Ted McGinley talked to me about re-teaming with Genie Francis for the third in the Hallmark series of films about an advice columnist known as “The Heart Healer.” In The Note, Peyton (Francis) discovers a note she thinks is from someone who was killed in a plane crash. Struggling with her own grief, including the loss of her husband, she tries to find the intended recipient of the note. The movie was Hallmark’s top rated for 2007 and led to a sequel, The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love, which brings Peyton closer to writer King (McGinley). Now in chapter three, “Notes from the Heart Healer,” the couple care for an abandoned baby. McGinley spoke to me about what he likes best about his co-star, filming in Victoria, Canada, and about his first real acting job replacing the star of the top television series of the decade. It will be on the Hallmark Channel Saturday May 12 8/7c & 10/9c and Sunday May 13 12/11c & 8/7c.
How does it feel to come back to this story and these characters?
I was excited to revisit it myself. First, to work opposite Genie is fantastic. We have a strange chemistry. Like an old glove, we just fit into each other. I loved this script, the best of the three. And every time we do these movies we go somewhere. It’s like an adventure. King’s a nice guy to put on, a nice guy to hang out with.
What is it like to work with Genie Francis?
She’s so skilled that you could lay out a deck of cards and read through all 52 as quickly as possible and have her read it back to you. She’s that sharp. She’s just a very open soul. That’s what she has in common with her character. When she first started doing this she had done the soap [which is filmed on three cameras at once] and had not had much experience with single-camera filming, but now she can move into this different formula. She is like silk when she works, so smooth. She is so in control of her emotions and how she uses them. I like her because she is very giving and very honest. The chemistry is good and it’s a fun place to be.
And what is it that draws people into these characters?
It’s a great story. I think the shame is that it is not a week to week series — Hallmark should make it a show you could sit down to watch with your family and get a heartwarming story every week, like “Touched by an Angel.” We are all touched by the fantasy of “what if.” Peyton reaches out through the newspaper to uncover stories. Each one is a fun little fantasy and it’s okay by the end. All you have to do is read the newspaper and there are 20 stories every morning that you could write an episode around. The first one was such a fun journey and very well done. The second one was not as well thought out. The third is the best. The relationship between King and Peyton is so strong, like she’s the dock he is heading for. The story is compelling and the guest cast is amazing. It felt like a little piece of magic up there.
Tell me about playing King.
King had a family previous to this and was addicted to his work. He just got old enough to realize that just having work and being successful at work and being a Pulitzer prize winner doesn’t do anything for your soul. You have to have a more well-rounded life. He lost his marriage and ruined his relationship with his son. He had climbed into this cave and was trying to do his work but had lost the passion of his life. He had blinders on. When he ran into Peyton, she had been in her own cave to protect herself and felt guilty. They were two wounded warriors who worked near each other but never knew each other, so it is a very healing process as they come together. He’s an easy person to be around. Not highly judgmental. I’m a sports fanatic and he is a sports writer but we never delve into that. All of that has to be in his background. Sometimes there are characters that are fun because they are nasty and shoot people but some are fun and comfortable and easy to get into, and that’s King; he’s a trustworthy, reliable, decent, smart character.
This chapter adds some new characters.
Laci J. Mailey stole the movie, just phenomenal, as the baby’s mother. The twins who took turns playing the baby were so great. When I’m away I miss my family so much and it was so great to have these babies to hang onto.
Where was it filmed?
Victoria. I spent half my time looking for places to live if I didn’t live where I do now. We were in Brentwood Victoria, and it is just spectacular. It is one of the great family vacation spots. You can do 50 different things almost every day, watch the planes come in and land on the water, whales, museums, the Community Gardens.
How did you decide to pursue acting?
I was playing water polo at USC, and a girlfriend told me I should do some modeling. I didn’t know what that was. I started modeling and someone was there casting a movie called “Valentine” with Jack Albertson and Mary Martin and they needed a guy to run on the beach. It was supposed to be a one-day deal and they paid my modeling fee. It rained for 13 straight days and I ended up being the 3rd highest paid, because they had to pay me for all those days. I spent 13 days hanging out with Jack Albertson and watching him. This is a fun job, and exciting job. I still thought I was going to go into commercial real estate or having my own advertising company. But this kept tugging at me and I ended up on “Happy Days” while I was still doing commercials, without any training. I had on-the-job training — with the Fonz. Ron Howard left because they wouldn’t let him direct, so I call it “the Chachi years.” It was a great learning ground. I made a lot of mistakes, publicly, coming from being very successful in polo to being a beginner. I’m never the guy who got in for the attention; I still don’t like getting up in front of a crowd. In some ways Roger on “Happy Days” was my most challenging role because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I didn’t know timing, rhythms. I played a murderer/rapist in a TV movie and that was very challenging. But there’s always a couple of moments in every show — the key is to find those moments and allow them to be challenging. There’s a lot of jobs you can’t say no to, and you say, how am I going to do this, to get through those kinds of scripts and live with yourself.
What are some of your family’s favorite movies to watch together?
“Kicking and Screaming,” the soccer movie with Will Ferrell — we love that as family. My house is that house that all the kids go to. We still howl laughing at it. On the way to a soccer tournament, we’ll watch it, too. And “Elf” — it’s fun when you watch it with a group of teenagers and watch them laugh hysterically. That’s the best.
STAY TUNED FOR AN INTERVIEW WITH MCGINLEY’S CO-STAR, GENIE FRANCIS, COMING NEXT WEEK.
Is your mom a heart healer? Hallmark Channel is looking for inspirational, poignant or funny stories about moms who have healed a heart. Post your tributes to Facebook.com/hallmarkchannel