Tag Archives: Hallmark Movie Channel

James Brolin ‘Fretting’ Over Last-Minute ‘Castle’ Doings

brolin with puppyJames Brolin returns to the “Castle” cameras this week in his role as the long-lost papa of sleuthing novelist Rick Castle (Nathan Fillion). At least, that’s what he was expecting to do when we spoke to him late last week. “I’m a little fretting today because we started discussing it and the parameters of it a month ago, and I start shooting heavily — I’ve got a lot of work on Monday and Tuesday and I still don’t have a script,” he told us. “I mean, I’m not going to walk, but I feel like it. This is how you show up on film and look bad and begin to end your career.”

Brolin doesn’t like the last-minute rush of much of TV these days. As he recalls it, back when he rose to fame on the 1969-76 series “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “We would have five scripts all finished and ready, so if there was a snag, we just jumped to another script. Nowadays, they write up to the last minute, cast up to the last minute. I don’t want to work that way. I’d rather hang in Malibu at the beach,” adds the 6’4″ star, who still looks mighty handsome at 73, referring to his seaside digs with wife Barbra Streisand.

Brolin has the Hallmark Movie Channel’s “Christmas With Tucker” (above) debuting this week — and makes it clear he found his work experience there a happy one, and “first class all the way.” He plays the stern but loving grandfather in the adaptation of the popular Greg Kincaid book centered on a young teenaged boy (Gage Munroe) and a Golden Retreiver. Having grown up on “Lassie,” Brolin says he knows a good dog story when he sees one.

He also has a passel of projects of his own in various stages of development, including a series he would produce about a mother who moves her family from New York City to the wilds of Montana. “That’s called ‘New York City Cowboys,’ and I would play the cowboy who is taking care of the ranch, who’s a drinker — if it goes into series. And I’m hoping to direct a movie in the spring about a woman called Ruby McCollum,” he says, referring to the notorious case of an African-American woman at the center of a notorious murder trial in the 1950s. Forced to submit to sex with her white, politically-powerful doctor over a period of years, she finally shot him, “then wound up sentenced to an insane asylum for 20 years.”

Brolin and his producing partner also have a musical for kids, “Standing Ovation,” on Netflix, and he happily reports he has heard of six-year-olds who will watch it four times in a single day.

“I do love this business, and most of the people in it,” he assures. Especially when they’re on time.

Gail O’Grady Living Her Own American Dream with ‘Mystery Cruise’ Possible Series


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.

(end it)


Luke Perry Talks about Jennie, ‘Justice’ and His Lack of Understanding of Women

Luke Perry laughs at a recent magazine article in which his former “Beverly Hills, 90210” cast mate, Jennie Garth, is quoted saying that they’re working up a project to do together.  “You listen to a thing she says?  I have no idea what she’s talking about!” the actor claims in a jocular tone.

“You know what I love about working with Jennie?” he adds.

What’s that?

“I don’t know.  I was hoping you’d know, ‘cause I don’t.”

But seriously – Perry acknowledges that “Jen’s a very good friend.  It’s hard to schedule anything with her, though, because she has a lot going on.  She’s one of these people conquering every medium.  She’s in a movie right now, and I think when she comes back she has some kind of reality thing going.”

Perry is certainly a man on the move himself – with the third installment of his “Goodnight for Justice” Western movies for television coming up Saturday (1/26) on the Hallmark Movie Channel.  “Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts” pits his rough-hewn circuit judge character, John Goodnight, against a female con artist played by “Endgame’s” Katharine Isabelle.  Ricky Schroder also stars in this, the second follow-up to his original “Goodnight for Justice” – the channel’s highest-rated movie ever.

“In the era of this movie, a lot of times women were exploited for the virtues they had to possess.  To have a woman who took full possession of her own virtues and said, ‘No, I’ll be in charge’ – I thought it would be great to play off a character like that,” says Perry, who has retained his heartthrob looks into his forties.

He created the character and has much to do with the story planning and scripts, in addition to serving as executive producer and, apparently, taking on other responsibilities as needed.  Sometimes, he acknowledges, inspiration comes in the form of what’s available to shoot.

“When you make these movies as quickly and inexpensively as we do, you have to sort of reverse-engineer them,” is how he puts it.  “Queen of Hearts” has sequences of classic Old West riverboat gambling, for example.  Says Perry, “We were scouting another location and we saw the boats.  While scouting the boats, we saw this other piece of geography I thought would work really well, and it did.  You see what’s in the fridge and what you can make out of it.”

What he’s made with “Queen of Hearts” is another solid, enjoyable Western with plenty of moments fans will love.

As for whether there will be more “Goodnight For Justice” movies?

“I don’t know,” he says.  “This was our final one of the ones we did back-to-back.  I’ve got ideas for more of them.  I found some really cool stuff up there [in Canada] that we could use.  I’m feeling a lot of love from the channel, but they’re pretty fiscally conservative over there.  They always want to see how something performs before committing to the next thing.”

It sounds as if Perry himself feels fairly committed, however.  A few minutes later, he acknowledges, “I’ve still got all that wardrobe from all those movies here in a box.  I’ve never done that before – never actually kept all the character wardrobe.  Hallmark wasn’t sure they were going to make more, and I said, ‘Well, I’m sure, so I’m keeping the stuff.’ That way, I’ll figure it out.’”

Perry, divorced since 2003, also has other characters, other scripts he’s nurturing along.  “There are different periods of history I’m interested in,” he says.  But he doesn’t even want to get specific about those times and places.  “Then somebody will read it and get to them first.  I’ve had a couple of not-so-good experiences with that.”

He also wouldn’t mind returning to the series world. “If the character works and it’s a good fit, I love to play a character over the course of years,” he says.  But he has no interest in a reality skein of his own. “A camera crew following me around?  No.”

“Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts,” meanwhile, is “the best one of the three,” he wants to stress.  “I think it’s the one where we really hit our stride and we have a lot of movie in there.”  With John Goodnight confounded by a beautiful schemer?

“Listen, let me tell you one of the great truths of my life – I just don’t understand women,” he insists with his familiar twinkle.  “This is a dynamic in my life I just can’t get away from.  I don’t understand, though I’ve had mother sister daughter, wife — every relationship you can have with a woman and I don’t understand them. They make you do crazy things.”

So far, it’s been working out pretty well for him.


Kimberly Elise Taking Self Esteem Talk for Girls On the Road

Kimberly Elise plans to spend much of her summer traveling around the country, giving talks and leading workshops to help teen girls.

The four-time NAACP Image Award-winning actress of such films as “Beloved” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” participated in Florida’s recent “Choices & Consequences: Why Good Girls Like Bad Boys” conference that was arranged in the wake of the slaying of a young St. Petersburg mother whose boyfriend was a drug dealer. Elise gave a moving talk about a negative relationship out of her own past, before she went to college and was so anxious for validation from a man she “became a shadow of myself…I was so addicted to him.”

Now she says that talk was the beginning of what she hopes to do as she launches her Young Women Rising foundation, “to help young women develop their senses of self-worth, self-love and empowerment.  We’ll be doing all kinds of initiatives in the months ahead,” she reports.  A website, youngwomenrising.com, is planned for debut in a matter of weeks.

Elise’s “Hannah’s Law,” debuting tonight (6/9) happens to dovetail nicely with the cause she has taken on.  In the Hallmark Movie Channel original film, she plays the real-life, larger-than-life Old West character Mary Fields, a.k.a. Stagecoach Mary — the ex-slave who became a legendary cross-country mail carrier.  “I had to use my imagination a lot, because there’s not a whole lot out there to research — and there are tall tales about her that might or might not be true,” notes the actress.

She does know that Mary “was very brave, and she got into fights.  She would break at nose at two and be gardening by four.  She had a very soft side, and was very beloved by her town that she lived in.  She was one of the few women who were allowed to go in the saloon.  Not only was she a woman, but she was a black woman, so to be able to go into the saloon with the men was pretty phenomenal.  There is an old picture of her with the town baseball team — all these white guys and Mary.  She just loved the baseball team.”

In the movie, Mary is best friends with the fictional Hannah Beaumont (Sara Canning), a bounty hunter, and the two have each other’s backs through their dangerous adventure.  Danny Glover and Billy Zane also star.  Elise spent weeks learning to drive a stagecoach — for real — and to shoot antique weapons to play her role.  The biggest challenge, she says, was coping with Mary’s multi-layered wardrobe that included bullets and gun belts, as Mary was known for packing a pair of six-shooters and a ten-gauge shotgun.  “I had to be dressed by like, three people — and a whole team would have to come and undress me just so I could use the bathroom,” she admits. Still, “I loved every minute of playing her.  It was an honor.”

Certainly, Stagecoach Mary serves as example of female empowerment.  “I love that aspect,” says Elise, “and I love the relationship between her and Hannah, taking care of each other.  That’s how it works in real life, too.”

MEANWHILE:  Elise is up for American Black Film Festival Grand Jury Prize honors for her work in the Ghanaian film “Ties that Bind,” to be announced June 23.  She’s also awaiting word on “Bounce.”  The latter is a prospective VH 1 dance drama series for which she recently shot a pilot.

“It’s set in the world of professional sports…basketball.  It’s a really interesting piece,” she says.  “Me and Dean Cain and a lot of brilliant young actors are in it.”

First up: she’s giving the commencement address at the Cicely Tyson Academy in New Jersey come June 15.  Elise and the renowned actress she resembles are good friends and “I am so excited and honored that she asked me.”

‘Duke’ Drama Change of Pace for Steven Weber

            Playing a homeless veteran who is fraught with post-traumatic stress syndrome is not what Steven Weber would ever have expected of a Hallmark Movie Channel acting assignment.  However, that’s just the role the “Brothers & Sisters” and “Wings” star wound up with in his April 28 drama “Duke.” 

            “It’s not the standard Hallmark fare.  It was a deeper, darker Hallmark – but still appeals, I think, to their core audience,” Weber says.  Taken from real life, “Duke” is the story of the troubled veteran and his faithful companion of 10 years, a Border Collie named Duke – and the unexpected chain of events set in motion when the dog falls ill.

            “I’d been playing mostly bad guys in suits in recent years, so it was a chance to go deeper,” notes the actor.  “It was a great role full of amazing opportunities, selfishly speaking, to chew the scenery a little bit, and share scenes with an amazing dog.”

            Unfazed by the old axiom that actors should avoid scenes with kids or dogs, Weber found himself working with two canines in the title role.  “Zeek was the dog that played Duke 90 per cent of the time.  He performed beautifully, a true professional,” Weber reports.  “His trainers were invariably running off-screen and prompting him.  It was interesting.  Of course, he is a dog, and you have to be very patient; he didn’t hit the target all the time.  But thankfully there were a few instances when the camera was running and caught some genuine connection between him and I, which was really nice.”

           Weber considers himself “a dog lover, but indirectly.  I have two children, nine and 11, who are beginning to bug my wife and me for a dog.  But the lifestyle – our work has had us going all over the country, and it wouldn’t be fair to leave a dog.”  Right now, the boys are apparently making do with “the frog we bought at the Sharper Image that stays under water for two years” – which sounds like a real dud as a pet, if you ask us.  “No, it’s not,” Weber insists, dead-pan.  “They feed him and he has a nice view and it’s a lovely deal.”

            But he admits his sons are gaining ground in their dog lobbying.  The fact they heard all about “Duke” and Zeek during production — but couldn’t join Weber on location because of school — “is something they’re really using against me.”