Brennan Elliott Talks Mum’s the Word, UnREAL, Cedar Cove, and More [Exclusive]
It’s been about a year and a half since I last chatted with Brennan Elliott, and now seemed like a great time to jump on the phone with him again. He’s had a lot going on. Last summer, we saw him in Cedar Cove‘s final season and Lifetime’s juggernaut UnREAL. This past holiday season, he worked with (and for) Mariah Carey in A Christmas Melody, where he reteamed with his All of My Heart co-star, Lacey Chabert, and now he’s moved over to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ newest film franchise, co-starring with Brooke Shields in Flower Shop Mystery.
Flower Shop Mystery is based on a series of 19 books (so far) written by Kate Collins, about Abby Knight, a widowed former attorney (and new empty nester with a daughter at college) who opens a flower shop in her home town and falls into a series of mysteries. Elliott plays her neighboring business owner, Marco Salvare, an ex-military man and ex-PI who owns the bar next door.Â Mum’s the Word is the firstÂ entry and isÂ based on the first book (and adapted by Hallmark regular Gary Goldstein). Elliott says HMM has an ambitious plan to turn each book into a movie.
“[We’re doing] aÂ minimum of 16, a max of 20. I think that 20 would be the whole series. It’s a fun Murder She Wrote meets Moonlighting franchise. Each movie has a murder mystery and case that needs to be solved. [My character]Â is trying to protect her and be her conscience because I was a private detective,” he explains. “There are elements of Hart to Hart and Murder She Wrote. It’s light and fun, and they’re obviously dealing with serious issues like people being murdered and different crimes, but every episode has the different metaphor about flowers in the title. It’s a real fun relationship detective dramedy. The goal is that each book will be translated into its own film.”
He and Shields had a fantastic time working together, and similar to what Dylan Neal told us last year about Gourmet Detective, the first film is the one to learn by asÂ they find their rhythmsÂ and figure out what works and what doesn’t. “[Brooke’s]Â character has a little bit of Lucille Ball energy, and I’m the manly, sex guy who has come from the world of the war and the private investigator. We’re still developing and creating the banter. The first few movies, you’re getting your feet on the ground. You’re finding your track. Once you get going, you realize Hallmark [wants] and what we all want is the voice of the show, and we’re still finding that.”
He’s about to head back to North Bay, Ontario (standing in for Illinois) to shoot the next film, Snipped in the Bud.Â “Some of the execs want us to do five a year. We’ll have three done by March. If we do three [a year] for three or four years, and it depends on how the audience and Hallmark responds, [that will be great]. I think the fans are going to have a blast,” he promises. “It’s really a lot of fun. I haven’t worked with Beau [Bridges] yet. I’m looking forward to that. Brooke and I get along great. She’s such a sweetheart, one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. We’re having a lot of fun together. She’s also an executive producer so she’s really inquisitive and trying to play an element she wants in the show.”
Elliott was as surprised as anyone about the critical darling UnREAL became, and it’s the project he’s approached on the street about. “I’ve been stopped in Beverly Hills and in restaurants. I didn’t see this [coming]. I thought it would be successful, but I didn’t know how much of a nerve it would touch,” he says.Â “I watchÂ [news reality] shows, but my wife and friends watch [mainstream reality] shows and it was a water cooler show for sure. It’s an exciting and polarizing show.”
“It gets the audience that loves to watch the reality shows, and the people who’ve never really watched reality shows. You’re getting a double audience and a diverse group of viewers. I knew it was going to be successful on some level and I’d be happy to go back. Brooke has something she wants to do April to August [so we’d have a break in Flower Shop Mystery], and they’ve said they’re interested in bringing me back [for season two], and that would be wonderful and I’d love to. [If we can work out scheduling], that would be a wonderful transition.”
Working with Mariah Carey was a treat. “I’d done [All Of My Heart] with Lacey and consider her a very good friend. I’m very,very proud of that movie and what it did. …and the fans are calling for us to do more movie together and were very happy to do that. [A Christmas Melody] came across my desk and Lacey called me and saidÂ she’d really love me to do it. And it was that easy. We hadn’t discussed [where, when or contracts] and I hadn’t read the script [yet], and then I heard Mariah was directing and I thought, ‘that’s going to be really interesting,'” he recalls.
“She was sweet, up front, and she knew what wanted, and even amid all the things she has going on,Â the fact she could focus on our film and be an actor’s director, and really focus, was really inspiring. She’s one of the greatest multi-taskers I’ve ever seen. The first day we had 300 people with signs. It was pretty wild, it became a show within a show.Â I got the chance to do a little music and some singing. It was a different type of film, and real character for me, playing this unassuming teacher. I don’t think it’s something I would have been cast in a few years ago. I had a great experience.”
Last year’s All of My Heart, which was one of our favorites of 2015 and a fan favorite, recently came out on DVD–a sign of its success. “Everybody involved was such beautiful people. I really am proud of that film. This a testament to Peter [DeLuise],” he points out.Â “We had the honesty, the romance without being sappy, and we also had a lot of humor and a lot of emotion, too. If Peter calls me to work with him, I’ll work with him any day of the week. He’s [an] actor’s director, and he knows how to find those nuances. I love him. He’s one of the most brilliant directors I have ever worked with.”
Elliott adored working with icon Ed Asner, too.Â “It’s like Mariah. You walk into a room and you realize you have not lived or experienced anything like he has,” he says. “He’s 93 and he’s kicking it like he’s my age. He’s done it [all]. I soaked him up. I had conversations with him on the plane about life and children and raising kids in the business. He’s a brilliant, brilliant person.Â He’s so smart and amazing. Lacey and I have said that was one of the proudest projects we worked on.”
Cedar Cove‘s cancellation in November was a surprise and disappointment to the fans and the cast alike. Elliott says he’s only recently been able to sit down between projects and really reflect that his journey as Warren is done, although he doesn’t rule out that maybe someday there could be a follow-up. “With Hallmark, you never know. They listen to their audience. This is what happens in the business. They wanted to go forward, but there are reasons beyond us [that caused it],” he says. “In their defense, they really put their heart and soul behind it. I had one of, if not the, best experience of my career doing that show. It always will be.”
“Everybody [on the show and at the network made it] a wonderful, wonderful experience I would be surprised if down the road they didn’t want to do a movie a year, or here and there, to keep the Covers happy. It’s possible. I would be totally open to it. I think it’s a great idea. I can’t see [leaving it where it was] since it didn’t end the way everybody wanted.”
“I had been so busy I hadn’t had a chance to mourn Warren’s character. I was watching one of the Christmas movies, and I got really sad because I put everything into that character and it’s over, I did three years, so it’s a little different experience. But that’s the business. He’s my favorite character, and my wife’s favorite character, too.”
“All of us have gone on to other Hallmark projects. They know the fans. We’ll all be busy for years to come,” he says. He’sÂ also practical aboutÂ cancellations as a nature of the show business beast, and points out that it was a still a kinder dismissal than he’d previously encountered with another long-term role.Â “When I did Strong Medicine for five years,Â one day I was driving to work [and] I got the call that we were cancelled and they weren’t shooting the rest of the episode,” he remembers. “The hammer can come down at any moment.”
Next up, Elliott is working as a producer and weighing acting opportunities. “I am developing my own series, producing and possibly starring in it,” he says. “It’s a project I’ve been spearheading for about a year and getting the right writing team together. I’m very excited about it. There are a few movies that are interested in me being a part of them, as am I. I’m very busy, and very blessed.”
“My loyalty to Hallmark is solid. They’re one of the greatest class act companies to work for. They do really wonderful content and really care about the audience and family dynamic,” he says. “Their brand is inspiring to me when I do want to produce. We’re in a good place.”
Flower Shop Mystery: Mum’s the Word premieres Sunday at 9/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Elliott will be live Tweeting during the East Coast and West Coast feeds with #MumsTheWord. I really liked the film, and I definitely want to see more of these characters so I’m happy this is the start of another series of films. Eagle-eyed fans will also recognize a few familiar faces sprinkled throughout the cast.Â As I’ve said recently about some of the other new Hallmark releases, I’m really enjoying, and genuinely appreciate, that there are more films coming down the pike with characters firmly in their 30s and 40s.Â Here’s a sneak peek.
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