[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
In the last year, Brendan Penny has become a staple in the Hallmark rotation, appearing in three films over the last 14 months and as a regular in the first season of Chesapeake Shores. That third film, A Dash of Love, premieres Saturday night at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel. I chatted with Penny today about his projects for the network, and the (unexpectedly) last season of Motive.
A Dash of Love came around last fall after Penny had filmed Autumn In the Vineyard and he says he’s developed a nice rapport with the team at the network. “It’s a working relationship. I did a movie for them a while ago, and then did [‘Tis The Season for Love] with Sarah Lancaster, and that one did really well,” he explains.
“I got on Chesapeake Shores. After that, they offered me [Autumn In the Vineyard] with Rachael Leigh Cook, who’s phenomenal and one of the nicest people in the world. I’ve got a good relationship with Bill [Abbott] and Michelle [Vicary] and we enjoy working together and it kind of worked out.”
“I’ll do Hallmark movies for the rest of my life if they let me. It’s always some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Everybody is there to have a good time and do a good job and to make something that makes people feel good. I laughed so completely on every single one of those movies.”
In A Dash of Love, Penny plays executive chef Paul Dellucci, who has a meet cute with aspiring chef Nikki Turner (Jen Lilley), the BFF of his restaurant’s new server, Angela [Hemlock Grove and Battlestar Galactica‘s Kandyse McClure] when he asks for, and gets, an honest critique of his cooking without telling her who he is. From there, they settle into a budding friendship as colleagues, which evolves into more, surprisingly without any competitive tension, something that Penny appreciated.
“I liked that the relationship started off as a nice thing and didn’t start off with any kind of confrontation. I did enjoy the confrontation [later with Paul’s boss] Holly (Peri Gilpin) because that allowed that storyline to progress and [for Paul and Nikki to develop] different opinions,” he says.
The movie was filmed last November, when Vancouver was walloped with winter, and Penny says that made for some cold nights. “I didn’t enjoy how cold it was. [When we shot the basketball scene], it had just snowed, and was -3,” he recalls. “They had to open up the double doors for the big lights to make it look like daylight. We were freezing.”
Aside from that, he had a blast shooting with Lilley, and you can see that on her Instagram feed. “Jen was so sweet and was the perfect Nikki,” he says.
In Chesapeake Shores, which wrapped its first season last fall and was renewed for a second season last month at the TCAs, Penny plays Kevin O’Brien, an Army Medic who’s injured by an IED after a return to duty in Afghanistan. It’s one of the triggering events that reunites a long-estranged extended family of adult children and their divorced parents. Penny is looking forward to returning for another season when they resume shooting in April.
To get ready for his character’s journey as a veteran and combat survivor, Penny consulted one of the friends of first-season showrunner, John Tinker. “He had been [in Special Forces] and done multiple tours in Afghanistan. I [didn’t want] to impose. He was super kind,” Penny recalls. “We had a conversation, and he answered my questions. He opened my eyes to the job that the character of Kevin did and I filled in the blanks on the kinds of experience he would have seen.”
“There’s some stuff on You Tube about Army surgeons, and it’s intense. I play a character who’s gone through so much, I wanted to be as accurate as possible and have as much information as possible, so that if it came up [on the show], I could tap into it. I got to show a lot of great things with Kevin and I hope to get to do [more].”
He says the cast, which includes new friends as well as old friends Jesse Metcalfe and Andrew Francis, has a lot of mutual respect for each other and a lot of fun. “We all get along very well. Laci [J. Malley] is incredibly talented and her performance [as sister Jess, who suffered her own PTSD from an accident] is subtle with a lot going on. I enjoyed working scenes with her,” he says.
“I’ve worked with Andrew a lot. He’s a buddy. He’s such a ding dong in a good way. We laugh all the time. I didn’t have any scenes with Jesse but I did a movie with him ten years ago, so it’s nice to be reunited with him and hang out.” In season 2 he hopes to work more opposite Treat Willims to flesh out their father/son story, as well as Emilie Ullerep.
Last season, he learned first hand about fan interaction as he live Tweeted the episodes, which he says was sometimes challenging as it was the first time he was watching the episodes. “It’s nice to hear people are enjoying what we’re doing. If they don’t like it, that’s OK too,” he says. “There’s plenty of stuff out there.”
“The thing I love about doing a series–it’s my fourth one now–is that you can get into the character so deep. Every single episode that’s written for you, there’s one more thing that you learn about your character or that you do a bit more fluidly. You can tap into what your character would think and the dialogue comes so much faster when you start knowing your character because it all makes sense.” Next time around, Penny says his dream would be to segue into a really dark drama or a sitcom.
He’s very fond of his time on the Canadian “whydunnit” procedural with a twist, Motive, which wrapped last year after four seasons. He was thrilled to get to change up the arc of his character, detective Brian Lucas, in the final season.
“It was a great show. It was a tricky show at times because there was so much going on. You had to service the [story of] the killer, the victim, and the [the regular players],” he points out. “I felt like there could have been a lot more going in for Lucas [so it] was refreshing to be able to spread my wings and do something different with him.”
“Early on, he was always trying to please Angie and Vega and it was nice to see him take a turn. Angie and Vega were always so open to listening to both sides and [we thought] it might be good to make him more black and white. I talked to [showrunner Dennis Heaton] about him going on the dark side. It was nice to do that and play those scenes with Louis [Ferreira] in the office. There was a lot of depth to them even though there wasn’t too much being said.”
“We all wanted that fifth season and we felt like we deserved it. Everyone from the producers to Dennis to the PA in charge of garbage was 100% committed to that show. Everyone was so great. No one wavered. The proof was in the final product. It was a beautiful-looking show and it was a lot of talent. I’m really, really proud of it.”
Directed by Christie Will Wolf (So You Said Yes) and written by Judith and Sandra Berg (Summer Love) and Sib Ventress (Mech-X4), A Dash of Love is a terrific, warm pre-Valentine’s Day romance. It premieres Saturday at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel. Penny will be live Tweeting both coasts Saturday night. Here’s a sneak peek.