Good Witch has been a powerhouse franchise for both Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and Hallmark Channel for over a decade, amassing seven standalone films before launching into a series that begins its fifth season next year. On a recent visit to Toronto, I sat down with executive producer Jon Eskenas during filming of Tale of Two Hearts, this Sunday’s Halloween-themed installment from that upcoming season, to chat about the show.
Eskenas has been thrilled to watch the characters and overall story grow and change from films to episodic and garner such a huge and consistent fan response. He credits the cast and crew for anchoring a story that’s a mix of Cassie’s world and the expanded universe of Middleton’s residents and visitors.
While both networks have leaned heavily into Christmas and holiday movies, Good Witch only went there once, and it was a matter of timing. “It was never supposed to be a franchise. When we did the first movie, it just got these massive numbers and so then it was, ‘Okay, let’s do a second.’ And there was no planning to do it,” he recalls.
“And then that did well, so it was, ‘Okay, let’s do a third,’ and by the time that aired and there was a decision [to continue], it was late enough in the season that [it ended up as a Christmas film]. The third one was [The Good Witch’s Gift with Cassie and Jake’s] wedding [on] Christmas Eve.”
Converting from films to series required retooling not only the way the stories were told, but also some of the cast. “What makes the movies work is you have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. [With a series], you may want some of that, but you want to be able to build, too,” he explains.
“It starts with having a [solid foundation]. Our foundation is Catherine [Bell] and you can’t get a better foundation than that…in terms of an actress and as a person. She’s just a good person…down to her core. And then with the character…I always say to her every time we come back here…you just hear her say the first line, and, ‘Oh, it’s Cassie.’ She gets right back into it. So, you have that character and you have that person playing it [and] you can build around that.”
“Chris Potter was doing Heartland, so he wasn’t available. Bailee Madison had just done some stuff with Hallmark and they came and [mentioned her to] play the daughter. I wouldn’t ever have thought that was possible, so that was amazing. And then they had just done something with James Denton and it was, ‘Well, what about James Denton for the potential love interest?'”
“Both of them are just incredible. It’s just a great cast of talented performers who are even better people. As great as Chris Potter was, and we’ll always been indebted to him as the franchise…there was something to be said about being able to start [Cassie] anew.”
“With the movies, Cassie often [was] kind of flawless. We wanted vulnerability to come into her for the series. You need that for a series if you’re going to run for [a while].Â And so having it that she had lost her husband, that this new guy comes in, but they actually don’t get along at first and then she’s not sure what to do [accomplished that].”
“Her daughter’s going through different periods of her life and different issues. And so all of it are these very real world issues, but then you put the magic in there, too…or there is or there isn’t a magic in there, too. And then the world just expands around it.”
Eskenas says the cast and characters grew from there, and even reflected some of his own history. “Of course, you can’t have Good Witch without Martha [Catherine Disher], so it’s great to have her back. And then we decided…Sam should have a kid [the] same age as Grace. When I grew up, I had a stepfamily and my sister and stepsister were a month apart,” he shares.
“George, Peter MacNeill, who’s amazing and again, you just feel [is] part of the franchise. And then we have different people who come in. We added Stephanie [Kylee Evans] to really round out the town and add humor and heart. And then Abigail. Sarah [Power] was in the fourth movie and…she’s fantastic as a person and actress, and she gives us that kind of antagonist, but in a nice, Hallmark way.”
“[She] never is trying to hurt people, she’s actually trying to help people. Cassie leads you to make your life better; Abigail goes ahead and does it for you, no matter whether you want that or not. Every week, the writers do a great job of bringing in new people who Cassie can help and [that affects] the relationships. But at its core, it’s still about family and friendship.”
“That’s what made the movies work [and] that makes the series work. It’s about the little things in life and taking care of [them] so the big things can get solved, too. And that’s what Cassie does and she leads everybody to do. We all know in our lives…sometimes it’s not the hard rights, it’s the banks that really throw you. And that’s what we look at for them. And they’re very real.”
Eskenas adds that they take the series one season at a time, and there’s no formal end game in place, but they do consider where their characters are now, and where they’re heading. “The show could run forever. The good thing with us is, I think what people really love, are the characters,” he points out.
“Our crew have done an amazing job, [too]. I think it looks great, the wardrobe’s great, the sets are great. All of that. I think it’s a beautiful looking show. You come in because you love the actors, because you love the characters and so as long as we have them, you could keep it going.”
“It’s an interesting year [this season] as we come towards Sam and Cassie [and] their relationship finally getting to the pinnacle, and as Grace ages. [So we look at], with all of these people, now what has the show become?”
“We have ideas moving forward and I think there’s always [that sense of] somebody new coming to town or somebody who’s in town [who] Cassie [and Grace] help with magic…or if there isn’t a magic, Sam with his medical. The two of them teaming together. [You] can see how that sort of story line could run forever.”
“[In] terms of our main core of characters, I think we begin every year and say, ‘Oh, we’ve been really lucky to have great ratings last year, now how do we get even better?’ We’re always wanting to say, ‘Okay, let’s start fresh.'”
“We [have been] here together for so long, even the crew. [They’re all amazing and we recognize] how incredible it is to bring joy to literally millions of people. And around the world. [There] are mothers and daughters and sons and husbands and wives and friends sitting and watching something that we’re doing and it’s making them happy. I mean, what could be better than that?”
Good Witch: Tale of Two Hearts premieres Sunday night at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel. Here’s a peek behind the scenes. Check back tomorrow for our preview and interview with Catherine Bell.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Dennis Heaton Talks The Imperfects
Longtime readers at TV Goodness will know that Motive is one of my ride-or-die series, and as such, I am fiercely loyal to its creator, Dennis Heaton. He followed up that fantastic reverse procedural with Netflix’s The Order and is back on our streaming screens with The Imperfects, which dropped…
Kelly McCormack Talks Favorite Moments in A League of Their Own
[Warning: Mild spoilers for season 1.] Now that you’ve had a chance to watch A League of Their Own, here’s the rest of my chat with Kelly McCormack about her favorite moments of the season. Seeing the iconic Peaches uniforms for the first time wasn’t just a goosebump moment for…
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From on EPIX Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks EPIX’s From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People [streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
Avery Konrad Talks About Sara’s Struggle in From “Silhouettes”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Over the course of the season so far on From, we’ve witnessed Sara’s battle against the voices telling her to to do terrible things, and tonight we saw her unravel further, threatening the Matthews and lashing out in a moment of terror with horrifying results….
Hannah Cheramy Talks From “Choosing Day”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight, on EPIX’s From, the Matthews participate in the show’s version of the sorting hat, choosing where to call home–the town or Colony House. At the end of the episode, Julie makes the decision to split from her family and instead settle in with Fatima…
Ricky He Talks From “The Way Things Are Now”
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.] Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when…
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…