By Leena Tailor.

She directs her parents in cute scenes she dreams up, chats away “like a grown-up” and has showbiz in her genes, but there’s one thing Tyler Hilton and Megan Park’s daughter Winnie wants no part of — her father’s singing!

As the toddler marks her 3rd birthday on Dec. 20, she has clearly found her voice and she’s hilariously using it to shut down her dad’s.

“She hates when I sing,” Hilton tells ET Canada ahead of his CBS movie “When Christmas Was Young”, premiering Dec. 18. “When she was a baby, I sang all the time and she couldn’t tell me not to, but now she’s definitely not into it. Even if I hit a note on the piano while she’s playing with toys, she goes, ‘No, no, no!’ When I play music, I tune everyone out, so maybe she picks up on that and doesn’t like losing me mentally.”

It’s a different story with Canadian actress and director Park, who Winnie loves to hear sing. She’s even following in Park’s directorial footsteps.

“Megan’s taught her director lingo like, ‘Back to ones,’ so anytime we come to the end of a game, she’ll go, ‘Back to ones!’ and we’ll start over,” Hilton, 39, shares. “She gives us lines to say and it’s so funny.”

“She’s growing up so much and man, she can talk!” Hilton continues. “It’s wild because I’m having conversations with a little girl now.”

Cute conversations, pretend filming, snow days and Kawartha ice cream are all part of stay-home dad life in Canada. The couple moved from California to Park’s native Ontario when Covid-19 hit and have since navigated first-time parenthood amid pandemic life and Park’s pivot to directing projects like 2021’s “The Fallout”.

While Hilton put work on the backburner to allow Park, 36, to fulfil her aspirations, he headed to Vancouver to portray music manager Luke in “When Christmas Was Young”. The role felt deeply personal given his two-decade run in music.

Scene from CBS holiday movie “When Christmas Was Young”, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Karen David as Melody Douglass and Tyler Hilton as Luke Dawson.
Scene from CBS holiday movie “When Christmas Was Young”, scheduled to air on the CBS Television Network. Pictured: Karen David as Melody Douglass and Tyler Hilton as Luke Dawson.
— Photo: Dean Buscher/CBS

“Luke’s realizing he’s hit the ceiling of his idea of success, so he’s having to shift gears into something that’s sustainable and makes him happy,” Hilton says. “I think we all hit that point. It’s more rare that what you want to do at 18 is what you want to do until you retire because at some point you reconcile the idea you had with the reality.”

“If you ask Luke at the beginning, he has it all figured out, like I once thought I did,” Hilton says. “He’s worked with big acts and it becomes about the money and career, then he realizes it’s about quality over quantity, and that one song which matters is worth 10 that don’t. He’s like the Jerry Maguire of the music industry and I’m definitely at that stage, where I’m reevaluating.”

Part of reassessing life has been sparked by full-time fatherhood.

“It’s one of the craziest things that’s happened in my life,” he reflects. “I’ve spent so long being Tyler Hilton, selling shirts with my name and having everything be about me, and now I haven’t had time to work because Megan’s killing it. After two years, it’s disorienting going from my whole life being taken up with Winnie’s schedule and needs, to being back on set starring in a movie. It was a mind shift!”

“I was nervous and didn’t know if I’d remember how to do it, so was surprised and happy it came back quickly and was as fun as I remembered,” Hilton continues. “It invigorated me and made me think, ‘Wow, this new life is shaping up cool. I feel so fulfilled being a dad, but it doesn’t have to mean [my career] going away.’ I was preparing for that because I could have lost that vibe since I’d never taken a break, especially for that long.”

Fans need not worry that Hilton’s reevaluating might threaten his musical career. He’s currently scoring Park’s upcoming movie, “My Old Ass”, and will tour with Hot Club of Cowtown from January. A longtime fan of the Western swing band, the acts will celebrate Sun Records and Elvis Presley (who Hilton portrayed in 2005’s “Walk the Line”) at venues including Palm Desert’s McCallum Theatre, which Hilton dreamed of playing while growing up in the area.

“It’s ‘Hot Club of Cowtown & Tyler Hilton Celebrate Elvis Presley’, which is so random, but cool,” he says. “I’m otherwise keeping my [schedule] open because the work Megan’s doing is so important that it’s necessary for the world. Her writing gets better and better, so I can’t wrap my head around going, ‘Can you put that on hold so I can tour?’ I’ll keep making records, but the girls need me here more than fans do right now.”

Fans did get a good dose of Hilton at a recent “One Tree Hill” convention in North Carolina. Having played Chris Keller on the series, he remains close with castmates, but says this reunion was particularly special.

“It’s the last one they were planning at Tric [nightclub], so they got everybody,” he says. “I saw so many people I hadn’t seen for so long — Austin Nichols, Stephen Colletti, Chad [Michael] Murray.”

“It’s funny because I was recently on ‘I Can See Your Voice’ and Gavin DeGraw did the episode before mine, but I didn’t know he’d be there,” Hilton continues. “In this industry, it’s hard to keep in touch, so when you see people, you’re packing it all into five minutes of, ‘How you doing? Love you! How’s your family?’ It was great seeing him and it felt the same at the convention — quickly catching up amid heavy hugs.”

The event saw Hilton adorably joined by Bethany Joy Lenz (after encouragement from castmates Hilarie Burton Morgan and Sophia Bush) to perform their “OTH” duet, “When the Stars Go Blue.” “I didn’t know if she’d remember it, so it was special to sing it again with her,” Hilton says.

Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes conversations centered around parenting, with Hilton chatting to mom-of-two Jana Kramer and Lee Norris, who became a dad shortly before him.

“It’s mainly me going, ‘What are they doing now? What should I look out for?’” says Hilton. “And all of us travel for work, so it’s interesting how everyone does it. Megan and I have one of us working at a time, while Chad takes his kids and wife. It’s just crazy how we all keep growing up!”


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Ellen Bullock