[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Sunday night on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Lily D. Moore and David DeSanctis star in Color My World with Love, a romance about Kendall and Brad, a twentysomething couple with Down syndrome who move quickly from dating to an engagement, upsetting the very careful guardrails that Kendall’s mom, Emma (Erica Durance), has established to keep her safe. As Emma and Kendall work to sort that out, Brad’s brother from another mother, Nic (Benjamin Ayres) grows close to Emma while balancing her concerns and his loyalty to and faith in Brad. This week I spoke with Ayres about the project.
Before he was cast, Ayres was aware of the film through director Peter Benson, who also happens to be one of his BFFs. “What I love about Hallmark is it’s a bit of a Forrest Gump box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get. All of a sudden you just get called. And it all seems to happen really fast. Then you’re preparing your flights and letting the family know you’ll be gone for a month. And this one, I kind of knew a bit of what was going on behind the scenes,” he shares.
“[Peter] and I have worked together in numerous capacities, whether it be in theater and short films, and we’ve produced our own stuff, he’s written and directed his stuff. I’ll stay at their house. We go out for dinner, our kids are friends, we travel together. We’re very, very close.”
“He [had mentioned] there was a movie he was trying to direct and now that he’s directing more, we’ve been trying to line something up, but we have no control over that. [Here] it just kind of happened, which was incredible. We were so happy to get to work together.”
Ayres also has a history and friendship with Durance from their five seasons together on Saving Hope. “We of course have stayed in touch. To get to come off a show like Saving Hope, and five years of memories and experiences and get to roll it into something like this was so special for us,” he says.
“And on top of that to get this script and tell this story with David and Llly, who we all met for the first time, was so beautiful. When I got the script, I was in tears by the second page. I thought it was incredible immediately. Charlie Shahnaian and Shari Simpson did a wonderful job. There’s nothing better than reading something that you just feel so good about and can’t wait to go do.”
“And at that time when Erica and I had been cast, they said yes to cast David and, and Lily. They looked all across Canada and then opened [casting] up to North America. They really had to search far and wide to find those two incredibly talented actors. It was a really cool way to start, and to know the team going into it.”
In the film, Brad and Nic have a wonderful chemistry and vibe that puts them on equal footing. Brad is Nic’s friend and brother by choice. Full stop. Ayres loved getting to play that, and working with DeSanctis, who switched things up now and again and kept him on his toes.
“We don’t necessarily say this is a story about diverse learners. These are just two people. And that was a big thing going into this film. We didn’t want it to be about that. It’s just a love story. It’s two love stories that are happening and that part of it was just so fun to tell and get to see them bring that to life,” he explains.
“I really loved the trust that Nick had in Brad for being independent, but understanding that it’s hard when Emma [tells him] that he doesn’t understand and that for her it’s been a 24/7 situation. And he’s empathetic to that. I love that he tells her to have faith in [Kendall and Brad] as a couple, that they can figure this out and that we’re going to set up the necessary institutions around them to support everything and rightfully so, Emma is scared of that.”
“I love the relationship that Brad and Nick have and it did not take long for David and I to develop that same relationship. It’s kind of written in the script, but it was quite quickly realized between the two of us, even at the very first dinner, that there was a real mirroring of what happened on camera, off camera with all of the cast.”
“Getting to work with David was so fun for me as an actor because these movies film so quickly, so everybody has to prepare and arrive very prepared and ready to go and open to interpretation, whether it be direction and maybe some small notes on some of the lines. But even those you try to figure out before you get to set.”
“What I loved in working with David is he’ll be off book, but he’ll also, while the camera’s rolling on action, just start saying something completely different, in such a truthful way, though. He’s not doing it because he’s forgotten and it really keeps you in the moment. It’s not too often that another actor will do that, but he did it quite often. He nailed it a few times and then he just kind of would spitball and do other things. And he did it with such confidence.”
“And it’s more just about the lines. For him, it was more about the intent of the scene. And it was just so refreshing to get to work with that. And I can pinpoint every one of those scenes, whether it be in the arcade, the pizza scene, or the very small moment when I was sitting at the bus stop with him and he just kind of fell into my lap to put his head down. It doesn’t say that in the script. There was no reason for him to do it. And just the way he did it was so truthful to the moment. I learned so much in getting to work with him.”
“I can say the same for Lily and getting to work with Erica, as well. There’s a real comfort, of course, to Erica. We really worked out a lot of stuff [beforehand]. Probably one of my favorite scenes in the film is when I come and she’s underneath the table and I kind of scare her and we sit down and have this conversation.”
“It was a very long scene in the script. It’s almost three pages, and as an actor, when we see a scene like this, you feel it necessary to move around to keep it interesting. The camera moving in and around the space. And we started that and and we were there [with] Peter, and we [suggested], ‘What if we just sat on the floor and just did it there?’ It felt so strange to do. And we [decided to] read it and see if that works [and it did]. Little moments like that were so fun to discover with my best friends, and trusting the process and trusting that we were good enough to just drop into the character, say the lines and make it real.”
One of the other fun things about working with his friend is that Ayres could tell his director to get out of his sightline during filming. “He’s an animated director. He knows exactly what he wants. He’s editing it as he sees it. And if you watch him behind the monitors, because he’s an actor, he’s very good at giving very specific notes to actors and he can communicate it easily. But if you watch him behind the monitors, he’s essentially doing the performance with his eyes and he’s sort of mirroring how he’s hoping the scene will go,” he says.
“I’ve watched him [do this] while watching a movie. One of the first days where I meet Emma for the first time, it was a very long scene, and where he had the monitor, I could see him doing his facial reaction, and I told him, “Peter, I can’t have you over there. You’re gonna have to set up your monitor somewhere else. I can see you doing my performance for me.’”
“I really wanted to give my best performance. I didn’t want him to have to worry about me at all, because there was a lot going on on that shoot, lots of characters, and I felt the pressure for him, but I was also putting it on myself because I wanted him to get his best movie. It was so great to get to go through that process with him and be talking about the movie with him and we’d get home at night and call and talk about it the next day or whatever happened that day.”
Another fun Hallmark-adjacent project for Ayres was shooting a series of You Tube shorts called Lost in Isolation with fellow Hallmark star Rachel Boston for Killjoys writer Jeremy Boxen, and he’d love to bring that gang back together for an actual Hallmark project. [Note: Make it so, Hallmark.] “I would love for the three of us to develop something to bring to Hallmark. I’ve already sent him the top three scripts of Hallmark movies I’ve worked on,” he points out.
And Boxen’s already on that path with his very own Christmas tune, which Ayres and Boston recorded last year in Toronto and Nashville with Laura Osnes (also a Hallmarkie). “[Boxen] called me and said, ‘I wrote a Christmas song. I don’t know what to do with it, but I figured I’d send it your way to do something,’” Ayres recalls.
“[I thought it] was amazing. So we got a recording studio, Laura Osnes came on board. It was pretty fun. And we didn’t have a lot of time for that. We did that in five days because it only makes sense if we can deliver it before Christmas.”
You can also catch Ayres in the new season of Kids in the Hall, out now on Prime Video. “Obviously I’ve been a Kids in the Hall fan my whole life,” he says. “My agent called and said, ‘Kids in the Hall reached out and offered you a role. Do you want to be on that show?’ I said, ‘I would literally stand in the background with a lightbulb in my mouth if it meant I got to be associated with them so, yes, I want to be on that show.’ I love them and the reboot. I was so happy for the experience.”
Ayres will also be on Lifetime later this year in The Bad Seed Returns, and I’ll have that part of the interview closer to the film’s airdate.
Color My World with Love 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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