Kimberley Sustad Talks Inclusivity in Wedding Every Weekend and Filming During a Pandemic [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Hallmark Channel gets with the times in a big way this weekend with the premiere of Wedding Every Weekend, which features four weddings (no funeral), including two that represent Black Lives Matter and one with two brides. We love this progress!
The film stars Hallmarkies faves Kimberley Sustad and Paul Campbell as Brooke and Nate, who meet cute in a housewares store and then realize they have multiple friends–and weddings–in common so they take the stress out of the whole plus one/singles table drama of weddings by pairing up as wedding buddies. They also work out a barter system when they have the opportunity to help each other professionally. I chatted with Sustad earlier today about the movie, which was the first in Vancouver to go back into production this summer in the new world of COVID-19 restrictions.
Sustad has led two Christmas movies–2014’s Nine Lives of Christmas (which is on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Friday at 8 pm ET) and 2018’s A Godwink Christmas, which also co-starred Campbell. In the intervening years, she popped up as a supporting character in a few of the Mystery Wheel franchises on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. She also banked a recurring role on Canadian series The Romeo Section.
Beginning in 2018, she went on a run of back-to-back projects, following A Godwink Christmas with a role in Canadian series Unspeakable, a recurring role in the final season of Netflix’s Travelers, and as one of the quartet in last Christmas’s Sense, Sensibility, and Snowmen. And then COVID-19 put the industry on hold.
Sustad originally got the script from Julie Sherman Wolfe (Birthday Wish) back in March, and when she saw how much representation and inclusivity it included, she was thrilled. “[Our characters are] America. This is Canada. And this is every town, every nook and cranny, no matter what your beliefs are, this is representative of us all,” she says.
“And that is my belief and passion, that everybody has visibility in that sense. And so I couldn’t be prouder of Hallmark for taking that leap in really what feels to be a bipolar country right now. It’s just so divisive and it could look like a really scary time for them to do that. It feels like everybody’s screaming and at each other’s throats and they just did the right thing.”
“And so I praise and I stand behind people who are courageous and brave and just saying, ‘Look, this is what all of our families look like. This is who we are as humans.’ If you peel back any cover of anybody’s life…this is the reality of it. And of course it’s still Hallmark. They’re not going to the depths of humanity. But here we are, and it’s a start. And I love it.”
She’s seen that evolution firsthand as an actor with a long relationship with the network. When she did A Bride for Christmas eight years ago and played Arielle Kebbel’s sister, her character was gay in the script but it was toned down in the final film. “That was written in and then sort of covered up as we went into production,” she recalls.
“I was supposed to have my partner who was supposed to come for the last scene, but then they [said], ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ They were going back and forth at that time. And then they went real silent on it. And now we’re back full throttle. So that’s great. That’s really awesome.”
Keeping everyone safe on set was the top priority, and Sustad says they had a lot of industry attention because they were the first ones back. Things ran smoothly with only a couple of production days added. The all-BC cast (including Hallmarkies familiar faces Peter Benson, Geoff Gustafson, and Malcolm Stewart) and crew meant no quarantines and it was a bonus proving ground for the Canadian TV and film industry.
“They were really well prepared. Every department head had a COVID certificate. They took a thorough course of how to lead your team and follow the procedures that are specific to your job,” she points out.
“And everyone did really well. The first week was a little hairy because it’s such an intimate setting. We are all really on top of each other. You’re in a house and you’re doing a scene and you’ve got your boom operator right next to you and you’ve got a camera B camera right in your face. And everybody [is] standing there and trying to stand really still and not breathe.”
“We moved a lot of scenes that might get us in trouble outside. So you’ll notice that even the weddings are in big, expansive places. They limited crowd scenes. I think they did a bit of CGI and a bit of other movie magic to make it look like there was a bigger crowd than there really was. As soon as [we were done], people put their masks back on and they just worked frame by frame.”
“We had a COVID person on set making sure everybody’s following protocol so that if anything wasn’t going the way that it should [they could correct it]. And then by the second week, everybody chilled out [and] we all kind of settled into our job, but there was definitely a juggle that [took some] getting used to. And I think every set will feel that way.”
The film is a nice balance of comedy and drama, and in addition to marking a reunion with Campbell, it’s also a reunion with director Kevin Fair, who directed her Morning Show Mysteries and Emma Fielding installments. That shorthand helped. “We had a rhythm [and] a history. [Kevin] has such a great dry sense of humor. When they told me that he was going to be directing, I thought it was perfect because this movie has a lot of humor in it. And he’s pretty good at riding the line of what Hallmark is looking for,” she says.
“Working with Paul again is a dream. We play so well together. When we did [Godwink], it was such a sentimental script. On set, we were always joking around and having a fun time and laughing so much that this kind of a script [is] what we were always hoping for [so we were excited to] be able to play with and go for it.”
“She starts out in this safe world that she’s kind of curated for herself and we see right off the bat that it’s not enough; she wants to go for the dream, but is too fearful. She’s in a safe relationship, she’s at the safe clinic. She’s doing her nine to five, but just feeling like there’s more. And then of course she goes and takes the leap [and] literally the roof falls in.”
“You get hit with those kinds of obstacles and then it feels like everything’s telling you, that’s not the way, but actually it’s telling you that you’re right on track. I love that about the script and it made me feel connected to Brooke that way.”
Next up, Sustad will be back on set for the Supernatural finale, which will pick up its final six days of shooting. “We go back next week. I had started on their final episode right before the shutdown. [Now, I’m] watching them negotiate [and] navigate stories in this first week of prep because they’re a large production,” she shares. “It’s great. And it’s a really fun role.”
Sustad recently shared with Bubbly Sesh that fan favorite Nine Lives of Christmas is getting a sequel, but the timing is fluid given the state of the industry right now (and Brandon Routh is a series regular on Legends of Tomorrow).
“We’re excited about it and it’s deep, deep in development and hopefully we’ll be coming to people soon. It’s a very similar [production] team. Jim Head is still producing and there are some people that aren’t [returning as they’re not] in the Hallmark world anymore, but I think it’s going to be good.”
“It will go in a similar direction that Hallmark is leaning towards as well [which is fun] because [the first one] was sort of groundbreaking at that time, in the sense of what was written, what we said, and the humor.”
Wedding Every Weekend premieres Saturday, August 15th, at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Channel. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Videos Courtesy of Crown Media.
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