It’s wonderful to hear stories about enjoying the crazy days of summer. And the stars of the upcoming Hallmark Channel movie Keeping up with the Randalls were happy to talk about the entertaining ways their families have spent summer vacations in the past.
Sharing her warm personal memories was the beloved TV matriarch Marion Ross of Happy Days fame. Ross plays the deceptively sweet grandma of a sports-loving family in the Hallmark Channel Original Movie Keeping up with the Randalls, premiering Saturday, July 16. The story follows a wildly competitive family, with everyone engaging in down and dirty athletic challenges for bragging rights.
Things were more sedate during Ross’s childhood in a small Minnesota town, back in the 1930s and ’40s. She recalls her family’s summertime trips to a lakeside cabin as a wondrous adventure during a far more carefree time in America.
“The house we stayed in was filled with all kinds of jigsaw puzzles and games,” Ross, 82, remembers. “It was too bloody hot to do much more than loll around and swim. There was no air conditioning back then. You couldn’t sleep at night because it was so hot, but that was okay, because we’d take a blanket out to the lawn and sleep outside instead.”
Ross’s family would take trips up to Saskatchewan, Canada, where her mother was raised. Those car rides had their own unique peril, Ross recalls. “Because we had no air conditioning, the windows of the car were always rolled down, and that meant the grasshoppers would come in. Hundreds of them would splatter against the windshield and cover us from head to toe.”
Playing the ready-for-action sports mom in Keeping up with the Randalls, Roma Downey says she identifies with Kayla Ewell’s character Alicia in the movie. Alicia is the not-so-athletic girl who feels out of place among her boyfriend’s (Thad Luckinbill) rough and tumble family. Roma had to get used to rigorous journeys and physical challenges to keep up with her husband (since 2007), reality TV producer Mark Burnett (Survivor).
Roma said, “When we were dating, he gave me a very large bag, so I knew it wasn’t the earrings I had been hoping for. In the bag was a wetsuit and all of the paraphernalia that would go along with scuba diving. I did not know how to scuba dive, and he said, ‘Oh, but that brings us to my second gift, which is scuba diving lessons.’” Now she’s proud to report that she’s “been swimming around the bottom of more oceans than I ever dreamed I would.”
Roma’s summertime travels are often related to diving, and to her charitable work. Last summer, the Irish-born Touched By An Angel star and her teenage daughter Reilly Anspaugh set off to Nicaragua on a humanitarian medical mission as volunteers with the group Operation Smile.
Playing Roma’s athletic son in Keeping up with the Randalls, Thad Luckinbill says he’s been a water guy since his childhood in Oklahoma. In fact, he and his twin brother were called “the two fishes” by their mother for their habit of staying in the water nonstop during hot summer days. When the boys were about 17 they discovered the thrill of water skiing, and they still get together every summer to do it.
Playing the “fish out of water” non-athletic city girl Alicia, Kayla Ewell is unlike her character in Keeping up with the Randalls, “because I grew up loving the outdoors.” She brags about her dad who is a serious mountain climber, and every summer he’d take the family (Kayla and her sister and two brothers) to Joshua Tree National Park to rappel down a sheer 120-foot rock face. They’ve been doing it since Kayla was 11. “If it sounds scary, well, it is,” admits pretty The Vampire Diaries actress. “It’s really hardcore. It’s the scariest thing I’ll ever do, and we do it every year. I mean, 120 feet may not sound like a lot, but when you’re hanging from a rope tied to other people on a giant rock attached to a mountain overlooking a cliff – it is.” That’s an extreme vacation.