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Dylan Neal and Brooke Burns Tease Death Al Dente: A Gourmet Detective Mystery [Exclusive]

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

It’s been a little over a year since we’ve had a new Gourmet Detective film, and Sunday night, the third installment, Death Al Dente hits Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Dylan Neal and Brooke Burns jumped on the phone with me for a quick chat about Henry and Maggie, and what to expect in the new film.

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Death Al Dente follows Maggie and Henry on a new case when a restauranteur couple who are friends with Henry are targeted by a series of robberies that turn deadly. The movie also finally moves the romance forward with the investigative duo, in a pace that will be refreshing for fans of some of the other series who are still waiting.

Neal says the progression works twofold for Gourmet Detective, and it’s something he pushed for. “That’s always been an ongoing discussion–how fast or slow to move the personal relationship. What was supposed to be the third movie became the second, so with this third one, it was Becky [Southwell] and me pushing that we wanted to see the relationship get going,” he explains.

“What are we accomplishing by dragging it out? Some of the handcuffs will be taken off creatively for me as a writer and we’ll have even that much more fun with them down the road now that they’re open and honest with their feelings for each other. We’ll still have the exact same love/hate chemistry but there will a little more creative freedom between the two. If this is the last one, there is some resolution. It works as a send off, or what fun we could have if we do more.”

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

The timeline within the series is that the action in this film takes place about six months after the story in A Healthy Place to Die, and Henry and Maggie have an easier rapport with each other. “There’s less surprises now,” says Burns. “We’ve accepted each other’s idiosyncracies, if you will.”

Another evolution in Death Al Dente is that Maggie is softened a bit, and Burns and Neal say that was something they were asked to work in. “I think the all-business Maggie, for Hallmark, was sometimes difficult to swallow. They liked seeing her softer side, her more emotional, feminine qualities,” says Burns.

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

“What better way to do that than to bring in an ex-love that brings up questions of, ‘Was it the man that was off or was it the timing that was off?’ [We see her] feeling hurt, feeling rejected [and she’s asking] what does a relationship look like in her life? She has a very busy, complicated life with her daughter and her mom, and her work and Henry, of course. I think those aspects are real and relatable to a Hallmark audience.”

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

“It was also very purposeful that the third one was more Maggie-centric. As we continued to experiement with the franchise, we wanted to put Maggie a little more front and center,” explains Neal. “All Hallmark movies are generally female-centric. Gourmet Detective was the first one that wasn’ts specifically female-driven. It was really nice to see much more of Maggie and to follow her on this particular case.”

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Getting romantic in the film didn’t come without real-life risks as Neal was sick for much of the shoot. “Dylan had a mad cold and had snot dripping down his face,” laughs Burns. “I had this cold from hell. I had Kleenex in all my pockets,” adds Neal. “There was no way around it. I was smearing snot all over her. She’s such a Mom, capitalize ‘such a Mom,’ she was [‘whatever’ about it].’ It was disgusting. We had to reshoot sometimes. Not one of the most romantic scenes ever.”

Neal and Burns are particularly fond of the offscreen rapport that happened with each movie, and look forward to creating that again on another film, whether it’s a Gournet Detective or not. “My best memories are what happens off set. We have hallway parties with the cast and crew in our hotel, and we bring out drinks and desserts and hang out in a hallway or in my room,” says Neal.

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

“We hang out all the time in a way that I never have with another productions. That’s something that Brooke and I care greatly about–that everyone around us having a really good time. We feel like we’re the mom and dad to an extended family of 100 people and we try to make sure that everyone is taken care of and has the best time while they’re working.”

Neal says he’d happily write another project for them “The fun that we have in real life clearly shows onscreen. You can’t orchestrate that,” he shares. “That kind of magic just happens, and you’re really lucky when it does.”

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Photo Credit: Marcel Williams/Crown Media United States LLC

Neal has a few projects in various states of production–some he’s writing and producing and others he’s acting in. Burns is focused on a project closer to home. “I’m having a baby, so the beginning of my next year is a little baby infant,” she reveals. “This is the time to go back to working on my book and jewelry line.”

Death Al Dente: A Gourmet Detective Mystery premieres Sunday at 9/8c on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Here’s a sneak peek.

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