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Julie Gonzalo

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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