[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Saturday night, Catherine Bell returns to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries starring opposite Mark Deklin in Meet Me At Christmas, her first Christmas film since she did two (Home for Christmas Day and Christmas in the Air 2017. In the film, Bell and Deklin play Joan and Beau, the respective mom to the groom and uncle to the bride in a fast-approaching Christmas Eve wedding.
When the wedding planner ditches them for a celebrity booking, it’s all family hands on deck to bring a magical wedding together in a few days. Joan and Beau get off on the wrong foot and then discover there’s more to that meet cute than they realized. Over the course of the film, each is forced to re-evaluate past perceptions and decisions as they consider whether a shared future might be a possibility. Annie Bradley directs a script by John-Eliot Jordan.
I chatted with Deklin about the project, which took him to Alberta last month for his first role in a COVID-interrupted year. Deklin was excited to be invited into the project via producer Jennifer Aspen, and made the most of the mandatory quarantine before the cast and crew convened in a production bubble that fostered a nice collegial energy during shooting.
“This, for everybody, has been a crazy strange year with COVID, and I had sort of resigned myself to this idea that [I wasn’t] going to be acting, and that was okay. I’ve got my buddies and I have a side business installing gardens. And I love doing that. And we were very busy because people were home and doing self-improvement and looking for household projects and soulful activities and things you can do with the family in the backyard. So [it’s been] a busy time for a gardening business,” he explains.
“When I got the offer, Jen reached out to me and said, ‘There’s no one else I ever had in mind for this role,’ which is, obviously very flattering. In a year when a lot of people are suffering from unemployment, one isn’t really in a position to turn down work, so I was thrilled to get the offer. I thought it was a great story. I’m very fond of the script. I think it’s a really great story, beautifully rendered. I’m very proud of this one.”
“Jen just had this notion that Catherine and I would make a really great team and she was right. I liked Catherine immediately. And I felt very comfortable with her from the beginning. We worked very much the same way and were on the same page throughout [and] had a shorthand very quickly.”
“It’s really important to have good teammates. Between Catherine and Jen and our director and our DP and really just a wonderful all-around crew and cast, which were pretty much all local Calgary actors, it was just a great group. Because we were all under the same COVID protocols, we were really in a bubble together. In a way it bonded us because there was a big sense of, ‘We’re in this together.’ It was a lovely experience.”
One of the thematic draws for Deklin was getting to play characters with history. “It was of a piece with an overall maturity. To me, it’s a movie about second chances…about two people who are not kids anymore, and are each on a certain path in life. And they think they’re on that path, but then suddenly life throws a curve ball at them [when] they have this moment of realization,” he points out.
“I really wanted to bring this sense that he understands that sense of loyalty that she has to her [past]. And he respects that. And I tried to play throughout that [the event in his past] informed his entire life. It’s the reason why he’s gone off living this adventurous life [and it] has driven him. But I didn’t want to tip my hand with that, so it was an interesting aspect to play.”
“It was satisfying to me as an actor to play that arc. Beau has a sadness to him. He definitely carries this sort of wound in the sadness, but at the same time, he’s not a whiner. “
“He’s a guy who’s just going to get up and get on with life and have adventures. He feels very protective of his niece, but at the same time he has this guilt because he hasn’t been around for her the way he would like to. And he has guilt toward his younger brother, for the same reason.”
The rapid pace of shooting the Hallmark films sometimes makes for late nights and Deklin recalls a fun night shoot that found him and Bell aboard a Ferris wheel. “It was this super fast Ferris wheel, and I actually have a slight fear of heights, which cracks me up,” he admits.
“It doesn’t paralyze me. I can sort of laugh it off and get past it, but it was also like three in the morning when we shot it and very cold. So it sort of wasn’t pleasant, but it became really fun as we were shooting it, and we laughed a lot.”
Another favorite moment found the cast and crew outside. “There was a magic moment that happened [when Joan] gets the idea to move the wedding outside and to turn this glade of Aspen trees into a chapel,” he shares. “And the day we shot that scene, we set up this master dolly shot of just us walking through the woods where they were catching us intermittently through the trees. “
“And it was one of those times where, where the scenery becomes another character and sort of dictates the scene. And it was just this gorgeous shot. It was so beautiful. It looked like a Magritte painting almost. I love when stuff like that happens and you feel like we just made a thing of beauty, and it made the rest of the day feel great. Everybody was just zipping through their jobs.”
Deklin counts himself very fortunate that he was able to share his love of gardening and tap into the slower pace created by the pandemic (you can see some of his gardening on his Insta feed). “I think the idea that people had been forced to step off the hamster wheel and take a breath and take stock of what’s really important [was] amazing,” he says.
“I love installing gardens and I love planting. I always credit my dad. He taught me, just about everything I know, but I don’t know that you can teach a green thumb. I think just it’s something you have, or you don’t.”
“We teach families how to garden together…how to take their natural empathy that they have and their natural care-taking instinct and translate that into care for any living thing. Plants are living things, and they have feelings.”
‘I always think having a green thumb more than anything else is just a matter of empathy. At a cellular level. Even the thing of talking to your plants, I think that’s very real. Everything is just energy flow. And so if you’re talking to your plants, your energy back and forth it’s flowing. And I think it’s really empathy, and it’s love. Every living thing thrives in an atmosphere of being loved.”
Meet Me at Christmas premieres Saturday night at 10 pm/9c on Saturday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media.
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