Wingman Wednesday

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega

Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

For all of those who made watching Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” an annual tradition, the holidays and dancing go as well together as ribbon and wreaths. In the new movie “Enchanted Christmas,” premiering Sunday on Hallmark Channel, real-life couple Alexa and Carlos PenaVega tap into that nearly 65-year-old classic to once again put festive frolicking into the spotlight, and warm the holiday-loving hearts of viewers in the process.

We recently sat down with the PenaVega pairing to discuss how their comfortableness with each other enhanced their onscreen chemistry, why they’d work together on every project if they could, and what makes Hallmark Channel the best in the business.

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of Hallmark Channel holiday films relies on the chemistry of the two leads at the center of the story. Do you feel like you had a leg up on that because of the actual chemistry that exists between the two of you?
Alexa PenaVega: I have to say that Carlos and I are the goofiest, dorkiest public couple out there. (Laughter) But it’s really fun and entertaining to watch, so I think it really does help. There are little quirks that you just can’t write into a script that happen naturally when you’re married, and we were able to add that to the project.

TrunkSpace: From what we’re told, things can move pretty quickly on one of these films – you get the job and you’re shooting before you know it. Again, having the existing relationship must have allowed you to really hit the ground running.
Alexa PenaVega: 100 percent!
Carlos PenaVega: And Hallmark is amazing. Unlike most other projects, they’re really flexible with the script, which really led to Alexa and I…
Alexa PenaVega: We were able to explore.
Carlos PenaVega: It really led to, because of our relationship as a real married couple, bringing things to the screen and to life that you normally probably couldn’t get.

TrunkSpace: How did it all come together? Was one of you cast first and then the other brought in?
Alexa PenaVega: It was actually Hallmark. They knew how much we’d been wanting to shoot a film together, and we actually had a film set up last year, “Destination Wedding,” and unfortunately Carlos’ shooting schedule didn’t allow it so he had to drop out. But, when this one came up, they were like, “We think this is great, the timing is right, and you both will be able to dance.” And I love dancing!

So, they really presented it to us and were really looking for a project for us to do together. And we couldn’t be happier because our goal… if we could make it happen, every project we could do would be together for the rest of our lives.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the dancing side of “Enchanted Christmas,” which seems like a great throwback to classic holiday films like “Whit Christmas,” something we don’t see much of anymore.
Alexa PenaVega: I totally agree. And you know, we shot this in Utah and everybody was so friendly and it blows my mind how much Hallmark movies just nail that Christmas holiday spirit – they have it down. And I think the script was special. Rick Garman did such a good job with it and more than anything, we had a director, Terry Cunningham, who just wanted that chemistry to be right there, up front. He’s like, “Look we have the script, the script is already good, but what you guys can bring to it will just transform it into a very beautiful project.”

This is my favorite Hallmark project that I’ve done thus far.

TrunkSpace: Because of that extra element of dance that was layered into your performance, did you have more time to shoot this than you normally would?
Alexa PenaVega: No, we wish. (Laughter)
Carlos PenaVega: (Laughter) Not really, no. We had about a week of rehearsals in the middle of filming.
Alexa PenaVega: For about eight dances.
Carlos PenaVega: Thankfully the magic of TV…
Alexa PenaVega: Editing!
Carlos PenaVega: You can have different angles that you can edit and it all looks great. (Laughter)

Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your characters, what did they offer you from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle with previous projects?
Carlos PenaVega: Definitely the dancing, for sure.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, we never had to put that into a project.
Carlos PenaVega: It was interesting. Alexa and I had never been on sets where… the call sheet is like one, two, three, four… we’d never been the one and two. So as actors, normally the one and two set the tone for the entire production. They’re the ones in every day. So as an actor, it was really interesting coming in, in that position, where it was like, “Hey, you know what, I’m setting the tone with my wife,” which was really cool. She said it to me… “It’s the best experience I ever had working on a project.”
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah. Ever, really.
Carlos PenaVega: It was cool to come in and kind of just, I don’t want to say run the set, but we set the tone from day one.
Alexa PenaVega: We both had experiences where we worked with other people who really… it takes one rotten egg in the bunch to kill the whole vibe on set. So, to be working with my husband… it did not feel like work. We had fun every day.
Carlos PenaVega: She said it in one sentence. I said it in three. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Christmas is for spending time with family and building memories. Here you two are, shooting a Christmas movie as a family and building memories in an entirely different way. It almost sounds poetic.
Carlos PenaVega: Yeah. I like Christmas. Alexa LOVES Christmas! And Hallmark is amazing about families. Ocean was on set every day and the experience of just having him…
Alexa PenaVega: That’s our little boy.
Carlos PenaVega: Just the experience of having our family there and then having a good time… I think yes, that’s gonna to stay with us forever. But what’s amazing about film is that it also lasts forever. We’re always going to be able to go back and watch this. Our kids are going to go back and watch this.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, and we also worked with a team that I would love to work with again and again. Terry Cunningham and our producing team, they are incredible. It was unreal. Normally when producers come on set, people are like, “Oh boy, the producer’s here! Here we go!” Ours, her name was Cindy Bond, was so kind and loving to everyone, but also got work done, worked super hard, and nobody had to yell. Nobody ever had to get angry. It was just a pleasant experience for everybody.

They genuinely care. It’s not like these productions where it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna slap this together and we gotta go.” They genuinely care about the happiness and quality that they’re putting out there and it shows. It really does show.
Carlos PenaVega: We haven’t had the craziest careers for years and years, but we’ve worked for some really big studios and companies, and I will say, Hallmark is my favorite. It’s Alexa’s favorite. They care about their talent. They care about their movies.

Enchanted Christmas” airs Sunday on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Taylor Cole


Even though our slowly-shrinking jack-o’-lanterns are still sitting on our stoops and our various Halloween costumes are slung over the backs of chairs, the changing of the calendar from October to November means only one thing for those particularly festive people like us… it’s the unofficial start of the holiday season!

Thanks to Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, our inner inflatable, oversized, holiday-themed lawn decoration is being filled with seasonal wonder from now through December as a magical series of Christmas movies pump our holiday spirit to maximum capacity. Premiering this Saturday on Hallmark Channel is “Christmas Festival of Ice” starring Taylor Cole and Damon Runyan.


We recently sat down with Cole to discuss the draw of Christmas content, why she so easily connected with her character Emma, and her own favorite holiday memory.

TrunkSpace: Your new holiday Hallmark Channel film “Christmas Festival of Ice” premieres just a few days after Halloween. For all of us who are still nursing candy corn hangovers, how do we jump start our brains to transition from spooky spirits to finding our holiday spirit?
Cole: The crisp air and new latte flavors, of course. Also, I’ve already started planning my family get-together and there’s nothing like family to bring in the holiday spirit.

TrunkSpace: The film is a part of the network’s “Countdown to Christmas” programming event. People love the holidays and they love Hallmark Channel original programming. The marriage of the two seems like a no-brainer. In your opinion, why does this particular type of seasonal content resonate with so many viewers?
Cole: I think Hallmark Christmas movies evoke a sense of nostalgia that people are yearning for during the holidays.

TrunkSpace: In the film you’re playing fresh-out-of-law-school Emma Parkers who returns to her small town only to discover that an ice sculpting competition that means a lot to her has been cancelled. The two elements that are most often discussed as relating to holiday Hallmark Channel movies are relationships and the holidays themselves, but a big part of their allure is the environment of a community that they establish. In terms of “Christmas Festival of Ice,” how important is that element of community and the town itself to the overall story and to who Emma is?
Cole: Emma really discovers herself through fundraising for her favorite childhood pastime with the help of her community. Giving back and creating memories for the town again makes her realize her passion in life might be different from what others expect her to be.

TrunkSpace: Was it an easy journey for you to discover just who Emma was? It is our understanding that things move pretty quickly from the moment you land the part to the first day of photography. Did you have time to absorb the material and connect with the character?
Cole: I connected with Emma immediately because of her connection with her father and the activities they bonded over. My favorite memories as a child were camping with my father and road tripping to volleyball games. I recently bought a trailer and spent the last year and a half traveling the US driving from job to job for that very reason.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was your favorite moment in your journey as Emma? Is there a particular scene or aspect of the story that you’re most excited for viewers to see?
Cole: The last scene with my father was hands-down my favorite scene. I’m a daddy’s girl and that bond is beautiful and unbreakable.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of viewers, Hallmark Channel has a very passionate fandom. Coined Hallmarkies online, they love all things Hallmark Channel, especially seasonal content. As an actress, is it rewarding to be working on a project that not only has a built-in fan base where you know people will show up for the premiere, but is also something that the entire family can share in?
Cole: The fans are so great because they are so genuine and loyal. What more can you ask for? My favorite part of Hallmark is the family bond it has created for so many families, including mine.

Photo: Taylor Cole, Damon Runyan Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Petr Maur

TrunkSpace: We here at TrunkSpace are admittedly a bit obsessed with all things “Supernatural.” We know that you appeared in two episodes with a large gap in between, so we’re curious, how much of a surprise was it when you received the call to reprise the role of Sarah Blake in season 8?
Cole: I always thought it would be an interesting storyline to continue considering she was Sam’s first love interest after his great loss, but it was so early in the show I wasn’t sure there’d be room for a love interest. So getting a call seven seasons later was definitely a surprise.

TrunkSpace: As someone who was on set in the inaugural first season and then again in season 8, does it come as a surprise that the show is currently still going strong in its 13th season?
Cole: The blend of the boys charm and the humor and adventure in the writing are a winning combination. And you can’t beat their fans. Their passion reminds me of Hallmark fans. They are the reason Sarah Blake returned to the show. That episode was used to kill off everyone that the fans begged to have back, which I think is kind of genius. They’ve done it all and the fans can’t get enough.

TrunkSpace: You’ve starred and guested in a lot of great, memorable shows over the years. Is there a particular character that you wished you got more time with to explore further and why?
Cole: I really enjoyed playing Sofya Voronova on “The Originals.” It was fun to have the challenge of playing two characters in season 4. Working and growing with such gifted talent inspired me everyday.

TrunkSpace: Again, “Christmas Festival of Ice” is part of the Countdown to Christmas programming event. What is one of your favorite holiday memories and what do you most look forward to each year as the season kicks off?
Cole: My arts and craft skills are not up to par so my favorite thing to do is attempt any cute holiday idea and see how poorly I can execute it. My favorite holiday memory was asking my dad to dress up as Santa so I could catch him leaving gifts under the tree.

“Christmas Festival of Ice” premieres Saturday on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Victor Webster


There’s no better seasonal experience for the senses than autumn, and with the Fall Harvest programming event currently underway at Hallmark Channel, the network is making sure we all get to participate in the sights and sounds of the season.

Starring Victor Webster and Jill Wagner, “A Harvest Wedding” tells the tale of a lost love only to be found again, set against the backdrop of a New England town ankle-deep in fallen leaves and swirling with crisp air that tickles the lungs. The movie premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

We recently sat down with Webster to discuss why he loves the Hallmark experience for both he and the audience, what drew him to the character David Nichols, and why he always arrives on set fully prepared.

TrunkSpace: You’ve trained in martial arts for years. Do you look at acting in a similar way in that, you’re training and working hard to always get better?
Webster: Yeah, I look at acting like I looked at playing sports. For me, you’ve got to work really hard and you’ve got to put in the effort. You can’t just walk on the court and expect to be able to shoot three-pointers and free throws. I take it very, very, very seriously. I wouldn’t say that I’m a naturally gifted actor. I’m not, by any means. I’ve got to work hard at it and I take it very seriously.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently starring in the new Hallmark Channel original film “A Harvest Wedding.” Television is known for its fast-paced production schedules. Does that work and preparation come into play even more so on something like that where you’re wrapping a project in such a short period of time?
Webster: We work 12 hours a day on camera, plus we show up an hour early, and we’ve got an hour for lunch. We’re there 14 hours a day. Sometimes, depending on the movie, you’re working six days a week, so the schedule’s pretty crazy. You’ve got like 10 pages of dialog a day you have to memorize on top of it, so you’ve got a lot of homework to do. You have to be focused and you have to come prepared. The Hallmark movies are such a well-oiled machine, that if you’re the cog that’s slowing up the whole machine, that’s never a good feeling.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked in the science fiction world, which is known for having loyal fandoms, but there is a fandom of loyal Hallmark Channel viewers that rivals the passion of science fiction fans. Has that been your experience?
Webster: I was walking through Central Park the other day, and I had a woman come up to me and she was freaking out because she watches every single Hallmark movie there is. I love doing these movies because everybody can watch them. If you’re a child, or a grandma, or a mom, or like one of my buddies that watches Hallmark movies, it’s like it doesn’t matter, there’s something for everybody. We have so much negativity going on in the world right now, it’s nice to sit down and have two hours of something beautiful and positive where there’s always a happy ending.

TrunkSpace: One of the things the network is always great at is painting a picture of the season that the viewer is currently in and making the movies feel like a part of what they’re experiencing seasonally at that exact moment.
Webster: Yeah, the world that you’re in at the moment is a part of the Hallmark world. You’re right. It’s like you’ve been immersed into a virtual reality. Even if not, if you’re in California and you know that it’s not fall out, you watch one of those movies and for those two hours that you’re watching a movie, you feel like you’re in that world with the trees changing color and the leaves falling. They always shoot them so beautifully, even from the aspect of the cinematography, it’s just a beautiful addition.

TrunkSpace: You’ve starred in a number of Hallmark Channel movies. What was it about this particular character that drew you in? Was there something that he offered you from a performance standpoint that you haven’t had a chance to experience yet?
Webster: The last one that I did for them, I played a guy in a suit, and he was an MBA. This one was a guy that worked on a farm, that worked with his hands, who had dirt under his fingernails and drove a tractor. Playing those kind of characters that like to get their hands dirty, there’s always something that is fun to play because that’s more closer to who I am. Being able to wear dirty jeans and a T-shirt, versus a suit and tie, which I’ve also done because I was a stockbroker – going back and forth between those roles and doing something different each time is one of the things I love about acting.

Photo: Jill Wagner, Victor Webster Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Brendan Meadows

TrunkSpace: We talked about the production schedules a bit, but does that expedited process force you to look at your own performance differently as well?
Webster: Yeah. You don’t have the luxury of not being prepared. I’ve worked on some bigger movies, where people come and it feels like they’re literally learning their lines while they’re on set. When you’re shooting 10 pages a day and you’ve only got three weeks to shoot it, you better come prepared. Otherwise, you’re never gonna get a good take, you’re never gonna get a good performance because you’re just gonna be trying to memorize your lines. That’s such a disservice to the people that want to go home – the crew that wants to go home and see their families at the end of the night, or to your co-star that did three hours of homework after a 14-hour day to go home and memorize for three hours. You need to come prepared. I take this very seriously. No matter what I’m working on, I always do, but yeah, for sure, it requires everybody to be on their game.

TrunkSpace: You said it yourself, these productions are like a well-oiled machine. In your experience, have you seen any companies or networks that are able to pull off what Hallmark Channel does?
Webster: Never. It’s an anomaly. The only other way to compare it is to compare it to a TV show that’s been on the air for 10 years because they’re doing the same show. The thing that’s completely different about this is you’re doing a different movie with different actors, different writers, different directors, different locations. Honestly, my mind is blown on how they keep it all together and they do such a good job and they do over 100 movies a year.

TrunkSpace: As you look over your career as a whole, are there any characters that you wished you had a chance to spend more time with?
Webster: The character that I played on the TV show “The Lot” for AMC, which was about what went on behind the scenes at 1940’s film studio. I really, really wish that I, more than anything, had been able to delve into that. I wish I could go back with what I know now and replay that character because I was so green and fresh, and there was such an opportunity to just do so much more with that character than what I did. I felt like I did a good job, but with what I know about acting and life in general right now, I feel like I did a disservice to that. I could go back now and really bring that character to life, and he’s a very, very messed up character with lots of colors and facets.

A Harvest Wedding” premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Andrew W. Walker


Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Walker to discuss the importance of on-screen chemistry, how the fall season plays into the film’s storyline, and why watching Hallmark Channel reminds him of gathering around the television with his family when he was younger.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of Hallmark Channel films over the years. How does “Love Struck Café” differ from the others you’ve starred in as far as performance and where you were able to go with your character?
Walker: Well, these things always rely on the chemistry between myself and the lead female. Sometimes these things take a little longer to develop over the course of the 15 days, because these are such quick shoots that you really need to kind of hit the ground running.

TrunkSpace: Hammering something like this out in 15 days is really impressive.
Walker: It’s crazy. Usually you get the job maybe a week before you go to shoot it, so you have about a week by yourself and then you meet your leading lady and then you have two days with that person before you actually start shooting, so it really is no time at all. I think something that really helped on “Love Struck Café” was, Sarah and I had been introduced through a friend. She was working on a show called “Brothers & Sisters” and a girlfriend of my wife and mine worked on that show as well. So we had met her a long time ago and she’s just a great person. We had a rapport.

By day three we really started to get in the groove, and then once that happens we’re able to play and have a lot more fun, and just really challenge each other as well. I like it when I’m questioned on my decisions and where I’m bringing my character and where we came from and where we’re going. Sarah’s like, “Hey, let’s talk about where we came from today. Let’s go back in the script.” So we were working in the makeup trailer. We were working on our lunch breaks. Even when our day ended, we would meet up for maybe an hour-and-a-half or so and just talk through the next day and just make sense of what’s happening.

And with this, it’s a lot more playful, I think. It’s more broad of a range than the other Hallmark’s that I’ve done. I just had the ability to play around a lot more.

TrunkSpace: When you arrive on set and hit the ground running, is the script itself still being massaged throughout the production process?
Walker: Being massaged throughout the process, every day. The framework is there, but the meat of it all, we could change it up, almost as much as we’d like. Obviously that could be a slippery slope. You start changing things here and there in the plot, and then you get stuck in the editing room at the end. So we’ve got to keep it within the confines of everything, obviously. But yeah, we had the ability to change it up and add things that we felt necessary, where we felt necessary.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is one of the few networks that is continuing to grow its viewer base and their original programming continues to grow in popularity. Why do you think that is?
Walker: I think it’s a real positive spin. We deal with so many issues nowadays, between religion, politics, and environment, I think that it’s a great way for people to escape. And it’s a classic story. Hallmark has their formula. They are telling classic, Humphrey Bogart-like stories – different versions of classics that we all have grown up to love.

I remember sitting down every Sunday back in the day with my parents to watch the Disney movies that would be airing on Sunday night. We’d go to church in the morning, we’d go for lunch with the whole family, and then I would go play soccer or football or whatever, and then at night we’d all sit down with our TV dinners and sit there and watch these Disney movies. That’s what the allure is, just bringing people back to what we had back in the day, and I think that’s super important. I think that it’s nice to see that families want to sit down and watch these movies together, because they’re also movies that the whole family can watch together.

Photo: Sarah Jane Morris, Andrew W. Walker, Cassidy Nugent Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel is also really great about connecting audiences to the feel and emotions of the seasons that they’re in through the seasonal content that they produce. “Love Struck Café” is part of the Fall Harvest programming event. How does that play into the story?
Walker: I would say everything you’d imagine fall would embody is basically in the film. We go to a pumpkin patch. We go on a wagon ride through an apple orchard. We enter a pie baking contest. It’s actually not a pie, but it’s basically an apple baking contest where the town gets together and bakes the pie. So, leaves are falling on the ground. It’s cooler weather outside. It’s all of the above.

TrunkSpace: When you’re shooting these movies out of season, does it throw you out of whack personally? Are you thinking about celebrating Christmas in the summer?
Walker: I just came back from shooting one for Lifetime right now. I was in Winnipeg, and it was torture. (Laughter) We had these big winter jackets on and stuff.

Psychologically it doesn’t throw me necessarily, because I just jump into it. And the set decorators – they always do such a great job at really doing it up and making sure that everybody feels like the holiday that they’re going to portray. Maybe physically it throws me a little bit off whack because I’m wearing three layers and I’m sweating, supposedly in the winter. (Laughter) But no, you can get into it really easily. It’s just all imagination. It’s fun. I get imaginative.

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you’re also producing, recently having finished up a science fiction film called “Oxalis,” right?
Walker: Yeah, we actually just submitted to Sundance and we submitted it to Tribeca, so we’re just crossing our fingers and hopefully it gets picked up somewhere.

TrunkSpace: Was this your first time producing a feature?
Walker: Producing a feature, yes. I produced a documentary about seven years ago called “Stolen Seas” and it was based on pirates in Somalia, but this is my first feature that I’ve ever produced.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that people always seem to be drawn to, at least for those of a particular personality type, is the problem solving aspect of producing. Is that something that you found yourself being drawn to?
Walker: Yeah. I own a business with my wife in Los Angeles. We have a cold-pressed juice business and we’ve had it for about five years now, so I’ve always enjoyed bringing people together in collaboration. With my business, I’ve definitely had to resolve many, many conflicts, but I do love that aspect of it. I just like bringing people together. Like with movies, if you cast it right, you don’t have to do that much. You just have to sit back and let people do what they do.

See Walker do what he does this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” premieres on Hallmark Channel.

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
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Wingman Wednesday

Sarah Jane Morris

SarahJaneMorris_Halloween_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

Fall is in the air, leaves are on the ground, and pumpkin-flavored everything is lining the shelves of grocery stores across the nation. With the changing of the seasons upon us and the turning back of the clocks just around the corner, Hallmark Channel has kicked off its Fall Harvest programming event, featuring a number of movies meant to up our autumn intake.

Premiering this Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT is the romantic comedy “Love Struck Café” starring Sarah Jane Morris and Andrew W. Walker. We recently sat down with Morris to discuss what drew her to the character, why she enjoys the breakneck pace of television production, and how oftentimes rekindling an old romance means having to accept a lost love for who they are now as opposed to who they were in the past.

TrunkSpace: “Love Struck Café” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel. Do you have any rituals for screening your projects when they first debut?
Sarah Jane Morris: No, not really. I’m trying to just get the word out as best as I can so that people see it. This is actually my first Hallmark movie. It’s one of the first things that I’ve done that I feel like my kids can watch. (Laughter) Although, they don’t want to see me kissing anyone. They’ll have to duck out for at least one part of it.

I’m going to do some live tweeting, and I actually have a couple of friends that might come over and watch it. Every once in a while I’ll do that. I’m excited.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that Hallmark is so good at is painting the picture of a particular season…
Sarah Jane Morris: Which is always fun when you’re shooting winter in the middle of summer. (Laughter) This was actually not too bad. We were doing fall. We were late summer shooting for fall, so it was light jackets and sweaters and stuff, but I wanted to burn my coat by the end. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how “Love Struck Café” was your first Hallmark project, which are known for having fast-paced production schedules. Did that force to alter your approach as far as performance was concerned?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah. It’s funny, I was thinking about that a lot when we were shooting this movie, which was 15 days. There were some big, huge budget features like “Deadpool” that were shooting in Vancouver at the same time as us. We had one day where it was kind of a big scene, so it took most of the day to shoot. I was like, “Man, I don’t know if I would be super excited to be spending a week on one chase scene in a movie.” (Laughter)

I think I kind of love the breakneck pace of television. You have to come in really prepared, which isn’t always easy because sometimes you’re not getting the material until right before you start shooting, or it changes right before. But you’ve got to kind of come in and be prepared and ready to have curveballs thrown at you, and be able to change it up on the fly. It’s challenging in a different way.

TrunkSpace: Being able to wrap a project in 15 days as opposed to three months also gives you time to pursue other projects and characters, which must be nice?
Sarah Jane Morris: Oh yeah, definitely. For me, it also gives me a lot of time to spend with my family. I’m a nearly full-time mom when I’m not working. I feel really lucky that I can go and work, fast and furious to get it done, and then come home and be with my family. I can be the mom that I want to be for them, and that they want for me to be, but they still get to see me as a working mom.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what was it that drew you to the character Megan Quinn in this particular movie?
Sarah Jane Morris: Most of the stuff that I’ve done, I feel like in the past leans towards the pretty heavily dramatic. With some of “The Night Shift” I definitely got to play up a little bit of quirkiness with that character, but this was just fun to be kind of a goofball a little bit. I don’t know if it will come across that way in the end, with the final product, but it was a fun opportunity for me to bring my kind of goofy, weird side to a character, and not just have to play the straight romantic, dramatic actress that I often have to. Nobody was dying, so it’s kind of a nice emotional break. (Laughter) The last episode of “The Night Shift” that I shot in the summer, it was kind of an unpleasant head space to be in for that period of time, because it was a downer. This was just fun. It was nice and light. I like getting to play with my comedic side a little bit. I don’t get to do that very often.

Photo: Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer:

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of these films comes down to the chemistry between the people at the core of the story. Was on-screen chemistry something that you and your costar Andrew W. Walker discussed prior to shooting?
Sarah Jane Morris: Well, it was funny, because after I was hired they told me who the male lead was going to be. I looked him up and I was like, “Gosh, I don’t know if I know this person.” Then on the first day I got there, I was waiting in the lobby with the director – we were going to walk to dinner, the three of us – and Andrew comes walking up. He walks right over to me and gives me a big hug. I was like, “Oh, okay. I don’t usually hug people I don’t know yet, but okay.” (Laughter) He was like, “No, we’ve met.” I was like, “Wait, we have?” And he starts reminding me that we actually met a couple of times, but it was 10 years ago. He and his wife are best friends with Emily VanCamp, who I was on “Brothers & Sisters” with for three years. As soon as he reminded me of that I was like, “Oh my gosh, yeah!” Then it was just like, “Okay, good people. We’re off from here!” It was great.

He’s done a lot of these Hallmark movies. I think the very first scene that we shot was a scene in the movie where he and I kind of run into each other again. I was like, “Oh, he knows how to really connect in that romantic chemistry type of way.” He goes for it and I was like, “Okay, this is gonna be easy.” I just had to let my guard down and go for it as well.

We had a great rapport. It was easy to play up the chemistry between the two characters. It was never awkward or anything like that, which was nice. We got along really well, so it wasn’t having to cycle feelings of frustration, or annoyance with my costar ever. (Laughter)

We actually did have a conversation pretty early on about how there wasn’t a ton of conflict in the writing between the two characters. We wanted to play up the conflict a little bit.

TrunkSpace: In terms of their backstory?
Sarah Jane Morris: The backstory, and just that they’ve changed – they’ve grown up and changed who they are as people. They always had a relationship where they sort of pushed each other’s buttons, even as kids. But now as adults, it’s different. He’s kind of needling me about the guy I’m dating, and the career path I’ve chosen. It’s not exactly what he let me go to pursue. I’m not really fulfilling that dream.

You want to kind of think that he’s sort of bugging her and that this may not work out. They may have changed too much for this to work out.

Find out if it ultimately works out this Saturday when “Love Struck Café” airs on Hallmark Channel!

When an aspiring architect returns to her small town to complete a land deal for her developer boss, she reconnects with her former sweetheart, a widowed single dad now, and discovers the surprising reason he broke things off with her all those years ago.
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Wingman Wednesday

Brooke Burns

Photo: Brooke Burns, Dylan Neal Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Sly sleuths have been entertaining us with their crime-solving skills for as long as television has been beamed into our homes. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries took that delectable dish of a genre and altered the recipe slightly, adding the one ingredient that everybody can relate to – food.

Based on the series of books by author Peter King, “Gourmet Detective” follows homicide detective Maggie Price (Brooke Burns) and former, world-class chef Henry Ross (Dylan Neal) as they crack the twists and turns of cases as entertaining as they are perplexing. The latest installment, “Eat, Drink and Be Buried” premieres Sunday, October 8 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

We recently sat down with Burns to discuss what drew her to Maggie, what it’s like performing opposite the writer, and why unplugging from the real world means plugging into “Gourmet Detective.”

TrunkSpace: This is the fourth time you’re tackling Maggie Price. Does it start to feel a bit like you’re shooting a television series as opposed to a standalone film just because of the episodic nature of it?
Burns: Definitely. We’ve talked about that a bunch over the course of it. Honestly, we have so much fun on set and we love each other – we just all get along so well. We’re like, “Just make it a series already!” (Laughter) It feels like we’re already doing that, you know, with the different story lines, but right now, we’re still following the Peter King books.

TrunkSpace: Doing them as films must allow for a bit more of an individual character journey though. As a series, the arcs tighten up or they end up being spread out over multiple episodes.
Burns: That’s true. Definitely, we’ve been able to explore a little more individually, which is nice to be given that opportunity, for sure.

TrunkSpace: What was it about this particular installment, “Eat, Drink and Be Buried” that excited you from a performance standpoint?
Burns: I think starting out, Maggie was very protected, being a single mom and the boss of her own world. As I like to say, she built a moat around her castle and she rarely lets the drawbridge down. And I think that with Henry, as they’ve slowly come closer and closer together, she’s really learning to trust someone. And it’s both scary and also refreshing at the same time.

So I think we see a softer side of her, or at least the struggle between being vulnerable with someone and still kind of being her own boss.

TrunkSpace: Is that because there is more of a personal relationship between Maggie and Henry as opposed to just a professional one?
Burns: Exactly, so that turn has been interesting because it’s like, “Wait, what does this still look like on the job?” And just because we’re now dating, it doesn’t really mean that these aspects of the job change, but in a way they do. And once you care about someone, then things start to evolve. But I think intimacy probably scares her a little bit, and at the same time, she wants it.

So those are kind of fun things to play with – all the different layers of comedy and tragedy.

TrunkSpace: Your costar Dylan Neal is also the writer. As you’re shooting, are you continuously massaging dialogue while in scenes and seeing if different things work that weren’t originally on the page?
Burns: Oh yeah. I think for us, as actors, it’s so wonderful to constantly have the writer on set. If you have any questions, you’re like, “Hey, do you mind if I tweak this?” or, “I feel like this is more natural for my character.” But Dylan and Becky (Southwell) have a really good handle, I think, now especially going into the fourth, of our voices, so they’re usually pretty spot on.

But I do, just for fun, always go, “Who wrote this? It’s terrible. Wait, I have to say what?” (Laughter) And he’s like, “Oh, stop it.” (Laughter) We pretend like we’re talking amongst the actors and then we’re like, “Oh wait, wait… you’re the writer too.” We give him a hard time.

Photo: Brooke Burns Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

TrunkSpace: A good moment to rib him is every time he has a really great line. “Hey, why do you get the good line!?!?”
Burns: (Laughter) Any time I have a good line, I’m like, “Oh, Becky must have written that.”

TrunkSpace: While you guys are still working and massaging the script throughout production, you’re also working within a pretty breakneck schedule, which one would imagine means you’re constantly full steam ahead.
Burns: 100 percent. I feel like they get shorter and faster every time. It’s a bit of a circus trying to make it through to the end. (Laughter) This one was even more challenging for me because I was breastfeeding a six-month-old-baby. “Wait. Put the costume on. Take the costume off. Okay, is the baby good? Okay, wait.”

I had a big monologue to do and I started in. I’m like, “So the captain says… the captain says… yeah, I have no idea what the captain says!” (Laughter) I just had a total white out. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I have some serious baby brain right now, give me a second. It’ll come back. Don’t get scared.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Doing anything with a six-month-old at a breakneck speed is a feat in and of itself, never mind shooting a movie.
Burns: Yeah, it was definitely a challenge this time. I felt like I had two full time jobs.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as well other Hallmark original programming, have a really large, loyal fandom, which I think takes a lot of people by surprise. The groups online that follow these individual shows and franchises rival those that follow science fiction franchises known for their rabid fan bases.
Burns: Yeah, that says it perfectly. I took my eight-month-old to the zoo a couple days ago, and a woman passed me by and then she came running back and she goes, “Wait! You’re the Hallmark girl!” (Laughter) “Is that my title now? Oh, okay, good. Thanks for telling me.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It seems that, given the seriousness of the news every time you turn on the television, that this type of feel-good entertainment is the perfect form of escapism.
Burns: Definitely. I think that’s true. I mean, I know that for me, with all this scariness happening, every day I wake up I just go, “Do I really want to turn on the news?” I’m actually scared to go, “What happened now in the 12 hours that I’ve been unaware of the world?”

I’m sure if you have children or you just are trying to unwind, the news gets really overwhelming these days. Unfortunately it’s so sad and heartbreaking that a little love toward your heart feels good.

Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest creative draw for you regarding the overall “Gourmet Detective” concept and character journey when the project was first presented to you?
Burns: You know, it’s interesting… I think that the older I’ve gotten, and definitely being a mom, I feel like your brand starts to evolve over time. And I just love, as you just said, that feel-good, family viewing. I know there’s a lot of stuff that people do as actors and they’re like, “Oh yeah, my kids can never watch anything I do, nor would they want to,” and so I think there was just a part of that where I was like, “It just feels clean and easy to go and be a part of something that is, really, like a family.”

Their brand is really how they run their shows and their sets. Going in having to do it this time with a six-month-old, I just thought that there was no way they were going to be able to accommodate all of the extra bells and whistles that I was going to need to stop every three hours – to be able to breastfeed, to be the kind of mom that I want to be, and get the job done. And they were like, “Okay, okay. Yup. Sure. No problem. Done. We’ll get you the driver with the car seat. We’ll get you the time that you need. We’ll shoot a different direction so that you can be with the baby, get her down for a nap, whatever.” Who does that? People who really understand family values.

And Maggie, in it of itself, was always great just as far as the character and falling in love with her. I loved that she was this sassy cop and at the same time, this loving single mom, and sort of the juxtaposition of those two things and having to balance the two.

TrunkSpace: Looking over your career, is there a character that you wised you got to spend more time with and explore further?
Burns: Definitely. The character of Kathy Dinkle from “Pepper Dennis.” We were only on for a season and it was kind of one of those things where Warner Bros. was caving under and we were up against the writers’ strike and the studio shifted. But definitely, the character of Kathy Dinkle was a really fun character for me that I created out of my five-year-old daughter and my mother mushed together. That was always something that I wished I had a little bit more time to continue to explore just because she was a lot of fun for me to play.

Gourmet Detective: Eat, Drink and Be Buried” will be served up to mystery-hungry viewers on Sunday, October 8 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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Wingman Wednesday

Andrew Francis

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Photo: Andrew Francis Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

Yes, it’s officially fall, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still visit the shores… “Chesapeake Shores” that is! The Hallmark Channel original series returned in August with season 2, and with it, even more critical acclaim.

We recently sat down with O’Brien family member Andrew Francis to discuss the draw of the series, running lines with costar Treat Williams, and why he tosses up brohoofs all over the world.

TrunkSpace: “Chesapeake Shores” is based on Sherryl Woods’ book series. In your interaction with viewers, has the show been attracting fans of both the source material and those who knew nothing about the novels beforehand?
Francis: Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to read the books just quite yet! I know, I know. But between scripts and Diane Ladd (who plays Nell O’Brien, of course) who hands me a new book to read every couple of weeks or so, I’ve been pretty swamped! By the way, thank you Diane!

But I have noticed on Twitter that there are many fans of the book series as well as many newcomers to “Chesapeake Shores.” It’s interesting hearing opinions from both sides. These opinions can really shed some interesting insight on the episodes. And all of the feedback has been quite positive, so that’s always an added bonus! Sometimes Sherryl would be on set with us too and it was always a pleasure having her there!

TrunkSpace: As far as your character Connor is concerned, did you spend time with Sherryl’s books or did you want there to be separation between the television world and the literary world that already existed?
Francis: Sherryl and I were able to speak briefly about the character at the read-through before we started season 1, but most of the conversations were between our showrunner, writers, producers, and the director for those episodes. Not to mention, as the cast started to gel, we really started to bounce ideas off each other. There is such talent in our cast, I used the opportunity to learn as much as I could. I think these conversations were very impactful for finding a strong motivation for Connor, Trace, and the whole O’Brien clan.

TrunkSpace: Where is Connor’s personal journey taking him in season 2 and what part will he play in the overall storyline?
Francis: Connor has come a long way in season 2, much like he did in season 1. At the end of season 1 he was waiting to see if he passed the bar, he had a very large hand in helping Abby with her custody battle with Wes, and was feeling pretty good about the path he had chosen. Season 2 brought on a lot of questions for Connor. He questioned whether he had picked the right choice of job, his living situation, and most of all, I think his overall maturity level in general. Along those lines, I actually decided to have Connor not drink in season 2. Whenever his family is drinking wine, you will notice that Connor is always having water. Just a minor choice I decided to make, to hopefully add another subtle layer of growth to his character. Not to mention, I myself don’t drink and love sparkly water! So it was a win/win across the board really.

TrunkSpace: You have been in the industry since you were a kid. You have worked on more series, both in front of the camera and as a voice actor, than we have fingers and toes to count with. How has your “Chesapeake Shores” experience differed from all of those other projects you have spent time with?
Francis: I have been honored to work with some great actors and voice actors over the years. But the cast on “Chesapeake Shores” is definitely the most talented ensemble I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Every actor takes their character to heart, and really tries to find the ‘real’ inside of themselves, bringing that reality to life inside the role they are playing. Through our own journeys and the act of bouncing ideas around with all involved, I think we have really found our own ways of layering these very complex characters that Sherryl has created. I definitely love being behind a microphone, it’s a happy place for me, but now “Chesapeake Shores” gives me the same feeling. Being around such a talented cast and crew really helps with the growth of our characters. And this happens to be a great fit with Hallmark, a network that promotes strong bonds between people on a daily basis. It’s a very strong collaboration. One that I’m very proud to be a part of.

TrunkSpace: The series focuses on a family and the dynamic of that family, which is something that is relatable to most people. Was there anything about the O’Brien’s that you were able to tap into and relate with given your own upbringing/family?
Francis: I think that everyone can find a piece of “Chesapeake Shores” that relates to them. And I’m no different. We have all encountered some form of struggles growing up, whether it be a strained relationship with a family member, or multiple family members, all the way to trying to find love or the right career path to follow. Our show brings a unique multi-generational storyline that speaks to people of all ages. I really think that’s what separates our show from many others. You start to feel like you are a part of this family, and you care about the choices each of the characters make and how they are going to affect not only themselves, but the whole family dynamic.

Photo: Andrew Francis, Britt Irvin Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: In it you play a law student, which got us to thinking. Had entertainment not been your path in life, where do you think you would have ended up career-wise? Did you have other interests?
Francis: Funny you ask that, growing up I always wanted to be an entrepreneur – something that I could focus on when the industry got slow, or for whatever the reason. And during that time, I didn’t really know how, or what, but I always knew the right opportunity would eventually (hopefully) present itself. I started with a few different businesses. I rented out water crafts, invested in a restaurant, then moved into producing. All were well and good, but just recently, I really feel I have found my calling. My girlfriend and I have been hard at work building our new business, ZENDEN. It’s a meditation, sound healing and yoga studio situated in a two level space with an unobstructed view of the North Shore Mountains and water. We focus primarily on meditation, sound healing, and a lot of workshops, but also offer many other ways of finding relaxation in this very busy world.

TrunkSpace: You’re working alongside some incredible actors within the series, many of whom have had long, storied careers. What have you taken from them, either from personal advice or through osmosis, that you’ll carry with you throughout your career?
Francis: Oh, the amount of knowledge I have acquired working on “Chesapeake Shores” from the other actors has changed my acting for the better. Not only for the better, but it’s changed my whole outlook on how to perform. Working with actors who are at such a high caliber, you have no other choice but to step up and play in their arena. Not only have I had amazing personal talks with each and every member of the cast, but I have learned so much in between takes. It’s such gift being told stories about film sets 40 years ago, stories about actors, much like the ones in our show, who we still know and love today. I would be selling the higher ups (as I like to call them) short if I didn’t mention them as well. Working alongside such an experienced behind-the-scenes producing crew, writing team, and network – us, as actors, are given a great amount of help finding the ways our characters would react in any given circumstance.

TrunkSpace: Is there a difference between finding the voice of a character you’re voicing in an animated piece and discovering the point of view of a character you’re playing in a live action piece? Is that journey different?
Francis: It is actually. Finding a character in a cartoon is a lot more surface level when you are first given the picture and description. On camera, you ‘are’ the description – your whole being is the character. It’s just deciding what pieces of yourself you decide to show the audience, in hopes of furthering the growth of not only the character, but the whole storyline in general.

It’s a very interesting question. I think both have their very unique traits, hurdles, and discoveries, but ask for a different approach to achieve the very best results.

TrunkSpace: In theater, acting is big. In film and TV, you’re supposed to take a more subtle approach. What is the approach when it comes to voice acting?
Francis: I feel the approach to voice acting is a combination of acting for film and television, and as well as acting for theater. There is a lot more projection involved in voice acting than there is on television, but projection is a large part of theater. On the flip side, in voice acting you are very over-the-top in many of the situations, where as in theater, sometimes the quiet moments can be the most impactful.

Treat (Williams) would ask me from time to time to run lines with him in preparation for one of his upcoming plays, and it was always a treat (pun intended) to be in the presence of such a talented actor, watching him rehearse 10, 20, 30, pages at a time, myself just sitting wide-eyed at the experience. I will definitely treasure those moments for not only my career, but my entire life.

Photo: Andrew Francis, Kayden Magnuson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on some really big, universal brands over the years. Is there an added layer of performance dissection (on your own part) when you’re voicing a character who has been around for decades?
Francis: When you’re voicing a character who’s been around for decades you want to respect where the character has been, but I think the emphasis should be on where the character goes from the time he is put in your trusted hands. This goes for not only voice acting, but also playing Connor on “Chesapeake Shores.” Sherryl gave me the rundown about Connor, but through talks with the writing team, other actors, and everyone involved, these are the times where the Connor you see on television is really brought to life. For voice acting, I would research some of the people who have played the big-name characters that I was given the opportunity to play, but definitely put my focus on adding my unique touch to the opportunity I had been given. This would, in turn, grow the character’s overall dynamic, while also expanding his range.

TrunkSpace: You’ve voiced Iceman and Hawkeye. That has to give you permanent cred in the fanboy community, right?
Francis: (Laughter) Well, I hope so – that would be nice! Over the years, I’ve had the honor of working on some very big franchises, all the way from awesome Marvel projects such as “X-Men,” to equally awesome Hasbro projects such as “My Little Pony.” You would be very surprised at the fan base that “My Little Pony” has. I travel the world from time to time, meeting the fans and attending conventions, as the show has picked up quite the following. For all you Brony’s out there – brohoof!

TrunkSpace: With the new season of “Chesapeake Shores” nearing its end, what do you hope fans will walk away with when the season finishes up?
Francis: I hope the fans walk away from “Chesapeake Shores” with a renewed insight into the reality of what families, ‘real’ families, are like. Also, a better insight into the relationships between the people in such families, and the outside world. Especially considering the strenuous times we currently live in, I think it’s important for people to tune in to a show that not only fills their heart with beautiful moments, but also shows the struggles that are affecting families all across the globe. “Chesapeake Shores” demonstrates the hardships, but also the ways that not only a family, but a whole community, can come together and make positive change using compromise and respect.

Chesapeake Shores” airs Sundays on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Kim Delaney

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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 guest star and Emmy Award winner Kim Delaney to discuss her contribution to the Golden Age of Television, what drew her to the POstables, and why she took the opportunity to milk a cow during filming.

TrunkSpace: We hear all of the time, especially in talking with producers and writers, about how we’re in the “Golden Age of Television.” Now, many believe that started with your series “NYPD Blue.” Do you ever think about your contribution to what has become this incredible renaissance period for storytelling in television?
Delaney: That’s a great question. I’ve never really thought that one through. I think it is a great time for television and I think being in my show, which I was lucky enough to be on, was just the best time and we just had the best time doing it. It was the best writing, the best crew. I mean, everything was just top notch. So, yeah, I know that was groundbreaking, so maybe that is the beginning, right? They said that was all very groundbreaking television at the time, and Bochco, of course, has always been groundbreaking. And David Milch is right there with him with “Deadwood,” which is tremendous, and all the things he’s done since and before.

TrunkSpace: We were looking at some of the numbers “NYPD Blue” was doing at that time. In 1996, for example, it had 19.79 viewers. Today, those are numbers that execs could only dream about.
Delaney: Yeah. The NFL might get that, I don’t know what the NFL gets, but that’s the only one who sees those numbers, right?

TrunkSpace: It’s amazing to see how much things have changed it such a relatively short period of time.
Delaney: It is wild. And then you hear different directors, directors of photography, and what they put into it, and then you see people watching it on their tablets or their phones and they feel they’re not getting the whole experience. But then you talk to somebody like my son, and they get it. They see the beauty. They see everything. It’s just a different way of viewing. And, it’s interesting because I hear pretty soon we’re going to be able to view things 360 degrees. Wild. Just the thought that you could move your device around and see 360 degrees of what you’re watching… say you’re watching a football game, or whatever… that would be insane.

TrunkSpace: And now you’re set to debut in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” which has a very big, devoted following. In a lot of ways, it feels like we’re coming back around and people are looking to step away from gritty storytelling and just escape for a bit.
Delaney: I think there’s a lot of room for that. Absolutely. I mean, look at these storms we’re getting. We have a gorgeous day and we all appreciate such a beautiful day, right? But between the heat waves and the storms – I think there is something very valid there that everybody wants to come and have an easy thing to watch – a pretty thing to watch.

TrunkSpace: What drew you to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered?”
Delaney: I like Hallmark and the pretext of the story is just very honest. It’s about bringing a family back together again. And it’s a great cast too. I mean, I have to say, I had so much fun working with everybody.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again” Photo: Kim Delaney, Laura Bertram, Emily Haine, Kyla Matthews Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: And for those eager to dive into this latest installment, where does your character fall into things?
Delaney: I’m the matriarch of the story. The story is kind of about these generations of matriarchs – my mother, my grandmother, my great-great grandmother, and all these strong women through these generations. And I myself have three daughters. I’ve lost a husband and the thread is a vase that’s been lost. I was depressed and they sold this vase thinking they were helping out with the farm. So it’s taking care of this farm, thinking we were losing the farm, and how they sold this vase when they were little. Now we’re losing the farm and we really could use that vase, but it’s lost in the mail.

Hence, the POstables find the vase, but it’s really about finding family again – the family coming back together. I’m the rock, the steady rock, that is not so steady right now. She is stuck trying to figure out how to take care of her daughters in the moment and in life, and they bring back hope.

I think it was very personal to Martha (Williamson) and it’s just a pretty story. I had such a good time playing it, being on the farm. I didn’t have to milk a cow, but I did milk a cow because I asked the guy if I could. You know, I’ve never milked a cow before. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When in Rome, right?
Delaney: Yeah, right. When in Rome! (Laughter) When else am I going to milk a cow?

TrunkSpace: One of the things everyone we have spoken to has said is that they really fall in love with Martha’s dialogue and to be able to connect with their character through it.
Delaney: It is beautiful. And it means something. It’s meaningful and it transcends. It’s very universal. You could be on a dairy farm, you could be in the middle of the city at a grocery store, or whatever. It just comes down to heart. Hopefully, everything in our life comes down to that.

Delaney in NYPD Blue

TrunkSpace: So much has changed in the industry since you started out and first began working as a professional actress. One of the things that seems to come into play now for young actors looking to break in is social media. We have even heard stories about someone not getting a part because someone else had more followers on Twitter. How do you think you would have navigated this new landscape if you were just breaking in today?
Delaney: It’s odd. I was never on Facebook. I was on Twitter when I was doing “Army Wives” because they asked me to tweet with the audience, which I didn’t know how to do. I had to have help doing that when I was doing “Army Wives.” And I still don’t know. I don’t know what you’re supposed to answer, what you’re supposed to like, what you’re supposed to engage in or what’s too much engagement, what’s not enough. It’s hard to judge. How do you know? I just got on Instagram and Facebook literally maybe a year and a half ago. I forget exactly when, but it’s recent, and only because of what you just said. My manager goes, “No, ’cause when you’re doing a show you want the followers.” I was like, “Really?” So, I’ve succumbed.

TrunkSpace: You have worked on so many different projects throughout the years. If someone came to you and said, “Here’s a blank check, bring back any former project that you want,” what would you choose?
Delaney: Without question, “NYPD Blue.” Without question. That’s an easy one because I think about where the journey could have taken her and the writing was just, I mean, gems every day. Gems.

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Wingman Wednesday

Geoff Gustafson

GeoffGustafson_Wingman_wednesday (1)

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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Wingman Wednesday

Kristin Booth

KristinBooth_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

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 Kristin Booth to discuss how the franchise has affected her life, how she is continuously surprised by the fan reaction, and what those fans will enjoy most about the latest installment.

TrunkSpace: We spoke with Crystal Lowe recently and one of the things that we discussed is how important you have become in her life. In terms of the journey, getting to work on a project that you not only connect with creatively, but to then also forge these types of lasting relationships, we would imagine that has to be the best care scenario?
Booth: You know, it really is. I have to say, despite loving the content and the writing of what we’re doing on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” it’s the relationships that have really made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Crystal and I are basically like sisters now. Martha Williamson and I are very close. It’s just really nice to be able to be a part of something where you actually love the people that you’re doing it with.

TrunkSpace: Does that off-camera chemistry translate to on-screen chemistry?
Booth: I think it definitely does. We really work as a team. We’re very collaborative. Martha’s words are very rarely changed because she’s so brilliant. If there was something that didn’t make sense for one of us or if we had an idea, what’s so great about working on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is everyone’s really open to other people’s visions and their ideas. If it’s not what they wanted, we’re all cool and we just say, “Okay, it’s not gonna work.” It’s a nice working environment where you can express yourself artistically and feel safe to do so. That’s a really nice feeling. I think that only comes with the trust and the love that we all share with one another.

TrunkSpace: When the franchise originally transitioned from the episodic format to the film format, was that a concern or was it something you welcomed?
Booth: Well, it definitely concerned me at first because we didn’t know we were picked up as a movie series when we were told that the series wasn’t going to continue. There was a lot of unknowns at the time. Although the idea of the movie series was presented, it wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t solid yet. That part of it made me very nervous, so I was obviously concerned.

However, the idea of going back to the two hour format excited me because I think the type of topics and the type of themes that Martha tackles in these movies or in the series as well, they deserve that two hour time rather than the one hour episode. I believe we’re able to do so much more and make the stories more rich with the time we have.

TrunkSpace: From a fan interaction standpoint, it seems like doing them as movies also makes them events when they do air.
Booth: 100 percent it does. Often Crystal and I will live tweet and Eric (Mabius) has live tweeted with our fans. The anticipation for each movie – it’s amazing to me. I love communicating back and forth via social media with the fans, the POstables, because I get super excited for them to see it because I know they’ve been waiting for so long. I’ll often get little message here and there saying, “We haven’t heard when the next one’s coming out. When is it coming out because I need my fix of SSD?” It’s just really rewarding for a performer to know that people enjoy it as much as they do.

TrunkSpace: What’s fascinating about the fanbase is that the level of interest and passion in the franchise is the kind you usually see associated with genre shows.
Booth: Right. I think you’re correct completely. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” delivers… pardon the pun… it delivers a message, a feeling of hope and of faith in a time in our lives, in society and the world, where things are very uncertain and a little bit scary. What “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” provides for our audience is a safe place to come for two hours. People that they trust, the characters, they know that they are going to be inspired or they’re going to be touched or moved in some way.

What’s incredible to me is how many people, how many of the fans, have reached out and said just how much the show has affected their lives. They’re able to draw comparisons to either what our four POstables are going through or perhaps the B storyline of each movie. I think that’s what keeps bringing people back and drawing new fans each time we have another movie.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” first aired in 2014. A lot can change in four years, both over the course of a franchise and in the lives of those who inhabit the world. Do you feel like you’ve grown and changed along with your character Shane in that timeframe?
Booth: Oh, tremendously! 100 percent! I think you can’t avoid that if you’re a committed actor and you’re really giving your all to what’s happening in the character’s life. It’s bound to influence you personally. It’s bound to affect you emotionally. Hopefully, you grow as a person as your character grows thro
ughout the series.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Kristin Booth, Eric Mabius Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: Is there a moment over the course of your time with your character where you felt like you really got to stretch as an actor and said to yourself, “Wow, I never thought I’d get to go here with Shane. I never thought we’d travel this path together.”
Booth: Well actually, there’s been several, to be honest. (Laughter) Martha is genius at always surprising me at what she brings to the table with her scripts. It’s so interesting too, because often upon the first read, I’ll get an impression, but it isn’t until I’m actually on set and I’m in the scene where I will have these amazing epiphany moments. She’ll often write something in it, descriptive-wise, like “Shane cries at this moment,” or whatever. As an actor, I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cry at that moment. Maybe it’ll come at another point or maybe it won’t come at all.” But with Martha’s writing, I’ve never experienced anything quite like what her writing does for me as an actor because she’s so in tune with the characters and it’s so right, that whenever I get into the scene, I start discovering all of this incredible stuff that I may have not thought about when I was reading it or working on the lines because I’m reacting to what Oliver’s giving me or what Rita or Norman’s giving me, or whoever I’m working with.

I’m always shocked and amazed and thrilled because there just have been so many times where I’ve thought in my head beforehand, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make this work or connect to it emotionally.” Then I’m in the scene, I’m saying the words, and tears are just flowing. (Laughter) It’s so interesting. I feel extremely blessed that I get to work with that type of material that is able to do that for me as an actor.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fans are going to be most drawn to with the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Booth: Well, I think the POstables are going to be really excited. “Home Again” is the first time that we see Norman and Rita as a couple and Shane and Oliver as a couple. It’s been a long journey for both of them. It’s exciting to have those characters in a position now where they’re trying to navigate actually being together as a couple and admitting it to each other. (Laughter) I think the audience is going to love seeing that dynamic. Norman and Rita are at a certain stage in their relationship, but especially Oliver and Shane. This is the first time we actually see them as a couple. They’re still trying to figure it out. They have no idea what they’re doing. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You guested in a memorable episode of a show that we all love here, “Supernatural.” That series is going into its 13th season, which is an incredible feat. If “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was to go on a similar journey, would you welcome playing Shane for such an extended period of time?
Booth: Definitely. It comes with a whole set of challenges that you don’t encounter when you’re doing something as a one-off or for a year or something like that. I mean, to be about to sustain the freshness, the lure as an actor of a character you’ve been playing that long, is a challenge in and of itself. It’d be very different if I wasn’t continually blown away and challenged by Martha’s words and scripts and stories and themes. But I am, and so I would welcome that for sure because I’m constantly surprised and wowed by the things that go on and the things that I discover about Shane even still.

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