to it now.”

The two movies are “completely different,” Essiedu said acknowledging the changes between the different iterations. 

“There was something that felt very right about the continuity...of having him be an important part of the film,” Essiedu said. 

Genie is available to stream on Peacock and available to own on Digital now.