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The Featured Presentation

Crystal Lowe

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© Crown Media United States, LLC

Even though digital correspondence is the preferred method of communication these days, we all still love to open the mailbox and find a handwritten letter waiting for us. There’s something nostalgic about peeling back the seal of a freshly delivered envelope and discovering what is waiting for us inside. That’s why the concept of the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ ongoing franchise, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is so ingenious, because it strikes a chord before you ever get past the opening credits.

A group of postal detectives work to solve the mysteries behind undeliverable letters and packages from the past, delivering them when they are needed most.”

As far as pitches go, it doesn’t get much better than that, and for the countless fans of the series who have followed along with it since it first began airing in 2014, the individual stories that make up each standalone movie back up the overall premise.

The latest installment, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” premieres Sunday, September 24 at 9 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. We recently sat down with series star Crystal Lowe to discuss how her character Rita was a welcome departure from previous roles, why she feels the franchise is resonating with audiences, and how she had to restrain herself from fangirling on Mandy Patinkin.

TrunkSpace: Early in your career you appeared in a number of horror films, including “Black Christmas” and “Final Destination 3.” Did you make a conscious effort to step away from that genre and focus on other things so as not to be pigeonholed?
Lowe: I actually did. It’s not that I don’t enjoy doing the horror genre, but no painter wants to paint the same painting over and over again. That’s what appealed to me as well. I think I’ve always said it would be a dream of mine that when somebody sees my demo reel, for them to not recognize me from role to role. I did appreciate the fans and the love that I got from that community because they’re a very tight community, but it was an ongoing joke that I wanted to live in a movie. Just one. “I just need to not die in things, that would be amazing.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What is the key to successfully breaking out of a particular way of being viewed within this industry?
Lowe: I think for me it was that I hunkered down a lot and I studied and I studied and I studied. I was taking classes. I still take classes. I always will. I begged casting directors and people to just give me a shot. “Just give me a shot. Just see me in a different light. Just let me in the room and I’ll do something.” They were kind enough to do that. I did also have really good relationships with a lot of casting directors, so they gave me the opportunity to come in and just try new things.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” must have been a welcome change when it came along in 2014?
Lowe: Huge change for me. When I auditioned for that, they sent me the sides and I called my agent and said, “You sent me the wrong sides.” He said, “No, no, they’re going to see you for this.” I was like, “No, they’re not. What? I’m not going to book this. This is not right for me.” (Laughter) And then they asked me to come back and I started laughing. I remember being in the room looking around at all of these girls, really nervous, and trying to get the part and I was like, “I don’t care. I’m not getting this.”

I had no idea who Martha (Williamson) was. I had no idea what kind of resume she had. I had no idea about any of it, so it was good because I went in there with no… I remember performing the character of Rita for my girlfriend, who was also auditioning for it as well, and she said to me, “Are you going to do it like that?” (Laughter) I was like, “I don’t know, but this is just how I see that character.” She was like, “Oh, okay. That’s not a choice that I would’ve made.” (Laughter) I had the offer that night.

TrunkSpace: We recently read how Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is one of the few networks that is actually growing its audience, which is really fascinating. As television continues to go down a gritty, dark path, the growth is evidence that many people want to feel good when the credits roll.
Lowe: Yes. I’m a strong believer in that light always overcomes the dark, but you need the dark in order to have light, right? Sometimes the pendulum swings and then we need a wake-up call and a reminder that in order to keep that light going we got to keep fighting for it. You can’t just be complacent and you can’t just hope somebody else is going to take care of it. I think our show offers that to people. I’ve never been on a show like this where the fans are genuinely thanking me for getting them through chemo treatments or losses of family members. There’s not a lot I can do, but if I can inspire, then that makes me so happy.

I always used to joke when we first started the show, because I was a huge “Dexter” fan. “You watch an episode of ‘Dexter’ and then you watch our show before you go to bed.” You’re like, “Oh my god!” and then you’re like, “Okay, everything’s going to be fine.” (Laughter)

You need to remind yourself that, yes, the world is chaotic at the moment, but there’s so much good. The average person, your next door neighbor and the people around you, the majority are good and want the best for people, so I like that our show is a reminder of that.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again Photo: Kristin Booth, Eric Mabius, Crystal Lowe, Geoff Gustafson Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what has the journey been like for you in terms of exploring the character, because the project started as a series and then transitioned into an ongoing film franchise? Does the journey change at all in that regard, seeing your character’s arc from the perspective of a series to a two hour film?
Lowe: Yeah, it does because when you’re doing a show like ours, because there’s an A storyline, which of course is the POstables, and there’s a B storyline, which is the letter, you don’t have a lot of time to tell an entire letter story and propel the POstables. You can push them forward, but you don’t have a lot of time to push them forward. At first I was like, “What? The two hour format? No, I love the series!” And then we did the two hour format and I was like, “Oh, actually Rita and Norman get to really grow. We actually get journeys through this.” That would’ve maybe taken five episodes, which I now get to do in one movie. As an actor I get to make bigger leaps and bounds, which is awesome for me. I love that.

TrunkSpace: Even though it’s a film, does the process still feel like you’re shooting individual episodes just because of the episodic nature of it?
Lowe: Yeah, it does – like a two hour episode. They’re movies and they’re standalone and you can tune in and pretty much understand what’s going on, but to me it’s almost like the British version of television. It’s like a miniseries. You just get more time with it, which I think works for our show and Martha’s writing because her writing is so full. It’s so nuanced. It’s hard for me now when I get auditions or scripts because I’ve been working with good writing for a really long time, so if it’s not good writing, I know. (Laughter) There are lots of layers in there all of the time and the two hour format gives her the opportunity to really put those layers in and allow people to watch them over and over again and find them, like reading a book.

TrunkSpace: You’re shooting these as movies, but you’re still working in television. Does that mean you’re still working with the breakneck television scheduling?
Lowe: Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes eight to 10 pages a day.

TrunkSpace: Wow!
Lowe: It’s insane, but we do it. It’s dialogue heavy and we do it. Our crews are amazing, especially on these last two. Our crews were just an awesome bunch of people that are young and hungry in the industry and I love watching that too because people really love their jobs and care about them. We pound pavement. We make it happen. During it you’re always like, “This is never going to work,” and then after you’re like, “Of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it work?” (Laughter)

I worked on a movie this year called “Wonder,” which I’m really excited about. It’s coming out in November and it’s based on a book. It was so weird because when I shot that, the director was like, “What do you want to do? What do you want to try?” I was like, “I’m sorry, what? We have time to just try stuff?” (Laughter) In TV world, you’re like, “We got to go. We’re done.”

TrunkSpace: “Wonder” looks like very powerful storytelling, and again, is that feel-good story that it seems like we need as a society right now.
Lowe: That film is…

I got to work with Mandy Patinkin. For me that was a bucket list thing. It took every bone in my body not to be like, “Mandy, I love you! I’ve watched ‘The Princess Bride’ a thousand times and I love it!” I didn’t though because I was like, “Do not fangirl on him, he’s going to think you’re a weirdo!”

But the story was just so good. The writing was so good and it’s really, really necessary all over the world. I just recently moved to the United States and I think it’s really important in the United States, for many people, even in the highest positions, to learn about bullying. This is a good film and it’s necessary.

TrunkSpace: In our pre-interview quest for research we learned via your Instagram page that you were a big “Perfect Strangers” fan growing up, which got us to thinking… what makes Crystal want to do the dance of joy?
Lowe: (Laughter) This sounds ridiculous, but to those who know me, they’d be like, “Uh-huh!” Brandi Harkonen, who’s one of the producers for my show, she laughed and gave me a song, which is “The Lego Movie” song. She’s like, “That’s you! That song, ‘Everything Is Awesome’ encompasses you as a person!”

The happy dance comes really easily for me. I happy dance over the smallest of things and I happy dance over big things. I think what I would have to say is, seeing the people that I love smile makes me so happy. If I can do something that makes them laugh or if I can get them something that I know they really wanted or if I can take pressure off of them, it just makes me happy dance everywhere.

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The Featured Presentation

Laci J Mailey

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Photo By: Paul Smith Photography

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

We sat down with O’Brien family member Laci J Mailey to discuss how she tapped into the “Chesapeake Shores” source material, the impending Jess mess, and why “Supernatural” is the right kind of rite of passage.

TrunkSpace: “Chesapeake Shores” is based on Sherryl Woods’ book series. In your interaction with viewers, has the show been attracting fans of both the source material and those who knew nothing about the novels beforehand?
Mailey: YES! Sherryl Woods’ books are New York Times Bestsellers – so yes. Absolutely her fans have followed her work into the TV series. Sometimes the fans of the books get a little upset that we haven’t exactly followed the original storylines, but Sherryl allowed us a beautiful framework to play with these characters and I think at the end of the day, everyone is okay with that. I believe we are honoring the characters she has created.

TrunkSpace: As far as your character Jess is concerned, did you spend time with Sherryl’s books or did you want there to be separation between the television world and the literary world that already existed?
Mailey: Well, let me be honest. I had to be careful with this in order to keep my ego in check and to make sure I was doing my job at telling the most truthful version of Jess I could. From my original research before reading the books, I quickly understood that NO ONE liked Jess! She was full of drama and a lot of the reader reviews found her quite annoying. At first this scared me. But then I really sat with it and thought, well, everyone is flawed. How can I bring this girl to life while staying true to her character and still allow the audience to understand and connect with her, despite her flighty behavior? So to answer your question: yes I sat with the books… but I sat carefully. I didn’t want to judge her. That being said, when I am reading her in the books, she is a separate entity. When I am reading her in the scripts, she’s mine.

TrunkSpace: Where is Jess’ personal journey taking her in season 2 and what part will she play in the overall storyline?
Mailey: I’m so happy for Jess in season 2! She finally gets to grow up a little. Things are really shifting and changing for her. She is dealing with old wounds and opening her heart to new possibilities. As for the overall storyline, she’s still making Jess messes but she’s finally learning to let more of her family help her and support her in the clean up.

TrunkSpace: The show focuses on the classic theme of family dynamics and the idea that you can always go home again. What is it that viewers relate to when watching the O’Brien family and at the same time, what does the series do differently with that dynamic that we haven’t seen before?
Mailey: Well, hopefully the audience can find something in one or all of our characters that they can say, “That’s so me!” or “That’s so Dad!” That’s really all we can hope for, that type of connection. For the viewers to watch and feel supported in their own life or their own family.

Photo: Laci Mailey Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: In the series you play the youngest sister. As far as her place in the family itself, does Jess feel like she has something to prove?
Mailey: Always! She is dealing with some pretty deep rooted abandonment issues, so I think she has lived her whole life wondering why she was left behind. What a great question. I think that might be Jess’s ultimate flaw – she is always trying to prove that she is worth loving and worth being heard. This is why she works so hard to make the BnB a success and is always making so many mistakes… maybe she’s testing to see if her family will stick with her.

TrunkSpace: What was it about Jess that you could relate to, and on the opposite side of that coin, what was it about her that is so far removed from who you are that it took some searching to find?
Mailey: Well, I like to think in my own life that I’m “the cool aunt!” I love her creativity and impulsiveness. I’m similar in those traits, so that is always pure fun for me to play. One of the harder things to find was understanding the six year old girl inside Jess who’s mom didn’t come home one day. Ouch. That was hard to imagine, but of course very real.

TrunkSpace: As you look over the first two seasons of “Chesapeake Shores,” what is the one scene or episode where you felt you really got to stretch as an actor and why?
Mailey: Season 2, episodes 7 and 8 were the most fun I have had yet. Jess gets to go through a whole whirlwind of emotions. It’s funny. It’s romantic. It’s heartbreaking. It’s a Jess mess. I loved it.

TrunkSpace: Something that you and many of your other costars have in common is that you have all also appeared on “Supernatural.” For actors based in Canada, is it a bit of a rite of passage to appear on that series?
Mailey: (Laughter)Very true. “Supernatural” is a staple of Vancouver actors. It also happens to be one of the best, kindest, easiest, warmest sets I’ve ever worked on. Those two boys (Jensen and Jared) are truly great people.

Photo: Laci Mailey Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ricardo Hubbs

TrunkSpace: We’re admittedly big fans of “Supernatural” here, so not only do we know that you appeared for a three-episode run in season 11, but we know that you had previously appeared as a different character years before that. Is it unusual for an actor or actress to appear as multiple characters on the same series? What was it like returning to set with a different character to inhabit?
Mailey: No! Especially in Vancouver as they like to hire local actors. I think it’s awesome. I think the “Supernatural” fans love it too! Connecting the actors with characters from seasons before… how cool! I loved going back to play Jenna Nickerson. I had a bit more of an arc with her than I did with Emily in season 7, so I had a bit more fun on my second time around.

TrunkSpace: Your character Deputy Jenna played a big role in the overall storyline of season 11. Having helped set the car on its course, so to speak, has that very supportive and rabid fanbase accepted you into the SPN Family fold?
Mailey: I think so! I hope so. I am honored if they did. What an amazing fanbase that show has created.

TrunkSpace: As we look over your career, it seems like you haven’t really taken any time off since you started your career in 2011. Has the last few years felt like a whirlwind and is that a tempo you want to continue to work in as you look forward in your career?
Mailey: I love the whirlwind and I love not knowing what type of role I’m going to get to play next. I’m always looking for the next project. I did take some time off in 2014. I moved to New York and did the struggling artist/actor thing and LOVED it … until I hated it. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: With the new season of “Chesapeake Shores” now airing, what do you hope fans will walk away with when the season finishes up?
Mailey: I hope they feel even more connected to our family than ever before.

“Chesapeake Shores” airs Sundays on Hallmark Channel.

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The Featured Presentation

Amanda Righetti

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As we melt into the dog days of summer and the dread of a winter to come chills us to our sun-loving core, the Hallmark Channel is here to help us embrace what we all wish could be an evergreen season filled with the accumulation of beachfront memories. “Love at the Shore” is the network’s latest foray into seasonal programming and stars Amanda Righetti, an actress who has impressed in everything she has appeared in, including memorable roles in “Colony” and “The Mentalist.”

In slipping into the shoes of her character Jenna, Righetti was excited to step away from the heaviness of her previous roles and spend time with the lighthearted, emotionally-driven storytelling of “Love at the Shore.” Working in television over the years prepared her for the ambitious 15-day shoot, much of which became reliant on the cooperation of Mother Nature. (Thankfully the weather was mostly agreeable!)

We recently sat down with Righetti to discuss cinematic escapism, transitioning from modeling to acting, and if Jason Voorhees is as scary as a broken heart.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark is probably best known for their holiday movies, but they’re actually really great at painting the feelings and emotions of all seasons. With that in mind, what makes “Love at the Shore” a summer movie in terms of painting those feelings and those emotions?
Righetti: Well, Jenna is a novelist. She rents this summer home for her kids to go to. She’s still licking her wounds from a divorce and hasn’t really figured out quite how to move on. It hits her in a very unexpected way. There’s something very juvenile about the way she falls for Lucas (Peter Porte). It’s met with a very adamant, “No, I don’t like him. I don’t have time for relationships.” Sometimes, love doesn’t have bounds. It finds us sometimes in really unexpected places. That’s kind of part of her journey, just relaxing and letting go of control. She trying not to be as neurotic about things and allowing somebody to care for her. Especially considering the tumultuous relationship she has come from.

Nobody expects any marriage to end when they go into it, so there was a certain aspect of sheltering herself and trying to protect herself. That all gets kind of cracked open. It opens her eyes to a new avenue. There’s something really lovely about that journey, and I think everybody can kind of relate to it.

TrunkSpace: Most Hallmark movies end on a happily ever after note, a theme that is actually not common in a lot of other film and television projects these days. Is part of the allure of Hallmark films a sort of a welcomed escapism for people who feel like they’re tapping into a simpler, less chaotic time?
Righetti: Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s so much heaviness on TV that just the idea of escapism, that you don’t have to worry about death and upheaval at the end, there’s something kind of refreshing about it. I think sometimes we need that. We need to be able to tune everything out and not fret about what’s going to happen tomorrow or what’s even happening today.

I think there’s some merit to that. I think we need that sometimes as an audience. Hallmark seems to have that genre pegged.

TrunkSpace: You started your career as a model. Was acting always a part of the plan?
Righetti: Yeah, it’s funny because I actually fell into modeling by way of trying to get into acting, and I guess in some ways I got derailed for a few years by doing the modeling thing, but eventually came back to it. At the age that I started, there was a lot of legal things that would have had to happen, emancipation and things like that. Modeling bought me time until I was 18 and I just could start pursuing it full time.

I wasn’t quite sure even when I did start getting into acting if that was the avenue I was going to go and then I saw myself really falling in love with it. I started to not see myself doing anything else. It clicked for me in a way that I went, “This is it. There’s nothing else I want to do.”

TrunkSpace: Once you had established yourself as a model, did you have to work your way out of the perception of being a model who wanted to act?
Righetti: Yeah, I think that’s what even happens now. I think sometimes it can be tricky. It sounds so cliché, but it’s the “pretty girl syndrome.” You feel like you have to prove that you’re not just a pretty face. That there’s more behind it. I was lucky in the sense that the modeling stuff for me happened all overseas. I haven’t done any domestic modeling, so I wasn’t really fighting against being in some Tommy Hilfiger campaign or something like that, going in, and they’d be like, “Oh wait, aren’t you the face of…?”

Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Marc Lemoine

It wasn’t like that for me. It was a little bit different. I was doing the Japanese markets and things like that. They were sort of once removed. They kind of never coincided and crossed over with each other in that way. It wasn’t so much about fighting against the modeling as much as it was just fighting against, “Look, I’m more than a pretty face.” I never really brought the modeling into the acting that way, in terms of trying to sell myself.

TrunkSpace: You mention fighting against the pretty face syndrome. Does that also apply to the types of roles you would get offered and read for?
Righetti: Yes, absolutely.

TrunkSpace: Has that changed at all in recent years? Are there more interesting roles for women now than there were when you started your career?
Righetti: Yeah. I think even as I’ve sort of grown up in the business a little bit and because I’ve been doing it for more than a decade, the rules change, too. As you get older, you enter your mid-20s, roles are different than they are when you’re in your late teens. And even into your late 20s or early 30s the roles are a lot different. It seems like things are sort of shifting in the direction of more female-driven characters and female-driven shows. That’s exciting, and really, it’s an exciting time to be part of the business in that way. To be able to explore stuff that usually, many years ago, would have been a male playing certain roles… they’ve started to see things differently and I think audiences want to see something different too. It really lends itself to great opportunity.

TrunkSpace: It feels like the time of “desired demographics” is going to fall to the wayside and good content will just be good content.
Righetti: Well, I think people are open to that. It doesn’t matter what the role is, as long as it’s interesting and you can get behind it and you can find an audience for it. Sometimes people don’t know what they want, they just know what they don’t want. If we can present interesting characters, even if they’re female, it still is worth watching. It’s all opportunity. I think it’s exciting. It’s a great shift and I’m really pleased to see that it’s finally starting to swing in that direction.

TrunkSpace: Looking back, is there any advice you would give to your teenaged self in terms of lessons you’ve learned and wish you could have avoided?
Righetti: (Laughter) That’s a loaded question.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) It’s a heavy question.
Righetti: Wow, you know… the list could go on and on, or it couldn’t, because I don’t know that I would change anything.

I would say to my younger self to believe and don’t doubt. “Just go for it.” I struggled with a lot of self doubt as a teenager and trying to figure out what I was going to do with my career. I think that would have been a good piece of advice to have known in my heart at that time.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular project that you learned the most from, not only in terms of the industry but in terms of yourself and your abilities as an actress?
Righetti: Each one I’ve learned something from that unexpectedly, I didn’t really know I would have learned. But, I think that the one I take the most pride in is “Colony.” It was really wonderful to be part of such a collaborative, creative team. And to also be surrounded with such generous and talented actors. The character that they wrote gave me an ability to see so many different colors in a character. I really appreciated that. It exceeded my expectations.

Every project sort of exceeded my expectations in some regard. We didn’t think “The Mentalist” was ever going to do seven seasons. That really exceeded expectations. I never thought that I would learn how to fire a gun or do tactical takedowns and things like that, but there I was and I did. Even going back, “The O.C.” was a huge learning experience for me. I got to work with people that I grew up watching. It was a wonderful experience and those actors were all very generous as well, and very warm and loving. I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was doing and they were all just really lovely to me.

Every project has had its moments of unexpected pleasant surprises. I think most recently “Colony” was really the one that I learned the most from and I think I grew the most through. It could be just the time of my life too, I don’t know.

Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Marc Lemoine

TrunkSpace: You mentioned “The Mentalist.” You did seven seasons and 132 episodes of that show. It must be interesting to watch a character grow and learn over a long period of time as you yourself are also growing and learning?
Righetti: Yes, absolutely. That’s a really neat thing, looking back. I think I was 24 or 25 when I started that show. I really came into my own as a woman in that show. I had a child when I was doing that show. My life changed a lot. The character was so naive and she kind of came into her own. She went through a lot of things. It’s neat just to see. It’s like the old adage, does art imitate life or life imitate art? “The Mentalist” definitely had certain aspects of that.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we have to ask… who is a better on-screen antagonist. A broken heart, which you deal with in “Love at the Shore,” or Jason Voorhees, who you dealt with in the “Friday the 13th remake? It seems like both can be pretty hard on a person.
Righetti: (Laughter) Yeah, both can be hard on a person. I think you can be chased by Jason Voorhees and have a broken heart at the same time. (Laughter)

“Love at the Shore” premieres Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.

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