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Wingman Wednesday

Geoff Gustafson

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Geoff Gustafson to discuss the passionate fanbase, why the series has continued to find success, and the experience of having a television icon play his grandmother.

TrunkSpace: We were amazed by how passionate the “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” fanbase is. In many ways, it almost seems like the kind of fandom associated with science fiction shows. Have you been surprised by the level of interest and amount of passion coming from the fanbase?
Gustafson: Oh yeah, absolutely. The POstables, as they are called, are rabid. They are really into it and have created a really solid foundation with some core members that promote the show and promote different viewing nights during the course of the year to watch previously aired episodes and the movies.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the key has been to building that audience? What has pulled the POstables in?
Gustafson: Well, I think it starts with Martha Williamson, the show’s creator. She had a memorable stint with “Touched by an Angel,” so she is familiar with that demographic. And I think people are looking for less violent, more family-oriented shows that they don’t have to worry about. They can relax and watch a family show. I think that’s really what they’re attracted to, that no-fear TV feeling.

TrunkSpace: It does feel like perhaps people are looking for a balance. They can have their dark and gritty programming, but at the same time, they still want to feel good sometimes.
Gustafson: Absolutely. And it is… feel-good show sounds a bit cliché, but I think at its core, it is essentially that, it’s a feel-good show. You don’t worry about betrayal amongst the core four, the POstables themselves. You know they’re going to do their best and come from the most positive place that they can muster. There’s no real fear of them traveling down a dark path, it’s just, how are they going to manage the obstacles that they face?

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest surprise for you in your “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” journey so far?
Gustafson: You know, the show continuing to tell an ongoing story has been a bit of a surprise. I thought it would be easier to do it week to week with an hour-long episode, but the truth is that I think with the new format, the two hour MOW (movie of the week) format, we’re still telling an ongoing story. In fact, I think that the two hour format gives us a bit more time to expand on every letter mystery. We have a bit more time to flesh that out and find it’s relevance to the POstables and their immediate families in some cases, or just their immediate surroundings.

TrunkSpace: And in terms of a personal character journey, is it enjoyable to see Norman’s arc play out in a single movie as opposed to over the course of a handful of episodes?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. I think sometimes in the hour-long episodes, there’s the tendency to rush some development. And I think you are able to expand on the same growth over a two hour period and then oftentimes between the MOWs, a significant period of time has passed, so it can be a couple of months or three weeks, or six months even. The growth feels more organic I think, oftentimes in the trials and tribulations of the POstables. It doesn’t feel as rushed.

TrunkSpace: We talked about surprises, but when it comes to joys, we would imagine learning that Carol Burnett would be playing your grandmother in the series was right up there?
Gustafson: Yeah, it honestly doesn’t get better than that. I wouldn’t say it was on my bucket list, because that would never even occur to me that it could happen, but yeah, growing up, my dad was a huge “Carol Burnett Show” fan. I remember sitting and watching it with him and laughing hysterically at her, Harvey Korman, and the guy who plays Dorf. So when they told me that she was going to play my grandmother, I was over the moon. It was awesome. And sure enough, even just working with her was beyond what I could have hoped for. She was hilarious and gracious, and professional, and sharp as a tack, and just so kind and reassuring. If I could choose a grandmother, I would pick Carol Burnett. (Laughter)

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: You’ve been playing Norman now since 2014. Were there any performance choices that you made in the early days of discovering who Norman was that you feel paid off later in ways that you never intended?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. The truth is, Martha Williamson is really open to hashing out our ideas with her, and managing to incorporate them into the story. So the idea of Norman being a foster child that gets adopted, and his struggles to feel like a part of a family – that was all set up from the beginning. Probably where it pays off the most is in my relationship with Rita, Crystal Lowe’s character. Crystal and I have known each other for years. We grew up in the same town, we were on another show together, we lived across the street from each other, so we’re pretty close outside of work.

But it’s been fun watching Rita and Norman grow into this really, really innocent partnership. And that probably is the biggest surprise. Not because I don’t get along with Crystal, I get along with her great, but rather, to somehow manage to have maintained this innocence throughout all of these years to a place where now they’re engaged, and they’re gonna get married, and the idea, I imagine, would be that they would continue and have a family, etc.

I think it’s maybe my choice to develop an aspect of Norman where he loves so freely, and sees the value in loving an infinite number of people, and yet really struggles with what there is to love in himself, and then having Rita play what she loves about him so sincerely and directly. I think that would probably be the biggest surprise, and how that’s managed to help formulate their partnership.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fanbase is going to love most about the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Gustafson: We get to see more of the personal lives of the POstables in this one, particularly on Rita’s side, which I think is really exciting. In a lot of ways, Rita’s character is a bit of a mystery. We don’t really know that much about who she is and where she’s from. We’ve explored Shane, we’ve explored Norman, we’ve explored Oliver, and I think Rita’s character is the character that benefits the most from the exploration in this. I think it’s hilarious, and it’s so lovely, and it makes so much sense as to why Rita is the way she is, so that will be something that the POstables and the other fans will be excited by.

TrunkSpace: We’re all nutty for the show “Supernatural” here, and you actually appeared in an episode during its infancy. When you worked on the show, did it have the feeling of a series that would be around for 13 years?
Gustafson: Holy smokes. Yeah, I was in an episode in the very first season. You know what, thinking back, at the time I was pretty green, and I remember feeling very comfortable on set. The two lead gentlemen, Jensen and Jared, they were both so welcoming and professional. They’d put together a real A Team for “Supernatural,” so I’m not surprised. I just remember at the time being like, “Whoa, this feels like a real TV show,” as opposed to something that was maybe a bit soft and thrown together.

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