If you have an insatiable entertainment sweet tooth that craves sustenance, we have just the movie for you!
Starring Julie Gonzalo and Chris McNally, “The Sweetest Heart” premieres this Saturday on Hallmark Channel, serving as the delicious kick off to the network’s annual Spring Fever programming event. The story focuses on Maddie (Gonzalo), a cupcake shop owner who reconnects with her first love, Nate (McNally), and discovers that there is a future to be had in the past.
We recently sat down with McNally to discuss hair commitments, why he loves working for Hallmark Channel, and the fun in getting to play a cardiologist knowing that the doctor ship has already sailed in real life.
TrunkSpace: Something we couldn’t help but notice with “The Sweetest Heart” is… you cut your hair!
McNally: (Laughter) Yeah, I did. I had to cut it for a movie of the week about three years ago, and I was really sad about it actually.
TrunkSpace: It’s tough. It’s like you’re losing a piece of yourself.
McNally: I know, right? It takes so long to get there, and you have to go through such an awkward stage.
TrunkSpace: (Laughter) Yeah, the awkward stage is the worst. It’s like growing out a beard. It’s a commitment. When you shave it off, you’re shaving away that commitment.
McNally: I was really happy that they let me keep my beard for “The Sweetest Heart” because, originally, they were going to shave it, and I really don’t like being clean shaven. It was a big relief.
TrunkSpace: This isn’t your first time working with Hallmark Channel. What is it about the company that keeps you coming back?
McNally: It’s a great company to work for. I’ve always had a very pleasant experience every time I’ve worked on one. I did one in Victoria that was really, really enjoyable. It was a great cast and crew, and I really liked going away to Victoria. It’s not far from Vancouver, but it was a little getaway. That excursion to Victoria was my first time having a more substantial character with them, and everybody was really nice and it was just an awesome time. And then I did “Rocky Mountain Christmas” just before the holiday season. They’re just a pleasure to work for really.
TrunkSpace: It must be an interesting experience because you’re whisked away to these places, and then once you get there, it’s all work, right? There’s not a lot of time to take it all in.
McNally: Yeah. They have to shoot so much in so little time, so it is very crammed. For “The Sweetest Heart” though, I started off the shoot commuting from Vancouver. We were shooting mostly in Langley, which is about 45 minutes to an hour drive away, and then for the second week, I decided to stay in Langley, and that made the days a lot easier because I didn’t have a chance to really rehearse anything with Julie (Gonzalo) after the days were shot because she was staying in Langley throughout the whole shoot. I cleared a little bit more time for myself by staying near set for weeks two and three of “The Sweetest Heart.”
TrunkSpace: Obviously every project is different, but how did this particular experience working with Hallmark Channel differ from those previous movies you worked on?
McNally: I find the more material you have, the easier it is actually. Because you have structure, there’s more of an arc and your character has a journey. When you get to evolve and develop like that, it’s a more natural progression. I find it hard to come in and just hop into a scene. You kind of move the story forward with a little bit of expedition, and I struggle with that, so I was grateful to have more material to work with on this one.
TrunkSpace: A lot of Hallmark Channel movies focus on would-be couples who are just meeting for the first time and discovering each other, but in this one, your character Nate and Julie’s character Maddie had a past. Did that lend to a different layer of backstory in what you two did from a performance standpoint?
McNally: Yeah, definitely. Julie and I met up prior to shooting to spend some time together and get to know one another, just to try and get a little bit of history and backstory between ourselves as people that we could relay into the story with our characters. But, yeah, I like that extra layer of complexity.
TrunkSpace: It’s also something that everyone can relate to… running into an old flame.
McNally: Yeah, there’s that nostalgia, and I think there’s also, when you run into a past love, it’s like, “Oh, did I make the best decision, or did I not?” In this case, it was not a great decision to break up, but, then again, if they hadn’t gone through that, they might not have ended up together where they were at the end of the story.
TrunkSpace: In the social media age, it’s probably more difficult to lose complete touch with past loves because if you want to, you can always lurk and check in.
McNally: I know, it’s so hard. I’m really terrible at social media, and I try and stay off of it as much as a can. I don’t have Twitter. I’ve got Instagram, but I try to avoid swiping through the stories to see what people are doing.
TrunkSpace: Yeah, seeing what people are doing in that capacity removes the human element of learning about what they’ve been up to in person.
McNally: Yeah, absolutely. And I also feel like there’s always a filter put through on social media. You’re not getting the full story. It’s an idea that people are trying to project.
TrunkSpace: Yeah, it’s the best case scenario. So, in terms of the performance, Nate himself, what was it about him that you dug and you were interested in exploring?
McNally: I like playing characters who are smart and more intelligent than I am. (Laughter) Nate’s a cardiologist, and it’s great when somebody has written dialogue that is more than anything I could come up with in my own life. So, it was the fact that he’s a doctor, which is appealing to me, because I’ll never be a doctor. I don’t think that’s a possibility for me at this point. (Laughter) And he also likes to help people. He’s a cardiologist, but more focused on the research aspect, and he’s looking for ways to help the masses, as opposed to one surgery at a time. I also love the fact that he’s got this playfulness to him. It’s actually when he is around Maddie, I think that brings it out. They regress to their younger selves, and that is something that I register with, because I’m kind of a goofball myself. I feel like I’m 22 and always going to be 22, so playing into that playfulness was awesome.
TrunkSpace: You were based in Vancouver for many years. We’re big “Supernatural” fans here, and we know you’ve appeared on the show. For actors based in Vancouver, is guesting on that series a bit of a rite of passage?
McNally: Yeah. I love that you said that. It absolutely is a rite of passage. Buddies and I joke about that. “You have to work on ‘Supernatural’ before you can graduate from Vancouver.”
TrunkSpace: And in its 13th season, there’s been ample opportunity!
McNally: Yeah, they keep reusing us. It’s awesome. We grow a little older, we look a little different, and then we come back and play someone else.
“The Sweetest Heart” airs this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.