If you’re a longtime reader (Hi! Thank you!), then you might recall that we were all in and then some and still aren’t quite over Syfy’s 12 Monkeys. Watching all of that show’s run required a significant commitment to buying into the time travel and its resets and what could and could not be undone. And that’s on top of a beloved cast of characters. It was a lot, y’all. But so, so good.
When The Way Home was announced, I knew it was a multigenerational story about a fractured family reeling from the trauma of long-ago tragedies. I somehow skated right past the fact that it would be giving us a dual timeline. So I started the show and then had an, “Oh dear,” moment wondering what I’d just gotten myself into, and did I still have the brain cells to dedicate to keeping it all straight, or the ability to let things go and not spiral into asking questions that wouldn’t have answers.
The answer was no on the first and yes on the second. I will freely admit I missed some of the when and how of it all of Season 1 of The Way Home, but points to me that I did still manage to accurately guess where a couple of the threads were going to land. All that said, I did buy in on the character journeys and during the final moments of last week’s episode, my brain sort of slowed down when I realized what was coming. That was hard core for Hallmark, y’all.
After that gut punch of an episode, Season 1 wraps up Sunday night with an equally emotional finale. Thankfully, it’s already renewed, setting the stage for a theory-hatching hiatus as fans sit slack jawed when the credits roll. Make sure you set those DVRs a minute over, kids.
This week, I jumped on the phone with Chyler Leigh to chat about the show, on which she not only stars as present-day Kat but is also a first-time producer.
Leigh came into the series after multi-year and 100+ episode runs on both Supergirl and Grey’s Anatomy. She could have been forgiven for taking a minute, but The Way Home came her way with an offer, just as she was starting to audition in the new pandemic era of remote Zoom casting sessions.
In case you weren’t aware, The Way Home was initially developed at Netflix and was a project that Lisa Hamilton Daly brought with her when she moved over to Hallmark as its Executive Vice President of Programming, so the show had a little more gravitas than the typical series fare, and that was one of the things that checked the pro column for Leigh.
“Hallmark took a big risk and gave us an amazing opportunity to still keep it edgier, keep it riskier, keep it not as comfortable, [and] invite the audience into a different experience. With Hallmark, I watch the Christmas movies and it’s great because they’re fun. In some ways, if you have to run out of the room, you can come back and [still be] in your warm and fuzzy place. But for us, don’t leave the room. You’re going to really, really miss something,” she laughs.
She’s intensely proud of how well the show has done, and its broad appeal. “We’ve been able to expand the demographic that’s tuning in, the age demographic, and even just the gender and or non-gender viewers that are coming in to watch, which is just amazing. That in and of itself is a testament to what we’re doing and that people are ready to try something new,” she says.
“Sadie [Laflamme-Snow] put out a tweet where she asked, ‘Who are you watching with?’ And the response was astounding. It was awesome because we’re hearing [things like], ‘My dad, who would never normally watch Hallmark is the one with the biggest questions now,’ and ‘I’m watching this with my family who [I] have a bit of an estranged relationship and now we have something to really bond about.’ And you’re just seeing this vast array of different people that are tuning in. And I think that is so, so cool.”
In Season 2, Leigh will expand her producing role to the writer’s room and be involved in how those stories take shape. For Season 1, she was a bit of a Chief Experience Officer, making sure everyone was taken care of and protected. “My thing was the environment on the set. I’ve been doing this for such a long time and have gotten so much experience, and so I’ve been able to stretch my toes a little bit and dip my feet into different waters,” she explains.
“[I made sure] that the way that the set was running and the communication between everybody kept that magical feeling to it. Not just tonally for the show and the writing and whatnot, but between the cast and the crew, because we were so unbelievably fortunate to have everybody just as excited about the show [and] put the most passion and love into the tiniest of details.”
“In a sense, I became very protective of our environment and just wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page and to help people just feel comfortable and be inspired to really give it your all. That was an awesome role for me to be able to play, from a people standpoint, from a heart standpoint, from a passion and soul standpoint, they trusted me with that.”
“And I was just blown away by how many people had said to me, ‘I normally wasn’t going to jump onto a Hallmark thing, but I read the script and there was something about it,’ or, ‘I was going to take time off [before the next project], but then I got handed the script and there was something about it…’” That was thematic through [everyone] there. So, that being the case, it was very important to me to maintain that sense of excitement and passion among everybody who is working there.”
While Leigh entered the project with a general idea of the throughline, she didn’t know the specifics of Colton’s accident until she received the script for the episode. “Finding these things out and being able to discover them together as a cast … they gave us such juicy material to work on together,” she shares.
“Once we got [these last two] scripts, it was devastating. Being able to act in those scenes came from such a genuine, heartfelt feeling about how awful this is to have to do and to have to know, and take responsibility for. So those emotions and all that stuff were deeply genuine.”
“And everybody was so equally passionate to do the best job that we could and incredibly gracious, even when not on camera, to give 110%. We really wanted this show to have that special connected quality. As wild as it was to jump in and get those storylines, it was so wonderful to have that connection, that chemistry, thankfully, naturally, right from the get-go.”
The Way Home wraps its first season Sunday, March 26th, at 8 pm/7c (note the earlier time) on Hallmark Channel in the US and Peacock. You can catch up on all the episodes so far on Hallmark Movies Now. In Canada, the finale will air on Sunday, April 2nd, on W Network You can also stream the episodes on the Global TV app.
Here are a couple or sneak peeks of the finale and this week’s live chat with the cast.
Photos and videos courtesy of Hallmark Media.
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