It's not lost on Danica McKellar how much her life has looked like those of some of the characters she's played on screen recently.
The Wonder Years alum, who next stars in Christmas at the Drive-In (out Nov. 25), has lived in Los Angeles since age 7, but she recently decided to embrace a slower pace of life farther from the spotlight by moving to a rural homestead in Tennessee. Now, she's settling in just as the festive winter season kicks off and enjoying all that small-town life has to offer.
Sound familiar? The holiday film veteran is feeling deja-vu, too, and she's happy to embrace it.
"I am just loving the fact that my Christmas movie characters have rubbed off on me," McKellar, 46, tells PEOPLE exclusively of her move. "I think it's just a wonderful example of life imitating art."
This past summer, the actress, her husband, attorney Scott Sveslovsky her son, Draco, (whom she shares with ex Mike Verta) and her mother, Mahalia, packed up their West Coast life and moved to a spot nearly an hour outside of Nashville.
"My husband and I have been wanting more nature for a long time," says the lifelong Californian. "We were kind of ready to not be in a city anymore."
Despite neither McKellar nor Sveslovsky having ever lived in Tennessee, the couple —who has been married since 2014 — already had history in the area from the early days of their relationship. McKellar remembers how, after only about a month of dating, the two "couldn't stand to be apart" while she was filming on location in nearby Kentucky.
"He flew to Nashville, and I drove like an hour and a half from Kentucky to Nashville," says the star. "We had this great weekend together."
On top of their romantic ties, McKellar was drawn to the spot because of its ties to country music. "Memphis and Nashville are both entertainment cities. They're known for music," she says. "Being from L.A. and being an entertainer, it's nice to have creative people around."
Now that she has finally found her perfect blend of nature, family and art, she's working to turn her new house into her dream home. While she claims she's "not a designer by any stretch," McKellar is making sure the space fits her family. They're currently building a full kitchen on the house's bottom floor, which will be reserved exclusively for her mother.
However, in the eyes of the TV star, the house's greatest highlight needs no refurbishing at all.
"For me, honestly, it's mostly about the backyard," says McKellar, who has gone from having a small yard in L.A. to living on multiple acres. After two seasons spent exploring her new surroundings, McKellar says her favorite sights include the giant, fluffy clouds caused by summer humidity and the autumn leaves on her maple trees, which turn shades of "gold and pink and orange and red."
Plus, she's living out her childhood dream — and not just the movie star one. After spending her entire life wanting one, McKellar finally has a giant trampoline in her backyard.
"I jump on that thing all the time," she says. "We're thinking about putting a pool in at some point, but I'm like, 'Yeah, you know what? I'm having a lot of fun as-is.'"
Even with the beautiful (and bouncy) adventure that awaited her in relocating, McKellar felt the natural stresses of moving across the country. For the first three quarters of the year, the star refrained from taking on any major acting jobs as she focused on the challenge of deciding what to keep and what to donate from her West Coast home.
"I wanted to give this my attention and be very present," says McKellar, who recently left the Hallmark Channel and signed with Great American Family. Once the family completed their successful move, McKellar headed to Canada to work on Christmas at the Drive-In, her second film with GAF.
Now that she's back home, she is looking forward to making her own holiday memories during her first winter in Tennessee. For Thanksgiving, she's hosting her family and a few cousins from out of town at the new house, but she's already thinking a month ahead.
"I'm gonna have a Christmas tree up probably next week," she told PEOPLE in early November. "Let's get this going."
Christmas at the Drive-In premieres November 25 on Great American Family.