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 guest star Bruce Boxleitner to discuss how a text prompted his involvement in “Gourmet Detective,” why it reminded him of his classic television series “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” and why “TRON” was like capturing lightning in a bottle.
TrunkSpace: You’ve been working as a professional actor since the early 1970s. Does it still have the same excitement today as it did for you in the early days when experiences were still new?
Boxleitner: Well, yes and no. When you’re much younger, you’re a little more unsure of yourself, and nowadays, I don’t have that problem. I’m pretty much comfortable around any movie set just through years of experience, and I’ve experienced a great deal – very fortunate to do that. At this stage of my life I don’t work as much as I used to, which is fine. This particular project really came out of nowhere and was a pleasant surprise and I enjoyed it a great deal. So, I still love working, don’t get me wrong, and the things that are similar is that every time I get a job, I’m as excited as a 26-year-old kid again. I think every actor does that.
TrunkSpace: You mentioned being more sure of yourself now. As an actor, does having confidence translate to a performance?
Boxleitner: I totally believe that. I believe confidence is everything, and your comfort level. You’re in front of a camera, you’re in front of a lot of people. I have just lived more life, and that does come into the balance, and that’s what you bring to your work in any role you play.
TrunkSpace: It just makes sense that actors who have lived more life are able to find different characters they’re playing and relate to them because they have seen and witnessed more.
Boxleitner: I think that’s very simple and to the point, yeah. I agree with you. I started when I was very young, so right out of high school and into the theater and then from theater to television out here. And I thought, by the time I get out here, I’d already been, I thought in my mind, fairly worldly. (Laughter) But Hollywood’s a different bag altogether than New York was and Chicago, where I started, and the television world. I had those life experiences, but then I was playing roles of young men my age who would have those same feelings and experiences. That’s what it is. I think as you get older, hopefully like a fine wine, you get better.
But, I’m still thrilled like a young kid again when I do get a job.
TrunkSpace: Because each one is a different experience?
Boxleitner: Exactly, and it reminds me why I did it in the first place, because I do love it. I love it a great deal. This particular project came along with a text from Dylan Neal.
TrunkSpace: Can’t beat that!
Boxleitner: Yeah, he came along with, “Listen, I don’t know if you’d be interested, but my wife and I have written this role for the next ‘Gourmet Detective’ with you in mind.”
Right there, that’s flattery any actor would like – somebody actually thought of you specifically in the role. And it turned out it was a terrific role and I couldn’t thank him more.
TrunkSpace: And Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ original programming has a very large fan base that rivals some of the science fiction properties known for capturing passionate viewers.
Boxleitner: Yeah, it is very, very big. About three years ago now, that’s when I originally worked with Dylan in the series “Cedar Cove,” which we did for three seasons on Hallmark. It was their first foray into a first-run television series, as opposed to re-running older series and just the standalone movies that they do so many of. My God, they do like 100 movies a year. It’s amazing.
TrunkSpace: Why do you think so many people are drawn to this type of original programming?
Boxleitner: Hallmark is reliable. They know what they’re going to get. I think a lot of people have been turned off by programming, I hate to say it. There’s a segment of our population, in the world too, that doesn’t want to have so much violence and all that sort of thing that television fare has now. You know, when Dylan had texted me about this, I had seen the first “Gourmet Detective” and it was reminiscent, for me, of a series I did in the 1980s with Kate Jackson called “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.” It was very, very popular and it reminded me of that, which was some of the best in 80s television.
I always tell my kids, “We made some pretty doggone good TV.” And it still holds up because I get fan mail, fan response, from “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” yet that’s been 30-some years ago, if not more. So the “Gourmet Detective” had that kind of feel. There’s a bit of a romantic comedy in there. There’s mystery and murder mystery, and there’s quipy banter between a handsome leading man and a beautiful leading lady, and that’s classic stuff. That’s your classic genre going all the way back to “The Thin Man” and things like that in the old movies.
TrunkSpace: There’s also something kind of nice and classic about watching television and feeling good when the credits roll.
Boxleitner: Exactly. I’ve said, and I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush, but today it seems to me that television is so dark and cynical for the most part. Hallmark offers good stories, good characters, but also something where you can say, “Oh, I enjoyed myself.” It’s entertainment. It’s the times we’re living in, I’m sure, reflecting in our art and television. But you’re right, I just feel that some people need an island of respite, for heaven’s sake, and Hallmark provides that.
TrunkSpace: Television is all about escapism.
Boxleitner: That’s what these provide and usually you have a good time by the end of it.
TrunkSpace: And in this one you’re actually playing Dylan’s father, correct?
Boxleitner: Yes, I am. And this one too, I think compared to the others, this has a little more character development for Dylan’s character. He’s a flippant, very fun guy with all of his quips and stuff like this, but there’s a little darker side to his character. This has a little background into him and suddenly dad shows up. And dad’s a complex character and it’s a complex relationship with them.
I was just thrilled to get it. I immediately said, “Are you kidding me? Yes, whatever you say!” I think Dylan and Becky (Southwell) are very, very good writers. It’s been nothing but good.
TrunkSpace: A movie like “TRON” holds such a special place in the hearts of fans. As an actor, is finding a project like that, which resonates with people on multiple levels, like catching lightning a bottle?
Boxleitner: It is. First of all, in 1981, when we were shooting it, we had no idea it was a pioneering effort. It could just as well have gone wrong, you know – a failure. That’s what was kind of exciting about it. And Disney took a huge chance on it and now it’s 2017 and people still talk about it. I get fan mail constantly, and just about two months ago we had a big thing on Hollywood Boulevard at the El Capitan Theater, one night only, with “TRON” and “TRON: Legacy” playing. Steven Lisberger and Bill Kroyer and I showed up for a Q&A beforehand, and it’s a whole different generation of fans whose parents showed them this movie and it turned them on.
So, it has, for whatever reason, and there are many and you can name them, it has resonated over the years and it’s so amazing to me, because back when Jeff and Cindy and I were making this thing, we had no idea what we were doing or if it was going to work. I’m just very proud to be a part of it and I try to participate in everything that’s done on it, whether it’s a homage or if there’s something new to do with it. I’ve done the games. I’ve done the animated series. It keeps hanging in.
I don’t want to be disparaging here, but the big movie of the summer of ’82 was “ET” and so far we haven’t had a sequel to that or talk of it, but this little movie called “TRON” just keeps on going.
“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.