Skip to main content

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ table read: Cast and where to watch this virtual event

It's a Wonderful Life table read
(Image credit: The Ed Asner Family Center)

It’s a Wonderful Life is a Christmas staple. The 1946 Frank Capra movie often gets a play every Christmas eve on NBC, but if you’ve watched Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey hundreds of times already perhaps you’ll be interested to see another actor famous for playing a nice guy give it a try, as a special It’s a Wonderful Life live table read is taking place and being made available to watch virtually, and all for a good cause.

Turner Classic Movies and MeTV are on board for the live table read to celebrate the life of the late Ed Asner, who passed away in August, and benefit The Ed Asner Family Center (TEAFC), which promotes mental health and enrichment programs to children with special needs and their families. The table read is part of the TEAFC’s annual gala.

“My father’s passing has left an indescribable hole in my heart. For our annual fundraising gala this year, I want to honor my father’s legacy as both a legendary actor and a staunch advocate for people of all abilities. I would like to thank Turner Classic Movies for partnering to support our effort to raise much needed funds for special needs families and I am eternally grateful for the support shown by our amazing cast. I would also like to thank MeTV for their generous sponsorship of this event,” says Matt Asner, son of Ed Asner & co-founder of The Ed Asner Family Center.

Here is everything we know about the It’s a Wonderful Life table read that will be taking place this holiday season.

What is the plot of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’?

If you have never seen the 1946 movie, there’s a good chance that you are still familiar with the basic plot of It’s a Wonderful Life. In the movie, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) plays a deeply frustrated businessman who begins to wonder if his family and friends wouldn’t be better off without him one Christmas Eve, so an angel comes down to show him what things would be like if he had never been born.

It’s a premise that has been aped by many TV series and movies, including Married … with Children, The Big Bang Theory and plenty more.

Who is in the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ table read cast?

This table read is going all out with an incredible all-star cast to play the memorable roles of George Bailey, Uncle Billy, Mary, Mr. Potter, Clarence the angel and all the other residents of Bedford Falls.

We know the actor leading the way will be Jason Sudeikis as George Bailey. Sudeikis is of course best known for playing all-around nice guy Ted Lasso on the Apple TV Plus original Ted Lasso. Sudeikis has actually played George Bailey before, or at least a spoofed version of him, in a Saturday Night Live sketch from when Sudeikis was part of the show’s cast.

In a fun bit of casting, the role of George’s Uncle Billy will be played by Sudeikis’ real-life uncle, George Wendt. Wendt is best known for his role as Norm on the classic sitcom Cheers.

It has also been announced that Kathy Bates will join the table read as Ma Bailey as well as neurodiverse actress Naomi Rubin (Atypical) as Violet. While the other roles were not assigned in the announcement, the rest of the cast for the table read will include Rosario Dawson (probably playing Mary), Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart, Mark Hamill, Phil Lamarr, Martin Sheen, Ron Funchess, Ed Harris, Lou Diamond Phillips, Spencer Harte, Dominique Brown and TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Members of TEAFC will also take part in the reading, including Social Director Chelsea Darnell and neurodivergent TEAFC members Ryan Booth and Lucas Salusky.

Tom Bergeron will serve as the host of the event.

Separately, it has been announced that Los Angeles-based trio Wallows will be giving a musical performance as part of the virtual gala.

When is the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ table read?

The 2021 Virtual Gala for The Ed Asner Family Center that will host the It’s a Wonderful Life table read will take place on Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.  This will be a one-night only event. 

How to watch the ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ table read?

If you want to watch this special reading of a holiday classic, you can do so virtually. The event does require a minimum donation of $25, with tickets available to purchase via the TEAFC website.

TikTok has also been announced as partnering with the event, as part of its #GivingSzn initiative. Following the table read, a live stream Q&A will take place on the TEAFC TikTok account and be promoted on TikTok.

In addition to the It’s a Wonderful Life table read, commemorative holiday gift collections will be available to purchase, including custom artwork and a limited edition T-shirt, all created specifically for the event. There will also be The Official Bailey Family Cookbook with recipes inspired by the film and a 75th anniversary Blu-ray of the movie.

A silent auction will also take place during the event.

You can also watch the original It's a Wonderful Life film this holiday season on multiple streaming and on-demand platforms.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a D.C.-based entertainment writer and content producer for What to Watch. He previously has written for TV Technology and Awards Circuit.