Hallmark merges its affinity for romcoms, bakeries, and long-lost loves this Saturday night in The Sweetest Heart, starring Julie Gonzalo (Falling for Vermont) and Chris McNally. I spoke with McNally today about his current projects.
If you travel across genres like I do, McNally may be familiar to you from Netflix’s Altered Carbon, or you may recognize him from his recent Hallmark appearances, in December’s Rocky Mountain Christmas and October’s installment of Gourmet Detective.
After appearing in those Hallmark supporting roles, McNally was offered The Sweetest Heart co-lead outright. “It came out of nowhere. I had done of couple of Hallmark films and my agent called me and said I had a job offer,” he recalls. “I thought it had some great quirky comedic moments in it. I also liked that they threaded through three different love lines.”
In the film, McNally plays Nate, a cardiologist who’s back in his hometown to give a lecture series at the local hospital. He’s a bit nervous, with good reason, because it’s his first return since breaking the heart of his high school sweetheart, Maddie (Gonzalo), a decade earlier when the long distance college thing fell apart after they graduated.
Maddie’s BFF, Sarah (Siren‘s Tammy Gillis), and her neighbor, Emma (Continuum‘s Catherine Lough Haggquist), don’t cut him much slack, either. When her bake shop hits a snag with an attempted expansion, Nate is given an opportunity to help her out and maybe repair those old wounds.Andrea Brooks (Supergirl/When Calls the Heart), Clayton Chitty (When Calls the Heart), Jill Teed (The Christmas Train), Victor Zinck, Jr. (Frozen in Love), and Jordan Burtchett also star.
McNally enjoyed playing a fairly jargon-free physician. “I feel like in the future I would enjoy giving speeches to people…if down the line I have success in this industry and I’m in a place where I can give advice to young people who are striving [to break in], that’s something I’d be very interested in doing,” he shares. “It was fun to do that in a different field.”
His favorite scene was the ending, but it came with some logistical challenges. “That scene seemed to be haunted when we were shooting it,” he laughs. “We kept getting interrupted. Someone set a fire across the street and the police came and we had to wait for them to clear it. Lights were also shutting on and off. Aside from all that, it was my favorite to shoot.”
McNally found the fast pace and his larger role this time around meant making a few adjustments. “The first week [of the shoot], I was commuting out to Langley and two hours of travel [each day] cut down the amount of time I had to prep for the next day,” he explains.
“I decided to stay out in Langley for weeks two and three, which helped significantly working with Julie because we were staying at the same hotel. We were able to work tomorrow’s scenes out once the day had ended. That was my lesson on this one. Make sure you’re staying as close as possible to the set so you have time to prep for the next day.”
His role as Sergei, the partner of the Bancrofts’ son, Isaac, in Altered Carbon (our coverage is here), came around just as he was auditioning for Juilliard in New York. “I got this self tape request. I remember thinking, ‘What is this? I’m auditioning in two days and I’ve got to prep for that. I Googled people who could self tape me in New York, so we worked the scenes and shot it and sent it off and I kind of forgot about it,” he says.
“A few weeks later, I got a call that I had booked it. Then I found out how massive the projects was and I was excited to be a part of it. I think it ended up helping my work [in the audition] because I was so distracted. It was such a secret project. I wasn’t allowed to read the scripts. I didn’t even get my sides until…the latest was the night before. It was a fun experience but I did feel very in the dark.”
“I needed to be informed by Antonio Marizale, who’s a lovely guy and great actor. I play his partner. I got to the set and said, ‘Do you know anything?’ and he filled me in. Working with him was really inspiring and he’s so emotionally available. He has this beautiful Laurence Olivier sensibility to him.”
“I really looked up to Joel Kinnaman because I loved him in The Killing. We were doing the scene were he busts into my apartment and throws us around a little bit. The stunt coordinator asked if we were good. Just the way he grabbed me…my shoulder hurt. He said, ‘Yeah, he’s a little heavy-handed.’ It was OK I didn’t mind. It helps when there’s a little bit of realness. James Purefoy was amazing to watch. Seeing him work was really inspiring.”
Lifetime’s upcoming adaptation of the VC Andrews novel, Heaven is another lead role, and McNally says it was both emotional and educational. “It was really difficult. I’d say it’s the hardest thing I’ve worked on so far. It was really great working with Annalise Basso and Julie Benz. They’re terrific,” he explains. “I feel like I’m still very new in this industry. I’ve been working at it a while, but in terms of working on a set with a more substantial role, that’s still new to me, so I was just trying to learn as much as I could.”
“What made it so hard…with Hallmark, most of what we’re shooting has a lightness and levity to it. It’s fun, we capture what we need to and move on. With Heaven, it’s an independent drama that we should have been taking the time to shoot but we were doing it on a movie of the week schedule…fighting the light [as] the days were getting shorter.”
The story doesn’t pull any punches, either. It focuses on Heaven, an abused young woman who’s adopted by an unbalanced woman with ultimately ulterior motives. McNally plays Heaven’s stepdad, who steps in to protect her and later develops a relationship with her.
McNally wasn’t accepted at Julliard but hopes to audition again, depending on where his year goies. Getting through it the first time was a combination of craft and conquering nerves. “I’ve never been more nervous [than I was] before going in that room,” he laughs.
“I arrived early in the morning. You sign in and you can go in…warm up rooms. There are a few massive dance rooms that are filled with people waiting. Eventually your group is called and then you go to a smaller area and wait and then you go in.”
“You need to have four monologues prepared, two classical, two contemporary, all of a contrasting nature, trying to show a range, and you need to have 16 bars of an a capella song as well. You go in and do one classical/contemporary and they may ask you to sing. If you get a callback, you go back and do that again and then two more. It was all in one day.”
McNally is on Twitter and Instagram, and the admitted dog lover has had a bit of fun on the latter with his family dog and a couple of pups he’s met on set. “The one that appears most belongs to my family. She’s a shepherd husky. I steal her all the time,” he says.
“I was working in Victoria and one of the make up artists had this insanely cute Pomeranian named Cricket. One day I was dressed up in 18th century gear and I asked if we could do a photo shoot with Cricket. We went outside and I’m holding Cricket and it was really funny picture.”
“I ended up working with her again in Heaven and said we need to take took another picture. I’m sitting at a typewriter in my 70s outfit with Cricket. I hope I come across her again so we can keep this going. The key hair person on The Sweetest Heart, Deja, had a little Chihuahua named Candy so I took a picture saying, ‘Cricket’s got some competition.'”
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
George R. Olson, Tim Rozon, and Sarah Levy Talk the SurrealEstate S2 Finale
[Spoilers for the SurrealEstate Season 2 finale.] How’s everyone doing after the finale? As we close out the second season of SurrealEstate, some of our merry band of misfits are scattering to the winds–Zooey to law school, Phil to the Vatican, and Augie back to his think tank with Rochelle,…
Previewing SurrealEstate Season 2 Finale + Revisiting the Season with George R. Olson
[Warning; General spoilers ahead.] Strap in, SurrealEstate fam, because we’ve arrived at the Season 2 finale, and it’s a doozy. As we saw in the closing moments of last week’s episode, Susan is back. But because we have one more episode left, it’s not as simple as all that, as…
Tyler Hynes Talks Through His Eight-Film Hallmark Holiday Library
Things you realize when you have to re-record your shows on a new DVR – just how many Hallmark movies your people have done. Fan favorite – and one of ours – Tyler Hynes has done eight Christmas movies for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries since 2018. Alongside…
Spencer Creaghan Talks About Creating SurrealEstate’s Signature Sound
SurrealEstate is winding down its second season, with two episodes left, and just as in Season 1, Spencer Creaghan’s music continues to be a character unto itself. And every week, he shares tidbits with the fans via his s social media channels, something he started to help give them an…
Andrew Walker Talks Christmas Island and the Magical Hallmark Community
[Warning: Spoilers for Christmas Island.] Now that the Screen Actors Guild strike has been resolved, we’re able to resume regularly scheduled programming and interview our favorites and yours. Up first, earlier today, I spoke with Andrew Walker about Christmas Island, which premiered last weekend and encores tonight and through the…
George Olson and Danishka Esterhazy Talk SurrealEstate “I Put a Spell on You”
[Warning: Spoilers for the episode.] Tonight’s fun new SurrealEstate found Luke caught up in an especially bewitching woman, Kay, played by Tara Yelland, Susan trapped in her house, and Zooey learning the ropes. In the next part of my conversation with showrunner George R. Olson and producing director Danishka Esterhazy,…
Danishka Esterhazy Talks SurrealEstate: “The Butler Didn’t”
[Warning: General spoilers for the episode]. Tonight’s new SurrealEstate, “The Butler Didn’t,” follows the team as they investigate the years-earlier mysterious death of a woman whose ghost now reenacts her hanging by dropping over the banister from the second floor to terrify anyone on the landing or at the bottom…
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk the From Season 2 finale
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale.] How’s everyone doing after that finale? While we wait and wonder and hope for a third season announcement, soon, here’s what Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders had to say about their parts of the finale, and where they hope they get to go next….
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk From Season 2 + A Season Finale Preview
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] It all comes down this, #FROMily. As Sunday’s episode wraps up Season 2, we begin with the aftermath of the terrifying onset of seemingly simultaneous attacks on Julie, Marielle, and Randall, which accelerate the “We gotta get out of this place” of it all. Sara comes…
Alison Sweeney Talks About What’s Next for Hannah and Mike After Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery
[Warning: Spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder.] Everybody OK after that Hannah Swensen Mystery twist? Thankfully, our favorite crime-solving couple is still on speaking term, even if they’re on a break (hopefully not that kind of break). Most importantly, we already know this isn’t the last film in the series. No…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…