SALEM, N.H. — Breanne Hill says she doesn't know if she will ever feel like she completely "made it" in Hollywood, but the 29-year-old Salem native is at least one step closer.
Hill landed her first leading role in the television movie "My Best Friend's Christmas," which will air on Showtime and on demand starting Sunday.
The movie is about a Los Angeles event planner played by Hill who returns home for Christmas. There she discovers she still has feelings for her high school sweetheart, who is about to marry her best friend.
"It's kind of funny that I can relate to her character and wanting something related to home," Hill said. She often craves the realness that comes from small-town living, she added.
"My Best Friend's Christmas" is reminiscent of "My Best Friend's Wedding," with a strong female lead people will hopefully relate to, Hill said.
"You sometimes make questionable decisions and have a hard time when you are blinded by love," Hill said.
Hill's own love story includes a bit of both a Los Angeles meeting and a hometown connection. She met her boyfriend, Anthony Melillo, in L.A., but he actually grew up about 15 minutes away from her in North Andover.
Back then Hill was known as Breanne Parhiala and was honing her acting skills.
From her first performance in a fifth-grade play, she developed a love of the craft. She continued acting in high school through television and media production classes.
Still, the straight-A student didn't share her dreams of professionally acting until she left Boston University at 19. In fact, she didn't tell her parents about her decision to move to Los Angeles until the paperwork was filed with the college.
"I knew if she wanted to do it she would, and that left us with a choice to support her or not," Joyce Parhiala said. "And 100% I wanted to support her right away."
Hill's high school English teacher John Griffin was also supportive when she told him. He encouraged her to go for her dreams.
Griffin recalled Hill's "toughness" from her high-school days as a track runner who won championships and a fierce academic competing in Model United Nations.
"It was rewarding for me to give that advice," Griffin said, adding that he has appreciated many of his former students keeping in touch through the years.
"As a teacher you have a choice of just firing off information or actually getting to know your students," he said. "And when they are successful in life it shows the school was successful."
In 2010, Hill started her life in Los Angles with some modeling and appearances in Pepsi, Target and Nickelodeon commercials before landing a few roles in independent films and an episode of the TV drama "Criminal Minds."
There were days when she questioned if she had what it takes to make it in such a competitive industry.
"Don't give up," she recalls telling herself. "You'd probably be miserable."
Instead she remained determined.
"I found if you really work hard it's bound to work out," she said.
Hill's mother, meanwhile, cheered her on. Parhiala said she was "obviously scared" when her daughter initially moved, but she was also excited for her.
Hill recalls her mother telling her, "Don't settle, don't settle. Do what you love and do it well."
Over the years Hill's acting career has expanded. She was in two movies with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson —"San Andreas" in 2016 and "Rampage" in 2018. She also had a recurring role in the Netflix series "Frontier" with Jason Momoa from 2016 to 2018.
Complex female characters have always been an inspiration to Hill. Recently she began writing about such women.
"There have to be stories about bad-ass strong women that haven't been told," Hill said.
She has one movie and a television series she's working on and hopes they will come to fruition.
For months Hill would text her mom saying, "I'm going to work, but I'm not getting paid for this. But I hope to soon."
Then when Parhiala finally got the movie script she sat down with a pen in hand, ready to make notes.
"Halfway through I threw the pen aside. I laughed and cried and enjoyed it. In the future I think we are going to see big things from her," Parhiala said.
Hill said she feels more stable after steadily booking jobs and is excited about her burgeoning production company, "Merrimack River Production."
The company's name was inspired by an experience as a middle-schooler swimming in the river that is known for a strong current and unsanitary conditions, Hill said, then laughed.
"If I can survive swimming in the Merrimack River, I can survive anything," she said.