During the semi-annual Television Critics Association’s press tour, the networks and cable companies parade the stars of their productions so journalists from across the U.S. and Canada can write about the shows. There are many stories to tell, but few delight me as much as putting the spotlight on the Hallmark Channel’s first-ever original primetime series Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove.
After its top-rated premiere last week, the cast gathered at the Beverly Hilton for the Hallmark interview panel. The lovely Andie MacDowell was there with her co-stars Dylan Neal, Teryl Rothery, Bruce Boxleitner, and Barbara Niven. But the biggest star in the eyes of the actors and the press was Debbie Macomber, the bestselling author whose series of Cedar Cove books serve as the basis for the TV series.
Macomber reported there are 15 books in the series and the Hallmark show begins where the first book starts, “so there are lots of stories to tell. Debbie’s gift for a sweet slice-of-life storytelling is perfect for the Hallmark brand,” and she said, “What’s so wonderful about working with them is that they know my heart,” explaining that some liberties that the show has taken with her characters or plots “are very much in line with what I would have written. I write about anything that happens in real life. If it’s relevant and provocative, it would fit into Cedar Cove.”
Set on a picturesque lake, the fictional town of Cedar Cove is home to romance, friendships, and drama. At the center of it all is Judge Olivia Lockhart (MacDowell), who presides over the Cedar Cove Municipal Court — where hidden secrets are often unveiled. Jack Griffith (Neal), the new editor of the Cedar Cove Chronicle, has a knack for uncovering what goes on in town and also finds himself as a budding love interest for Judge Lockhart. Bruce Boxleitner and Barbara Niven play husband and wife, Bob and Peggy Beldon, who are owners of Thyme and Tide, a hangout for the locals and visitors. The vivacious Teryl Rothery plays Grace, Olivia’s funny best friend.
Macomber is proud of her legacy of writing romantic fiction marketed to women and said, “I’m going to tell you a story because I’m a storyteller. The other day my husband came home, and I was telling him that 75 percent of all books are purchased by women. And he looked at me and said, ‘75 percent of everything is bought by women.’ So yes, these books are written for women about women, but they’re relationship books and that’s what’s important.”
MacDowell and Neal are hoping their characters’ relationship will offer flirtatious playfulness and spice, while still staying true to family-friendly viewing. “Viewers can escape each week within the world of these characters who have lives and romances and all the things that regular people do,” Neal noted.
A former Vogue model, Andie MacDowell has done many glamorous roles, starting with her film debut in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan. Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral are also among her credits. But she explained that the setting of Cedar Cove is more comfortable for her. “I relate very much to this. That’s one of the things that appealed to me, and also the idea of getting to go to work every day where the content of the show is something that makes you feel good. I believe that type of show is lacking on television. I get really stressed out watching horrible movies that make me anxious. I’m just in a place in my life that I want sweetness, and I like to watch sweetness. So I’m really happy now.”
More family friendly original movies are on the schedule starting with Reading, Writing & Romance, premiering on Aug. 10. It stars Eric Mabius as a commercial actor who takes a job teaching Shakespeare to pay the bills and winds up finding romance with his leading lady, played by Virginia Williams. Stefanie Powers, Meredith Baxter, and Martin Mull also star in the romantic comedy. And the Hallmark Movie Channel has the comedy This Magic Moment premiering Aug. 17. It’s about a Hollywood star (Diane Neal) who complicates her life and the lives in a small town while making a movie. G-rated, of course.