Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

The Featured Presentation

Tara Holt


Even though our slowly-shrinking jack-o-lanterns are still sitting on our stoops and our various Halloween costumes are slung over the backs of chairs, the changing of the calendar from October to November means only one thing for those particularly festive people like us… it’s the unofficial start of the holiday season!

Thanks to Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, our inner inflatable, oversized, holiday-themed lawn decoration is being filled with seasonal wonder from now through December as a magical series of Christmas movies pump our holiday spirit to maximum capacity. Premiering this Saturday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is “The Perfect Christmas Present” starring Tara Holt and Sam Page.

We recently sat down with Holt to discuss going blue, why people love Holiday movies, and what her version of the perfect Christmas present would be.

TrunkSpace: You went from “Z Nation” to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ “The Perfect Christmas Present.” That’s a pretty diverse year, which as an actress, must be part of the fun of the job, right?
Holt: Yeah, you know, it’s been interesting, for sure. It’s definitely all sides of the spectrum. The role on “Z Nation” was something that when I was going out for it, I actually didn’t know that my character was blue until I’d gotten the part.

TrunkSpace: Surprise! (Laughter)
Holt: (Laughter) “Surprise, you’re blue.”

So that was really interesting, spending the entire summer as a blue half-human/half-zombie. It’s something I’d never done before, and I’m not so sure I’ll ever do again, necessarily. So I mean, I take it as it is, you know? It was a cool, different experience, and totally on the other side of the spectrum from “The Perfect Christmas Present,” which was just so fun. It was just totally different from any sort of dramatic role that I’ve done. It was lighthearted and easy to shoot, and it was a pleasure to be on that set. I didn’t have to go to any deep, dark crazy places emotionally, so that was nice. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: On a project like “The Perfect Christmas Present,” it’s really about the human connection side of the performance, right?
Holt: Absolutely. It’s so fun because they were so easy to connect with. It made my job so easy, and it was just really a breeze. Sometimes you get off of shooting an overly dramatic thing, any sort of horror, or any sort of extremely emotional thing, and to hop on a comedy or something like “The Perfect Christmas Present,” it’s such a relaxing situation because you just get to connect with the other person.

TrunkSpace: The makeup is barely dry on our Halloween costumes. What advice do you give us to transition our brains from spooky spirits to finding our holiday spirits?
Holt: It’s gonna happen very fast. You get four days to figure it out! (Laughter)

What’s nice about it is, I think Christmas is a great representation of all the holidays as a whole, so as soon as the holidays are approaching, Christmas is kind of a staple to that. Halloween and Thanksgiving are the buildup, but I think Christmas is the overall umbrella for it all. I don’t think there’s any time to start… you can’t start Christmas too early. In fact, I have friends who have their Christmas lights up all year round. I’m a huge Christmas person. I don’t think there’s any harm in starting it November 4, or earlier.

The other thing is, it’s nice because I’ve been going into some stores, and they’re already in the Christmas spirit. I was like, “Whoa, okay… we’re there.” In our society, as soon as Halloween is over, you better believe that it’s switching to Christmas.

TrunkSpace: The movie is actually kicking off the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Most Wonderful Movies of Christmas programming event. That has to be pretty exciting that they chose your film to launch such a big event for the network?
Holt: Yeah, we knew we had something special going on as we were filming. After each day we just knew we were surpassing what was expected, and doing it more justice than I think any of us knew we were initially going to do, so I’m actually very pleasantly surprised that they chose it for this position.

Holt and Sam Page in The Perfect Christmas Present

TrunkSpace: Why do you think this type of seasonal content continues to resonate with so many people?
Holt: I think there’s something very heartwarming about this kind of thing, because you get your family together, everyone sits down, you’re all together on the couch, you’re probably having some snacks while you’re watching it, having some laughs, having some feel-good moments and you’re with the people you love. It’s a moment to get lost in another world, and obviously there are some fantasy elements to all of the Christmas movies, and it’s a really fun world to escape into, especially before everyone’s really geared up and ready for Christmas. It’s such a great moment for everyone to start and sort of slip into that element early on. So that’s why I’m excited – to be the first one to start off the holiday season.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, was it easy for you to discover who Jenny was? Did you have time to absorb the material and discover her as a character?
Holt: Yeah, I thankfully got a few weeks beforehand where I was really able to dive into my own character and kind of answer all those questions for me and make sure that I knew her inside and out before I stepped onto the set. I didn’t, however, get a chance to meet Sam Page, who plays opposite me, and Blair Hayes, who’s the director, until the day before filming. Thankfully, they’re lovely and such a great crowd to work with. It was really, really easy to fit in with them. When Sam and I started off, our first scene was kind of an argument and it was interesting because we had to break a connection there that hadn’t really quite been built yet. But thankfully, he’s so amazing to work with and such a great actor that it was really easy for us to have had that relationship built, for us to be in that place, to break it, even just in a day.

And overall, in comparison to some of the other roles I’ve done, this one didn’t require some crazy, dark niche and extreme studying to do beforehand. She’s such a sweet, loving person, and works for the charities, and does have some pain in her life that involves her family members and her upbringing, but overall, I didn’t have to get into the mind of, like the “Z Nation” show, where I’m like a half-human/half-zombie and I’m actually mentally five-years-old in a 28-year-old’s body. That was complicated. This one wasn’t so complicated. That was what was so great, the simplicity of her.

TrunkSpace: And in this one, you didn’t have to have blue skin!
Holt: I do not have blue skin, thankfully, in this one. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It’s an obvious question for the star of “The Perfect Christmas Present” but we have to ask it… what would the perfect Christmas present be for you this year?
Holt: Wow, you know, surprisingly I haven’t gotten to that yet, so I haven’t really thought about it. I am very fortunate right now in my life to say that I have mostly everything that I’ve ever wanted, but there is something I’m working toward as an adult. “As an adult now…” (Laughter) I’m working towards purchasing my first home, so that is something that I would like to give to myself.

But as far as the perfect Christmas gift that somebody else could give me… I’m way bigger on life experiences over an actual tangible item, so I would have to say the perfect Christmas gift for me would be a trip somewhere – somewhere that I’ve never been. Hands-down, life experiences over anything for me.

The Perfect Christmas Present” airs Saturday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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The Featured Presentation

Brooke Burns

Photo: Brooke Burns, Dylan Neal Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

Sly sleuths have been entertaining us with their crime-solving skills for as long as television has been beamed into our homes. Hallmark Movies & Mysteries took that delectable dish of a genre and altered the recipe slightly, adding the one ingredient that everybody can relate to – food.

Based on the series of books by author Peter King, “Gourmet Detective” follows homicide detective Maggie Price (Brooke Burns) and former, world-class chef Henry Ross (Dylan Neal) as they crack the twists and turns of cases as entertaining as they are perplexing. The latest installment, “Eat, Drink and Be Buried” premieres Sunday, October 8 on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

We recently sat down with Burns to discuss what drew her to Maggie, what it’s like performing opposite the writer, and why unplugging from the real world means plugging into “Gourmet Detective.”

TrunkSpace: This is the fourth time you’re tackling Maggie Price. Does it start to feel a bit like you’re shooting a television series as opposed to a standalone film just because of the episodic nature of it?
Burns: Definitely. We’ve talked about that a bunch over the course of it. Honestly, we have so much fun on set and we love each other – we just all get along so well. We’re like, “Just make it a series already!” (Laughter) It feels like we’re already doing that, you know, with the different story lines, but right now, we’re still following the Peter King books.

TrunkSpace: Doing them as films must allow for a bit more of an individual character journey though. As a series, the arcs tighten up or they end up being spread out over multiple episodes.
Burns: That’s true. Definitely, we’ve been able to explore a little more individually, which is nice to be given that opportunity, for sure.

TrunkSpace: What was it about this particular installment, “Eat, Drink and Be Buried” that excited you from a performance standpoint?
Burns: I think starting out, Maggie was very protected, being a single mom and the boss of her own world. As I like to say, she built a moat around her castle and she rarely lets the drawbridge down. And I think that with Henry, as they’ve slowly come closer and closer together, she’s really learning to trust someone. And it’s both scary and also refreshing at the same time.

So I think we see a softer side of her, or at least the struggle between being vulnerable with someone and still kind of being her own boss.

TrunkSpace: Is that because there is more of a personal relationship between Maggie and Henry as opposed to just a professional one?
Burns: Exactly, so that turn has been interesting because it’s like, “Wait, what does this still look like on the job?” And just because we’re now dating, it doesn’t really mean that these aspects of the job change, but in a way they do. And once you care about someone, then things start to evolve. But I think intimacy probably scares her a little bit, and at the same time, she wants it.

So those are kind of fun things to play with – all the different layers of comedy and tragedy.

TrunkSpace: Your costar Dylan Neal is also the writer. As you’re shooting, are you continuously massaging dialogue while in scenes and seeing if different things work that weren’t originally on the page?
Burns: Oh yeah. I think for us, as actors, it’s so wonderful to constantly have the writer on set. If you have any questions, you’re like, “Hey, do you mind if I tweak this?” or, “I feel like this is more natural for my character.” But Dylan and Becky (Southwell) have a really good handle, I think, now especially going into the fourth, of our voices, so they’re usually pretty spot on.

But I do, just for fun, always go, “Who wrote this? It’s terrible. Wait, I have to say what?” (Laughter) And he’s like, “Oh, stop it.” (Laughter) We pretend like we’re talking amongst the actors and then we’re like, “Oh wait, wait… you’re the writer too.” We give him a hard time.

Photo: Brooke Burns Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

TrunkSpace: A good moment to rib him is every time he has a really great line. “Hey, why do you get the good line!?!?”
Burns: (Laughter) Any time I have a good line, I’m like, “Oh, Becky must have written that.”

TrunkSpace: While you guys are still working and massaging the script throughout production, you’re also working within a pretty breakneck schedule, which one would imagine means you’re constantly full steam ahead.
Burns: 100 percent. I feel like they get shorter and faster every time. It’s a bit of a circus trying to make it through to the end. (Laughter) This one was even more challenging for me because I was breastfeeding a six-month-old-baby. “Wait. Put the costume on. Take the costume off. Okay, is the baby good? Okay, wait.”

I had a big monologue to do and I started in. I’m like, “So the captain says… the captain says… yeah, I have no idea what the captain says!” (Laughter) I just had a total white out. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. I have some serious baby brain right now, give me a second. It’ll come back. Don’t get scared.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Doing anything with a six-month-old at a breakneck speed is a feat in and of itself, never mind shooting a movie.
Burns: Yeah, it was definitely a challenge this time. I felt like I had two full time jobs.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, as well other Hallmark original programming, have a really large, loyal fandom, which I think takes a lot of people by surprise. The groups online that follow these individual shows and franchises rival those that follow science fiction franchises known for their rabid fan bases.
Burns: Yeah, that says it perfectly. I took my eight-month-old to the zoo a couple days ago, and a woman passed me by and then she came running back and she goes, “Wait! You’re the Hallmark girl!” (Laughter) “Is that my title now? Oh, okay, good. Thanks for telling me.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It seems that, given the seriousness of the news every time you turn on the television, that this type of feel-good entertainment is the perfect form of escapism.
Burns: Definitely. I think that’s true. I mean, I know that for me, with all this scariness happening, every day I wake up I just go, “Do I really want to turn on the news?” I’m actually scared to go, “What happened now in the 12 hours that I’ve been unaware of the world?”

I’m sure if you have children or you just are trying to unwind, the news gets really overwhelming these days. Unfortunately it’s so sad and heartbreaking that a little love toward your heart feels good.

Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Kailey Schwerman

TrunkSpace: What was the biggest creative draw for you regarding the overall “Gourmet Detective” concept and character journey when the project was first presented to you?
Burns: You know, it’s interesting… I think that the older I’ve gotten, and definitely being a mom, I feel like your brand starts to evolve over time. And I just love, as you just said, that feel-good, family viewing. I know there’s a lot of stuff that people do as actors and they’re like, “Oh yeah, my kids can never watch anything I do, nor would they want to,” and so I think there was just a part of that where I was like, “It just feels clean and easy to go and be a part of something that is, really, like a family.”

Their brand is really how they run their shows and their sets. Going in having to do it this time with a six-month-old, I just thought that there was no way they were going to be able to accommodate all of the extra bells and whistles that I was going to need to stop every three hours – to be able to breastfeed, to be the kind of mom that I want to be, and get the job done. And they were like, “Okay, okay. Yup. Sure. No problem. Done. We’ll get you the driver with the car seat. We’ll get you the time that you need. We’ll shoot a different direction so that you can be with the baby, get her down for a nap, whatever.” Who does that? People who really understand family values.

And Maggie, in it of itself, was always great just as far as the character and falling in love with her. I loved that she was this sassy cop and at the same time, this loving single mom, and sort of the juxtaposition of those two things and having to balance the two.

TrunkSpace: Looking over your career, is there a character that you wised you got to spend more time with and explore further?
Burns: Definitely. The character of Kathy Dinkle from “Pepper Dennis.” We were only on for a season and it was kind of one of those things where Warner Bros. was caving under and we were up against the writers’ strike and the studio shifted. But definitely, the character of Kathy Dinkle was a really fun character for me that I created out of my five-year-old daughter and my mother mushed together. That was always something that I wished I had a little bit more time to continue to explore just because she was a lot of fun for me to play.

Gourmet Detective: Eat, Drink and Be Buried” will be served up to mystery-hungry viewers on Sunday, October 8 (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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The Featured Presentation

Kim Delaney

KimDelaney_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

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 guest star and Emmy Award winner Kim Delaney to discuss her contribution to the Golden Age of Television, what drew her to the POstables, and why she took the opportunity to milk a cow during filming.

TrunkSpace: We hear all of the time, especially in talking with producers and writers, about how we’re in the “Golden Age of Television.” Now, many believe that started with your series “NYPD Blue.” Do you ever think about your contribution to what has become this incredible renaissance period for storytelling in television?
Delaney: That’s a great question. I’ve never really thought that one through. I think it is a great time for television and I think being in my show, which I was lucky enough to be on, was just the best time and we just had the best time doing it. It was the best writing, the best crew. I mean, everything was just top notch. So, yeah, I know that was groundbreaking, so maybe that is the beginning, right? They said that was all very groundbreaking television at the time, and Bochco, of course, has always been groundbreaking. And David Milch is right there with him with “Deadwood,” which is tremendous, and all the things he’s done since and before.

TrunkSpace: We were looking at some of the numbers “NYPD Blue” was doing at that time. In 1996, for example, it had 19.79 viewers. Today, those are numbers that execs could only dream about.
Delaney: Yeah. The NFL might get that, I don’t know what the NFL gets, but that’s the only one who sees those numbers, right?

TrunkSpace: It’s amazing to see how much things have changed it such a relatively short period of time.
Delaney: It is wild. And then you hear different directors, directors of photography, and what they put into it, and then you see people watching it on their tablets or their phones and they feel they’re not getting the whole experience. But then you talk to somebody like my son, and they get it. They see the beauty. They see everything. It’s just a different way of viewing. And, it’s interesting because I hear pretty soon we’re going to be able to view things 360 degrees. Wild. Just the thought that you could move your device around and see 360 degrees of what you’re watching… say you’re watching a football game, or whatever… that would be insane.

TrunkSpace: And now you’re set to debut in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again,” which has a very big, devoted following. In a lot of ways, it feels like we’re coming back around and people are looking to step away from gritty storytelling and just escape for a bit.
Delaney: I think there’s a lot of room for that. Absolutely. I mean, look at these storms we’re getting. We have a gorgeous day and we all appreciate such a beautiful day, right? But between the heat waves and the storms – I think there is something very valid there that everybody wants to come and have an easy thing to watch – a pretty thing to watch.

TrunkSpace: What drew you to “Signed, Sealed, Delivered?”
Delaney: I like Hallmark and the pretext of the story is just very honest. It’s about bringing a family back together again. And it’s a great cast too. I mean, I have to say, I had so much fun working with everybody.

“Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Home Again” Photo: Kim Delaney, Laura Bertram, Emily Haine, Kyla Matthews Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Owen Strongman

TrunkSpace: And for those eager to dive into this latest installment, where does your character fall into things?
Delaney: I’m the matriarch of the story. The story is kind of about these generations of matriarchs – my mother, my grandmother, my great-great grandmother, and all these strong women through these generations. And I myself have three daughters. I’ve lost a husband and the thread is a vase that’s been lost. I was depressed and they sold this vase thinking they were helping out with the farm. So it’s taking care of this farm, thinking we were losing the farm, and how they sold this vase when they were little. Now we’re losing the farm and we really could use that vase, but it’s lost in the mail.

Hence, the POstables find the vase, but it’s really about finding family again – the family coming back together. I’m the rock, the steady rock, that is not so steady right now. She is stuck trying to figure out how to take care of her daughters in the moment and in life, and they bring back hope.

I think it was very personal to Martha (Williamson) and it’s just a pretty story. I had such a good time playing it, being on the farm. I didn’t have to milk a cow, but I did milk a cow because I asked the guy if I could. You know, I’ve never milked a cow before. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When in Rome, right?
Delaney: Yeah, right. When in Rome! (Laughter) When else am I going to milk a cow?

TrunkSpace: One of the things everyone we have spoken to has said is that they really fall in love with Martha’s dialogue and to be able to connect with their character through it.
Delaney: It is beautiful. And it means something. It’s meaningful and it transcends. It’s very universal. You could be on a dairy farm, you could be in the middle of the city at a grocery store, or whatever. It just comes down to heart. Hopefully, everything in our life comes down to that.

Delaney in NYPD Blue

TrunkSpace: So much has changed in the industry since you started out and first began working as a professional actress. One of the things that seems to come into play now for young actors looking to break in is social media. We have even heard stories about someone not getting a part because someone else had more followers on Twitter. How do you think you would have navigated this new landscape if you were just breaking in today?
Delaney: It’s odd. I was never on Facebook. I was on Twitter when I was doing “Army Wives” because they asked me to tweet with the audience, which I didn’t know how to do. I had to have help doing that when I was doing “Army Wives.” And I still don’t know. I don’t know what you’re supposed to answer, what you’re supposed to like, what you’re supposed to engage in or what’s too much engagement, what’s not enough. It’s hard to judge. How do you know? I just got on Instagram and Facebook literally maybe a year and a half ago. I forget exactly when, but it’s recent, and only because of what you just said. My manager goes, “No, ’cause when you’re doing a show you want the followers.” I was like, “Really?” So, I’ve succumbed.

TrunkSpace: You have worked on so many different projects throughout the years. If someone came to you and said, “Here’s a blank check, bring back any former project that you want,” what would you choose?
Delaney: Without question, “NYPD Blue.” Without question. That’s an easy one because I think about where the journey could have taken her and the writing was just, I mean, gems every day. Gems.

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The Featured Presentation

Geoff Gustafson

GeoffGustafson_Wingman_wednesday (1)

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 Geoff Gustafson to discuss the passionate fanbase, why the series has continued to find success, and the experience of having a television icon play his grandmother.

TrunkSpace: We were amazed by how passionate the “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” fanbase is. In many ways, it almost seems like the kind of fandom associated with science fiction shows. Have you been surprised by the level of interest and amount of passion coming from the fanbase?
Gustafson: Oh yeah, absolutely. The POstables, as they are called, are rabid. They are really into it and have created a really solid foundation with some core members that promote the show and promote different viewing nights during the course of the year to watch previously aired episodes and the movies.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the key has been to building that audience? What has pulled the POstables in?
Gustafson: Well, I think it starts with Martha Williamson, the show’s creator. She had a memorable stint with “Touched by an Angel,” so she is familiar with that demographic. And I think people are looking for less violent, more family-oriented shows that they don’t have to worry about. They can relax and watch a family show. I think that’s really what they’re attracted to, that no-fear TV feeling.

TrunkSpace: It does feel like perhaps people are looking for a balance. They can have their dark and gritty programming, but at the same time, they still want to feel good sometimes.
Gustafson: Absolutely. And it is… feel-good show sounds a bit cliché, but I think at its core, it is essentially that, it’s a feel-good show. You don’t worry about betrayal amongst the core four, the POstables themselves. You know they’re going to do their best and come from the most positive place that they can muster. There’s no real fear of them traveling down a dark path, it’s just, how are they going to manage the obstacles that they face?

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest surprise for you in your “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” journey so far?
Gustafson: You know, the show continuing to tell an ongoing story has been a bit of a surprise. I thought it would be easier to do it week to week with an hour-long episode, but the truth is that I think with the new format, the two hour MOW (movie of the week) format, we’re still telling an ongoing story. In fact, I think that the two hour format gives us a bit more time to expand on every letter mystery. We have a bit more time to flesh that out and find it’s relevance to the POstables and their immediate families in some cases, or just their immediate surroundings.

TrunkSpace: And in terms of a personal character journey, is it enjoyable to see Norman’s arc play out in a single movie as opposed to over the course of a handful of episodes?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. I think sometimes in the hour-long episodes, there’s the tendency to rush some development. And I think you are able to expand on the same growth over a two hour period and then oftentimes between the MOWs, a significant period of time has passed, so it can be a couple of months or three weeks, or six months even. The growth feels more organic I think, oftentimes in the trials and tribulations of the POstables. It doesn’t feel as rushed.

TrunkSpace: We talked about surprises, but when it comes to joys, we would imagine learning that Carol Burnett would be playing your grandmother in the series was right up there?
Gustafson: Yeah, it honestly doesn’t get better than that. I wouldn’t say it was on my bucket list, because that would never even occur to me that it could happen, but yeah, growing up, my dad was a huge “Carol Burnett Show” fan. I remember sitting and watching it with him and laughing hysterically at her, Harvey Korman, and the guy who plays Dorf. So when they told me that she was going to play my grandmother, I was over the moon. It was awesome. And sure enough, even just working with her was beyond what I could have hoped for. She was hilarious and gracious, and professional, and sharp as a tack, and just so kind and reassuring. If I could choose a grandmother, I would pick Carol Burnett. (Laughter)

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

TrunkSpace: You’ve been playing Norman now since 2014. Were there any performance choices that you made in the early days of discovering who Norman was that you feel paid off later in ways that you never intended?
Gustafson: Yeah, I think so. The truth is, Martha Williamson is really open to hashing out our ideas with her, and managing to incorporate them into the story. So the idea of Norman being a foster child that gets adopted, and his struggles to feel like a part of a family – that was all set up from the beginning. Probably where it pays off the most is in my relationship with Rita, Crystal Lowe’s character. Crystal and I have known each other for years. We grew up in the same town, we were on another show together, we lived across the street from each other, so we’re pretty close outside of work.

But it’s been fun watching Rita and Norman grow into this really, really innocent partnership. And that probably is the biggest surprise. Not because I don’t get along with Crystal, I get along with her great, but rather, to somehow manage to have maintained this innocence throughout all of these years to a place where now they’re engaged, and they’re gonna get married, and the idea, I imagine, would be that they would continue and have a family, etc.

I think it’s maybe my choice to develop an aspect of Norman where he loves so freely, and sees the value in loving an infinite number of people, and yet really struggles with what there is to love in himself, and then having Rita play what she loves about him so sincerely and directly. I think that would probably be the biggest surprise, and how that’s managed to help formulate their partnership.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fanbase is going to love most about the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Gustafson: We get to see more of the personal lives of the POstables in this one, particularly on Rita’s side, which I think is really exciting. In a lot of ways, Rita’s character is a bit of a mystery. We don’t really know that much about who she is and where she’s from. We’ve explored Shane, we’ve explored Norman, we’ve explored Oliver, and I think Rita’s character is the character that benefits the most from the exploration in this. I think it’s hilarious, and it’s so lovely, and it makes so much sense as to why Rita is the way she is, so that will be something that the POstables and the other fans will be excited by.

TrunkSpace: We’re all nutty for the show “Supernatural” here, and you actually appeared in an episode during its infancy. When you worked on the show, did it have the feeling of a series that would be around for 13 years?
Gustafson: Holy smokes. Yeah, I was in an episode in the very first season. You know what, thinking back, at the time I was pretty green, and I remember feeling very comfortable on set. The two lead gentlemen, Jensen and Jared, they were both so welcoming and professional. They’d put together a real A Team for “Supernatural,” so I’m not surprised. I just remember at the time being like, “Whoa, this feels like a real TV show,” as opposed to something that was maybe a bit soft and thrown together.

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The Featured Presentation

Kristin Booth

KristinBooth_Wingwoman_wednesday (1)

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 Kristin Booth to discuss how the franchise has affected her life, how she is continuously surprised by the fan reaction, and what those fans will enjoy most about the latest installment.

TrunkSpace: We spoke with Crystal Lowe recently and one of the things that we discussed is how important you have become in her life. In terms of the journey, getting to work on a project that you not only connect with creatively, but to then also forge these types of lasting relationships, we would imagine that has to be the best care scenario?
Booth: You know, it really is. I have to say, despite loving the content and the writing of what we’re doing on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” it’s the relationships that have really made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Crystal and I are basically like sisters now. Martha Williamson and I are very close. It’s just really nice to be able to be a part of something where you actually love the people that you’re doing it with.

TrunkSpace: Does that off-camera chemistry translate to on-screen chemistry?
Booth: I think it definitely does. We really work as a team. We’re very collaborative. Martha’s words are very rarely changed because she’s so brilliant. If there was something that didn’t make sense for one of us or if we had an idea, what’s so great about working on “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” is everyone’s really open to other people’s visions and their ideas. If it’s not what they wanted, we’re all cool and we just say, “Okay, it’s not gonna work.” It’s a nice working environment where you can express yourself artistically and feel safe to do so. That’s a really nice feeling. I think that only comes with the trust and the love that we all share with one another.

TrunkSpace: When the franchise originally transitioned from the episodic format to the film format, was that a concern or was it something you welcomed?
Booth: Well, it definitely concerned me at first because we didn’t know we were picked up as a movie series when we were told that the series wasn’t going to continue. There was a lot of unknowns at the time. Although the idea of the movie series was presented, it wasn’t set in stone. It wasn’t solid yet. That part of it made me very nervous, so I was obviously concerned.

However, the idea of going back to the two hour format excited me because I think the type of topics and the type of themes that Martha tackles in these movies or in the series as well, they deserve that two hour time rather than the one hour episode. I believe we’re able to do so much more and make the stories more rich with the time we have.

TrunkSpace: From a fan interaction standpoint, it seems like doing them as movies also makes them events when they do air.
Booth: 100 percent it does. Often Crystal and I will live tweet and Eric (Mabius) has live tweeted with our fans. The anticipation for each movie – it’s amazing to me. I love communicating back and forth via social media with the fans, the POstables, because I get super excited for them to see it because I know they’ve been waiting for so long. I’ll often get little message here and there saying, “We haven’t heard when the next one’s coming out. When is it coming out because I need my fix of SSD?” It’s just really rewarding for a performer to know that people enjoy it as much as they do.

TrunkSpace: What’s fascinating about the fanbase is that the level of interest and passion in the franchise is the kind you usually see associated with genre shows.
Booth: Right. I think you’re correct completely. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” delivers… pardon the pun… it delivers a message, a feeling of hope and of faith in a time in our lives, in society and the world, where things are very uncertain and a little bit scary. What “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” provides for our audience is a safe place to come for two hours. People that they trust, the characters, they know that they are going to be inspired or they’re going to be touched or moved in some way.

What’s incredible to me is how many people, how many of the fans, have reached out and said just how much the show has affected their lives. They’re able to draw comparisons to either what our four POstables are going through or perhaps the B storyline of each movie. I think that’s what keeps bringing people back and drawing new fans each time we have another movie.

TrunkSpace: “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” first aired in 2014. A lot can change in four years, both over the course of a franchise and in the lives of those who inhabit the world. Do you feel like you’ve grown and changed along with your character Shane in that timeframe?
Booth: Oh, tremendously! 100 percent! I think you can’t avoid that if you’re a committed actor and you’re really giving your all to what’s happening in the character’s life. It’s bound to influence you personally. It’s bound to affect you emotionally. Hopefully, you grow as a person as your character grows thro
ughout the series.

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

TrunkSpace: Is there a moment over the course of your time with your character where you felt like you really got to stretch as an actor and said to yourself, “Wow, I never thought I’d get to go here with Shane. I never thought we’d travel this path together.”
Booth: Well actually, there’s been several, to be honest. (Laughter) Martha is genius at always surprising me at what she brings to the table with her scripts. It’s so interesting too, because often upon the first read, I’ll get an impression, but it isn’t until I’m actually on set and I’m in the scene where I will have these amazing epiphany moments. She’ll often write something in it, descriptive-wise, like “Shane cries at this moment,” or whatever. As an actor, I’m like, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to cry at that moment. Maybe it’ll come at another point or maybe it won’t come at all.” But with Martha’s writing, I’ve never experienced anything quite like what her writing does for me as an actor because she’s so in tune with the characters and it’s so right, that whenever I get into the scene, I start discovering all of this incredible stuff that I may have not thought about when I was reading it or working on the lines because I’m reacting to what Oliver’s giving me or what Rita or Norman’s giving me, or whoever I’m working with.

I’m always shocked and amazed and thrilled because there just have been so many times where I’ve thought in my head beforehand, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make this work or connect to it emotionally.” Then I’m in the scene, I’m saying the words, and tears are just flowing. (Laughter) It’s so interesting. I feel extremely blessed that I get to work with that type of material that is able to do that for me as an actor.

TrunkSpace: What do you think the fans are going to be most drawn to with the latest installment, “Home Again?”
Booth: Well, I think the POstables are going to be really excited. “Home Again” is the first time that we see Norman and Rita as a couple and Shane and Oliver as a couple. It’s been a long journey for both of them. It’s exciting to have those characters in a position now where they’re trying to navigate actually being together as a couple and admitting it to each other. (Laughter) I think the audience is going to love seeing that dynamic. Norman and Rita are at a certain stage in their relationship, but especially Oliver and Shane. This is the first time we actually see them as a couple. They’re still trying to figure it out. They have no idea what they’re doing. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You guested in a memorable episode of a show that we all love here, “Supernatural.” That series is going into its 13th season, which is an incredible feat. If “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was to go on a similar journey, would you welcome playing Shane for such an extended period of time?
Booth: Definitely. It comes with a whole set of challenges that you don’t encounter when you’re doing something as a one-off or for a year or something like that. I mean, to be about to sustain the freshness, the lure as an actor of a character you’ve been playing that long, is a challenge in and of itself. It’d be very different if I wasn’t continually blown away and challenged by Martha’s words and scripts and stories and themes. But I am, and so I would welcome that for sure because I’m constantly surprised and wowed by the things that go on and the things that I discover about Shane even still.

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The Featured Presentation

Crystal Lowe

© 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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