Tori Anderson and Benjamin Hollingsworth Talk Love Under the Olive Tree [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Hallmark Channel takes a page out of Romeo and Juliet (minus the poisoning and death, of course) Saturday night with Love Under the Olive Tree, a romcom set against warring families who run neighboring olive oil farms.
Nicole (Tori Anderson) is a lifer who stayed in town, apprenticed under her grandfather, and is now ready to take the reins of the family business. Jake (Benjamin Holllingsworth) bailed out to be a big city corporate lawyer. When a ruse from his Mom brings him home for a visit, he reconnects with childhood pal Nicole, despite the differences between their families that date back to a misunderstanding between their grandfathers.
Turns out they’re equally adept at miscommunication and parted ways as children under murky terms that have left Nicole still bristling over a decade later. Throw in a land survey that could potentially alter property lines and impede Nicole’s expansion and a judge who thinks deciding the case via an olive oil competition during the annual fall festival is fun, and then you have a pretty full agenda. I chatted with Anderson and Hollingsworth earlier this month about the movie.
Anderon will be familiar to our readers for her Killjoys arc as D’av’s doomed lover, Sabine, back in Season 3. Our Canadian friends may also recognize her for CBC’s terrific 70s-set Caught. Both projects are near and dear to her. She made her Hallmark debut a few Christmases back in Return to Christmas Creek and then segued over to NBC’s Blindspot for a bit.
Hollingworth will be familiar to Hallmarkies for Lucky in Love and last Christmas’s A Godwink Christmas: Meant for Love. Our readers will also recognize him for Netflix’s Virgin River, which will be back later this year for Season 2.
Love Under the Olive Tree, co-produced by fellow Hallmarkie Antonio Cupo, is a project that came up quickly for both actors and they were happy to jump right in, drawn to the familial story and working with director Peter DeLuise. “I read the script and loved it, and the ‘healthy competition,’ I’ll call it. I just thought it was really sweet and I love the family element,” says Anderson.
“What I really loved about this film was that it showcases how a somewhat simple misunderstanding can cause a deep rift between families and then that rift sort of permeates into your loved ones and they take it on. And so at its heart, I really felt that it showcased the inherent value of communication, reconciliation, and forgiveness.”
“I have a lot of favorite moments [but] I enjoyed the hayride a lot. I thought it was a beautiful intimate moment between two people. And I felt like it was the most open they communicated with each and it was very free and relaxed.”
“And [the romance] was sort of beautifully woven into this family story. I love that aspect of it that it really felt like it was a family affair. I come from a big family, so whenever there’s a strong family dynamic, I love to see that. And I think every single character had a journey and they ended up in a different place than where they started.”
“A theme in the movie is generational mistakes. We have the grandparents of both Nicole and and Jake’s characters who had made the same kind of misunderstanding that resulted in a multi-generational feud that really could have been solved with communication,” says Hollingsworth.
“And I think that’s the big takeaway from this; no matter how ugly or difficult [things] seem. you have the conversation. And talking, to me, is often the best way to repair and essentially overcome differences.”
Aside from avoiding having that reparative conversation, the Nicole and Jake revert to childish games, literally, including bike rides and pedal cart races, which left Anderson with bruises because she’s so long-legged and had to fold herself into the seat. “I really kind of loved the idea of competition and having two people who had feelings for each other [as children] and the way kids show that is through competition and teasing,” says Hollingsworth.
“And then to revisit that [relationship], with the same youthful energy that you had before, but doing it with adults who supposedly should have matured [and instead are] reverting to their younger instincts, I think there’s a lot of joy and fun [in that]. And it gave me a lot of opportunity to play within that.”
“That’s definitely one of the things that drew me to the story. The other one was working with Peter. He’s such a goofball and I know he does a lot of Hallmark films and I think what makes him so great is how nimble he is and how he always keeps the energy on set very light. He has ways of keeping everyone [aware that] we’re here to have good time and tell a story.”
“[Peter] comes on the set and he’s just a bundle of energy. I think that with these films, sometimes you need to have someone who’s this force of energy behind it because the shoot days are so quick,” explains Anderon. “Peter really is that. He came to set full of energy every day. He knew exactly what he wanted. And it was great working with him.”
Nicole’s BFF in the film is Adam, played by Shawn Roberts, and they share a sweet, easy vibe. In a nod toward Hallmark’s commitment to do better with diversity, the implication throughout is that he’s not a threat to Jake because he’s interested in Billy (Andrew Dunbar). “I loved that and I was so happy that Hallmark was doing that. And it was just a really nice relationship,” Anderson shares.
“Shawn was fantastic to work with and we really did have a good relationship, so it was nice to play off each other in that way [and have] that kind of partnership with a male on set and then have the love interest as well. It just was a nice switch, I think.”
“There was some sort of bickering between them [like] you have in a friendship and with someone that you know for a long time. They kind of pushed each other a little bit, which was nice to see.”
In addition to Anderson’s Hallmark roles and recurring series roles, she also headlined the CW’s No Tomorrow, and she says she appreciates the benefits of working across all of those different types of projects. “I really think there are pros and cons to both. The amazing part of being on a series is developing a character and having a character grow,” she explains.
“And when I was a lead on a show, it was like you had the whole heart of the character and you almost have to do less work because the character really becomes entrenched within you. You really know the character in and out.”
“I think it’s hard [with a] movie of the week or on a Hallmark movie because it is so quick and you have to do that prep work in advance so that when you go to set, you only have three weeks to really flush this character out. You don’t really have that kind of leniency of taking a bit more time and trying to figure it out week by week.”
“I love longer projects because it gives you the opportunity to get to know the people you work with [and] develop a quick rapport with them. And you can start working at a really good clip. The turnaround on a three-week shoot is really quick and dirty. They’re just different, but I appreciate them both.”
“I love being on a series. I love knowing that I have something that shoots for three weeks or a month, and then, I have no idea what’s around the corner and that’s also exciting, I mean, terrifying, but also so exciting. There’s more security in a TV series, for sure. But sometimes you’re on that for six years and you can’t really take artistic liberties elsewhere.”
Aside from his work in Hallmark films and Virgin River, you can also catch Hollingsworth on Amazon Prime in the meta wink-nod Liam Neeson thriller comedy Cold Pursuit that finds him working opposite Neeson and Laura Dern, as well as the horror film Rabid, a remake of the David Cronenberg film that co-stars Laura Vandervoort.
While he’s been at home with the rest of the world, he’s been developing a couple of period projects, a 19th century story set against the logging industry and a 1930s hockey tale for which he’s also writing the screenplays. Stay tuned for those!
Love Under the Olive Tree premieres Saturday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Channel in the US and W Network in Canada. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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