TV Movie Goodness Interview: Paul Campbell Talks Hallmark Channel’s Surprised By Love
Hallmark Channel kicks off its 2015 film slate Saturday night with Surprised By Love, a fun and charming story about two high school friends who reconnect in their 30s, prompting them to re-evaluate their life choices. The movie is headlined by One Tree Hill‘s Hilarie Burton and Paul Campbell, who you may recognize as one of the stars of Window Wonderland if you’ve just binge-watched Christmas movies, or from his stints on Battlestar Galactica or the Knight Rider reboot. I chatted with Campbell on New Year’s Eve about the new film and his Canadian series Spun Out.
Surprised By Love was written by Neal and Tippi Dobrofsky, who also wrote Window Wonderland, and that history didn’t hurt. “I don’t know how much say they have in casting, but I know they recommended me for the film. The producer, Jack Grossbart, watched Window Wonderland and liked me and thought I’d be suitable for this as well,” he says. “I was offered the [role, which is] the most wonderful way to get work. It’s always a nice surprise when you get offered work out of the blue. The Hallmark movies are so fast and so fun. Every single day is like an adult playground. You go and crack jokes and mess around with your friends and there happen to be a couple of cameras filming while you do it. They’re some of the favorite films of my career.”
He and Burton have fantastic chemistry, and that was just fortuitous casting as the duo only met for the first time the day before shooting started. “There are two things at work when you have a male and female lead. Often as a professional actor, you’ve created these relationships onscreen enough that you know the outline or shape of the relationship that you can fake a lot of it,” he explains. “There is something to be said for getting along really well as people. And we got along famously. It was very easy and natural between the two of us. We have similar senses of humor and are very silly…and got along great from the get go, which helped build the relationship onscreen.”
“I think what you see, and what adds the extra 10 or 15 percent, is when the laughter is genuine. In the scene where we’re walking down the street and Josie is telling Gridley about the teacher in the panda suit, she was improvising on the spot and I was laughing hysterically. Every take, she did something different, and I had no idea what was coming. We thought that would be unusable because we were laughing too hard.”
Working with comedy legend Tim Conway was also a joy. “It was extraordinary. Just the opportunity to be in a room with that man and observe him working his craft is such an honor. Without a doubt, he’s one of the funniest humans I’ve met in my life. I would qualify him as a certified genius…a comedic genius,” he says. “They probably have an entire film’s worth of footage of him just reacting to scenes. They would just turn the camera on him. I’ve never seen in my entire career…a human being possess a greater ability to take a single object and turn into an entire scene without saying a word.”
Campbell recalls that during a party scene toward the end of the film, Conway had everybody–cast and crew–rolling to the point that he was sure the footage was useless. “You can probably see the camera shaking,” he says. “We were in hysterics. I have never laughed that hard in my entire life. There was chortling laughter coming from the video monitors. He did another take that was completely ridiculous.”
“He did stuff that was so in character [but also] outrageously funny. I am the worst for quirksing in a scene [and] breaking out laughing. In the first two passes when I give him the big mouth bass, I ruined the takes because I was laughing hysterically the entire time at the stuff he was doing.”
Campbell wasn’t shy about asking Conway to share some of his stories. “He was such a lovely, lovely man to work with in general. He was so kind, and talked to everyone. What a wonderful experience. I grilled him on Carol Burnett and the Apple Dumpling Game. He was so gracious. I think every single day he had one or two people sitting down with him and asking him questions. He would talk forever. He loved talking about it.”
His favorite moment in the film didn’t make it onscreen, but was a personal high. “The first scene that I had with Tim….there’s a self-awareness that I grew up watching this man. He’s a comedy legend…a living legend and I’m sitting in front of him, doing a scene and making him laugh,” he recalls fondly. “That was it. I could walk away. I could die now. It was spontaneous and genuine and [we couldn’t use any of it in the film but] I felt like I had achieved a little piece of my own greatness.”
Campbell did an episode of Motive last season, playing the murderer with an agenda you never would have guessed. He says working with that cast and crew was a blast, and at a certain point he had to isolate himself to stay dark for the role because they were just that funny. “I had so much fun doing that, It was wonderful. I had tested for [the role of] Detective Lucas with Kristin [Lehman] and Louis [Ferreira] so I knew all those guys,” he says. “It was a treat to work with them.”
“They are a riot. They have so much fun on that show. It’s nonstop laughs. There were times I just had to step away [to stay serious] because I had such a dark role, and the final scene is so emotionally charged. It had a phenomenal twist. I got called out of the blue to do it because I was a known commodity at CTV [which broadcasts Motive in Canada] and it turned out to be such a good episode.”
He just wrapped the second season of his CTV sitcom, Spun Out, headlined by Dave Foley. So far, it doesn’t have a U.S. distributor but he’s hopeful that with a second season completed, we might finally see it stateside. “The first season was traditional four-camera in front of an audience. This season, we did it without an audience. We worked on a really compressed schedule,” he explains. “Last year, we had five-day episodes. This year we had three–one day of rehearsal and two days to shoot. It changed the way we worked dramatically. Rather than having three days to workshop the script and rehearse, you’re workshopping and rehearsing on camera. It’s breakneck speed [and] keeps you on your toes.”
Campbell moves easily from comedy to drama, and he enjoys getting to mix it up. “I find that I get a little restless. Most of the time, I will say I love the half-hour sitcom. I love single-cam and multi-cam and that you’re turning over new episodes every week. I like the 9 to 5 and going home and having a normal life,” he admits. “Then I’ll do something like Motive, and it’s fun creatively to plumb those depths and reach into dark corners and pull stuff out that surprises you. It’s nice to have a little break. If I can keep bouncing around from genre to genre, I’ll be happy. I’ll always be creatively satisfied.”
Surprised By Love airs Saturday night at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel. Campbell will be live Tweeting the East Coast and West Coast feeds at @ThePaulCampbell.
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