Thursday, May 10, 2012

Interview: Genie Francis Gets a Mother's Day Surprise!

Just in time for Mother’s Day, Genie Francis and Ted McGinley are back as newlyweds Peyton MacGruder and King Danville in “Notes from the Heart Healer,” premiering Saturday, May 12 at 8/7c, on the Hallmark Channel (and re-airing throughout Mother’s Day weekend). The couple is celebrating their first anniversary when they are surprised by an abandoned baby on their doorstep.

(As an added Mother's Day tribute, Hallmark Channel’s Facebook page — — is inviting viewers to share heartfelt messages, notes and photos of moms who have healed a heart! Post your #HeartHealer tribute today and tell us Hallmark and why your mom was magical and how she healed your heart! #HallmarkChannelCountdown #HeartHealer)

I spoke with the “General Hospital” alum recently, and she told me all about making this third film in the “Notes” series and how much fun it was to step into Peyton’s shoes again.

Daytime Dial: Back in 2007, when you made “The Note” for the Hallmark Channel, did you have any idea what a hit it would be — ranking as one of the network’s highest-rated film series of all time — and that it would spawn two sequels?

Genie Francis: I had no idea. I knew it was a wonderful movie. I loved the script when I first read it. I was so thrilled to get that job. And then we were all shocked that it did as well as it did. It was like this huge, unexpected wonderful success, and then, of course, they continued it on into a franchise.

DD: What was the filming experience like this time? Was it easy to get back into the swing of it?

GF: We worked very fast. We shot the whole thing in 14 days. I was amazed that we were able to shoot the entire movie with one baby (instead of twins, as many productions use), which I didn’t think could be done. I’m always impressed how well cast these movies are. The level of talent, the talent pool they have in Canada (where the series is filmed) is just amazing, and it’s beautifully cast every single time. It’s a perfect Mother’s Day movie.

DD: One of the things I like about these movies is while each is a continuation of the previous one, they also can stand on their own as individual movies.

GF: I think that’s true of all three of them. You don’t have to have seen the others to enjoy any of them. They do stand alone yet somehow go in perfect line with the others. It’s a difficult thing to do. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but they did.

DD: How do you feel about the premise of Peyton and King celebrating their one-year anniversary, and then this baby is dropped into their laps and we see how they deal with it?

GF: I thought that was terrific because they are later on in life, and even though it’s a new marriage, she has things that she hasn’t done. She has unfinished parts of her life. They’re an older couple, so for her to say to him, “You know, I’ve got to do this,” it’s got to take him aback. What’s cool about it is that through this experience, Peyton learns that not only does she want to be a mother, but she starts to believe that she can be. She starts to forgive herself for who she was in her youth and realizes maybe she’s not so bad. His willingness to do it speaks of how much he loves her and how strong that marriage really is.

DD: I know forgiveness is a big theme of this movie; what are some other things you hope the viewer takes away from it?

GF: Well, what I love most about Peyton is that she gets involved and she brings everything up as sort of a philosophical or spiritual question like: “Why did I get this baby on my doorstep? I’ve got this baby, but I can’t stop thinking about the mother. Maybe if I can get to this mother, I can prevent her from ending up like me.” She always finds a way to make lemonade out of her lemons in life, from the bitterness in her life, and that’s a great quality. And she’s confused. She asks the big questions, like, “What’s best for this baby?” It’s a struggle for Peyton, but there’s been a healing for her in that she knows that she’s got it in her to be a good mother.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Interview: Catching Up with Virginia Williams

The USA Network's hit legal drama "Fairly Legal" is finally back tonight for its second season with 13 all-new episodes. The show centers on the law firm of Reed and Reed, which was founded by Kate Reed's (Sarah Shahi) father, and is now being run by her stepmother, Lauren Reed, after her father's death. Lauren is sharp, shrewd, hard as nails, and is pretty much the same age as Kate ... so, you can see where a lot of the conflict lies.

I spoke with Virginia Williams, who plays Lauren, and she is anxious and energized for fans to finally get to see the show's new season. With almost a full year between seasons one and two, you can bet viewers are more than ready for a new offering of "Fairly Legal," which airs Fridays on USA at 9 p.m. EST.

Celebrity Extra: With such a long hiatus between the seasons, you must be excited to finally be premiering season two!

Virginia Williams: Yeah — and it’s fun to see how excited the fans are getting. I think a lot of people forgot about the show, understandably. What’s great about this season is, as good as last season was, I think this season is going to be just exponentially better. It’s tighter, it’s funnier, it’s wittier, and it’s lighter. It’s just a better show all around.

CE: What can you tell me about season two?

VW: I’m trying to figure out how to phrase it without giving too much away. I think it’s pretty obvious for us to even have a season 2 that Kate has to come back to work at Reed and Reed. With the relationship between the girls, we get to see them come together a lot more. They don’t have such an antagonistic relationship, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to see eye to eye. They still are extremely different characters. They’re the odd couple. They’re always going to look at the world through really different lenses. I think one thing that was missing in season 1 that we get to see in season 2 is how much they both respect what the other one does. They both get that they are each great at their jobs, they just do their jobs completely differently.

Its fun to watch them come together and then grow apart, and come together and then grow apart, but they’re these two women who are essentially two sides of the same coin. They both love justice and in doing the right thing, they just look at it in different ways. Lauren’s lens is always true in the eyes of the law. She truly fights for what she believes in, and she believes that the law is king. Kate believes that since humans made up the laws and humans are flawed, she works to do what she feels is the right thing despite what the law says.

CE: The character of Lauren could easily have been pretty one-dimensional, but with your portrayal of her and with the benefit of an excellent writing staff, you've really brought out her different facets and dimensions.

VW: Thank you. I’ve worked very hard as an actress to bring dimensionality to her. She absolutely could be played extremely one dimensionally, and on paper she can look like a trophy wife who’s money-grubbing and in it for the wrong reasons. I do feel that season 1 sometimes wrote to that, but a lot of the time, it was my own personal struggle when trying to bring that. The writers have written to her facets more, which is really great. We get to see Lauren at home for example. Everything still revolves around Reed and Reed — the show is about the law firm — but we do see glimpses of Lauren at home: coming back from a jog, going on a date, having a resemblance of a life outside of work. We get to see her with her hair down, literally and figuratively. Those are things I’m really excited about, and this next season we get to see some of the little colors of her.

The most fun characters to play as an actor are the ones who hold their cards really close to the vest, and we only get to see little glimmers of their fears and insecurities. That is really what I love about her. I was really drawn to this character because I thought, “How fun would it be to constantly pile on the layers?” Which is what I find I do with her. I just constantly try to pile on the layers, and if two or three of them come through and the audience sees them, great! Then you’ve done your job well. But I wanted to play someone who is very guarded, and can only show little bits and pieces. I think it’s a really fun thing to play. She’s like a volcano always ready to explode. At least through season 1 that was kind of how I played it, with all the pressure that was on her.

Through season 2, she’s still quite guarded and protective and exacting and stylish and brilliant and all these great things that I love about her, but she’s a lot more comfortable with her position. This allows me some flexibility as an actress and how I play her, which I’m really happy for. I think last season was about Lauren proving to everyone else that she was capable and that she wasn’t just a trophy wife — she could get the job done and could lead the firm. This season we see that she not only is extremely capable, but the firm ends up being better off than it was even before Teddy died. She comes into her own a bit, and the confidence that comes with that allows her to loosen up just a little bit.

CE: You shoot the series in Vancouver — how do you like it up there?

VW: I love shooting there in the summer. We shot the first season through the summer, and Vancouver became one of my top-three favorite cities in the world. Absolutely love it. But (laughs), as a Southern girl, I’m not so fond of shooting there in the winter.

CE: What else does this season have in store for Lauren?

VW: We get to see Lauren moving on from the death of her husband, which is nice. As early as episode three we see Lauren going on a date, and by the end of the season, we have a bit of a cliffhanger story line — a love story line. This season Justin and Lauren get to work together a lot, which is really fun. And there’s definitely a love-triangle story line with Kate and Justin and Ben.

CE: I read that Meatloaf is a guest star this season. How great is that?

VW: Yes! Unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with him, so I didn’t actually get to work with him. I’ve been singing "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for well over a month. We have some really, really great guest stars this year: Mark Margolis and Betsy Brandt, who are on "Breaking Bad," will be on the show. I get a lot of really good stuff with Mark Margolis. He’s just outstanding and mortifying and scary as hell, which is great to work with. I know all of production has been very pleased with who we’ve had and what they’ve brought to the table. Its going to be a great season!

Interview: Catching Up with Courtney Thorne-Smith

Courtney Thorne-Smith is no stranger to comedy. While she may have had her big break starring as Allison Parker on nighttime soap “Melrose Place,” she really honed her acting chops on shows like “Ally McBeal” and “According to Jim.” For the past few years, she’s co-starred on the CBS hit comedy “Two and a Half Men,” playing Jon Cryer’s on-again, off-again girlfriend, Lyndsey Mackelroy. I spoke with Courtney recently about being on a headline-making sitcom, and how the cast and crew are leading up to the show’s ninth season finale on May 14.

Celebrity Extra: You’ve been working pretty much nonstop in Hollywood since 1986, and when “According to Jim” ended after eight seasons, I thought you would take a little breather from series television. What made you decide to jump back in with “Two and a Half Men”?

Courtney Thorne-Smith: It wasn’t really jumping back in — it was sort of like I put my little tiny toe in. The first season I was on, I did only two episodes, and then I did about 10 last year and about 10 this year, so it’s nice. When [my son] Jack complains about me working I say: “Sweetie, I work 10 weeks a year and most of those are half-days. So you really don’t get to complain.” This schedule is ideal for being a mom. I get to go to work and be this absolutely insane character and do these crazy things that I’ve never gotten the chance to do before, and then I come home and make Play-Doh and cookies.

CE: Tell me about your character, Lyndsey, and her relationship with Alan, played by Jon Cryer.

CTS: I said to somebody the other day who was asking me about Alan and Lyndsey, “I love their relationship so much because of their honesty.” They are two people who look at each other and say, “Seriously, we’re just not going to do any better.” They’re settling, and I just love the honesty. They’ve said it to each other several times: “Really? Do we have options? We’ll just stay together. Why not?” That just makes me laugh.

I also love the scene earlier in the season when Lyndsey is dating a younger man but decides she wants to be with Alan. She tells him: “I want to be with you because you’ll never leave me for a younger woman because you can’t get one.” But it was said with this joy and this love. How great is it? We don’t have any options, so let’s just be together.

CE: How did you feel about coming onto this established hit sitcom? Were you anxious, excited, scared?

CTS: Oh, terrified. When I signed on, it was only for two episodes. But I’ve known Jon for a long time, and I’ve been a fan of his too — he’s just the greatest guy. I thought, worst-case scenario, I get to watch Jon do his magic for a few weeks and then go on with my life. But I’m still on — and I’m lucky because I get to go in and work, and then I get to come home and be a mom. It’s been the most surprisingly wonderful career opportunity I’ve ever had.

CE: How was the transition from Charlie Sheen to Ashton Kutcher?

CTS: It was surprisingly smooth. Everybody wondered, “What’s going to happen?” The writers wrote a really good character for Ashton that he just stepped right into. The cast, crew and writers are all so solid that all they had to do was add another character to the mix. People miss Charlie as a person because he’s wonderful and funny and smart and sweet, but they got Ashton, so it’s a win/win. All the people here are such extraordinary pros that it was pretty seamless.

Live Chat with Roger Howarth

Fans of ABC’s hit drama “General Hospital” will be able to submit questions and receive real-time responses from Emmy winner and Fan Favorite Roger Howarth (Todd Manning), who will be up on Twitter at @generalhospital, during the East Coast broadcast of the show on WEDNESDAY, MAY 9 from 3:00-4:00 p.m., ET.  This event kicks off General Hospital live twitter chats with cast members throughout the month of May.  In the episode tomorrow, Todd returns to Port Charles to help his daughter Starr.