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Wingman Wednesday

Catherine Lough Haggquist

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Starring in two Christmas movies this holiday season, including “Jingle Around the Clock” premiering Saturday on Hallmark Channel, Catherine Lough Haggquist has been surrounded by festive fare since September. Excited to be a part of the seasonal content consumption traditions of television viewers, the Vancouver native promises her films carry more bang for your Christmas buck than one of those yule log videos that we all can’t get enough of.

We recently sat down with Lough Haggquist about her prolonged holiday season, the reason Christmas movies continue to excite audiences, and the behind-the-scenes magic that makes “Supernatural” so successful.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers here for a feel-good Christmas movie. You happen to be in two of them this year, “Christmas Pen Pals” and “Jingle Around the Clock.” Has your holiday season felt extended because we assume you’ve been surrounded by festive flare much longer than most of us given the production schedules of both films?
Lough Haggquist: I always love the holidays, so yes, it was great to get them started early. Usually, Christmas movies film in the summer, which makes it hard to get your Christmas jam on. In this case, we filmed “Christmas Pen Pals” in September and then “Jingle Around the Clock” just before Thanksgiving in November, so it just really felt like the holidays started early and haven’t really ended yet.

TrunkSpace: Projects like “Jingle Around the Clock” continue to grow in popularity each year, with networks like Hallmark being one of the few to build its audience. What do you think the draw is for audiences to tune into holiday films, especially in such an over-saturated market?
Lough Haggquist: I think holiday films are like holiday carols, in that they are a unique celebrations and representations of the season. In each case, you’re always looking for the new one that will become part of your holiday tradition. I know people who keep their TVs on holiday movies all day long, like other people play Christmas radio stations – as a nice way to create a holiday feeling at home – and besides, holiday films usually have better plots than the Christmas fire log video.

TrunkSpace: Television is well-known for having breakneck production schedules, but it is our understanding that films like “Jingle Around the Clock” make other television projects look like marathons. Does a quicker production schedule force you to approach performance in a different way? Do you have to try and find an understanding with your character prior to shooting your first scene?
Lough Haggquist: I think that in general when working in television, you have a shorter timeline to create than you would on a feature film. As such, you have to come prepared and in turn, you will work with others who are similarly prepared. In my case, I enjoy the fast pace, because it forces me to make clear choices quickly and it creates an interesting energy on set. The energy pushes all of us to do good work in a shorter time period. You have to bring your A-game and you have to come to slay!

TrunkSpace: Not only are we suckers for Christmas movies, but we’re also suckers for “Supernatural.” You’ve guested on the series twice over the years, playing a different character each time. From what we’ve heard, that is one of the smoothest-running series in the biz. What was your experience like working on that show at different moments in your career?
Lough Haggquist: The first time, I was a little bit thrown off by how much fun everyone was having on set. They were fully prepared and committed when it was time to shoot, but between takes, there were lots of jokes and the atmosphere was so relaxed. In television, the long days and time constraints don’t always lend themselves to that kind of working environment, so this experience was new to me at that time.

When I returned to “Supernatural” again, I knew what to expect, so not only was I welcomed back, but I got to be part of the fun, myself. I have no doubt that the show’s longevity is related in no small way to the fun and playful atmosphere that is created by the cast and crew.

TrunkSpace: How important are shows like “Supernatural” and “iZombie,” which you have also appeared on, to the acting community in and around the Vancouver area? Would it be a different landscape if such high profile shows like those and others were not actively shooting there?
Lough Haggquist: Having so many series available for actors to work on is necessary for the overall talent pool and sustainability of our creative community. With more work being available, it makes acting a viable career choice and I’m very grateful for episodic television as it’s offered regular work to myself and others.

That said, I think that the volume of film and television projects in Vancouver inspires all of us because it keeps the city vibrant with creative energy and makes everyone – whether we were actors, filmmakers, or another vital part of the industry – want to contribute and be part of it in our own respective ways.

TrunkSpace: As you look back over your career, can you pinpoint a single “big break” that took you to the next level, and if so, what was that role or project?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the project that was essentially my “big break” was when I was hired to be Holly Robinson’s stand-in on “21 Jump Street” because even though it wasn’t an acting job per se, it was the first time that I had ever had any extended exposure to the television-making process. Prior to that, I had only done commercials and a music video, and I hadn’t really had a chance to observe the process of making a television show.

That project was the first step for me towards building a meaningful network of people in the industry and there are friendships that I formed on that show that are important to me professionally and personally today.

TrunkSpace: Again, looking back over your career, what project or role taught you the most about the craft? Essentially, what job gave you more than a credit and paycheck?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the job that gave me a true insight into the craft while also offering me the most creative challenges as an actor was being able to inhabit the role of Nora on “Continuum” for three seasons.

The opportunity to work from the core of the character that we established and share her journey as new things happened around her was a great way to develop my own craft and give me many rewarding experiences along the way.

TrunkSpace: You founded Biz Books in 1996. How important has it been for you to maintain active interests in things other than on-screen work, and how do you juggle focus between the various endeavors?
Lough Haggquist: Since the beginning of my career, I have always been active in the acting and entertainment communities at large. Through this, I realized that there was a significant need in the marketplace for a local source that could provide creative types in Vancouver (and elsewhere) with essential books, plays, scripts and products that could help them along.

I started Biz Books because I wanted to lead by example in supporting my community, but my desire to support others in trying to reach their artistic dreams has also expanded into other work I’m involved with like teaching and coaching. If we aren’t supporting each other, we have already failed.

As far as focus goes, I enjoy the fact that my career has balance to it and that I’m fortunate to be able to shift between different challenges, endeavors and mindsets. Acting taps into skills that I have developed, while other activities like teaching or Biz Books bring out knowledge that I have gained that can assist others. All of these are equally rewarding to me.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lough Haggquist: The highlight of my career so far was having the opportunity to attend a fan convention in London for “Once Upon a Time.” While there, I got to meet a number of men and women who shared their stories about how “Once Upon a Time” and the characters we had created had brought them joy, entertainment, and most importantly, community.

I am still in touch with a number of people that I met there. The whole experience really re-connected me with the importance of stories and storytellers.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lough Haggquist: No, because the best part of this whole adventure is the journey, not the destination.

Jumping ahead would only show where I end up, not what brought me meaning along the way. I have arrived many places that were not nearly as amazing as the trips to get there. I want to discover and create, not anticipate and expect.

Jingle Around the Clock” airs Saturday on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Victor Webster

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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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