[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Saturday night, the Jane Austen-themed Loveuary continues on Hallmark Channel with Love & Jane, starring The Chronicle Mysteries duo of Alison Sweeney and Benjamin Ayres in a magical romance written and directed by David Weaver. This week, I chatted with Sweeney about the film, which shares some of the same sentimentality and whimsy as one of my forever favorites from her, 2016’s The Irresistible Blueberry Farm.
In Love & Jane, Lily is a staunch Austen devotee who works by day as an advertising account executive and copywriter and by night spends time rereading her beloved Jane and sharing that affection as president of a local Jane Society book club. She also harbors a past secret success as a burgeoning writer who shelved her own manuscripts in the interest of practicality.
When she’s on the receiving end of an unwelcome proposal, she makes a fervent wish that she knew what to do and asks Jane for help. Much to her shock and delight, the universe obliges. That this coincides with Lily having both a personal and professional meet-cute with Ayres’s Trevor, an app developer and tech billionaire who just bought her favorite brick and mortar bookstore, is a bonus.
The project arose out of a discussion Sweeney had with Weaver back when they were filming the 2021 Christmas film Open By Christmas. Surprisingly, Weaver, a longtime Hallmark director, had not written a romcom for the network, which also surprised Sweeney. That was about to change. “The fun thing about the way it all happened was that I am a huge Jane Austen fan, and I am happy to watch any adaptation anytime. And David and I were doing a Christmas movie together that he was directing. And one night I watched this cute Keri Russell movie called Austenland with Jennifer Coolidge in it,” she recalls.
“That was just my escape when I got home from work that night and the next day I came in and I told [David], ‘I can’t believe I never had seen this Austen movie because I love Jane Austen and everything about her. So how did this escape me?’ And David said, ‘Wait a second, you love Jane Austen? I have a pitch for you.’”
“He hadn’t written anything down. He just had an elevator pitch of an idea. And I heard him out and I said, ‘We have to call Hallmark immediately. It’s genius.’ And so we developed the idea, we pitched it to Hallmark, he wrote this adorable script, and six, eight months later we were filming it.”
While the film traffics heavily in namedropping assorted Austen titles, it does so in a lovely egalitarian way that’s easy for non-readers to understand and that extends to the fun assortment of Jane Society members. Sweeney is proud that’s where they landed. “That’s what we wanted. And I believe that that’s what Jane Austen intended,” she explains. When you understand what she was aiming for, she wanted everyone to feel welcomed and included and heard and seen.”
Weaver is the latest in a long line of talents who got their first shot with Sweeney, including then first-time directors Jem Garrard and Nimisha Mukerji, who launched their careers with her projects. “I am so proud of that kind of development, being a part of that kind of development, introducing writers, introducing directors has been a big part of my producing career at Hallmark. And so bringing this from literally like the very beginning of the inception to now getting to see it finally air this Saturday is just beyond thrilling to me,” she shares.
Bringing Ayres in was an easy choice, and Sweeney says it helped her fall into Lily’s voice and mannerisms that much easier. “I had so much fun working with Ben. He’s so fantastic and talented. The role of Lily is a bit of a departure for me. So I was really thrilled to be able to work with Ben again because that wasn’t a new element,” she points out.
“We know each other really well. We’ve done all these movies together. So we had a comfort and a familiarity of how we worked together so that we were able to really explore these characters in a completely different way because we didn’t have to do the meet and greet.”
“It was just so familiar. In some ways it felt like we had just stepped off the set of Chronicle Mysteries last week, and then we’re just tackling new characters. I think part of the success of the movie was having my relationship with Ben already established.”
She credits Ayres with a really quiet, heartfelt performance when Trevor tells Lily how he feels after his misguided attempt to lend her a hand backfires, and it’s a moment of awakening for her character, too. “Lily realizes his intentions were pure. That’s part of what I loved about the parallels with Jane Austen. This independence that she’s yearning for is of course valid and important, but having friendships and having people support you is also important,” she points out.
“And finding that balance of standing on your own two feet, but also allowing people to stand next to you, someone you love to be there and hold your hand, that’s okay, too. And you don’t have to go it alone. I thought there was a beautiful acknowledgement of him seeing [that his actions went] too far. He should have talked to her beforehand. He comes forward and makes that pledge so beautifully. He did that scene so lovely and in front of all our friends, willing to embarrass himself. I think that spoke volumes about how he now sees what her point was.”
Lily’s sometimes flustered way begets moments of unintentional comedy when she speaks before she thinks and her words land in unintended ways, including a response involving crumpets that made me cackle because I am apparently 12. “What I loved about the crumpet joke was that it does come from that flustered moment that I think so many people relate to when you say something you don’t mean and you don’t realize how it sounds,” Sweeney says. “It is so sincere. It’s not intended to be a double entendre. She didn’t hear it in her mind before she said it. That’s totally Lily. She just blurts out these things without thinking them through.”
While there was no intentional double entendre, Sweeney laughs that it’s OK if there was, and she embraces that Hallmark is evolving a bit. In Love & Jane, there are other moments that reflect that Lily and Trevor are grown ups who have love and loss in their histories and a longing for something new. This isn’t an ingenue’s romance, and she enjoys being part of that maturing model for storytelling. “I think that Hallmark, at least in my experience, is bridging towards something,” she says.
“Our sensibility is still true and we want the audience to feel, we want the audience to trust us. But I think there is room for a little bit of maturity in those moments that you can dance on the edge of that understanding without offending anyone, without getting into deep. You can just skate along the edge.”
Alongside, or in front of the love story, is the friendship between Lily and Jane that anchors the film, and Sweeney sings Kendra Anderson’s praises about how hard she worked. “Kendra is sensational. She’s so talented, she’s funny, and she brought so much of that to her performance,” she shares.
“She did all this research on Jane that she brought to the table to make it shine the way that she did. And when we first pitched it to Hallmark, David’s vision all along was that it’s a movie about these two women and their friendship. It’s not just a love story, it’s both. And I think that’s true of the relationships that Jane wrote in her novels. Often it was sisters, but it’s also women being friends and women supporting each other.”
Love & Jane premieres Saturday, February 10th, at 8 pm/7c on Hallmark Channel in the U.S. and W Network in Canada, and streaming live on multiple outlets in the U.S. Here are a couple of sneak peeks. In case you missed it, I also chatted with Sweeney about the next Hannah Swensen Mysteries installment, “One Bad Apple,” which welcomes Victor Webster to the series. You can find that interview here.
Photos courtesy of David Astorga/Hallmark Media; videos courtesy of Hallmark Media.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Maahra Hill Talks The Irrational
I’m a Jesse L. Martin stan back to the OG Mothership Law & Order (pour one out for Lennie Brisco, y’all), although I admittedly tapped out on The Flash at a certain point. This season, Martin has been back in his old NBC stomping grounds with The Irrational, a different,…
George R. Olson, Tim Rozon, and Sarah Levy Talk the SurrealEstate S2 Finale
[Spoilers for the SurrealEstate Season 2 finale.] How’s everyone doing after the finale? As we close out the second season of SurrealEstate, some of our merry band of misfits are scattering to the winds–Zooey to law school, Phil to the Vatican, and Augie back to his think tank with Rochelle,…
Previewing SurrealEstate Season 2 Finale + Revisiting the Season with George R. Olson
[Warning; General spoilers ahead.] Strap in, SurrealEstate fam, because we’ve arrived at the Season 2 finale, and it’s a doozy. As we saw in the closing moments of last week’s episode, Susan is back. But because we have one more episode left, it’s not as simple as all that, as…
Tyler Hynes Talks Through His Eight-Film Hallmark Holiday Library
Things you realize when you have to re-record your shows on a new DVR – just how many Hallmark movies your people have done. Fan favorite – and one of ours – Tyler Hynes has done eight Christmas movies for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries since 2018. Alongside…
Spencer Creaghan Talks About Creating SurrealEstate’s Signature Sound
SurrealEstate is winding down its second season, with two episodes left, and just as in Season 1, Spencer Creaghan’s music continues to be a character unto itself. And every week, he shares tidbits with the fans via his s social media channels, something he started to help give them an…
Andrew Walker Talks Christmas Island and the Magical Hallmark Community
[Warning: Spoilers for Christmas Island.] Now that the Screen Actors Guild strike has been resolved, we’re able to resume regularly scheduled programming and interview our favorites and yours. Up first, earlier today, I spoke with Andrew Walker about Christmas Island, which premiered last weekend and encores tonight and through the…
George Olson and Danishka Esterhazy Talk SurrealEstate “I Put a Spell on You”
[Warning: Spoilers for the episode.] Tonight’s fun new SurrealEstate found Luke caught up in an especially bewitching woman, Kay, played by Tara Yelland, Susan trapped in her house, and Zooey learning the ropes. In the next part of my conversation with showrunner George R. Olson and producing director Danishka Esterhazy,…
Danishka Esterhazy Talks SurrealEstate: “The Butler Didn’t”
[Warning: General spoilers for the episode]. Tonight’s new SurrealEstate, “The Butler Didn’t,” follows the team as they investigate the years-earlier mysterious death of a woman whose ghost now reenacts her hanging by dropping over the banister from the second floor to terrify anyone on the landing or at the bottom…
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk the From Season 2 finale
[Warning: Spoilers for the season finale.] How’s everyone doing after that finale? While we wait and wonder and hope for a third season announcement, soon, here’s what Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders had to say about their parts of the finale, and where they hope they get to go next….
Scott McCord and Elizabeth Saunders Talk From Season 2 + A Season Finale Preview
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] It all comes down this, #FROMily. As Sunday’s episode wraps up Season 2, we begin with the aftermath of the terrifying onset of seemingly simultaneous attacks on Julie, Marielle, and Randall, which accelerate the “We gotta get out of this place” of it all. Sara comes…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…