Who plays Santa in Rakuten’s Christmas 2022 commercial?

Bruno Cooke November 7, 2022
Who plays Santa in Rakuten’s Christmas 2022 commercial?


Rakuten rolled out its newest TV commercial on or around October 30, 2022, in which a dapper Santa Claus explains the company’s Cash Back function to one of his elves.

The 30 second TV spot has the title ‘Holidays: Cash Back You Can Believe In.’

It has already received praise for its depiction of Father Christmas, although some seem confused by it. His slick, grey-white hair and pointed moustache certainly set him apart from more conventional imaginings of the great gift-giver in the sky.

But who is the actor behind the beard?

Cash Back You Can Believe In | Rakuten Commercial | YouTube channel Rakuten

Who plays Santa in Rakuten’s Christmas 2022 commercial?

The actor playing Santa Claus, aka Father Christmas, in the new Rakuten TV commercial is James Kirkland.

Not James Kirkland the professional boxer, nor James Kirkland the American palaeontologist

James Kirkland the actor is perhaps most famous for playing Eddie in 10 episodes of My Long Distance Relationship (2008-2009) or Mark in six episodes of Sing It! (2016). The former also became a TV movie in 2009.

He’s been in Criminal Minds (as Jeremy, in 2012), he’s credited as having played a Writer in Stevie TV (2012-2013), and most recently he portrayed Salazar The Pageant Judge in Kansas Bowling’s film Cuddly Toys

You might also recognize him from the TomTom GPS online ad campaign

Rakuten’s Christmas commercial isn’t James Kirkland’s first swing of the TV spot hammer.

He previously played an audio engineer in TomTom GPS’s online ad campaign. The ads took the form of pretend behind-the-scenes footage of famous actors recording their voices for the GPS devices.

One featured Kirkland supervising a recording session with 123 Sesame Street residents Ernie and Bert. As in, the Muppets.

And in 2013, he played a bowler in the Mike’s Hard Lemonade TV spot ‘Anytime,’ alongside Martin Landau, Luis Chavez, Kali Muscle and others. Among his other screen credits are guest parts in Community, Breaking In and Happy Endings.

Cash Back You Can Believe In | Rakuten Commercial | YouTube channel Rakuten

How have people reacted to the Rakuten Christmas commercial starring James Kirkland?

In just six days, a 15-second version of Rakuten’s TV spot has racked nearly 900K views on YouTube. It went live on the platform on November 1, 2022. The full version has almost a million hits.

No one has commented on it yet, but one Twitter user posted a closeup on James Kirkland’s face as Santa in it, tagging Rakuten and saying they “love this commercial.”

Meanwhile, a chorus of others have tweeted their thoughts regarding Rakuten’s reimagining of Santa Claus as “sexy Santa.”

One has compared Kirkland’s Santa to John Hamm’s depiction of Father Christmas for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup, questioning the “tailored suit” and slimness of Rakuten’s version.

One of Kirkland’s Facebook followers called it the ‘role of a lifetime’

“I believe,” he wrote as a caption.

The Noel Diary | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Noel Diary | Official Trailer | Netflix

His post has been liked more than 130 times and received 50 comments, at time of writing. 

One comment describes Kirkland’s depiction of Santa Claus for Rakuten’s Christmas commercial as the “role of a lifetime.” 

Another user wrote that they saw the ad on TV and “thought, I freaking know the Claus! My kids are going to freak.”

Finally, one Facebook user referenced popular Christmas movie Elf and wrote, “This is the first time in my life I can scream this and it be true: “Santa! I know him! I know him,” like Will Ferrell does in the film.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.