Jacqueline Bisset stars in the Hallmark Channel original movie, “An Old-Fashioned Christmas,” sequel to the popular, “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving,” which was based on a story by Louisa May Alcott. Bisset, an international star for four decades, has appeared in big Hollywood films like “Bullitt,” “Airport,” and “The Deep,” as well as in acclaimed art-house movies (“La CÃ©rÃ©monie” and Francois Truffaut’s “Day for Night”).
I spoke to her about her role as the strong-minded Isabella Caldwell, traveling with Tilly, her would-be writer grand-daughter.
Tell me first of all, what was it like to film in that gorgeous Irish castle?
It was very beautiful, with glorious gardens and a lake in front of the castle. I was thinking there would be a difficult weather experience but we really got lucky. It was a good group, good actors, good director, good weather — I have nothing to complain about!
Was it a challenge to return to the same character?
We had a different actress playing Tilly, and different actresses bring different things. And the characters have been traveling for two years, so they are different, and their relationship has changed. In the first one she wanted my help and in this one she is resisting me quite a lot and resents me interfering in her life as she is at the point in her life when she is becoming interested in young men and all that stuff. There’s a degree of disagreement as she feels cornered or suffocated by me.
On one hand you’re a mentor but there is a struggle about who is in control.
In my relationship to the granddaughter in the story I feel closer to her than I do to my daughter, her mother. There was a lot of anger from her towards me and a lot of misunderstanding. Even though we’ve made up on some level, I am certainly much closer to the granddaughter.
Did you know when you did the first one that you’d be doing a sequel?
No, not at all! And I’ve never been in a sequel before. In this situation, when I went off with her at the end of the first one I never thought there would be a second one. People make sequels a lot in Hollywood and sometimes it feels like there’s never an original thought. But I didn’t feel that way about this. Sometimes sequels are better than the first one and this is fuller than the first one. My character had more aspects. I wouldn’t have done it if there hadn’t been something interesting in it for me. The touch of romance at the end — I haven’t seen it yet and I am looking forward to seeing it!
What do you look for in the projects you choose?
Have I done this before? Have I seen this before? If I don’t feel that, it’s really a good thing. I look for a little bit of juice, is there any possibility to grow subtextually, to create depth, to bring experience to something as a character? Now I am a character actress, which is great, and I am thrilled to be able to explore that. There are a few speeches in this one that moved me a lot, one in particular when she is sitting on the bed with her granddaughter and she explains her love for her husband, who is no longer there. I found that scene very deep and beautiful. I love that scene. She has been misjudged and she is trying to explain her point of view.
Do you feel that you are still learning as an actress?
I am still learning as a woman. I am always learning.