Crystal Lowe Talks Signed, Sealed, Delivered + Preview of The Road Less Traveled
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Signed, Sealed, Delivered premieres The Road Less Traveled, its ninth franchise film, Sunday night at a special time, 7 pm/6c, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Earlier this week, I spoke to Crystal Lowe about the show’s longevity (they’re shooting the tenth film now), what she loves about the role of Rita, and her work as a short film director.
The Road Less Traveled is a really lovely Valentine for the fans, as the Postables hit the road in an RV, this time on the hunt to find a little boy after a disposable camera turns up in the DLO. On the personal front, newly engaged Rita is alarmed that she’s apparently already late on her wedding planning while Norman has his own reasons for being a little gunshy about their upcoming nuptials.
Shane is dodging phone calls and Oliver tries not to push, but is nonetheless concerned about what it means. It’s a beautifully layered story that takes the Postables out of their comfort zone, forcing them to push through their own doubts and emotions to solve the case. it’s also delightfully old school–no laptops and a dead cell phone. Grab the tissues. I sobbed through the last half hour–in a good way. Jamie-Lynn Sigler guest stars, Brandi Harkonen writes and Kevin Fair directs.
When Lowe initially read for Rita, the role was a bit against type for the kind of work she’d been doing up to that point in her career, and she wasn’t sure it’d be a good fit, but Martha Williamson saw it in her. “I auditioned for Rita, and I thought my agent sent me the wrong sides. She’s not a character I’ve ever played before,” she recalls.
“I was so relaxed and I thought, ‘There’s no way I’m booking this, so I’m just going to do me.’ I wore no makeup and glasses and had my hair in a bun. [There is a] line in the pilot where I say, ‘I’ve never actually been in love,’ and [Martha] says that’s the line that [landed me] the role.”
“They’d been looking for Rita for a long time. I booked it on a Monday and I went to camera on a Wednesday. Martha called me and said, ‘I will write for you every day and you will be happy when you come to set,’ and she was right and has stayed true to her word.”
Lowe says the shift of the show from a weekly series to a series of films gave them a richer playground. “I actually think it made the show better. As much as I loved it as a series, there’s so much in each episode, so much character development plus the B story and with the two-hour movie format, you get to see [all of it],” she explains.
“[Martha] writes the B storyline, the letter storyline, so well, but you also want to see what’s happening with Norman and Rita and Oliver and Shane. And something is always happening with them and the two-hour format gave us the ability to explore both without sacrificing one for the other.”
Lowe is particularly fond of her character’s arc over the years, and has had a hand in her development since the pilot. “The growth in character with Norman, for sure [is a favorite thing], and her coming into her own. When I first started, Rita was very shy and uncomfortable in her own skin,” she says.
“[Martha] sat me down and said, ‘You were not what I had in mind for Rita, but when you walked in, you were the girl, you were it. I want to write this for you, instead of trying to put you into the box.’ That’s the sign of a really strong writer. And we got to develop the character together. We wanted to see Rita come into her own while keeping herself and her values and owning who she was a little more, and that’s been the best part of her journey. Her look has evolved, too, which I love.”
Some form of a Rita and Norman pairing was always planned, but Lowe credits her real-life history with Geoff Gustafson for the really lovely relationship it’s become. “I think the idea that these two might like each other, or one might like the other [was always there]. Then [Martha] saw us onscreen together. Geoff and I have a lot of chemistry,” she says.
“I’ve known him for 20 years. We went to high school together. We knew each other then but not well, and just before this, we did Primeval: New World together and we were neighbors, but didn’t know it. We have a very tight bond, I can love him and hate him in a minute. That’s what you get when you have history with someone.”
Lowe is appreciative of the filmmaking mentorship the role has afforded her, as well. “[While I’ve been on the show], I’ve directed twice and I’ve produced four times. I was just nominated for best international director for my short film [“The Curtain“]. I come from a mother who’s very, very driven, and always encouraging me to go further and try more,” she shares.
“I owned a restaurant for three years. I have always had that kind of business sense. I really liked opening the restaurant but I didn’t want to run it. But it taught me what I could do in business. And I love film. When I combined the two, producing went hand in hand and felt great. I’m happy if I’m working 17 hours a day [on a set]. I’m a little bit of a control freak and I love when I get it.”
“Working for Martha has been a huge asset, just watching her. I asked her to mentor me and she said, ‘Yep. If you’re serious about it, then yes.’ I said I’d do the work and asked if she’d keep an eye out on me when the work is done, and she said, ‘Yes.'”
TheÂ SSD film currently in production is the last that has been greenlit, but the cast and crew would love to continue past that. Lowe says wherever they end, Williamson has the fans front of mind. “Martha is very concerned with her fans. She never wants to leave them with an unsatisfactory feeling,” she says. “She’ll wrap [the stories] up but always leave room for growth. We could continue without an issue.”
Outside of SSD, Lowe appeared in two 2017 Christmas movies, Marry Me at Christmas and Christmas at Holly Lodge, as the lead’s best friend, and she’s eager to carry a movie of her own. “I love being the BFF because she’s always the funny one,” she says. “But I would love to be the lead for Hallmark in one of their films.”
Lowe’s feature film, Wonder, is now out on VOD and she loved working on that project. “It is an incredible film. It’s worth every penny. Stephen Chbosky is incredible,” she praises. “I got to work with Mandy Patinkin, which was amazing. I play Julian’s Mom.”
“He got [Bryan Gheisar, who plays] Julian and they sat together with the camera rolling, and he said, ‘My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’ I almost had a heart attack because I have seen [The Princess Bride] 50,000 times and it’s one of my favorites. That was a huge bucket list. He’s the real deal in terms of an actor and working with him was incredible. My character really goes toe to toe with him.”
Lowe’s short film, “The Curtain,” is on the festival circuit, and she’s proud of the movie. “It’s about two people who meet each other in a hospital room that never see each other but they open up to each other because the curtains are drawn,” she says. “[It speaks to how you’re your] true self when you meet a stranger. You find out about both of their lives and why they’re in there and how they’re affected and they help change each other’s lives without any judgment, which is really beautiful.”
The Road Less Traveled premieres Sunday at 7 pm/6c (note the special time) after a marathon that begins at 9 am/8c.
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