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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

Meghan Ory

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Photo: Meghan Ory Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

Before the summer draws to a close, we’re going to be taking some time to visit the shores… “Chesapeake Shores.” The Hallmark Channel original series recently returned for season 2 and with it, even more critical acclaim.

We sat down with O’Brien family member Meghan Ory to discuss what drew her to the series, the post-hiatus rowdiness on set, and why Jensen Ackles hit her in the head with a two-by-four.

TrunkSpace: As far as your character Abby is concerned, did you spend time with Sherryl Woods’ books or did you want there to be separation between the television world and the literary world that already existed?
Ory: Yes, unfortunately I chose not to read the books, although I can’t wait to do so at some point. I was told when we started filming that the series wouldn’t follow the books exactly and I wanted to be able to look at the series scripts with fresh eyes. Sherryl is lovely though and has been very encouraging and supportive; which is so important as I want to do this world and character she created justice.

TrunkSpace: Usually it is the genre shows that attract the rabid, die hard fans, but from what we have seen, “Chesapeake Shores” has that as well. What is it about the series that has turned people into diehards as opposed to casual viewers?
Ory: Well, that is a million dollar question! I wish I knew. We spend our time filming in this little bubble and have no idea how what we are doing will be received. It is very exciting that people are enjoying the stories we are telling and the O’Brien family as much as we enjoy making it.

TrunkSpace: Most television is high concept these days. Everything has a spin to it. What’s nice about “Chesapeake Shores” is that it feels like a bit of a throwback… a family drama ABOUT the family. From an acting standpoint, does that allow you to focus more on character and performance than something that is steeped in a high concept world?
Ory: Yes, that is something that drew me to “Chesapeake Shores” in the beginning. In the same vein as shows like “Parenthood” and “This Is Us,” it is really nice to be able to delve into the details of these characters. I think it allows us as the actors and the audience to become intimate with these characters and spend time with people you enjoy.

TrunkSpace: In a series about family, what was it like returning to your on-set family after the hiatus between season 1 and season 2? Is it a bit like going back to school after a summer vacation?
Ory: (Laughter) Yes, it definitely is. It is certainly quite loud and rowdy on set for the first few weeks back. It’s hard to get our work done!

TrunkSpace: There’s something else that connects a lot of your castmates other than being on-screen O’Briens. Many of you have also guested on “Supernatural.” You grew up in Canada and started your career there. Is it a bit of a rite of passage to appear on that series with it having been on the air so long now?
Ory: “Supernatural” has definitely made its way through the Canadian actor pool. My episode of “Supernatural” was quite funny actually. I worked with Jensen years before on “Dark Angel” and our characters were in love, then when I appeared on “Supernatural,” I was evil and he had to hit me in the head with a two-by-four. It was quite the reunion. I think the fans got a kick out of that one.

Photo: Treat Williams, Meghan Ory Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: In the episode you appeared, “Adventures in Babysitting,” you played a vetala. In a world where everything has been done and done again in film and television, it has to be pretty cool to have played one of the only vetalas to ever appear on screen… and quite possibly… that ever will appear? That’s Trivial Pursuit question territory!
Ory: I’ve never thought about that, very true though! It was definitely a fun character to play. I always enjoy playing a good villain!

TrunkSpace: We talked previously about passionate fanbases. You spent multiple seasons on the series “Once Upon a Time.” Do you think that series/character will stay with you forever? Will people always remember you as Ruby?
Ory: I loved that show from the first time I read a script for it. You could just tell it was a very unique and special world. It was a great opportunity to get to play the same character in different scenarios of life, so it was always interesting and exciting. Once will always have a special place in my heart and as I have said, you never know when Red might pop up again!

TrunkSpace: When you tap into a passionate fanbase, those fans then want to know everything they can about you. Is it getting increasingly more difficult to maintain a private life as a public figure due to the social media/instant gratification age? How do you strike a balance between the two worlds?
Ory: There are pros and cons to everything. It is so nice to be able to connect and communicate with fans and hear how they are liking what we are creating. For me, I feel like limiting the amount of social media I have makes a difference. I had to get off Twitter years ago, but really enjoy Instagram. I think it’s good to maintain a bit of mystery!

TrunkSpace: You have been acting professionally for some time now, but what aspect of the process still excites you the most and feels as fresh as it did on your very first acting gig?
Ory: It may sound cheesy, but anytime I am on set and the director says, “Action,” I am as excited as the first time I heard it. I feel very fortunate to have a job that I enjoy going to every day.

Photo: Jesse Metcalfe, Meghan Ory Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: You have played so many interesting characters over the years. Are there any that you wish you could have spent more time with and could have seen developed out further, and if so, why?
Ory: That’s a great question. I always feel a little sad every time I finish a show and have to say goodbye to that character. They become a part of your life. I would have enjoyed seeing what a second season of “Intelligence” would have looked like. I loved playing that character.

And I will always be interested to see where else Adam (Horowitz) and Eddie (Kitsis) take Ruby on Once, if they chose to. Lana (Parrilla) and I used to joke that the evil queen needed a pet wolf!

TrunkSpace: With the new season of “Chesapeake Shores” now reaching viewers, what do you hope fans will walk away with when the season finishes up?
Ory: I don’t want to give anything away but the finale of season 2 is going to shock a lot of people, I think. I hope viewers finish the season feeling satisfied and hungry for a season 3!

“Chesapeake Shores” airs Sundays on Hallmark Channel.

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