One-time “American Dreams” actress Gail O’Grady might return to the series game if her Saturday(10-5)-debuting “Mystery Cruise” movie proves successful. There’s also a chance that the made for television Mary Higgins Clark mystery could launch a series of TV films with O’Grady’s and Michelle Harrison’s characters.
Certainly, Gail is game. “This was one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. When I read the script I loved it. It reminded me of a French farcical kind of madcap movie-within-a-movie that takes place on a cruise ship. I’ve been a fan of the Higgins Clark books for a long time. And I’ve loved working for Hallmark for a long time,” notes the actress, speaking of the Hallmark Movie Channel offering.
“I have a great character in Alvirah Meehan, who fancies herself a detective even though what she really is, is a cleaning woman who wins the lottery. She’s such a character. She has a wonderful heart, but she kind of has a thing where she leaps before she looks.” The story involves Alvirah and real private eye Regan Reilly (Harrison) setting sail on a mystery cruise for fun, but of course things take an unexpected turn. “We got to dress up in costumes and play pretend characters, and then something actually takes place and we have to figure out the who that did what to whomever.”
O’Grady tells us the team shot on a 120-year-old luxury yacht that was once owned by the Boeing family. “It was called Taconite; the family fortune apparently originally came from mining taconite,” she says. “We were in Vancouver, though the setting is off the coast of Washington, and it was beautiful. I’m always grateful when I go to work, but this one was extra special.”
The Detroit-born divorcee, whose long list of credits spans from her years on the classic “NYPD Blue” (as Donna Abandando) through the CW’s “Hellcats” and beyond, is also happy that “Mystery Cruise” is suitable for her eight-year-old son to watch with her. In fact, many of Gail’s decisions center on her son. Speaking of combining career and motherhood, she says, “I don’t think it gets easier as kids get older. It’s more difficult. When Michael was a baby I was doing ‘American Dreams and I had a nursery and people in support with me. And then when I was doing ‘Hot Properties,’ I had a nursery and he came to work.”
Now, however, “I don’t have a staff. It’s me. I make different decisions now. I don’t take the offer to go to Morocco for six months. I take ensemble pieces intentionally. I take big jobs over the summer, when it’s easier to work with my son’s school schedule. I have somebody else’s life to consider who is more important than I am. I still want to be an actress,” she emphasizes, “but more than anything, I want to be my son’s mother.”
She says that when she heard that “Mystery Cruise” was being considered as the first in a franchise of TV movies, “I perked up a little there” because it sounded like a potentially ideal situation.
O’Grady says, “I’ve never been one to say, ‘Oh, I hope my child doesn’t follow in my footsteps. Acting is such a hard world.’ It is, but I have a positive feeling about our industry. I’ve worked hard and I’ve been acting for 30 years. I always think the worst job in our business is still the best gig around — a dream job, something I wanted to do since I was little.”
And even better when she can have both worlds.