Niall Matter Talks Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Til Death Do Us Part
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Aurora Tegarden is now the longest-running franchise on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and Sunday night, we’re following Ro and Nick to the (amazingly book bedecked) altar, or trying to, anyway. Til Death Do Us Part is the 16th film, and most of the gang returns to celebrate the couple’s nuptials, that is until a (really) cold case rears up the week of the wedding.
To complicate matters, Ro’s dad, Charles (Andrew Airlie in his first franchise appearance), is a potential suspect alongside his longtime friends once it’s revealed that the victim was acquainted with all of them, and things, as far as they’ll admit, didn’t end well 24 years earlier. This week, I jumped on the phone with Niall Matter to talk about the new film and his hopes for the series to continue, as well as his hope to revisit Country at Heart.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Ro and Nick’s courtship is that they’re both grown ups with established lives and histories, and neither has airs about it. It’s refreshing, too, that in this movie, the dates line up for one Ro’s recollections from her parents’ marriage to pretty squarely place her close to or at 40.
Matter loves getting to play characters—and a love story—where the couple bring their whole selves–and all that comes with that. “That’s the nice thing about playing characters that are close to your actual age. You’re playing the mature aspect of a relationship, and where they are at that stage in their life. This is not a union between two people who were high school sweethearts and who hadn’t been with anybody else getting married. These [are] two people who have had other relationships and been in love with other people,” he shares.
“[And] there are other relationships that these characters have had with other characters of the Aurora Teagarden world, and one of those relationships is Aurora and Arthur. I really love that Nick, at no point, has ever been threatened. Nick truly loves Arthur and really wants him to be in his [wedding] lineup. He’s one of Nick’s closest friends within this world. It just so happens that they dated in high school, but Arthur is such a good guy. Lynn is the one who [says], ‘I’m not cool with that.'”
Communication has always been a big thing for the couple, and that continues leading up to the wedding when they experience momentary mixed signals that might derail another couple. “They find each other and really support each other in a very truthful, honest way. When there is something [between them] and they have a little blip in the road, they tend to talk about it really quickly,” he explains.
“They don’t let the other go too long with a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding. I think that that is the key to any long-term relationship, and especially for a successful marriage. Anybody who gets married, they’re hoping for that 40-, 50-year anniversary, and that takes a lot of work, but above all else, it takes a lot of communication. Ro and Nick had that from the get-go.”
Love isn’t just in the air for Ro and Nick in the movie. When Charles returns, it stirs up old feelings for him and Aida, and we explore their marriage and divorce, the crux of which is the lack of that communication Ro works very hard to maintain in her own relationship. Matter was thrilled to work with Airlie. He’d previously worked with his son on When Calls the Heart and knew him personally, but hadn’t co-starred with him.
“I knew Andrew really well coming in and I was really excited. We did a private virtual test group read ahead of time because Marilu [Henner] really wanted to get a chance to meet Andrew. I didn’t know [he had been cast and when] I signed into the meeting, [we] went right into a five-minute conversation,” he laughs. “For Marilu, it was so important to establish a real workable chemistry that these people have been married. They’ve been through a lot. So she was with Andrew all day, every day.”
While we haven’t heard Ro or Aida mention Charles previously (or I don’t recall it), he blends seamlessly with them, and even though we haven’t seen him onscreen, we can absolutely believe that they’ve maintained a continuous, healthy relationship with him offscreen. Matter was happy to have the character included.
“I think the writing team did a really good job of bridging that gap and making it work. It’s such a great part of Aurora’s journey to have her father return to town and the audience getting to see a window into her past because every girl just loves and adores her father. It was really nice to see Candace playing that and then to see that relationship,” he says.
“It was a really cool marriage of the two things [to have the movie balance] the wedding between us and then the cold case that involved her father and his friends. There were some high stakes involved that could potentially postpone, if not cancel, the wedding.”
We also meet Nick’s mom, Lena (Camille Mitchell), in this movie, and Matter loved getting to see a little more of Nick’s history. “It was really nice to finally get a glimpse into Nick’s life. His mom is so positive, so sweet, and no obstacle is too big to overcome,” he shares.
“And you see that with her and that she imparted that wisdom [in] how she raised Nick. He’s very much like his mother in that regard, in saying, ‘I see the issue. Now what’s the solution? How do we work around this? How do we work through this?’ And you can tell that all came from this relationship.”
Til Death Do Us Part is Matter’s eighth outing playing Nick, and he’s grateful for the longevity and hopes it continues. “Getting the opportunity to play Nick has been such a blessing for me because when I first came on, [I was coming] onto this franchise, that [had] already done eight of them. And then you think, ‘Well, how many more can you really do?’ It’s turned into a series. It feels like this is a series that could keep on going and going,” he says.
“In [typical] series television, when the two lead characters get married, that’s it. But it’s very important for Candace to have this carry on and keep telling this story with a married couple. She wants to show a successful, married couple that are still working together. And it’s still interesting for the viewers to watch. The great thing with these mystery wheels is that the end game is not about just seeing these two characters get married.”
“[After this one], they’re married now, how do they work together? Because they’ve made vows. They have promised each other that they will be there through thick and thin. It’s going to be interesting to see…potentially it might open it up where there are things that Nick or Aurora might become uncomfortable with because now they are married [and] the stakes are higher. So I’m excited to see how this unfolds. Those are stories that I think are important to tell. Life doesn’t end when you get married. It just begins.”
Aside from the onscreen friendship between Nick and Arthur, Matter’s proud of his friend offscreen, too. Peter Benson has stepped behind the camera to direct a couple of the movies and was recently nominated for a Leo Award for Heist and Seek. “It’s been great because we all love each other. We really truly do. And for any series to last at any length of time, you need to have your core people just be completely supportive of one another,” he points out.
“I’ve known Peter for over 20 years. I’ve always known that he’s very talented. He’s such a funny guy and he’s such a great storyteller. When you hear him tell a story, you’re just riveted by him because that’s just who he is. So him getting behind the camera and directing us…it’s one of your own, so you want him to do as good as possible.”
“And he’s an actor, so he’s very clear with his direction, and he knows what he’s going for. And he was just really calm. He never felt under the gun or pressured or was rushing. Quite often, when you have other directors come in, their first time doing it, they might not be used to getting everything in these 15-day shoots or shooting 10 pages or 11 pages a day.”
“He has been a part of this since the beginning and knows how big the days are. So he knew what he was signing up for. It was just great to see him succeed [and] getting recognized for his directing capability within the community. I’m just very proud of that.”
There’s been no movement on getting the band back together for another Country at Heart project, but Matter says he, Jessy Schram, and Lucas Bryant are all in if it happens. “I know that we would love to carry on with those characters. All three of us would,” he says.
“I’m always open to revisiting the character of Grady because, of all of my Hallmark movies, I am the most proud of that one because of what we all accomplished, not only with the [music but also with] the story that was told and the relationship between him and her and the relationship between the best friends. That’s something you don’t get to see very much,” he shares.
“This was a movie that explored the relationship between men and what went wrong, and you had our female lead repair that and bridge the gap for those two and bring them back together, which was really nice. There was just so much to sink into as an actor and then the music aspect of it. We just fell in love with each other, all three of us, Jessy and Lucas and I. We just had such a great friendship because it was just us in the hotel and hanging out together all the time and playing music.”
“It was a unique experience and it’s something that I’ll never forget. I will definitely hold that very close to my heart for the rest of my life. I would jump at a chance to work with [director Bradley Walsh] again Jessy or Lucas. I hope we get that chance. Whether it be here, or we do something on our own, I feel like we will, at some point. It just depends on when an opportunity presents itself.”
Aurora Teagarden: Til Death Do Us Part, directed by Martin Wood and written by Teena Booth based on her story with Jim Head, premieres Sunday at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries after a daylong marathon. Here’s a sneak peek. And, FYI, we’ll see the gang again in August for another new film.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Crown Media
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