The American Beauty star, who does not have kids of her own, portrayed a mum for the first time in TV movie I'll Be Home For Christmas, and admits she's a big fan of her young co-star.

"She's just absolutely fantastic, I'm so in love with her," Mena says. "She has such an amazing work ethic and she really ran the show.

"It was such a wonderful experience in the sense that I felt like I was just seeing someone that we're gonna be seeing for a really long time... I really admired the way that she worked... and I wish that I kind of knew what she knew at that age."

The young star was invited to play Gracie in the Hallmark holiday movie by director and star James Brolin after working with him in U.S. TV comedy Life in Pieces.