Niall Matter Talks Marrying Father Christmas and Making Movies for Hallmark [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Niall Matter has become a Hallmark regular in recent years, and Sunday night on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, he stars opposite Erin Krakow in Marrying Father Christmas, the third film in the Father Christmas trilogy. Earlier this week, I spoke to Matter about the films, becoming part of the Hallmark family, and his upcoming Lifetime Christmas movie, Christmas Pen Pals.
Matter credits his friend and Eureka co-star Colin Ferguson and his short run on When Calls the Heart with guiding him toward and keeping him at Hallmark, where he’s now done seven movies across both networks. “Colin went over and did a few long before I did and said they were great people to work with and he really enjoyed himself. I was working a lot after Eureka and things would come up and I wasn’t available. Stop the Wedding came about and I was able to make it work out and that was the beginning of my relationship and it’s been two and a half years,” he recalls.
“It’s a good place to find a home. You feel like you’re employed a good part of the year so it’s like being a series regular, which is nice. Hallmark tends to hire really great people across the board. I think that’s why they operate on an old Hollywood-style system.”
“They find the people they like, be it producers, directors, directors of photography, actors, hair stylists, and makeup…who fit in with each other. They interchange those parts and different pieces and they’re still come up with great films that work. Everyone gets along. They have a group of people who are all on the same level of collective consciousness, which is rare and really great to find.”
“I love the flexibility of being able to do the films. I’ve worked in series contracts for very long periods. I’ve enjoyed the freedom of the films. You’re in for five weeks–a week or two of prep and three weeks to shoot–and then you’re out and hopefully another one comes about.”
“When Calls the Heart was supposed to be a longer term thing and a bunch of juggling happened and I kind of slipped through the cracks. [Hallmark] learned more about me and discovered my range as an actor. It was really nice to lose a job and gain a whole bunch of other ones.”
Matter never expected multiple Father Christmas films but is happy it worked out that way. Over the last three years, he’s developed a personal connection with not only his character, but the other characters and his fellow cast. “I personally only thought we were going to do the one, because the first movie has all of the books. I thought it would be one and done and luckily the fans really liked the characters,” he says.
“When you start playing a character, you want to tell the whole story or at least a good chunk of that person’s life, and have a very clear beginning, middle, and end. This was a chance to give it a heartfelt ending. Not only is Ian marrying the love of his life, her dead father led her there. It’s a story of serendipity and fate.”
“You’re saying goodbye to these characters and these actors. You have all these experiences and relationships that you’ve built up. [During the wedding] scene, you’re saying goodbye to all of it. As the character, you’re also excited to venture into a new beginning, a future with the woman of your dreams. All of those emotions are running and coming together to create that scene.”
The film is full of special moments, and the one that spoke to Matter most was the one he gave voice to as both an actor and writer. “The wedding vows were very important for both Erin and myself as actors. I rewrote all of my vows because I wanted them to have so much more meaning and for the fans, as [Ian is] speaking, to relive the other movies that we all experienced together. [The film’s writer] David Golden and Robin Gunn [who wrote the novellas] and the producers thought they were beautiful.”
“I’m so happy that, ‘You make me fearless in love,’ is in the promo. All of his love for [Miranda] is in his words. I wanted to make sure I could portray that fully and completely. You know from that scene that these people are going to go on and have a beautiful life together. It meant a lot to me to have that creative freedom. There are so many people who have been involved in creating [Ian]. That helped me connect as an artist to the words because they were my words.”
For a little added complexity, Matter was also balancing The Predator reshoots in Vancouver during production on Marrying Father Christmas last spring. “I was filming Marrying Father Christmas during the day and filming nights on Predator [and] staying awake for 24 and 36 hours and doing both movies,” he laughs.
“I remember filming the wedding and doing the vows. That was an emotional day. I was completely drained and had to rush off to Predator [where] there’s guns and explosions and helicopters. I equate that to being a little boy. It was a blast. That carried me through the night and then I’d have a quick nap and go back to Marrying Father Christmas.”
On December 15th, you can catch Matter over on Lifetime in Christmas Pen Pals, a romance with a secret identity twist. “Sarah Drew‘s [character] comes back to her hometown after being away after the loss of her mother. It’s a small community and every year they write to secret pen pals at Christmastime. She decides to become part of that with her dad to get him back out there,” he explains.
“She winds up falling in love with her pen pal [on the page] and his ideals and suggestions. He’s trying to help her break through some of her traumas and they end up discovering they knew each other before. It was a sweet story [and] a great time. I worked with Jack Grossbart, who was the producer of Stop the Wedding.”
This weekend, Matter starts production on another installment of Aurora Teagarden. “It’s a really fun script, especially for my character. The last one was the introduction, but this one has a lot of elements for me to play. It’ll be a lot of fun,” he says. “We’re doing one [now] and two in January and February. They’re keeping me busy and I’m looking forward to it.”
Marrying Father Christmas premieres Sunday night at 9 pm/8c on on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries after a 7 pm/6c repeat of Engaging Father Christmas. if you’re looking for Finding Father Christmas, it’s streaming on Hallmark Movies Now. You can also catch Matter on UP TV this weekend when 2016’s Falling for Christmas repeats Saturday and Sunday.
Here’s a sneak peek of Marrying Father Christmas.
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