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Interviews

Kraig Wenman Talks CrimeTime: Freefall 

Kraig Wenman Talks CrimeTime: Freefall

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

Since 2016, screenwriter Kraig Wenman has hopscotched around the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Mystery Wheel, first stepping in to finish a Murder She Baked script when the original writer had to step away, and staying on to write scripts for franchises that include Garage Sale Mysteries, Chronicle Mysteries, Crossword Mysteries, and Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries. In 2023, he wrote a potential new franchise with the one-off Haunted Harmony Mysteries: Murder in G Major

Tomorrow night, he’s back with a second potential new Mystery Wheel, CrimeTime: Freefall, starring Lyndie Greenwood and Luke Macfarlane as a TV actress who spent a decade playing a detective and has now left LA for Colorado, and the real-life detective assigned to handle the case of the murder victim who just landed in her idyllic, rural front yard. You can read my preview and interview with Macfarlane here.

CrimeTime Freefall

Wenman came up with the concept for CrimeTime back in 2017, and it lay dormant until a chance meeting with a Hallmark exec put it back in contention. “I had originally pitched this [to Hallmark] in a basic e-mail back in 2017. And it got lost in the mix, and the mysteries weren’t being made as much. They’re so busy because they make so many movies, so they can’t reply to everything all the time. Sometimes you’ll pitch something [and] a few years later they’ll come back and say, ‘Great, it’s been greenlit, let’s go.’ And then you have a very short window,” he explains.

“I went off and did my movie Bandit with Josh Duhamel. And then in 2021, I ran into Ayse Francis, who’s awesome. She asked if I was still pitching movies [and I reminded her] about the e-mail. We met for lunch and she asked me to pitch her something. On the way home from lunch, I just resent the text. She said, ‘Okay, this is good. Can you write me a paragraph?’ And I said yes, because I saw it as a franchise [and] this as a pilot, hoping we’ll get a wheel of movies if people are into it. [And then I wrote the script].”

The actual filming came together very quickly last fall after the tandem WGA and SAG strikes ended, with a wonderfully diverse and mostly local-to-Vancouver cast. “The casting was really good. We were in such a struggle because we had the writers strike and then the actors strike and then it ended and we shot right after in November. We didn’t have a lot of time to cast,” he recalls.

“We used everyone that we could from Vancouver and then brought in our American leads, which is great because a lot of my friends are the actors on the show. [I told them], ‘You need to be ready for next week and hopefully there’s gonna be a franchise, so you really gotta knock it out of the park.’”

“I had just finished watching Platonic’s first season maybe two weeks before. The network [suggested Luke] and I said, ‘Yes, that’s the guy. Get that guy, because he’s a great looking guy, but he can do comedy on top of that.’ He’s so funny. And he [plays it so] straight like, like a Jon Hamm kind of vibe. That’s how I always saw the detective. He’s just that smooth. He’s gonna say this deadpan thing [and] not gonna smile after everything.”

CrimeTime Freefall

Although Wenman readily admits that he and his family love their dark humor, the CrimeTime concept was intended to be on the lighter side. So much so that he elevated that humor a bit when he based Hadley’s teens on his own kids. “Originally how I got into movies, just in general, is my mom went into labor right on the rolling credits of a TV movie, so I just had to write TV movies at some point,” he laughs.

“The grandma’s name is Grandma D, Grandma Donna, after my mom, who got me into murder mysteries in the first place. We always watched Murder She Wrote. That was a huge, huge influence on this. And then also Castle. Because everything’s so dark right now, I just wanted to have some fun. The news is dark, everything’s dark. My sensibilities are always gonna be dark with a little bit of comedy. That’s just who I am and my whole family’s like that, too.”

“My kids are named Rain and Hendrix. They have that kind of same dark stuff. So I thought I would put them in as characters. They’re roughly around the same age as my kids. My kid’s not an influencer, but he’s an online gamer, so he is just constantly online. And so that’s his world. I said, ‘Well, why don’t we make you a little bit more famous?’”

CrimeTime Freefall

And he said, ‘Okay, you can use my name, but change the spelling a little bit.’ So I did that. And then my eldest Rain is an artist. “They’re trying to get into Emily Carr University to do art and everything. I just based them both on my kids and amped them up a little bit. My kids are a little bit snarkier and in the theme of not being so dark, we didn’t go that route.“

Before he was a familiar scribe to the Hallmarkies and Sleuthers crowd, Wenman wrote close to a dozen “women in peril” Lifetime movies (some of which you can still enjoy streaming on Tubi). He launched his screenwriting career after graduating from Vancouver Film School, spending a year honing the mechanics of the craft, and posting a script on the InkTip online writers forum. When Lifetime came calling for TV movies soon after, the partnership delivered a well-timed regular source of income just as he was starting his family. 

He says he mined his favorite classic thrillers to create those deliciously fun films. “Misery is one of my favorite movies of all time as far as psychological thrillers, [as well as] Rear Window. The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is another one. I love Single White Female. So we were kind of just basing them off those really cool early nineties [thrillers like] Fatal Attraction where Michael Douglas is always the star. I love them,” he shares.

CrimeTime Freefall

“I still watch them anytime I’m going to write a thriller. I’ll just go back and watch and everything’s there to inspire the crazy next-door neighbor. I think I did maybe 10 of those. And then the Hallmark thing came up and I thought ‘[I] can sub in for the week and then I’ll go back to writing Lifetime or whatever.’ And then I just kinda stuck with it.”

Wenman echoes Macfarlane in wanting Freefall to be the first in a long running series as Hadley figures out her next act after a TV career. “She actually says, ‘Who am I if I’m not Hadley Warner?’ So through [these mysteries], it’s this self-discovery, and hopefully over 10 seasons we’ll be going more into that,” he laughs.

You can join Wenman for a live Tweet (X) when CrimeTime: Freefall premieres Friday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries 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.

Photos courtesy of Allister Foster/Hallmark Media and Hallmark Media; videos courtesy of Hallmark Media

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