[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Sunday night on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, we get a one-off romantic drama with a side of time travel in Rip in Time. A fresh take on Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” the film establishes the book’s basic premise that Van Winkle took an uber-long power nap and picks up with the story of his son, Rip, Jr. (Niall Matter), who is bewildered to find himself suddenly transported from 1787 to 2022.
Once in the present timeline, he meets an organic farmer, Sarah (Torrey DeVitto), and her father, Calvin (Eric Keenleyside), and son, Henry (Joshua Black), who now reside on his former homestead and give him the found family he’d been missing all those years ago when, as a young man left on his own, he was thrown into fighting the Revolutionary War.
Directed by Jess Harmon and written by C. Jay Cox, the film is really lovely–visually from the amazing setting and extraordinary multi-level farmhouse to the tender story (complete with a sweeping nod to The Notebook) about finding your place in a wholly different world. And it’s refreshingly pragmatic at having an independent woman make her own choices and characters who accept Rip’s story at face value. Matter is one of our favorites, and this week, I caught up with him to chat about the project.
Matter was called back from his family vacation to shoot the film, and it was an easy decision once he dove into the script. “They gave me a call when I was on vacation with my family and I immediately [declined]. But after reading the script, I phoned my agent back quickly and said, ‘You know what? I think this is one that I would really like to do because it’s just a very big departure from anything that I’ve actually shot for Hallmark before,’” he recalls.
“And I’m really glad I did it. It was an absolutely amazing experience. It was a challenge that I haven’t had before within the Hallmark movies that I shot and getting the chance to work with Torrey was really nice. She’s so giving, so caring, and such a fantastic actress. It was a great thing.”
Matter was also excited to work for the first time with Harmon. “I’m really, really thrilled that Jess was the director. Having her at the helm really elevated this movie because of the style that she shot this movie in. The Revolutionary War [scenes], the landscapes that she was using…it was just so stunning, so beautiful,” he says.
“Her shot setups were incredible. And she’s an amazing actress, so to have someone that understands what an actor goes through in order to bring their performance to life…Jess just really knows the dialogue that she needs to have with actors in order to get them to portray certain things. And [that was lucky] for me because I had one day to get ready for this movie.”
“I had to play a character who was coming out of a certain time period. And there were certain parameters that I could and could not build my character within. I had to wrap my head around that and grab onto something really quickly. And actually my inspiration for this character came from my kids.”
Matter’s character arrives in the present still processing grief and anger at his father, which compounds his bewilderment at his situation. “I loved playing those layers. I was able to really sink into it, as an actor and personally, because I lost my sister three years ago. So to feel that loss of someone extremely close to you and in your family, helped me feel those things very deeply [and] play that extra layer,” he shares.
Despite the onscreen friction between Rip and the local deputy, Ted, Matter enjoyed working with Casey Manderson, and in a key scene between them, he worked out a response that wasn’t on the page after Rip is confronted by him. “I love Casey. He was so amazing. Our chemistry right out of the gate was just so awesome. He’s a very, very talented actor and always extremely prepared, probably more prepared than most people I’ve ever worked with,” he explains.
“[In their confrontation, Rip] is a guy who has fought in the Revolutionary War and to have someone come into, not necessarily his home, but the space that he has made into his home and to then take him on that way…I talked to Cameron Johann, who was our producer, and Jess about it. And they said, ‘No, absolutely, there should be something of strength at the end for you.’ So that’s what I delivered on the day and they really liked it. I’m glad that that made the movie.”
Matter was also super impressed with young Joshua Black. “This is his first movie ever. I firmly believe that Joshua Black will become a well-known household name in the future. That kid is just oozing with talent. He was so incredible,” he says.
“And he found things to play with in every single scene. His sense of wonder and discovery with his character was something that can’t be taught, but his instincts are impeccable. I really do believe that that kid is going to have an incredibly bright future in his profession.”
One side note–Matter is not on Facebook, so any accounts for him on the platform are fake. He asked that you please not engage, and then report. His only verified, genuine social media presence is on Twitter.
Rip in Time premieres Sunday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Here’s a sneak peek.
Photos and video courtesy of Crown Media.
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