Hallmark Movies NOW, the streaming service from the Hallmark family of networks, is getting in on the original content game.
Erin Cahill, who has lent her talents to many successful Hallmark movies over the years, is an executive producer on Every Time a Bell Rings, in which she stars along with Brittany Ishibashi, Ali Liebert, Wes Brown, and Dee Wallace.
We had a chance to talk with Erin about the responsibility she feels presenting the first Hallmark Movies NOW original and why the story about three sisters is so close to her heart.
Hi Erin! First of all, it's nice to meet you because I've watched so many of your movies, and I've never talked to you before, so thank you, Maria, for setting this up.
Maria: You're welcome.
Erin: Yeah, Maria, thank you. And then thank you for saying that. I just was saying to somebody else that I'm really grateful. It's 2021, and I'm still doing this, and whenever people say they watch my work, it still means so much to me, so thank you so much.
Absolutely. So you are one of the flag waivers now for original movies on, or original holiday movies, on Hallmark Movies NOW. Is there an extensive responsibility for ushering in that new content?
Yes, actually. I have to say that I feel so excited and honored to be that. And I'm also definitely a little nervous. I'm like, oh please, everybody download the app, watch a movie because I think it's a change for Hallmark, and I'm so thrilled to be at the forefront of it.
And it's a little vulnerable because it is inviting people to do something new. But once they do it, it will be like the Netflix of Hallmark. They will have everything at your fingertips. So it's like, it's time we made it, but I'm a little anxious to see how it all works out, and I'm excited.
And what drew you to this movie? What did you like about it that you said, well, I got to be involved in it?
I produced it. I'm actually the producer.
Are you? I didn't even know that.
I am; I'm so excited.
So why did you produce this one? Did you create it? What's the story behind that? Thank you for enlightening me.
Thank you. Yeah, so I got lucky. I pitched an idea a couple of years ago to Hallmark, and we ended up not doing that movie at all. We ended up completely changing course, which was so great because then we were able to kind of go, okay, well, what story do we want to tell?
I loved telling stories and Hallmark and being movies with Hallmark. And I wanted to tell something that had more depth of -- not more depth, cause that doesn't make it sound like my other movies had depth, and I love all my other movies that are on Hallmark truly, but I wanted to tell a story that felt little more personal, even though I only have one sister, not two and I'm not adopted.
It's a story about family, loss, breathing, coming together, and sisterhood. And that is the kind of story I've been saying openly that family stories were my family movies, and I kept saying in every meeting, if we could just have even been a little bit of the tone of a family, it would land with some truth. So, that was our aim, with this movie was that tone.
I like that there are three female leads and that it's focused on sisters first and romance or anything else second. How important was it for you to have that relationship?
I mean, obviously, you just mentioned that you wanted to have that familial tone, but sisterhood is pretty special, and I think you did a good job of representing it here.
Thank you. That's what I'm literally asking everybody. Do you have sisters, Carissa?
I have one sister. Yes.
So, me too. So whenever people with siblings say you did a good job of capturing it, I'm like, "yes!". When I say that was our whole intent was to capture family. I'm glad that you felt like it was honest. And that too was one of my things. I was like, yes, absolutely have romance, Christmas, let do it.
But really, for me, that's the thing from the ground up, from when I brought the one we didn't end doing. But when I first approached Hallmark, one of my big things was I wanted to have the sisters be the family. I wanted that to be the main love story. Because for me, that is the heart of the family.
That's a good way to look at it. That, that's the love story. I like that a lot.
And it, the family is for me, the main love story, and always will be in this movie and in my heart.
What kind of research did you look into when it comes to adoption and adult children meeting first parents and that kind of stuff?
So we got lucky, one of our execs at Hallmark who helped create this movie with us, her husband is adopted. So we got a lot of info from her, and then our writer, she went on and did a lot of research, which was great. I have a family member that's adopted, not immediate.
I think we all just had individual conversations. And then we got lucky after we cast the movie, we found out one of our cast members is adopted and just recently met their birth mom.
I know it was like this perfect storm. I keep saying, and I'm sure Maria's bored of it because I've said a couple of times, this cast was such a dream come true. It was so divine. Everybody knew somebody or knew each other.
My producing partner gave Daniel Lewis, who I want to give a huge shout-out to. Daniel Lewis, who is my producing partner on the ground in Louisiana, but was also there from the ground up creation. And our execs Angela Polk and Emily Merlin.
And then Monica Bell also came in at the end. And Daniel Lewis, I want to make sure to mention Evergreen Production in Louisiana. He's going to run the south one day. This is part that you remember his name. He's such an incredible producer. He's done, I think, about 40 movies at this point. He's done a bunch of lifetimes.
So he's been really wanting to get in with Hallmark. And so when I approached him about this a while ago, it was just the perfect storm, cause he had already been having meetings over there, and then I was like, my friend who I want to make movies with and I want to make movies with my friends, and that's my whole goal.
Just like, do you want to come and make a movie with me? So it just was like a really perfect storm. And then I was able to tell them about Brittany Ishibashi, who I've known for years and years. I met Wes Brown through my producing partner, Daniel, cause Daniel and Wes were best friends in college.
And then Ali Liebert, luckily Hallmark said, this is who we think for Nora, and we could not have had a better Nora. She is; she's all the dreams come true. And from day one, we were like sisters.
The first thing we all shot was that scene where we were in bed and looking up at our adoption book. And we ended up talking about Nora asking us about asking a girl out, and we ended up having a really cute, adorable scene.
That was day one, scene one. That's how well we all got along from the get-go. And I think it's because we all had a connection. We all knew, knew somebody who knew somebody, or we all knew each other. And Dee Wallace, my producer partner, Daniel, has known her for years and years, and she is every bit as amazing as she seems on camera.
And then Ryan Sands knew Brittany. He did a Marvel show with Brittany for a couple of years. It was like a Marvel reunion when they got on set, but they have such a deep connection. And then Lyndie Greenwood, who, I've just no idea how we got, so amazing, I'm so grateful. I've known her for at least eight years.
Oh, she's actually going on our next school build, for the schools we build. Anyway, I could go on and on; the cast is just... I literally cried. We did a virtual table read before we started filming. I cried at the table read; I cried the first day at set intermittently throughout the production because this was really happening, and it's really happening with people that I love, and I was a mushy mess.
Oh, that's a good kind of mess to be.
It's true. I do feel a lot.
So you said you build schools?
Yes. I need you to drop in, by the way.
Yes, I'm interested, tell me about that.
Carissa, you are so lovely. I just got asked about it in another interview, and I was like, it's always on the top of my mind. I should have said Lyndie is coming with us.
We're that close that she's been on the set, and she's coming with us. So I was asked a couple of years ago by a man named Travis Van Winkle if I would like to be on his team. Do you know Travis?
I don't know him, but I know of him.
Oh, what a doll. I literally just talked to him on the phone today because we're standing our next thing. He volunteers so much and said, " Do you want to be part of this team to raise money and build a school?" And I was like, yes. And so then I fell in love with this organization, it was right when my husband and I started dating, and he wasn't on this team.
So I went to build this school without him. And when I came back, and I was like, I'm so glad I did that by myself, but it broke my heart not to have him with me. So he was like, "let's build the school for our anniversary." And I was like, "fabulous."
And then the one school ended up turning into three because so many of our friends were so excited about it after we got back. It's just amazing. Oh my gosh, Carissa, if you get a chance, please look them up.
I've been so fortunate to do a lot of volunteering with Make a Wish and Children's Hospital. My husband and I are really passionate about volunteering, but this, to me and my personal opinion and experience, is the most sustainable, generations impactful volunteering. It's so great.
Their whole mission is to combat global poverty from the face root of education. So they not only go into the lowest income communities around the world, but they also work with children and or school programs across America. And so, they work with kids nationally and internationally. I could go on and on about it.
I was talking about BuildOn during my last interview because they asked me about it. So I know the writer, Audrey. I actually feel so lucky that I got to bring her on. Anyway, she's amazing. She wrote Love, Fall & Order. Audrey Schulman. And we've become dear friends; I love her.
And she based, she didn't tell me, but the Charlotte didn't do international work until one of the last iterations because Audrey was like, "I was inspired by you and the work you do abroad." So she based Charlotte off me.
How neat is that?
Isn't that so sweet? I love Audrey, and she was that little surprise. And then she named one of the characters, Paul, which is my husband's name, and then Gloria is my grandma's name, and we got Gloria in the script also. It's peppered in with all kinds of personal stuff.
It means this one really means a lot to you, then.
I keep saying it's a piece of my heart. This movie is a piece of my heart for a myriad of reasons because of the content, and the reality of it, and the relationships, but also, just personally. I'm all over it.
You're all bundled up in it.
I'm all bundled up in it. That's a better way to put it sort of all over it. Yes, I'm definitely bundled up in it.
So what kind of input did you have into the Christmas traditions of the movie?
Not much, and happily so because Audrey, again, for the win. My producing partner, Daniel Lewis, is the reason we're set in Natchez.
We were always going to be set in the south because he produces movies is in the south, and he loves to show off the south. I grew up in Virginia, so I was like, yes, let's do this. But that was always an element we cooked in from the beginning.
But he went to Natchez because he is friends with Tate Taylor, who wrote and directed The Help and tons of other things. And so he went cause of Tate and, and Tate's partner, John, and he fell in love with it was like, "Erin, I think we should consider doing the movie here." And he sent me one article about this, and I said we should do it.
And then we sent it to Hallmark, and our execs were right on board, which was so wonderful. So we really built the story around Natchez. So when you see the butter cakery and the cruise ship, those are all things that actually, authentically happen in Natchez. So this movie is like a love letter to Natchez.
Yeah, we're just really fortunate.
So what's your favorite holiday tradition?
You know, honestly, we had a bunch growing up, but now that I'm older, my family, we're really busy and just all over the place and don't have as much time as we would like just to be together.
And so, as I'm sure many people feel so on Christmas, we stay in our PJs all day, and we make scrambled eggs and bacon and sausage and toast, and we just make this massive, like brunch almost.
And we slowly open a present here or there, but basically Christmas we're in our PJs all day, we've watched movies, we have mimosas hot chocolate, we laugh, then we'll zone out in front of a movie, maybe even fall asleep. It's just the most chilled. I like to call it the best lazy Sunday ever.
It's like the most relaxing day of love and laughter and just chilling out. I love it.
It's so much better than rushing around and trying to get somewhere and having to dress up and put on a show as opposed to just enjoying each other's company.
Yeah. I really love it. It used to be because I think the holidays are quite stressful, just inherently and not in a bad way. So I think they're inherently stressful to the fact that we kind of built in this tradition of doing nothing; it's like heaven.
I love it. That's a great idea.
Thank you. What about you, what's your tradition?
For me, it's on Christmas Eve. We had Christmas Eve once we became adults in my family. We have an offshoot of a Polish Christmas, which includes seafood and mushroom soup, and Pierogi, a really nice dinner, and then we open up gifts around the tree on Christmas Eve because then, whenever you have to go somewhere else on Christmas day, you don't have to worry about all that.
I love that.
Yeah. The food's my favorite part. I admit it.
I love food.
God, me too, so much.
What's your favorite holiday meal? Your favorite holiday dish, shall we say?
Honestly, I don't know; it's so simple. I love the sides. So I love green bean casserole and macaroni and cheese and stuffing. I'll have like a little piece of turkey, but I'll have all sides, mashed potatoes. I'm a side girl.
I love it. I love it too. I used to make a turkey, and I would make two pans of stuffing outside of the stuffed turkey because I can't have a meal without stuffing around the holiday.
See now you are speaking my language. That's exactly how I do it.
Good stuff. Well, now I'm hungry. Oh, I'm starving.
What's coming up next for you, other than this. Do you have anything else coming up that we should be on the lookout for?
Not that I'm filming. Oh, I've got this other movie. I completely forgot. I also produced another indie romcom. I don't know where it's going to go, we haven't sold it yet, but that'll be coming out in 2022.
So I'm in post-production on that. And then otherwise, I'm just in development on a few more projects. I have like the slate of projects that I'm looking to produce. So I'm really working hard on those.
Well, that's super exciting. After this one, I can't wait to see what else is next because I thought this one turned out really well.
I appreciated the themes that are just a little different for Hallmark. And I think it fits perfectly, especially into the holiday movie.
Thank you for saying that. Thank you. I'm over the moon that you think that. I'm thrilled.
Every Time a Bell Rings premieres today on Hallmark Movies NOW. You can access Hallmark Movies NOW directly or through Amazon or Apple TV Channels.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.