Nikki DeLoach Talks Two Turtle Doves, Authenticity, and Advocacy [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Nikki DeLoach is back on Hallmark Channel tomorrow night with a new holiday movie that reunited her with Love to the Rescue co-stars Michael Rady and Michaela Russell and that film’s writer, Sarah Montana. Two Turtle Doves is a warm, touching film that acknowledges that the holidays aren’t always quite so shiny and happy for everyone, especially for people doing their best to put one foot in front of the other on a path laden with grief and sorrow.
In the movie, DeLoach plays Dr. Sharon Harper, a neuroscientist who dwells in the matters of the brain and finds herself tested and awash in emotions when she returns to her late grandmother’s home for the first Christmas since her death. Luckily, her grandmother has assigned her a to-do list to help navigate that. A “12 steps of Christmas,” if you will. She shares those steps with the family next door. Single dad Sam (Rady) and his daughter Mikayla (Russell), and brother, Alex (Zach Tinker).
I spoke with DeLoach earlier this week about diving deep into matters of the heart and mind, reteaming with her Hallmark tribe, and being a voice for women and Alzheimer’s. “Lesley Demetriades, the director, came to Hallmark with this idea. She’s one of the deepest, most kind, compassionate, intelligent souls I’ve ever known. Outside of directing, she helps people move through grief and trauma. It’s not a second job, It’s a calling, I would say, and she’s really helped a lot of people,” says DeLoach.
“She wanted to tell a story, she and her mother, [Christine], came up with this idea, about, “What is it like to move through grief during the holidays? What does it do to your body?’ The way Sarah brilliantly brought it to life is to have this character, whose job it is to research trauma on the brain and body…Grief is part of trauma. What happens when this character who [is supposed to] have all the answers [doesn’t have them] for herself when she’s going through that thing?”
“The second Lesley told me about it, I wanted to do it. It’s fascinating and interesting. We have our jobs that pay our bills and then we have everything else where we want to be good in the world and investigate life’s big questions of, ‘How does trauma affect the brain and why aren’t we taking this more seriously and talking about it?’ How do we do that in the context of a Hallmark movie [which usually] keeps things light. That’s where we bring in the mystery and love.”
“[Sam] is grieving his wife and I am grieving my grandmother. [In life], we’re all going to go through this. We don’t have to go through it alone. That’s a big theme in the movie. The journey and the path of grieving is like a ride. One day, you’re happy and the next, you ‘re reminded of [your loss]. And you can find love along the way.”
“The key to all of that is openness. You just have to be brave and courageous enough to open yourself up and find the love inside of what may be a painful experience. I’m really proud of Hallmark for telling this story. I know it’s a bit of a departure. I feel like it’s time for Hallmark to tell bigger stories and I’m really, really happy that I get to be a part of it.”
DeLoach was instrumental in getting the band back together after the script came her way. “I called this whole crew ‘The A Team.’ We had Ashley Squires, the creative executive at Hallmark, who’s so smart and brave and pushing the needle forward in her storytelling with every movie she does, and Sarah and Lesley, who are one-of-a kind souls,” she shares.
“And Michael and Michaela are creative soulmates for me. Every once in a while, you meet someone where it just happens there’s no work or effort that has to be put into [creating chemistry]. It’s connected and deep and authentic and joyful and creative and inspiring. They are two of those people in my life. To be able to do two movies this year with them was an absolute dream. I’m begging Hallmark to put us on a TV show together. This magical combination doesn’t happen very often. We love each other so deeply.”
“I sent a message to [casting director] Penny Perry and said, ‘I’m doing this movie. If you want to give me an early Christmas gift, can you make it part two of the Michael, Michaela, and Nikki story?’ and she texted me and said, ‘Happy early Christmas.’ I was so excited. I could not have been happier. When something works you really have to pay attention to that and I’m so glad Hallmark put us together again.”
What We Are is DeLoach’s labor of love, an online community dedicated to helping women celebrate life’s messiness and the journeys that often takes us on. The idea came from her best friend and co-founder, Jennifer Dede, when they were in their late 20s. “We were at a time in our lives when you start asking those big questions [about] who you are and who you want to be and how you want to live,” she shares.
“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t want to be anything but the most authentic version of myself. I don’t want to pretend [life is perfect]. I just want to be who I am…all the time. We started this journey of a friendship [based on], ‘let’s show each other the messy and be who we are. This movement started and our friends [wanted in].”
“I think in a world where Instagram friendships [celebrate perfection, it often means] you’re not there for each other on your darkest days…even with people they called their best friends. We started an online community where we can pull in every magical, wonderful, amazing woman we can find and tell their stories and highlight the messy.”
“Our whole thing is, ‘Vulnerability is your superpower.’ We want to inspire women to be vulnerable and truthful and honest about their lives and who they are and lift that up. [Beyond being a boss babe], it’s also awesome to be courageous in your pain and be able to speak on the things that are making you feel vulnerable and sad.”
“It was really important not to show stories of just famous people or celebrities, we also want to show regular women living their lives. [Sometimes they reach out to us and tell us their stories] and we ask them to share it by writing about it.”
DeLoach is also involved in fundraising and advocacy for two organizations that are close to her heart, which she openly shares on Instagram—the Alzheimer’s Association and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Her Dad has dementia, and her younger son was born with a congenital heart defect and has been treated at CHLA.
She’s most proud of the Alzheimer’s Association and the speed with which they can activate. “If someone brings research or a drug to the National Institute of Health, it could take years to even start the work [because of government red tape],” she explains. “You could go to the Alzheimer’s Association with research and they can fund that today.”
“The Alzheimer’s Association has zero red tape. They have their own in-house doctors. They’re incredible. I go to their conferences. I talk to their doctors. They’re remarkable human beings. Same with CHLA. I’ve never seen such determination and care and drive to find the answers and save lives. They’re in it for all the right reasons. The clock is ticking on all of that because they’re very serious issues sand life and death. The quicker we can know, the quicker we can save somebody’s life.”
If you want to help either organization, info is online here and here about how to donate, and there are Walks to End Alzheimer’s all over the country right now, including one this Saturday at the LA Zoo.
Photos ad Videos Courtesy of Crown Media.
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