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Interviews

Victor Webster Talks Hannah Swensen Mysteries 

Victor Webster Talks Hannah Swensen Mysteries

Hannah Swensen is nothing if not resilient. The first Hallmark Mystery franchise to reboot itself (from Murder She Baked to Hannah Swensen Mysteries), the Mystery Wheel title has also survived casting shuffles. This Friday, the latest installment, One Bad Apple, introduces a new male lead and foil for Hannah (Alison Sweeney) in Chad Norton, the local district attorney who crosses paths with her on the case from the last film and a brand new murder.

And lucky, lucky us that Chad is played by Sweeney’s six-time Wedding Veil co-star and Hallmarkies fave (and ours), Victor Webster. I caught up with him this week about reentering the mystery space three years after Matchmaker Mysteries wrapped.

Just after the holidays, Webster was invited to take the stage alongside Sweeney and other Hallmark Mystery stars for the Television Critics Association event, and he says it was a neat way to be introduced to the Hannah Swensen fans. “That was a whirlwind experience and it was a lot of fun. Being there, having people so interested in what’s going on, and in all of the shows that were represented there and every lineup that Hallmark Mystery has to offer…it was very, very well received,” he shares.

Alison Sweeney and Victor Webster

“And it was just a pleasure to know that people are really looking forward to seeing what’s coming here in the future, with the rebranding and more mysteries and with the shows that we have represented there, as well.”

While coming into an established film series can be a daunting prospect, Webster was excited to take it on, and thrilled to support Sweeney with her first produced script. “It’s always something when somebody leaves a show and somebody else comes on the show. But I think it’s going to be a really easy transition because Alison and I have worked together so many times and it’s familiar and it was a great experience working with her again,” he explains.

“She’s wonderful. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I was so happy to hear that she was taking that step and then to see the finished product. It was a great script. It was hard to believe that it’s the first time that she’s written a script. It had so many twists and turns, comedy, great character and relationship interactions. She should be really proud of herself. I was happy to bring her words to life.”

One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

“Also mysteries are very different because you’ve got to take the audience in a whole bunch of different directions. And make all these different things work and seem plausible to get to the end result, but you have to lead the audience down five different pathways that don’t result in you finding out whodunnit.”

“And then you have to go back to the drawing board again. And that’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s a lot to fit into an hour and a half. Hats off to Ali, and to Hallmark for putting this all together and just creating the magic that they always do.”

A Hallmark veteran of one-off seasonal and mainstream romcoms, series, and franchises, Webster is looking forward to building his character and evolving the relationship with Hannah over each subsequent film. “I love being able to grow something slowly. I love film. I love a beginning and middle and an end,” he says.

“I also love a series of movies like we do with Hannah Swensen, being able to add a little bit more and build on it each time to keep the audience guessing what’s going to happen. And it’s a slow burn because you have to wait for a while before the next movie comes out, so it’s fun to develop that with each other and not feel like you have to get to that point [in one movie].”

“And I think it’s going to be a lot of fun developing that dynamic because as you’ll see in the first one, there was kind of a Moonlighting vibe. We’re not sure about each other and don’t know how much to trust each other or include each other. And so there is some back and forth between us, which creates a nice dynamic, but then there are also some sweet moments in it, as well.”

One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

It doesn’t take long for Delores to make Chad’s acquaintance, and Webster had a ball working with Barbara Niven. “It’s so much fun to play. And I’ve been around people’s moms, aunts, and grandmas who are flirty and fun like that. You don’t take them seriously, they’re doing it just to get a reaction,” he laughs.

“It’s a lot of fun to be around characters who bring so much life to every situation. And Delores does that and Barbara does that. That is the essence of Barbara. She’s bringing that to her character. She’s so much fun to be around.”

Last year, Webster joined the Christmas Con circuit and his fellow Hallmarkies on their visit to the Kansas City headquarters. He says the sense of family among the Hallmark talent and staff and the fans makes those experiences really special, and easy to give of himself. “The number one thing was all of the people I got to be around. It worked out perfectly,” he recalls.

“It’s about developing these relationships. Every time you see them, they get stronger and better. And we just have so much fun. We laugh, we have a good time. All the people that came from Hallmark, all the actors that were there, some of the actors’ families that were there, it feels like a family reunion every time this happens. And I feel really fortunate to be a part of that.”

One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery

“I just love people and these are some really good people. And then being able to go see where Hallmark started and get walked through the history of Hallmark and see this beautiful rise and how it changed and evolved…they spent so much time with us. We got to do art projects and all kinds of things that were just really, really fun. I felt like I was at summer camp.”

“[At the conventions], I’m not the type of person who sits behind a desk, and spends 10 seconds saying, ‘Hi’ to somebody. I can’t do that. I’m out [on the floor]. I’m talking. I’m giving everybody my undivided attention and making it worth their while. They spent a lot of money to come here with hotel, airfare, to do these things.”

“And I think for us, the least we can do is make that time very, very special. I love that I’m able to give everything. And usually after every convention that I go to, I get incredibly sick. The last one that I went to, I came home and I didn’t leave my bed for three days. 20 hours in bed. I got out to walk my dog a couple times and that was it.”

Webster also gifted us a Christmas film last winter with Mystery on Mistletoe Lane, a holiday-themed romance with a mystery at its center, which became our family’s favorite entry of the season. If I had to guess, I think it will be a model for the rebranded Hallmark Mystery’s future Christmas titles. Webster loved the project and his cast.

“I thought the mystery was a really cool aspect to it. I had a friend who worked on Eureka, so I was familiar with Erica [Cerra] and we had an amazing time together. We laughed and she came prepared and ready to work. We got along so well. And I just love working with Alan Harmon, who I’ve worked with before,” he says.

Mystery on Mistletoe Lane

“Everybody on set was just a delight. We were playing practical jokes on each other. I kept messing with the kids because I’m a 12-year-old child in a man’s body. I’d ask the parents [if I could] go scare the crap out of [their] kid. And they said, ‘Yeah, do it.’ So I’d hide around the corner and do silly things like that, having a good time. It was a really, really great experience. I was a small piece of that puzzle. I think it just came together really well. Everybody brought their A game.”

Webster has been part of the Hallmark film since 2012’s Puppy Love, and he appreciates the positivity and good will the films generate for everyone who works on them, and the fans watching at home. “That’s what I love about Hallmark. People can sit down and watch a Hallmark movie and they feel better afterwards than they did at the beginning,” he explains.

“They feel better about life, they feel better about family. They believe good things are possible. And that’s the reason why I started doing Hallmark movies and continue to do them, because it’s a beautiful, positive message.”

One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, airs Friday, April 5th, and 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Mystery (following a marathon of the first four Hannah Swensen films beginning at 3 pm/2c). Check back this week for my conversation with Alison Sweeney. Here’s a sneak peek of the film. 

Photos courtesy of Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for Hallmark Media and Bettina Strauss for Hallmark Media.

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