Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
Saving humanity's timeline is hard work.
On "12 Monkeys," Amanda Schull stars as Dr. Cassandra Railly, an acclaimed virologist-turned time-traveling wonder woman, mother, partner and warrior. It's a remarkable role, but super intense and often dark.
Fortunately, Schull was able to find respite in the form of the Hallmark Channel, and a light, romantic story titled "Love, Once and Always." In the movie, she stars as Lucy, a promising historian who unexpectedly inherits half of a mansion left to her upon the death of a great aunt. The owner of the estate's other half is a former beau, Duncan, who seemingly shunned Lucy a decade earlier.
While the part was a welcome break for Schull, it's also an opportunity for fans and TV viewers to see yet another side of this talented actress.
Since 2012, Schull has shined in guest roles on the ingenious comedy "Psych" and the action-packed sci-fi thriller "Grimm"; showed grit and shrewdness as two different, tenacious lawyers on "Murder in the First" and "Suits"; and sizzled in "12 Monkeys," starting as a damsel in distress and ending as a no-nonsense world-beater. Filmgoers also remember Schull for her debut role: Jody Sawyer, a dancer trying to navigate the cutthroat world of ballet in the motion picture "Center Stage."
Schull has shown uncanny range while proving she can inject verve into an existing series, or shoulder one of her own.
"Love, Once and Always" is poised to be a fun, upbeat platform in which to watch Schull work her craft.
BTS caught up with the actress earlier this week. A lightly edited Q&A follows.
Amanda Schull plays Lucy on "Love, Once and Always." The film premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday. (Hallmark Channel photo)
BTS: We're talking about your first Hallmark movie this morning but, in past interviews, you and I, we've talked about "Center Stage," "Grimm," "Suits" and "12 Monkeys." All very different projects, very different roles. I'm wondering, when you decide to take on a project, what are you looking for?
Amanda Schull: I think the most important thing is the script, you know, because you can be told that certain people are attached to it or not attached to it, but if the script isn't solid, if you don't like the character and you don't find anything interesting, you wouldn't want to watch it yourself. Then what's the point, really? You know, I think it all comes down just to the basics - to the words on the page.
BTS: I hear that from a lot of actors, and I guess I'm not surprised. It really does boil down to that, doesn't it?
Amanda Schull: I think so, because I think, even if the script clearly needs some revisions - and there are times you get scripts that obviously need to go through a few more rounds, and they do; and you know, that goes for movies or television, even television that's already episodic. Sometimes you get a script and you know there's going to be more revisions, they're going to change things, take things out, add things, whatever. But, if the story isn't there, and if the characters aren't there, it's really hard to envision where it could go, you know? And that's one of those things where, maybe if you see a glimmer of hope or, or you know, potential, and then you can speak to people and you can say, "Hey, is this a possibility that it could go here or is it definitely not happening?" Or maybe if there's an actor that's already attached to it or a producer or a director who you know is going to take it to a different place, it could be a really exciting thing to endeavor - even if it's not quite there yet.
BTS: What was it about "Love, Once and Always" - what was it about the story, about the cast, about the creative team that was appealing to you?
Amanda Schull: I think it had a lot of elements just from the very first read that I found fun and sweet and very different from what I had been doing recently, and playful. And then, you know, I was not disappointed at all when it came to the other elements; to Peter Porte, who was just so much fun to work with, and such a delight on and off camera. And then also the director, Alan, and producers Ivan and Kim.
It was a really nice, lovely treat that everyone just sort of (rallied). We had a very tight schedule, and everyone just sort of rallied with this common goal of just making it as enjoyable and as strong a process and final product as possible. There were no bad apples around, which is just a really lovely treat.
BTS: I was talking with Shantel VanSanten last year. She was in a Hallmark movie of her own and, sort of similar to you, she was coming off a series that is very intense, very action-driven, and she was just so grateful to have the opportunity to go and do something so different. And you sort of mentioned a lot of that in your answer a second ago. I really enjoy watching you as Cassie on "12 Monkeys" but, again, that's such a heavy, heavy show - and I'm so used to seeing you now in full-on survival mode. How nice is it - how necessary is it - to do something completely different? You know, something with romance and comedy and dare I even say some dancing, as well?
Amanda Schull: (Laughs) Well, "Monkeys" does sneak in a little dancing every once in a while, but it's usually for a mission.
It's really nice to every once in a while just step out of what you've been doing, and even my husband commented that the dark circles under my eyes seem to be kind of fading, because the hours and intensity is kind of lifting a little bit. (Laughs)
"Monkeys" was so intense on every single level: the shooting schedule, as well as the material. And this was, you know, this was just, I didn't, I didn't have the level of drama that, you know or, or intensity that I had been doing with "Monkeys" - which I love. I really enjoy going to those super-intense, dark places. But I think it's also important, every once in a while, maybe not just for personal sanity, but also just for the sake of experience, to remind yourself that entertainment can be a totally different idea, and character, altogether.
BTS: I find that I've really become a fan of the Hallmark Channel. The movies cast so many of the actors and actresses that I really enjoy watching in other projects. Everyone that I've spoken to who's worked with Hallmark has said that they've enjoyed the experience - that, you know, in particular, the filmmaking process is always just like clockwork. What did you like about working with the Hallmark Channel?
Amanda Schull: The clockwork schedule is true. They have a very short shooting schedule and they're very organized and prepared, which is amazing. You know what you're going to get, you know what you need to do, and you know when you need to do it. Which is really important, I think, when you have a short schedule, that there aren't any surprises. You know, like, "Surprise, we're actually doing this whole other scene," where you have a page-and-a-half-long monologue that you haven't prepared yet. That can be a challenge.
But I think the other thing that just absolutely floored me with Hallmark and I didn't know whether it was unique to this particular set, to this particular production, and Ivan and Allen and Kim and Peter: It was a really supportive, encouraging, respectful environment. And every single question or idea I had was met with respect and appreciation and acknowledgment, which was really lovely. Especially given our timeframe. I could have easily been dismissed, you know? "No, we need to keep it this way, because we've already prepared it that way." It was a really respectful environment.
And then when I went to the TCAs, because, as you noted, I, I've never done a Hallmark production before, so I wasn't familiar with anyone involved with Hallmark. But, as you said, I knew so many other women at the TCA event for Hallmark, and it was such - the respect and the admiration continued over there, where they not only felt that, they were reciprocating that. And the channel itself, you know, is sort of, is one of the only channels on television where you'll get sort of wholesome, happy content - no matter what the program is. Whenever you turn it on, you're going to be pleasantly entertained. It's never going to be doomsday, or violence, or anything that you sort of need to shield yourself from. And that really is sort of a continuing theme with the people involved with the network. Which is amazing.
Amanda Schull plays Lucy on "Love, Once and Always." The actress is originally from Hawaii, which is the next universe over from snowy Western New York. (Hallmark Channel photo)
BTS: You said it: respect. I think that's the answer I get a lot of times, as well, when I'm speaking with actors and actresses about working with the channel. And it's remarkable, because they know this genre. I mean, they have got this genre mastered. But for them to be respectful, and to be accommodating of ideas, that really is remarkable.
Amanda Schull: I couldn't have had a better, more pleasant experience with every single person associated with the project, and with, you know, producers who came to visit us. And then when I went to the event for the network in its entirety, every single person was that way. And I think it just, it's a reflection and a mirror of the content they put on television. They sort of - they put their money where their mouths are. They really are that way, which, right now, is impressive in certain climates.
BTS: So now that we've talked about the happy network, let's go back and talk a second about the apocalypse, if we can. Obviously, Syfy hasn't announced a return date yet for "12 Monkeys" (a summer release is expected). But, coming off two just really amazing and crazy seasons, what should we be looking forward to, and how excited should we be for this final season?
Amanda Schull: Season four is nuts! It's just absolutely crazy. I mean, season three was a wild ride. Season four is a wild ride, as well. ... A lot of stories and a lot of answers are delivered, and completed, and wrapped up. And I think fans of the show, and fans of the characters and the characters' journeys, will be happy with how things end. ...
Everyone on the show pours their heart into it - you know, every single department. And then, of course, the actors. It was really such an amazing project to be part of, that I could have continued playing her for years to come. And to know that people appreciated it - especially somebody who sees as much television as you, it really means a lot to me. Thank you very much.
BTS: Like I said at the beginning of the interview, I mean, you've obviously proven that you can be very versatile. You've obviously proven you can handle any number of genres. Do you think you have an idea of what you might want to do next?
Amanda Schull: You know what? I really love all the opportunities to not be pigeonholed, you know? I think that's such a gift. What I do for a living is, you know, stepping into other people's shoes, literally, and trying on a whole new world for size. That's something I really enjoy.
And I think that's also something that was so thrilling about "Monkeys" is that, every single week, it was a new journey. It wasn't just kind of a, I don't want to criticize other genres, but it was, you know, some of the missions were playful and some of the missions were more intense than others. And then, you know, some of them were just action-driven. And to have the luxury of getting to really be somebody different from week to week was a real treat.
I'm not sure how it can be topped, but I would love that for my next project. I'm drawn to drama. I love comedies. And to get to do both of those (would be great). But, I think, to be able to do episodic television is really where my heart is right now.