Her career cruise has ranged from soaps to Trump to the Queen Mary

OK, I'll admit there are too many -- well, WAY too many -- Christmas movies. Still, the people behind them are interesting. Here's the story I sent to papers about Vivica Fox, who produced and stars in "Christmas Cruise," Dec. 16, 23 and 25 on Ion.

By Mike Hughes

In her big, busy
career, Vivica Fox keeps meeting interesting people.

There was Kristoff
St. John, the pioneering soap star. He worked with her on
“Generations,” a generation ago ... and on “Christmas Cruise,”
which debuts Saturday.

And there was Donald
Trump, her “Celebrity Apprentice” boss. Her verdict? “Charming.
Strikingly handsome .... As a businessman, he was very good; as a
president, not so good.”

She thrived on the
show (which was taped in 2014) , finishing third of 16, behind only
Geraldo Rivera and winner Leeza Gibbons. It was a great experience,
she said, despite Trump being distracted. “He kept saying he was
going to run for president. He was obsessed with it.”

One thing – maybe
the only thing – Trump and St. John share is height. That's
important to Fox, who used to be rejected for parts because she's
5-foot-7. Then she saw St. John; “I was glad to see this tall
(6-1), very good-looking man.”

A college kid, fresh
from Indianapolis, she had a little acting experience. (“They had
to keep telling me not to look at myself in the monitor.”) She'd
done some “Days of Our Lives” episodes and the pilot for “Living
Dolls” ... which promptly replaced her with another promising black
actress, Halle Berry.

Now she was in
“Generations,” the first soap to have a black family as an
integral part from the beginning. St. John played a rising
businessman; he then moved to “The Young and the Restless,” where
he's been for 25 years, winning a daytime Emmy and lots of

Fox did “Y&R”
briefly, but she went on to big movie roles, starting with
“Independence Day” and “Soul Food” in 1996-97. She's had
regular or recurring roles in TV series, from “Arsenio” in 1997
to the current “Empire,” where she'll be back in the second half
of the season as Cookie's sister Candace.

And resisting all
the trends for actresses' careers to fade, she began creating her own
work. She produced a successful cable series (originally called
“1-800-MISSING”), a reality show (“Glam God”) and lots of
cable movies, including “The Wrong Child,” “The Wrong Student,”
“The Wrong Crush” and “The Wrong Man.” Apparently, a lot goes
wrong in Lifetime movies.

Fox also did last
year's “A Husband for Christmas” for the Ion network. “It did
really well, so they said, 'How about another one?'”

Sifting through
scripts, she found “Christmas Cruise,” which resists most holiday
cliches, including snow. “We even got to work on the Queen Mary
(now anchored in Long Beach), which was beautiful.”

And she got to cast
St. John. He plays the cruise director, who's all about fun; she
plays a passenger who keeps thinking of work.

For Fox, that's
perilously close to type-casting. “I'm a very Type-A personality,”
she admitted. That gives her at least one thing in common with her
old “Apprentice” boss.

-- “A Christmas
Cruise,” 9-11 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 16)

-- Repeats on 1 a.m.
on the night of Dec. 23, then 9 p.m. Dec. 25