We’re two years past the last Murder She Baked installment, and Sunday night Alison Sweeney returns to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries with another franchise that’s a worthy successor to her five-film run as Hannah Swensen.
Chronicle Mysteries is 100% Sweeney’s baby, developed alongside her writing partner, Melissa Salmons. The first three installments will roll out over the next three Sundays. In the first film, Recovered, we met Sweeney’s character, Alex McPherson , a true crime podcaster who happened into the role after leaving her job to help her mom fulfill her bucket list.
As the series begins, Alex is returning to Harrington, Pennsylvania , the town where she spent much of her childhood, this time to re-examine the missing persons case of her friend, Gina Desavio, (played by Sweeney’s MSB sister, Lisa Dururpt). The investigation brings her to the offices of The Chronicle, the local weekly paper, where she strikes up a deal for access to their resources, which include former crime reporter and big city transplant, Drew, played by Benjamin Ayres.
The rest of the staff are played by several Hallmark familiar faces, many of whom have previously worked with Sweeney, including Michael Kopsa, Rebecca Staab (The Irresistible Blueberry Farm), Jim Thorburn, Olivia Steele Falconer, and Dave Collette. Also look for MSB alumni Toby Levins and Karen Holness.
It’s a charming new film set. I’ve screened the first two, and I love their vibe. They completely nail the intimacy of the podcast, where people are drawn into mysteries anywhere they can plug in their earbuds. Sweeney and Ayres are a lot of fun together, and I really like the role they have for Levins. If you’re like me and love the who’s who nature of Hallmark, you’re going to enjoy spotting and recognizing the folks who come to play. Jason Bourque directs the first one.
I spoke with Sweeney this week, and in part one of our chat, we talk about putting together the new film series and how it’s a perfect fit for HMM, and her advocacy work alongside this weekend’s American Rescue Dog Show. Sweeney is a real-life true crime podcast fan and thought framing a mystery series around one was a no-brainer for the HMM brand. She just didn’t expect to do three right out of the gate.
“I love working with Hallmark and was really interested in doing something else with them in this space. The murder mysteries are super fun and a little more action-oriented, which is always more fun as an actor to play that danger and intrigue. I really wanted to do another mystery series for them,” she explains.
“It occurred to me I was finding myself addicted to this whole true crime craze that’s happening and all these different podcasters out there doing these stories. I realized what the dramatic value of what these people in real-life are doing. It occurred to me it would be a great character and it exactly honors what Hallmark is going for in its murder mystery space.”
“People who are armchair detectives who have their regular jobs and happen to be really good at solving mysteries….that’s where these podcasters are coming from. That’s what they’re doing. [Our idea was] that [Alex would] have cold cases she’s investigating and from there she’d start a podcast. And danger from people who want to keep their secrets hidden would create some tension and in the end our hero gets to the truth.”
“It’s been a long process but it’s been super fun, and I loved when the reaction I got from Hallmark was positive. It made me feel so good that we were on the right track. I worked really hard on it with Melissa Salmons. She came from Days of Our Lives and she’s very talented and I’m lucky to work with her.”
“We talked about what the first story would be, the mystery and the clues. We had that all worked out. And we took it to Hallmark and presented it and had a great meeting with them they said, ‘It sounds great! We’d like four [movies].’ It was a little overwhelming to hear back that not only did they love it, they wanted more.”
“It was great but nerve-wracking to dive right in. We spent maybe four months developing the idea for the first one and we spent the rest of the year every day putting the rest together and making the first three movies. We had always hoped that they’d be interested in more.”
“We had geared it toward creating characters who could come back and have this life. When we realized that we were presenting it with three [right away], we created a strong thread and B storyline where she’s debating whether to come or go knowing that the audience will get the resolution by the second movie. It’s kind of fun to watch her settle in knowing she hadn’t planned on it.”
Sweeney says the door is always open for Days of Our Lives. “I have a great relationship with them and have always been so grateful and appreciate to play Sammi all these years,””she says. “It’s been such a huge part of my life and a meaningful thing for me to do. I did do a brief storyline I filmed last December that will air in May or June…a brief return for the fans to enjoy.”
This weekend, Hallmark Channel will expand its American Rescue Dog Show to two nights, airing Sunday and Monday at 8 pm/7c. At the beginning of February, Sweeney co-hosted the Valentine’s Day and Adoption Ever After preview special to highlight the network’s new movies and the network’s rescue efforts, and she and her MSB co-star, Cameron Mathison, co-hosted the inaugural Cat Bowl the night before the annual Kitten Bowl.
Sweeney loves participating in the initiative as rescue is near and dear to her and her family. “We have rescue pets in our home. We rescue dogs exclusively. That’s so important to my husband and I,” she shares.
“To be part of a family brand that loves to celebrate pets and honor them and encourage them and bring awareness to the rescues that need our help, love, and attention, it couldn’t be a more important message to share.”
“To make it fun…it brings such a smile to my heart to know how important that is to Bill Abbott and everyone at Hallmark. It’s important to me and my kids and I love being a part of it and I’m grateful they do it.”
Chronicle Mysteries: Recovered airs Sunday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries after a marathon of all five Murder She Baked films that begins at 11 am/10c (thanks, Kate!). Here are a few sneak peeks. You can also follow the series on Instagram. Check back next week for part two of our interview and a preview of The Wrong Man.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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