[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Hallmark Movies & Mysteries continues its Miracles of Christmas Friday night with another DVR keeper. Holiday For Heroes stars Hallmark first timer and The Young and the Restless veteran Melissa Claire Egan and Hallmarkie regular Marc Blucas. I had the chance to chat with Egan yesterday about joining the Hallmark family, which includes an appearance this weekend at the first-ever Christmas Con.
In the film, Egan and Blucas play pen pals who become close through handwritten letters and then finally meet for the first time over Christmas. She’s Audrey, a local café owner in a small military base town and he’s Matt, an Army First Sergeant who’s deployed overseas with her brother, Devin (Rocky Myers). They spend a year writing letters to each other, until his last one gets lost in the mail and he arrives at her café unannounced.
Initially a bit awkward about the prospect that he’s suddenly there in person, they soon settle into a warm, familiar friendship with the potential for more. The two wrinkles are that the clock is ticking on whether he’ll stay stateside or re-enlist, and the annual Christmas event for the military families has lost its funding and Audrey is determined to make it happen anyway, with help from Matt and the local families and businesses.
The cast is rounded out with Broadway star Patti Murin, also in her Hallmark debut, as Audrey’s friend and employee, Pam, Latarsha Rose as her business partner, Jade, William Rubio as local real estate agent, Luke, Steven Michael Quezada as restaurant owner, Carlos, and Bart Johnson as Matt’s friend and former soldier, Tom. Clare Niederpruem directs from a story by Todd Messegee & Lisa Nanni-Messegee and script by them and Andrea Nasfell.
Egan was thrilled to do the movie, and that the timing and Connecticut location worked out so well. I had a meeting last year with Hallmark when I had just recently left Y&R. Now I’m back, but the year I was gone, I had a meeting and they were just so wonderful,” she recalls.
“I met with a bunch of their executives and they said, ‘We’d love to work with you down the line.’ So that was October . And I think in January , they offered me [this project]. I was so touched and really excited, especially for my first project to be able to shoot in Connecticut and work with Marc Blucas and all of these wonderful people. I am so grateful. It was such a wonderful experience.”
Shooting a film in three weeks was a much different pace for Egan from her Y&R schedule and she loved the challenge. “The amount of material obviously was a lot different. We’re used to shooting sometimes 30 pages a day on Y&R, but we also get one take, maybe two,” she explains.
“During the movie, the challenge was more about endurance, staying alive and energetic for 14 hour days It’d be midnight and we still had another scene to shoot. [On Y&R], you know, we’re never done past six, and it’s very fast. [This was] an interesting challenge.”
Blucas took the lead on getting to know Egan before filming in a way inspired by their characters. “I have to give all the credit to Marc. I got there like half a week early to come meet with Claire, our director and have fittings and meetings with her,” she shares.
“A few days before we started shooting, I was getting on the plane and I got an e-mail from Marc and I’ve never met him before in my life, but he’s like, ‘Hey, listen, since we’re supposed to be pen pals in this movie, I thought we should get to know each other, at least [through] e-mail.’”
“I remember writing him on the plane and he kind of has a really silly sense of humor, as do I. He also went to my rival college. I went to UNC and he went to Wake Forest. We gave each other a hard time. We just started this really funny banter back and forth, e-mailing the couple of days before we first met.”
“Which was kind of brilliant of Marc. By the time I met him a couple of days later, I felt like I knew him. And we kind of already had inside jokes and we’re making fun of each other’s schools and you know, teasing. It was actually really smart of him.”
Egan loves musical theater and was thrilled to have Murin in the cast. “The second I met her, I was obsessed and had like 800 questions. I did a lot of music when I was growing up, so when I met Patti, I wanted to know everything, but she was a good sport,” she says.
“She was very patient with me and answered all my questions. One weekend, a bunch of us in the cast drove to New York to see her in Frozen…a field trip to support our girl. We bonded right away and I think she realized, she texted me [that we share a birthday]. She was just wonderful.”
“Tarsha was so wonderful, too. We got to work together closely and got to really know each other. We were in a lot of scenes together. I really, really love [those scenes] and their cafe. And it’s really a special friendship in the movie.”
Egan was particularly touched that her first Hallmark project would also have a military theme. “All the Hallmark movies are so beautifully done and very heartfelt and very sweet. And I love the romantic aspect with Matt and Audrey, but to have this military aspect, it’s really massively important,” she explains.
“That part of it was really huge for me because soldiers and their families really sacrifice so much because they don’t get to come home for the holidays and everyone’s with their families. They don’t get to do that a lot of the time.”
“I just thought it was such a good reminder to all of us what they give up and sacrifice for us. I just loved that we got to tell that part of the story. It’s just really important.”
This weekend, Egan will be in New Jersey for the first Christmas Con. “I’m so excited to meet some of the fans. Hopefully by Saturday, everyone will have seen [our movie] and liked it and want to talk about it. And it’s really kind of great timing,” she says. “I’m hoping with this [movie], Hallmark people can hopefully [also] love the Y&R universe, too.”
Egan has been a cast member on The Young and the Restless since 2011 and recognizes the significance of the show’s longevity. “[I’m] just lucky and grateful and everyone just works so hard [to put] a lot of quality into their product. They just decorated for Christmas, and I was blown away by our set decorators and our camera men and our directors and producers and hair and makeup and wardrobe,” she points out.
“Everyone really puts so much into it. Our writers are smart enough to kind of stick to the formula. That’s what the fans love. That’s what they want. That’s what they need in their daily hour of escaping. I don’t know how they do it…coming up with really brilliant ideas and combining stories and characters together. It’s like coming back home again [with] these people and these characters. It’s like doing a new play every year. As an actor, that’s pretty thrilling.”
Holiday for Heroes premieres Friday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and repeats through the end of the year. Egan plans to live Tweet the East coast airing. Here are a couple of sneak peeks.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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