[Warning: General spoilers in interview and preview clip.]
Dylan Neal is on a roll. This year, he had a recurring role as the villainous Ivo on the second season of Arrow, he shot a small role in the film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey, and he just wrapped production on the second season of Hallmark Channel’s Cedar Cove. He’s not done yet, though–he and his wife, writer Becky Southwell, are working on the first drafts of their upcoming The Gourmet Detective film series for Hallmark Movie Channel. We caught up with Neal while he was driving his family around Los Angeles, having just returned home from Vancouver.
Coming up this season on Cedar Cove, Neal says Jack and Olivia will have some things to sort though. “Last year, we got to meet everyone and all of the relationships were established,” he says. “Now, we have to take all of these relationships further. And things can start to get rocky as you take the next step in your relationship. Jack and Olivia have some hurdles to overcome.”
Part of that challenge will be the new relationship between Warren and Jack’s son, Eric, that Brennan Elliott mentioned in our chat last week. “I’m so glad that we’re utilizing Warren better. It’s a great device in bringing Warren into my life through my son, Eric,” says Neal. “Eric falls under Warren’s spell a little bit and that doesn’t sit too well with Jack. That slowly escalates and has some repercussions for everyone at the end of the season. That’s one of the juicier arcs this year. Jack and Eric have turned a corner with their relationship compared to where they were last year and this new development puts them in a whole new light.”
Later this season, we’ll see a moment that Neal is particularly product of as an actor. “Upcoming in episode eight, Jack’s going through something personal and difficult and there’s a heartfelt scene I have to deliver,” he says “Andie MacDowell was very complimentary, which meant a lot to me. I felt I did a decent job. I’m [usually] hard on myself and I don’t like watching my work, but that one felt very truthful.”
Neal was offered the role of Jack outright, which he says was a rare treat, and it was just icing on the cake that Jack was so attuned to his own personality. “Jack fits me like a glove. He’s probably the easiest character I’ve ever had to play,” he shares. “He’s very similar to me, aside from the alcoholism. He’s got my sense of humor, and aÂ mischievous streak, and a sense of melancholy that I understand, given all he’s been through. I slip into that character very easily.”
It’s likely Cedar Cove will pick up some new viewers this season from Arrow fans who discovered Neal last season as Ivo. “I probably play villains more than I play good guys, and that’s always fun,” he says. “It was great to meet the gang at Arrow, and Stephen is a really great leader. I’m really happy for their success. It was fun for me to be part of another winning series. They get a lot more toys to play with. It’s fun with all the frills that go around on those shows.”
Arrow wasn’t Neal’s first foray into genre television. Back in 2007, Lifetime was ahead of the curve with its vampire series, Blood Ties, where Neal played a cop. “I was joking [during another interview] about how we completely missed the vampire wave. We were the first out of the gate and handed it to everyone else, and we got nothing out of it,” he says. “We were before True Blood, Twilight, and Moonlight.” Although it only had 22 episodes, Neal says it was a great time. “I really enjoyed my time on that show. Kyle Schmid (now on Copper) was a terrific vampire. He’s got so much charisma. And with Cristina Cox in the lead, we [all] had a really good chemistry. We had a lot of fun together on set. I loved working with them.”
Right now, Neal is knee-deep in The Gourmet Detective film scripts. “[My wife and I are] writing and producing all of them. We’re starting with three and we’ll take it from there,” he says. “I’ve been writing these with my wife from Vancouver while she’s in LA with the kids and working full-time. We’ve never writtenÂ in separate countries. It’s challenging, but it’s a lot of fun.”Â They hope to start shooting before the end of the year, or early in the spring before Cedar Cove would return to work (if they get a third season), and may end up shooting more than one to make the best use of his hiatus.
Neal has a small part in the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey (which broke the Internet this week when its trailer was released). “I play Anastasia’s stepfather. You don’t see a lot of Bob in the first film, and it’s to really to show a juxtaposition of the relationship she’s in,” he says. “Carol and Bob are warm and loving and [it makes her wonder] what the heck she’s gotten into. We’re a more traditional, familiar relationship.” Getting cast in the film was Neal’s first taste of how high-profile the project is.Â “It was a crazy experience. I’ve never been involved in such a hyped project. It’s just craziness when you get attached,” he points out. “Anyone attached to the movie, you’re suddenly under this microscope. I can’t imagine what the two leads are going through. It’s a fun ride and it’ll be interesting to see how it does. They’ve got to deliver what the books are and not scare away all of the audience.”
Cedar Cove airs tonight at 8/7 c on Hallmark Channel. Here’s a sneak peek:
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