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Wingman Wednesday

Kim Shaw

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If you’re like us, you swap out your pumpkin-flavored everythings for peppermint the day after Halloween and begin your slow holiday burn. Thanks to Hallmark Channel, those festive vibes are gifted to us in regular rotation as part of the annual Countdown to Christmas event. Tonight we’re unwrapping “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” starring Kim Shaw and Kevin McGarry, and we’re not the only ones sprinting into the season.

I’m happy to take the holiday charge, I think about Christmas year-round so it feels like the rest of society is just catching up,” said Shaw in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Shaw to discuss on-screen chemistry, shooting in her home country, and why she has comedy in her sights.

TrunkSpace: Your new movie “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” premiers only a few days after Halloween. With our slightly-sunken Jack-O-Lanterns still out on the stoop, do you feel like you’re leading the holiday charge because, quite honestly, the festive vibes have already taken hold of all of us here?
Shaw: I know, right! My Stories on Instagram today went from dancing in my Halloween costume straight to Kevin and I with Christmas lights above our heads! I’m happy to take the holiday charge, I think about Christmas year-round so it feels like the rest of society is just catching up!

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for Hallmark holiday movies here, and the popularity around the Countdown to Christmas event continues to grow. In your opinion, what is it about movies like “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” that continues to draw such big audiences for the network?
Shaw: Hallmark is at the top of the game for making feel good romantic movies. I think the Countdown represents the countdown to spending quality time with family, eating rich foods and being cozy on the couch, so who wouldn’t want to start that in November?

TrunkSpace: So much of what makes a movie like “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” work is the chemistry between its leads. In your case, that was Kevin McGarry. How much time did you two have together prior to arriving on set to play with that chemistry and see what worked/what didn’t?
Shaw: Mr. McGarry and I worked together on an episode of “Saving Hope” a few years ago and had an instant rapport. It worked perfectly for our characters in “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” to have a smitten history. Kevin is a really funny, witty guy, so I was very happy to get to work with him again.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, Hallmark movies shoot at an incredible pace. When you’re shooting so many pages in a single day, does it require a different preparation for the material than you would normally take?
Shaw: I try to start memorizing the material as soon as we have a locked script. Sometimes we shoot 10 to 12 pages a day and when it’s only two of you in most of the scenes it’s an inordinate amount of lines.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “Christmas Scavenger Hunt” that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Shaw: I love shooting in Canada. I was born there but grew up in the States so it’s always a treat for me to get to go back to the motherland. And of course Kevin. We laughed so much shooting this, it’s not often a costar is so silly.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to find a connection with a character when you’re inhabiting them for only a short period of time? Is the experience different for you than, say, something like “Saving Hope,” where you spent 31 episodes with Dr. Cassie Williams?
Shaw: That’s a great question! You have to make bigger initial choices when you only get to play someone for a short period of time. You have to create the layers yourself without dozens of storylines. I learned something new about Cassie every episode of “Saving Hope,” which helped create a deep, well-rounded personality for her. Playing Belinda in “Christmas Scavenger Hunt,” I had to make strong choices for her from one script.

Shaw and McGarry in Christmas Scavenger Hunt

TrunkSpace: Is there a character that you have portrayed over the course of your career that you wished you had more time to spend with, and of so, why?
Shaw: I had a lot of fun playing Tina in “I Just Want My Pants Back” on MTV. She was quick on her feet and always got into trouble. It was extremely fun to mess around inside her head. And why not Belinda from “Christmas Scavenger Hunt!” It would be fun to see what happens with her and Dustin after they find their happy ending!

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you tomorrow and said, “Kim, here is a blank check, go and develop any kind of project that you want for yourself,” what type would you greenlight?
Shaw: Comedy! I want to do more comedy. Something that I could cast my friends in and other people I admire. Film and TV is such a community and I would love to highlight and support the people I’ve met along the way.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Shaw: Honestly, I am happy to have worked on everything I’ve been a part of. This business is a hustle and I’ve been lucky to play some really interesting people.

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?
Shaw: (Laughter) That’s a funny idea. Hm. I think I’d rather wait and see what happens! Hopefully it will be a career I can be proud of. Filled with more successes than setbacks and more laugh lines than tears.

Christmas Scavenger Hunter” premieres Sunday November 3 on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Ashley Newbrough

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While Ashley Newbrough’s holiday movie “A Merry Christmas Match” premiered BEFORE Halloween, the Rhode Island native starts her own festive celebrating after the trick-or-treaters have all removed their masks and collected their candy.

I don’t start putting up Christmas decorations until November – I like to give each holiday their moment, Christmas being the grand finale,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Newbrough to discuss Hallmark’s seasonal success, peanut butter cup cravings, and seaside stress relief.

TrunkSpace: Your most recent project, “A Merry Christmas Match,” kicked off Hallmark’s Miracles of Christmas event. What is it like being the unofficial ambassador of the holidays season!?
Newbrough: I’m a huge Christmas fan, I was happy to kick off the season.

TrunkSpace: What’s amazing about the premiere is that it actually took place BEFORE Halloween. What are your thoughts on getting our Christmas on before our pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cups have even been fully devoured?
Newbrough: Now I’m craving peanut butter cups! While Christmas is my favorite holiday, autumn is my favorite season. I don’t start putting up Christmas decorations until November – I like to give each holiday their moment, Christmas being the grand finale.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers for Hallmark holiday movies here, and the popularity around the Miracles of Christmas event continues to grow. In your opinion, what is it about movies like “A Merry Christmas Match” that continues to draw such big audiences for the network?
Newbrough: Hallmark knows how to create the ultimate Christmas and they deliver it right into your living room wrapped in a red bow. Their films set the tone for the holidays and the heart they put into every story serves as a reminder of what the true meaning of the season is all about. It’s a safe place for people to relax and enjoy. It’s like an escape into a snow globe from the stresses of every day life.

TrunkSpace: So much of what makes a movie like “A Merry Christmas Match” work is the chemistry between its leads. In your case, that was Kyle Dean Massey. How much time did you two have together prior to arriving on set to play with that chemistry and see what worked/what didn’t?
Newbrough: We didn’t get any time to do anything prior to be being on set. The first time I met him was right before we shot the last scene of the movie. I got so lucky with Kyle Dean – he’s an absolute dream to work with. During the first week we both ended up at one of the diners in Idyllwild so we had breakfast together with my mom, who was in town visiting. My mom loved him instantly. I was won over after he filled me in on the fact that he was a part of “The Book of Moron” workshops! He’s very humble, so I thought I’d throw that one out there… needless to say, I adore him and we became friends immediately.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, Hallmark movies shoot at an incredible pace. When you’re shooting so many pages in a single day, does it require a different preparation for the material than you would normally take?
Newbrough: You really have no choice but to dive in and hope they like what you’re doing. Thankfully I work well under pressure. It’s very much a team effort.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “A Merry Christmas Match” that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Newbrough: I will take the cast with me. After getting to know them I made the mental note of keeping them in my life long after we wrapped, whether they liked it or not. I love Idyllwild too – it’s beautiful and the town mayor is a golden retriever named Max!

TrunkSpace: You were extremely interactive with fans on Twitter while “A Merry Christmas Match” was airing for the first time. How does that real time interaction with viewers change the acting experience for you when it comes to television? Does social media allow for a more – almost theater-like experience given the ability to hear from people as the performance/piece is being seen?
Newbrough: Live tweeting is an exceptional experience. It can be overwhelming but it feels like you’re in it together with the viewers. Hearing their thoughts scene by scene offers a fresh perspective and makes it more fun to watch. Their support is always appreciated too.

TrunkSpace: You’re originally from Rhode Island. What is something that is undeniably New England about you that you can’t shake no matter how long you’re away from the Ocean State? (And as a bonus question… can you tell those who aren’t from Rhode Island what coffee milk is?!?)
Newbrough: I moved from Rhode Island when I was three so I didn’t get a chance to develop any New England tendencies or learn what coffee milk is! Now I have to look that up. I find walking along the beach – being close to the ocean – is one of the best stress relievers. It can work some serious magic… I like to think being born of the Ocean State has something to do with that. Plus, New England is famous for their vibrant falls (which is my favorite season). LA doesn’t get fall and it breaks my heart to miss it.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Newbrough: All of the opportunities I’ve been grateful to experience have added up to a many highlights. One that stands out would be when I was cast in ‘Privileged’ alongside Lucy Hale and JoAnna Garcia Swisher. It was the role that got me to move to Los Angeles – it changed my life. Getting to work with legends like Rod Taylor and Barry Bostwick are also big stand out moments for me.

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?
Newbrough: And ruin all the surprises??? I wouldn’t dare.

A Merry Christmas Match” will air throughout the holiday season on Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.

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Wingman Wednesday

Brendon Zub

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Photo By: Noah Asanias

Growing up with a passion for baseball, aspiring Major Leaguer-turned-actor Brendon Zub envisioned a day where he’d be running base paths professionally. But like life tends to do, it zigs when you anticipate the zag, and now the Vancouver native is sharing screen time with caped crusaders in The CW’s “Batwoman.”

I remember getting chills the first time I came to set and saw the Batcave rebuilt with Easter eggs to all previous Batman shows hidden about,” Zub said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “It was jaw dropping.”

We recently sat down with Zub to discuss script reveals, cast whale watches, and why streaming platforms help to keep his family informed on his career.

TrunkSpace: With the premiere of “Batwoman” behind you, does it feel like you’re now able to share your experience on the series with the world? Does it feel more real when it is out there and is being enjoyed?
Zub: Definitely! We shot the pilot back in March, so it was a challenge to stay quiet about it with all the excitement surrounding it until the show got picked up. Now that it’s aired, it definitely feels more real since we can talk more about the show, engage with fans, and share some of our behind the scenes pics and experiences from set.

TrunkSpace: Did you find yourself scouring the socials to see what the first impressions of the series were to long-time fans of the characters and how those characters were handled in a cinematic sense?
Zub: I see what comes my way, but honestly I didn’t go out and search social media myself. I still consider myself a newbie in the social media world. I’m not on Twitter and find managing my Instagram account challenging enough. (Laughter) I get tips and advice from my castmates on “Batwoman.” Camrus (Johnson), who plays Luke Fox on the show, is a good friend and tends to send me articles and help me when I have questions. That guy is a wizard on Insta and Twitter.

TrunkSpace: What would 10-year-old Brendon think about his future self getting to play in the DC Universe? Would it seem unfathomable to him at the time?
Zub: Yes, 10-year-old Brendon would have been completely shocked and probably even more confused. You see at that age, despite being a bit of a class clown in school, I was crazy into baseball. I lived and breathed that sport and all I could dream of at the time was growing up and playing in the Major Leagues one day.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a project like “Batwoman” where, although grounded in reality, anything is possible… do you have those pinch me moments on set where you look around at the costumes and set pieces and go, “How is this my life?”
Zub: For sure, you can’t help but have those moments when you get to work with such a stellar cast and play around in such a legendary location as Gotham. I remember getting chills the first time I came to set and saw the Batcave rebuilt with Easter eggs to all previous Batman shows hidden about. It was jaw dropping. It wasn’t till Ruby Rose donned the Batsuit and we got to do our first scene together that the reality of it all truly sunk in… I was now apart of the DC Universe.

TrunkSpace: Your character Chuck seems to be carrying a few secrets with him. How much of his journey did you know going into your first day of shooting, and has that journey surprised even you in places as you have gotten further into production on Season 1?
Zub: I knew nothing day 1 except that Chuck Dodgson betrayed the Crows and was Alice’s lover. How that all played out, and his and Alice’s backstory, was a complete mystery to me. I had my theories but the writers kept their cards close and didn’t reveal much of anything early on. Over the course of the season, however, more of Alice’s and Dodgson’s relationship and backstory is revealed and fans will learn more behind their motivations.

TrunkSpace: We would imagine it’s fun to play a character where “not all is what it seems” because you’re getting to peel back those layers for the audience week after week. As a performer, does that episodic reveal make it just as interesting for you to shoot a project as it is for the viewers to watch it all unfold?
Zub: Yes, in fact, we feel much like the viewers ourselves week to week. Only difference is that we’ve just experienced things a few months earlier. Every time we got a new episode sent to us we’d all talk about it and share the same shocked reactions and theories that fans do now.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on “Batwoman” thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Zub: For me, it’s the friendships I’ve made on this show. Since most of the cast were new to Vancouver, I had the unique opportunity to show them around town and introduce them to all the fun and unique activities that Vancouver, BC has to offer. As a result, I grew pretty close to many of them on and off set. There’s been cast BBQs, and even a whale watching tour we all did together… memories I won’t soon forget. I will cherish the friendships made on “Batwoman” for a lifetime.

TrunkSpace: Beyond the weekly premieres, “Batwoman” will live on in streaming platforms where people can catch up or watch again as many times as they’d like. As an actor, do platforms like Netflix enhance the experience for you in bringing a character to life, knowing that they’ll live on for people in however they wish to consume the content down the line?
Zub: Yes. It’s especially important to me since many of my family and friends are scattered around the world in different countries and can’t watch it on TV. It’s been nice to just tell my brother, who’s halfway around the world and my biggest supporter, to just turn on Netflix and watch my show. Makes things easier.


TrunkSpace
: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Zub: Well… a few months ago I’d probably say my Hallmark/Lifetime Christmas lead romance roles but now I’d have to say “Batwoman.” It’s quickly overshadowing my previous roles now… especially as the season progresses.

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?
Zub: Oh, that would be hard to turn down… but I kind of like not knowing what is around the corner for me though. It keeps me motivated to work hard for each and every thing in life and to seize every opportunity. It’s been an exciting roller coaster ride so far and not knowing what tomorrow brings is the fun part. Having said that… I may just take a quick peek.

Batwoman” airs Sundays on The CW.

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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

Kavan Smith

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We’re just minutes away from the season finale of “When Calls the Heart” on Hallmark Channel, so sit back and enjoy our chat with series star Kavan Smith while you wait!

We recently sat down with Smith to discuss his on-screen chemistry with costar Pascale Hutton, the upcoming “The Perfect Bride” sequel, and why he’ll need his head sewn back on if he’s ever to return to “Supernatural.”

TrunkSpace: You and your “When Calls the Heart” costar Pascale Hutton are doing a sequel to your movie “The Perfect Bride,” which seems like a rarity for the network. It must be a vote of confidence for the work that both of you are doing to have such support from Hallmark Channel?
Smith: Yeah. You know I think that, with the one that we did last year, “The Perfect Bride,” the first sort of installment, I guess, neither of us were really sure, because we’ve had a lot of people talking over the last couple of seasons about having us doing something together that was more contemporary, and they just kind of threw it at us last minute. So when we read the script, we weren’t really sure what it was they were looking for, and ultimately just kind of decided to do what we thought we did best, with just kind of basically making each other laugh. And it worked out. It was really a lot of fun to do. And then ever since we finished that last year, it seemed like the fans did like it and responded to it, and we’ve been trying to find a way to convince them to do a sequel. So we actually ended up going down to Los Angeles, the two of us, and pitched it together as a team. So not only did we work together as an acting duo, we kind of had our first foray into trying to produce something as a tandem, and it was a lot of fun. For our very first attempt at trying to get something made together, the guys down there at the studio were really, really receptive to us, and it went really well. And for whatever reason, they decided to go again. And I think that script was written a little differently. It was the same writer, but this script seems to be written a little bit more towards what we do, whereas the other one, it was like, “We have this script. Let’s throw Kavan and Pascale at it and see what they can do.” This one is a bit more, “OK, we’ve seen what you did in the first one. We’ll write that way, and good luck.”

We read it today for the first time out loud, and really all we did was laugh. We laughed for an hour and a half sitting around a table, so I think that’s a good sign.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working with someone like Pascale who you know you already have solid chemistry with, do you try to alter than chemistry at all when you’re dropped into new roles opposite each other, or do you stick with what works?
Smith: I think it’s kind of a combination. I think both of us as actors think about making changes and think about making conscious choices to be different than our characters on “When Calls the Heart.” But I also think that sometimes just the language alone being so different and the feeling being different, it really kinda does it for us. What seems to work for us, and I think what our chemistry is, for lack of a better word, and what has built our friendship off camera as well, is really a desire and a joy of making each other laugh. It’s kind of like having a buddy that you just like to go out and have a beer with, and just laugh for an hour with, only we do that during the course of a shooting day. In some ways it almost feels like cheating because it shouldn’t be fair that you go to work and laugh all day. It just doesn’t seem quite right. But we do, and I think that the more we foster that, the more that it reads on camera. So I don’t even know that if we were to try and make too many conscious choices to make it different, that that would work. I think part of what really works for us is just the joy that we have of kinda riffing off of each other. And we just have a very similar sense of humor. I grew up with a kid, when I was very young, and we had that same sense of humor. And she’s kind of like my friend from when I was eight years old. It’s just a good fit, work-wise.

TrunkSpace: Well, that’s got to be the dream, right? Not only enjoying the work, but enjoying the process of working?
Smith: Yeah. Absolutely. That’s why I said it feels like I’m kind of cheating the system a little bit, because it should feel harder, but it’s really fun. And even though we love working with everybody else on the show, and I think we work well with the other actors, when it’s just the two of us and the director and the crew kinda just say, “Oh, good. It’s just Kavan and Pascale now.” It’s kind of fun for those moments to have that. I do think it sort of leeches into the crew as well. And when you can have people who are… I wouldn’t say in charge, but when people that are sort of higher up are having a great time, I think it’s infectious for everybody, and it makes the whole day fun. Like the last time we did one of these shows… we did this movie last year. I don’t know if I’ve ever had that much fun on a show. Martin Wood was the director, and we both knew Martin. I’d worked with him in the past, so it was really like a trio, and I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that hard on a show in my life. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed that hard anywhere in my life. I can’t express enough how rare it is in my business to find somebody that you work well with, that you get along with, whose families get along. “When Calls the Heart” keeps going and they keep giving us other opportunities to do more. It’s kind of like a partnership, and that’s sort of rare in my field. Usually you do a gig, and you move on. You do a gig, and you move on. And you try and develop friendships, and you try and develop chemistry, but we had a natural chemistry just from really wanting to make each other laugh. And now we’re building more depth to it because it keeps going, and because we keep getting more opportunities.

TrunkSpace: Season 5 of “When Calls the Heart” finishes up tonight. What has that long-term journey with the character been like for you, especially with the series being presented in relatively short season orders? Does that change the dynamic for you as an actor in terms of the character journey?
Smith: I do think it changes the dynamic a little bit. And to be totally honest with you, I think most actors are fairly selfish, and I’m included. I want the story to be about me, and I want to develop more. I want to do more. I want to push the bounds of what he is, and the world that he lives in, because it’s fun. I really enjoy visiting this guy’s life and the limited seasons… I think series television is new for Hallmark, and I think it’s something that they’re working on. And I think we’re in a way, a bit of a test – a test child. They’re testing the waters. I really wish it was more of a 16 to 20 episode show, where you really got to get a few episodes that were really about Leland and Rosemary and their journey. I think that we’re sort of handcuffed from time to time, because in a short run like this, there’s Elisabeth and Abigail and Jack and Bill. And there’s a lot of stories that need to be told. And when you’re only doing 10 episodes, you want to go further with it. And I think that’s the mark of having something that you are enjoying, is you want to do more of it. And we all definitely want, selfishly want, a little bit more. And I do wish that maybe the network would be open to that, but that’s way over my pay grade.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like, in terms of the television industry in general, things are going more and more in that direction.
Smith: Yeah, definitely the landscape is changing a lot. The traditional 13 to 22 or 26 episode run seasons are an anomaly now. I guess money being what it is, and people’s attention span being what it is, and the fact that you can list off 50 new shows that everybody’s talking about, it’s hard to… I think that what’s unique about this show is that, because it is what you would call a family values show, I personally believe that the market and the audience is there for a longer run. I think that on some of those shows, because that subject matter almost seems to be a little over-saturated right now, that people’s attention spans might only be six episodes or 10 episodes where everybody dies, and everybody’s doing drugs, and whatever. Our show, being a little cleaner, I still think people crave that. Families crave that. I think there would be an audience for 13 to 20 episodes, but I don’t control the purse-strings, sadly.

TrunkSpace: And it does seem like the network has such a passionate, loyal fandom. The Hallmarkies, and in your particular show’s case, The Hearties, are committed to the content.
Smith: Yeah. You know, it’s interesting… because I’ve done sci-fi in the past, a fair bit of sci-fi, I’ve had experience with science fiction fans, which are phenomenal fans. They are rabid. They really, really bite into that, being that fandom thing. And I didn’t think that is existed anywhere else. I knew that people were fans and there wee lots of other fans, but I always thought sci-fi fans were sort of the most extreme version. But Hearties are proving me wrong. They are a very loyal, outspoken bunch. They are remarkably positive. I’ve done all sorts of shows in my career, and I’ve been on good shows and bad shows and all sorts of genres. And you read fan stuff, and usually it’s OK, it’s pretty nice, but there are always haters and you try not to read too much. But the Hearties, I guess by definition, are so positive. These are things that you can easily have my kids read. Occasionally when I’m not paying attention, they’ll grab my phone and they’ll look at a Twitter feed or something. There’s never anything on there that I’m worried about them reading. They’re very positive and they’re very complimentary, and they’re really into their show, and it rivals any sci-fi fan base that I’ve ever been a part of, that’s for sure.

TrunkSpace: And that’s very refreshing in this day and age, because you don’t see a lot of that, especially online. It’s hard to find anything positive online, to be honest.
Smith: Oh man, I’m so used to seeing and hearing nothing but constant rivers of negativity, and I also think that that’s part of why, whatever your political bent is, I think that on either side, people are so stressed or so tight, that something like this has a home. I think it’s not just the show itself, but it’s that… I guess people are embracing the whole positive vibe of the show. We’re trying to embrace humanity and positivity and community and things like that.

I think that these types of things, given time to bloom, will just get other people more and more involved. And it’s kind of nice to go online and see positive things. When I first started on following the Hearties and stuff on Twitter, I did so apprehensively, thinking “Well, there’s going to be a ton of people that hate this character, and they’re going to hate the positive message, and they’re going to hate…” But it’s really been just a stream of positivity. It’s really something. My kids are quite young, and with all the negativity in the world, it is nice to be able to show them that something daddy does has a positive effect on some people.

Credit: Diyah Pera/The CW — © 2014 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

TrunkSpace: We’re rabid “Supernatural” fans here, and we always enjoyed your character Cuthbert. If there was ever a character with a built-in backstory worth exploring, he is it.
Smith: I agree. I really, really enjoyed him. And the backstory to that, I did a movie with Jensen’s wife, her name is Danneel Ackles, and we did a movie maybe about a year or so before I did “Supernatural.” And so I got to meet Jensen a couple of times and he came to set – really nice guy, and we kind of hit it off a little bit. So when I got cast on the show, I went in and they were warm and accommodating. His wife came in to say hi, and she and Jensen sort of took me under their wing a little bit, and kept calling the producers every day saying, “We gotta get him on more. We gotta get him back more. It’s a great storyline. It’s a great character.” And I almost felt bad, because I felt like they were going too far. (Laughter) Sometimes when you push producers on something, they react the other way. So it’s like, “I really appreciate the love, but you might be pushing these guys too far.” (Laughter) But I really did enjoy that guy, too. I thought that it was a really interesting bridge that they’d built that they didn’t explore. But they have a million story lines on the show, so I guess I just wandered into obscurity. But I really, really did love doing that role.

TrunkSpace: Well, if there has ever been a show where a character can come back years later, “Supernatural” is that show! (Laughter)
Smith: Well, I have to find a way to get my head sewn back on, but yeah, if there’s ever a show, that’s the one.

The season finale of When Calls the Heart” airs tonight on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Megan Park

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Photo: Megan Park Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Fresh starts and new beginnings. That’s what spring is all about. For Megan Park and Jonathan Keltz, stars of the new Hallmark Channel movie “Once Upon a Prince,” which caps off the network’s Spring Fever programming event this Saturday, that meant portraying characters in search of their own individual do-overs. Landscape architect Susanna (Park) has recently discovered she’s not in her boyfriend’s long term life plans while heir to the Cambria throne Nate (Keltz) must appease his mother and find a Cambrian bride. Serendipity brings their two lives together, but it’s love that will place them on the same path.

We recently sat down with Park to discuss seasonal pitfalls, why she enjoys being a part of the Hallmark family, and what her pillars of happiness are.

TrunkSpace: Your new Hallmark Channel movie “Once Upon a Prince” is set to serve as the icing on the Spring Fever programming event cake. We’re located in the Boston area where spring hasn’t exactly decided to show up yet. What are some seasonal elements of this movie that will help us feel that we’re putting winter (and snow!) behind us?
Park: Brrr, I’m sorry it’s still cold in Boston! I’m in California where it feels like summer all the time so I especially appreciate the seasons and the fresh start they give people. I think springtime is super romantic and this movie perfectly captures that. The energy of new beginnings is such an exciting feeling and I think because it’s all about two people deciding to start anew, there’s so much gardening and beautiful florals in this movie, viewers will hopefully be inspired by that and forget about winter!

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions are great at putting the viewer in the spirit of a particular season, but as is the case with this movie, you shoot during a very different position on the calendar. Were there any logistical issues that the production had to overcome to help put the audience in that April showers/May flowers mindset?
Park: SO MANY! It was totally worth it but we shot the movie in Canada in the middle of the winter and this was supposed to be spring. We were dealing with rain, freezing temperatures, gale force winds all while wearing spring clothing and trying to look like we weren’t freezing. Production was great and they had heaters for us and I literally was wearing an electric heated vest with a battery pack underneath my wardrobe in half of this movie and they did wonders hiding it all!

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on numerous Hallmark Channel productions over the course of your career. What is it that keeps you coming back and working for this particular company on these particular types of productions?
Park: I always come back and work with Hallmark because it’s always such a wonderful experience. The scripts are feel-good, the stories are feel-good and that makes the viewers feel good, which I think it’s much needed in this world. Plus, the network and the executives are really amazing, smart, genuine people and I love being a part of the Hallmark family.

TrunkSpace: How did this experience differ from your previous Hallmark Channel experiences? Did the character/story put you in a position to take a different approach?
Park: I’m always playing someone different and the story is different so each experience feels totally different in a good way. This movie was really FUN. The story is such a common fantasy – you meet someone and you fall in love with who they are, their heart, and THEN you find out they are royalty. I got to just have a good time with this one and lean into the fantasy.

TrunkSpace: We recently chatted with your costar (and onscreen prince) Jonathan Keltz. He had mentioned that the two of you had known each other for years prior to reconnecting on the project. Did having that familiarity with your costar allow you to hit the ground running and find that in-story chemistry?
Park: YES! When I signed on to the movie, Jonathan was attached already and I was thrilled. It’s always fun to meet someone new but there’s something special about already having a history and built-in chemistry with someone. Jonathan and I have known each other since we were both teenagers in Canada but we hadn’t hung out in a few years so it was extra special to reconnect and there was a sense of familiarity that was really nice. He’s a wonderful person.

TrunkSpace: In the movie you play a landscape architect, which is not a profession you often see represented in film/TV. From an outside perspective, one of the things that would be fun as an actor is getting the opportunity to inhabit not only different characters but different professions as well. Did you pick up on any interesting landscape architect tidbits by playing Susanna and what are some other memorable on-screen trades that you’ve had a chance to temporarily take on?
Park: It IS fun to get to play so many “different” jobs as an actor. My mom is an amazing gardener and has a green thumb – my sister too actually! I did NOT get that gene. I have a hard time keeping a cactus alive and since we were filming in the winter in Canada all those flowers you see are FAKE everywhere (shhhhh), even tied into the trees, so I can’t say that I learned a LOT about gardening but I do appreciate it even more now.

Photo: Jonathan Keltz, Megan Park Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Patrick Shaw

TrunkSpace: As far as your actual career is concerned, was acting a choice or the only choice? Was this the path you always anticipated taking?
Park: Acting chose me. I have NO idea why at six years old I was soooo determined to get the role of Gretl (von Trapp) in a local production of “Sound of Music,” but something about it all just made sense to me. I still remember that audition and then getting the role. I was totally hooked and honestly never looked back. It’s a really demanding and unique job. Lots of high highs and low lows, but it’s all I know and I really love it. I recently started writing and directing as well and it’s given me a whole new appreciation for the business and a fun different side of my brain to explore. I can see myself doing a lot more behind the scenes stuff in the future as well.

TrunkSpace: As mentioned, you’re also a writer and director, with a number of projects in the can and a number of others in development. Are you finding it increasingly more difficult to focus on your acting career as you expand upon your behind-the-scenes experience?
Park: I’m not finding it more difficult to focus on acting. I think it’s added to my knowledge and understanding as an actor. Since I started directing and writing, it’s given me a new skill set to approach a script, a scene, the way I communicate with other actors and directors. It’s more of a 360-degree understanding of the business and I think it’s helped me in front of the camera as well.

TrunkSpace: What is the ultimate dream for you, and, are you currently living it?
Park: Wow, what a question! I feel incredibly lucky to be healthy, have a partner who is my best friend and endlessly supportive family and friends I adore. I think those are the pillars of happiness for me so yes, I am living my dream. I have a LOT to be grateful for.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Park: No, part of the fun is not knowing. Life unfolds as it’s supposed to and I think it’s most magical to live in the moment and not know what the future holds just yet.

Once Upon a Prince” premieres April 7 (9 pm ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Steven R. McQueen

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In this high speed information age, things are getting thrown at us fast and furiously every minute of every hour of every day. To calibrate, TrunkSpace is introducing a subsection of our popular Wingman/Wingwoman Wednesday column where instead of taking our usual in-depth approach, we’re sitting down for a speed round with the individuals who pleasantly pop our pop culture bubbles.

This time out we’re going chatting with Steven R. McQueen who has dipped his toe in the Hallmark Channel water, starring in the latest original movie from the network, “Home by Spring,” which premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

TrunkSpace: This is a Wingman Wednesday: Lightning Round, so let’s dive right in. “Home by Spring” is your first time working with Hallmark Channel. What did you take from the experience?
McQueen: Hallmark Channel makes great movies about romance, and then it just seemed like a great opportunity. It was fun.

TrunkSpace: You’ve done lots of television, including almost a decade on “The Vampire Diaries.” TV works quickly, but these movies move even quicker. Did that force you to change up your own approach at all?
McQueen: No. I’m pretty used to a TV schedule so everything is fast paced and a quick turnaround, which is nice ’cause you can see it a little quicker. Yeah, it was all in all a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: In the movie there is a lot of history between your character Wayne, and Poppy Drayton’s character Loretta. Did you guys have time to prepare and work out what that relationship looked like before stepping on set?
McQueen: Yeah, we had rehearsals. We rehearsed a little bit together and then with location and this and that, little things changed on the day, but we definitely had a rehearsal process.

TrunkSpace: With the characters having that history together, do you think that sort of enabled you and Poppy to play up different elements of the relationship that perhaps people aren’t used to seeing in a movie like this?
McQueen: I mean, the story is about love lost and love found again. We definitely have our moments going at each other.

TrunkSpace: Was there something kind of cool or different with Wayne as a character that you were excited to play and get to inhabit that perhaps you haven’t had an opportunity to tackle in the past?
McQueen: Just kind of location and circumstance but other than that, not really.

TrunkSpace: We know you come from a family who has a rich history of working in the industry, including your grandfather Steve McQueen. Was a career as an actor kind of ingrained in you? Did it almost feel like it was a choice driven by genetics?
McQueen: I’ve been lucky enough to work for the last 12 years and the nice thing about having my grandfather is it’s been cool in the sense that I kind of have a blueprint of roles that I would at least aspire to try to do. At some point I have to play a police officer, a bank robber, and at some point, do a Western. Will that come to fruition? I guess we’ll see.

TrunkSpace: Do you think sort of having the family history, having an insider’s look at how things operate, better prepared you for just how the industry works?
McQueen: I don’t know if anything can prepare you for how the industry works. (Laughter) But yeah, it definitely opened a couple doors. I can’t complain about that.

TrunkSpace: Why do you think Hallmark Channel movies continue to bring in audiences and that the network as a whole has seen growth while others have seen their viewership decline?
McQueen: You know, I think it’s always nice to have stories about love with resolution at the end. Hallmark seems to corner that pretty well.

Photo: Poppy Drayton, Steven R. McQueen Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bonnie Marquette

TrunkSpace: And there tends to be a theme involved that everyone can relate to, whether its love, or loss, or both.
McQueen: Yeah, I agree. Things seem to work out the way they’re supposed to.

TrunkSpace: And honestly, there’s something nice about a happy ending, because nowadays, so many shows and movies take a different approach.
McQueen: Yeah, exactly. I think we all hope for happy endings, right?

TrunkSpace: In terms of things moving forward, are there a particular set of goals that you have for yourself, not only short term, but long term as well?
McQueen: It’s just, I like to work. As long as I get to keep working, then I’m happy.

TrunkSpace: Do you see yourself venturing behind the camera at all?
McQueen: Yeah. The chance to direct would be incredible for sure. I guess that’s one of those things you gotta wait and see what opportunities present themselves.

The latest opportunity presenting itself, “Home by Spring,” premieres Saturday at 9 pm ET/PT.

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Wingman Wednesday

Julie Gonzalo

JulieGonzaloFeatured

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 Gonzalo to discuss seasonal displacement, what she found refreshing about the storytelling in “The Sweetest Heart,” and why having an endless supply of cupcakes on set isn’t necessarily a good thing.

TrunkSpace: “The Sweetest Heart” is kicking off Hallmark Channel’s Spring Fever programming event. That has to be a cool feeling when your movie is basically serving as the springboard for a big event like that.
Gonzalo: Yeah, it makes me feel so great. I tend to do a Hallmark movie yearly, ‘cause they’re so much fun to work with, you meet such great people and it’s so quick. These projects are always just so happy and fulfilling that you’re like, “Why wouldn’t I want to be laughing all day?” The last one I did, it opened the fall, so it’s kind of awesome that I did one last fall, opened the fall premiere, and then it’s the spring premiere. I’m all, “That’s pretty cool!” I kind of like that.

TrunkSpace: Is it fun getting to play in those seasonal sandboxes, especially when you’re shooting them out of season?
Gonzalo: Yes and no. Last summer I did a film that was the fall, but we were shooting in the summer, so we were literally dying of heat. “Okay, now comes the sweater and the jackets.” (Laughter) So you’re literally shooting a film in pretty hot weather and yet you’re still wearing all these different layers because it’s the fall. And the same thing happened in this one. It’s kind of like, now it’s springtime, but it was freezing. (Laughter) And for me, having grown up in Miami, the cold weather is nice to see from a window while you’re sitting next to a fireplace. (Laughter) But it was interesting to hear, “Okay, now you gotta take this coat off…” and I was like, “No, I don’t want to!” And also, I didn’t realize how much it rained in Vancouver. At first, I’m like, “This is beautiful. We don’t get rain in LA all the time, it’s pretty great.” And then by like day 10, they’re like, “Do you still like it?” And I’m like, “I’m over it. I can’t. I’m just over everything right now.” (Laughter) Once we wrapped, I started seeing sunshine. I’m like, “Great, now you’re coming!”

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your past experience with Hallmark Channel. How did your experience on “The Sweetest Heart” differ from the other movies you worked on?
Gonzalo: The director, I had worked with before – we had done a film before – so I already kind of got excited to work with Steven (Monroe), because I really love how he works. We really work well together. He knows his stuff, he knows what he wants, and I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to my work that I don’t ever… like, I have nightmares about showing up to work not prepared, and I literally panic and I wake up. So I knew how it was going to go, because of my relationship with him.

I’ve only done two other Hallmark films before, but they’re such the love story, and the romance, and you know, obviously the empowerment of a woman, which I love playing. I love that Hallmark does that. I love that Hallmark has women protagonists. They’re following her. You’re really caring for this woman, and that to me is so empowering, especially in these times, right? And what I really liked was the fact that there are three different love stories in this film. You had the main love story, which is my character and Chris McNally’s character. Then you have the Clayton (Chitty) and Tammy (Gillis) love story, and then you have the Andrea (Brooks) and Jordan (Burtchett) love story. So, it was really nice and I like how they all kind of intertwined with each other. I found that to be very refreshingly new.

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 for a different layer of backstory to what you two did from a performance standpoint?
Gonzalo: Yeah. There was a lot of pain there that came from them not being able to work it out when they were 18 and 19. And then in a way it’s like, when you’re 18 and 19, what do you know? It was really nice to have that backstory, but it also made it a little hard because you don’t really have a lot of time to spend with your co-star to kind of create that chemistry, and create that history. But I was very lucky with Chris, ’cause we met before we started shooting and we kind of talked about things, and it’s mostly just getting to know each other, because it’s like testing the reality of it all. How do you convince people that these two characters have known each other and have loved each other for so long? It was very easy with him. He’s such a wonderful human being that it was very comfortable to get to that place, sooner rather than later in a sense. It’s always such a weird thing that that’s what you do for work. “I have to go fall in love with you, cool? I have to find chemistry with a really good looking guy. Oh good.” (Sarcastically) “Work sucks.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Did having an existing relationship with the director enable you to arrive on set and just hit the ground running, because from what we understand, these shoots move very quickly?
Gonzalo: Yes, cause we literally shot in 14 days. You’re shooting essentially a feature film. 110 to 120 pages in 14 days is pretty ambitious and we were shooting six day weeks, so we only had one day off, so I already knew coming in that I was like, “Oh man, I’m gonna be so tired.” But, knowing how Steven operates and knowing how he knows his stuff, and knowing that he prepares himself so well the day before… you’re not overly creating things, you already know what you want, you already know how you’re going to edit it… and that’s always the key to me, cause there’s no reason to waste time. Everybody is here for a job, let’s get it done.

TrunkSpace: By the time that you arrive on set, is your dialogue pretty much locked in or is that still getting massaged on the fly as well?
Gonzalo: Oh God, I wish! (Laughter) No, it’s always like you’re a work in progress in a sense. If you’re lucky, you have a week to prepare. Some of these films come on so quickly, so it’s very much, “Just hang on!” You’re going for ride in a sense.

I don’t ever want to lock myself into dialogue because when you get to set, you play. I don’t know what the other actor is going to do. I don’t know what the room is going to look like. I don’t know what the energy in the environment is going to be like. So I prepare my stuff – I prepare my character, my dialogue, or my intentions rather, of what the scene entails, and then show up to work and just kind of be in the moment and be organic. Everybody has their own process, but to me, it’s like I know what my character wants, where she’s starting, where she’s going, what the intentions are, and then just show up and play. When you show up you just kind of want to keep loose. You want to keep fresh. I feel like sometimes when I lock myself into a way of doing, or saying, or preparing, then I get myself in trouble.

Photo: Chris McNally, Julie Gonzalo Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC

TrunkSpace: That makes complete sense. Just like in life, when you put expectations on things, it’s easy to get let down.
Gonzalo: Oh yeah. Expectations are the worst thing that ever happened to us. I mean, I’m sure there’s worse things, but it’s true – you’re right. When you expect something, it never turns out that way, ever, so you’re literally just setting yourself up for disappointment each time.

TrunkSpace: We talked about how quickly a shoot like this can happen, and how much work you do within that time frame, so is it a bit of a culture shock when you call wrap and suddenly it’s all gone?
Gonzalo: Oh yeah, big time. I’ve had this conversation with so many actors before, where you’re like, you fall into this weird depression thing. I shouldn’t use that word loosely because it’s a very serious thing, but you kind of have that feeling of like, “Wait, what happened to my life?” You kind of just turn the world off. Your world, your friends, your family – you’re kind of like, “Okay, I’ll come back in two or three weeks,” cause you submerge yourself into that world and that’s who you are. Your crew members become your family, your co-stars become your best friends and your director becomes your leader. Once you kind of get out of that head space, you’re kind of like, “Wait, who was I? What was I doing? What was I doing in life before this?” But that’s the thrill of it, I think. I love doing that. I love packing my bags and being like, “Where are we going and what are we doing and who am I meeting?” And I’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to me. I just enjoy meeting people and knowing their stories and kind of learning, “What brought you here? How did we get to meet?” I take everything in and I make the most of every day.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that must also be interesting is that not only are you inhabiting this person, but you’re also inhabiting their career. In this case, Maddie is a cupcake maker. As an actress, you’re sort of taking in these other vocations, too.
Gonzalo: Yeah, totally. You definitely realize, “How do I know this? Oh, cause I learned it at work.” Granted, I never really learned how to make cupcakes this time around, but you kind of just… you do in a way, like the concept of it. We pick things up through the process.

TrunkSpace: Hopefully you picked up a few cupcakes because there must have been plenty around the set.
Gonzalo: (Laughter) At first I was like, “Oh my God, this is going to be amazing! I’m going to eat all of them!” And then you’re like, “Wait, this doesn’t fit. Shit. Nope, no more. No more sugar.” And then you do, and then you have that sugar rush, and you’re like, “Okay, now I’m just annoying myself.” (Laughter)

The Sweetest Heart” airs this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Chris McNally

ChrisMcNallyFeatured

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.

Photo: Chris McNally, Julie Gonzalo Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC

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.

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Wingman Wednesday

Peter Porte

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Photo: Peter Porte Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Dolsen

As far as leading men go, Peter Porte is checking all of the boxes. He’s handsome, he’s charismatic on screen, and according to his costar Amanda Schull, he comes to set as prepared as any actor she has ever worked with. Oh, and based on our chat with him to discuss his new Hallmark Channel movie “Love, Once and Always,” which premieres tonight, he’s also ridiculously charming. He’s basically everything our wives wish we could be, and you know what, we’re okay with that because he happens to be about as down to earth of a guy as you could find.

Like we said, checking all of the boxes.

We recently sat down with Porte to find out what keeps him excited to be working with Hallmark Channel, how he’s always contending with dogs and sheep, and why a movie like “Love, Once and Always” is exactly what the country needs right now.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of Hallmark Channel projects, including two last year. What is it about these particular jobs for this particular company that keeps you coming back?
Porte: It’s a wonderful company to work for, first of all. They really take care of us all. I also think that it’s quality entertainment that you can watch with your entire family, and that’s something that I definitely stand behind. And everyone I’ve worked with has always been a pleasure and they’re always shooting at amazing locations. We shot the first one out in Savannah and the last two out in Vancouver and I got to experience that city in both the summer and winter. I got to do some hiking over the summer and some skiing over the winter. The people I’ve met on those are still friends with me to this day. It’s always a pleasure to be working with Hallmark.

TrunkSpace: So how did your character on “Love, Once and Always” differ from those you played in your previous Hallmark Channel projects?
Porte: So, in this one, rather than having a dog, I had a sheep. We had a resident sheep that stole the scenes in basically the same way that all the dogs did, so I had a counterpart to contend with, per usual. (Laughter)

But as far as character goes, it was different from the last two because both of my last two characters were fairly earnest. The challenges were more situational than with my co-star. In this one, because we were ex-lovers, there was a lot more history and a lot more tension between the two of us. This character, I think, is really funny and a bit snarky, and fun. That’s a bit of departure for Hallmark. There’s a quippy banter between the two of them, and that was really fun for me.

TrunkSpace: Did the history between the two characters help to establish that banter?
Porte: I think that was it too. It’s because of that history, there was that comfort. The writers were allowing us to be a little bit more comfortable with each other – real, in a sense.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions tend to move very quickly. When you spend so much time, in such a short period of time, on a character, does it feel like you’re abruptly pulled out of his skin when the project wraps, just because of the nature of how fast everything goes?
Porte: Yeah, in a way. This character was a lot like myself so it wasn’t as if it was a dramatic departure that I had suddenly completed and left behind. It wasn’t too much of a challenge, but I’ve been in those positions before. I’m trying to think of one right now that was jarring to get out of after spending so much time in it, but that wasn’t the case so much with this one.

TrunkSpace: What about seasonally? Often you’re working out-of-season on what is essentially seasonal movies, so you could be filming a Christmas movie at the tail end of summer. Is it odd to jump out of calendar time like that?
Porte: Oh, yeah. That is interesting. You know, when I was up there, we didn’t see sun for three weeks straight. Vancouver gets so cloudy. I’d never spent a winter there, but they had warned me that it was very similar to Seattle or Portland. When I got there, I understood exactly what they were talking about. I love Vancouver, but I was very happy at that point to… also, I had a low-key cold the entire time we were shooting, so I was very pleased to be back in sunshine after we wrapped. Although, it didn’t take much time before I was like, “Man, I miss mountains. I miss skiing.”

TrunkSpace: The air is so different up there too.
Porte: So different! Yeah, you can almost taste the air in Vancouver, it’s so rich. It’s so clean.

TrunkSpace: We spoke about what keeps you coming back to the Hallmark Channel fold, but in your opinion what keeps viewers tuning in week after week? What is the draw for all of those Hallmarkies out there?
Porte: I think no matter what your political affiliations or viewpoints on current topics are… I mean, they’re very polarized right now and I think it’s a lot on us as a nation, individually, as families, to cope with and to deal with… and I think that Hallmark offers a wonderful escape from that. It’s super important right now. I think that we are craving that kind of, not simplicity, but… I don’t know how to describe it…

TrunkSpace: It just feels wholesome.
Porte: Yes, that’s it! It’s wholesome. It is something you watch with your entire family. It’s something that will make you feel good, time and time and time again. I think that we’re, as a nation, craving that. It’s no surprise to me that it’s doing as well as it is, and I hope it continues to because I think that’s exactly what we need right now, when it comes to entertainment. It’s the same as all these incredible action, hero movies and why they are doing so well right now. We are craving heroes. We’re craving love stories. We’re craving that the good guy wins out in the end and they get married. It makes perfect sense to me.

Photo: Amanda Schull, Peter Porte Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

TrunkSpace: There is incredible television out there, but a lot of it is heavy and you carry that with you.
Porte: You take it on! You take that stuff on. I was lying in bed yesterday and I had a long, hard day. I was about to start “Mudbound” on Netflix, and I’m like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” (Laughter) And so I put on some Bill Hader and I watched “Documentary Now!”

TrunkSpace: You’ve guested on some great shows over the years and we’re curious, which one would you have liked to have stuck around longer on? What was the show and character that you wished you had more time to spend with?
Porte: That’s a good question. I reoccurred on a show called “Baby Daddy” for quite a few years. It’s a sitcom, and I love the sitcom format because it’s the closest thing that we have, I think, in film and TV, to theater, which is a big love of mine. I think that there was a lot more to be had with my character having married Bonnie Wheeler, played by Melissa Peterman. I played the grandfather on the show because I married the mother of the baby daddy. In the years I worked on that show, I made such a strong bond with so many of the cast and crew, that that could have just gone on for the next 10 years and I would have been so happy. I love that show.

I also did a guest star last year, just one day, on “New Girl.” I think that entire cast is so brilliant and funny, I would love to just hang out and watch them do their shtick.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your love for theater. Is that still a big part of your life today?
Porte: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s very important to me. It’s probably my first love and why I got into this business. I don’t get as much of an opportunity to do it as I’d like, but last Christmas I got to do a show at the Annenberg in Beverly Hills, with the company that I’ve been working with for the last, I think, six years now, called For The Record. We did “Love Actually” live in concert. We performed the entire movie of “Love Actually,” but then all of the amazing songs that are within the movie, we also sang.

TrunkSpace: It’s a great soundtrack.
Porte: Oh, such a good soundtrack. We had 25 people in the cast, and I played Hugh Grant’s role, the prime minister. We had Steve Kazee, who won the Tony for “Once,” in it. It was amazing. It was six performances, and we’re hoping that it comes back next year in a larger capacity. But as long as I get in at least one or two of those in a year, I’m pretty satiated, I’m pretty happy. I love it, and I do miss it. I wish I could be doing more of it.

Love, Once and Always” airs tonight (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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