Ali Liebert Talks A Gift to Remember, Wonder, Ten Days in the Valley, and Bomb Girls [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Ali Liebert has been one of my go-to Canadians to watch for almost a decade–back to Intelligence, Harper’s Island, and Bomb Girls. She’s become a familiar face on Hallmark Channel in a handful of movies, recurred on the first season of Chesapeake Shores, and will appear in the upcoming fifth season of When Calls the Heart. Sunday night, she headlines her first Hallmark Channel film, A Gift to Remember. I talked with Liebert today about it and her other projects including Wonder, which opened in theaters yesterday, and Ten Days in the Valley, which returns to ABC next month.
Based on the book by Melissa Hill, A Gift to Remember is a Christmas tale that dips a toe inÂ While You Were Sleeping territory, and does it very, very well.Â Liebert playsÂ Darcy Archer, a woman who is happily working at a boutique bookstore and living vicariously through her books until she collides with a pedestrian, Aidan (Peter Porte), while riding herÂ bicycle.
He wakes up with amnesia, andÂ in an “it takes a village” approach, she decides to look after his dog and enlists and is assisted by her co-workers (Ricky He and Emma Flemington),Â friends (Tina Lifford and Aurelio DiNunzio), and a nurse at the hospital (Brandi Alexander) to try to help Aidan remember who he is. Together,Â he not only regains his identity, but she finds her own, too.
Liebert loves that mix of threads, and was excited to be offered the role. “I think Hallmark in particular puts women at the forefront of their stories and I think that’s really important. There’s usually a romantic element, but theÂ heroines have an arc where they get stronger and become braver than they knew they were and usually succeed in their businesses and go after their dreams,” she explains. “I think their movies in general provide the audience with hope and hopefully people watching are inspired to be braver in their own lives.”
“[This script]Â came across my desk and I thought the story was really great, so I was happy to do it.Â I’ve played the best friend or sister to the leading lady many times for Hallmark and this is the first time that they let me be the leading lady and I was absolutely thrilled to do it.”
“I really, really enjoyed working with Peter Porte. He’s a really talented and funny and a kind actor and person. I would say working with him was a highlight. I really enjoyed the friendship on- and off-screen with Tina Lifford. She’s such anÂ incredible actor. I enjoyed the biting the head off the cookie scene, evenÂ though I ended up eating a lot of gingerbread. She was so great, and funny. I love how funny the movie is, and it’s got a bit of a mystery to it, andÂ absolutelyÂ the romance. I love the movie. I’m hoping people love this film and the next film.”
The final scene has Liebert in a fantastic red dress, so I had to ask, and yes, it’s hanging in her closet, ready for the upcoming holidays. “I do have the red dress. I ‘m going to be bringing it out this holiday season,” she shares. “I’m not sure where. I’ll absolutely find somewhere to wear it.”
Most folks recognize Liebert for her portrayal of Betty in Bomb Girls, which aired in the US on Reelz and is available on DVD and Netflix.Â SheÂ says itÂ will always have a special place in her heart. “I think that show really touched a lot of people. The great thing about the Internet and Twitter is that I still have a lot of young LGBTQ folks Tweeting at me and saying me how much the show helped them personally in their own lives, like [when they were] coming out,” she shares.
“Many people tell me that they played episodes of Bomb Girls and told their family, ‘I’m like Betty.’ That is just so, soÂ incredible. It’s definitely one of my favorite roles because the show was so beautifully written and the fact that that character was so meaningful for so many people, myself included. That show will always carry such importance in my life and career. Michael MacLennan,Â the head writer and co-showrunner was an incredible mentor and he really loved the character of Betty.Â Everyone just loved working on that show. It will always be one of my favorites.”
Parents of tweens and teens may find Liebert familiar from Disney XD’sÂ Mech-X4, which recently wrapped production but is available on Amazon Video. She had a ball playing the villainous Principal Grey. “It was so fun. I have been told I have a very sweet face, so it’s not very often that I get to play a villain and playing [her] was so liberating and so fun and I really wish the show could have continued,” she says. “The cast of really diverse teens was so great. It’s disappointing that it’s not going any further. It was a really creative group of people and the kids would make me laugh so much. That character wasÂ totally insane. I loved playing her.”
In the just-opened feature filmÂ Wonder, Liebert plays a teacher, and she said the experienceÂ was extraordinary. “It was just a regular audition…and it was so incredible.Â Like Bomb Girls,Â itÂ had a special aura around it. I got to down to LA for the premiere Tuesday, and then I watched it last night with all my friends and family at a local theater in Vancouver,” she says.
“It’s so good. TheÂ director, Stephen Chbosky, did an incredible job. The message of the movie, having more love and tolerance and kindness for people, and having this story be something that kids and adults really relate to, is a rare breed, which is why I think it’s getting all the accolades it is.”
“I’m really proud to be in it and play a teacher. I have family and friends who are teachers and they’re excited to see it.Â Teachers are the glue and inspiration for the next generation. They’re underpaid and have such an important role in our future andÂ I was really honored to be a part of it.”
Ten Days in the Valley will be back on ABC next month–you can catch the first four episodes online now at ABC’s website.Â In it, Liebert recurs asÂ Nickole Bilson,Â one of the detectives working the core missing child case.Â “That was a dream come true.Â I’ve always been a big fan of Tassie Cameron from afar for her work on Rookie Blue, and Kyra Sedgwick is obviously an incredible actress. That was anÂ incredible ensemble cast,” she points out.
“I thought it was a veryÂ exciting 10-episode mystery format, and I really hopeÂ that our audienceÂ sticks around to finish out the mystery because it gets really good. I thought the writing was incredible with all these overlapping stories. AndÂ truthfully, I’ve always wanted to play a detective, so that was my dream come true. We got to film that inÂ Los Angeles,Â which was a lovely break from West Coast winters, so it was excellent on so many levels.”
Next up for Liebert, she’s producing a film for Hallmark in which she will also star, details to be announced soon, and she loves the mix of opportunities. “I feel very lucky that I’ve gotten to work in a broad spectrum of genres and formats. To me, it’s always about the characters and I think I really try to make my characters as different as possible,” she says.
“It’s more fun and challenging for me and it’s about being true to who they are and how interesting I find the stories. We’re tellings stories.Â I have a wild imagination and I just love getting lost in all these different types of stories. When you’re the lead, you get so many more opportunities to walk in your character’s shoes.Â I don’t think I have a favorite genre, but I think playing slightly shadier characters likeÂ Principal Grey is a great break. Honestly, I just love my job.”
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