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Interview: Eric Mabius

One thing that all fans of Signed, Sealed, Delivered have wondered about is the situation between Oliver O’Toole and his wife. There have been hints throughout the first season of the series and the first television movie. Well, now it seems like the wait is over and the fans will finally get the answers they have been waiting for.

On Saturday, June 6 at 9/8C, the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel will premiere Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love. This is the second movie in the series and will have our favorite dead letter detectives working on their latest case while Oliver deals with his personal life.

Pop Culture Principle sits down with actor Eric Mabius who plays the leader of the team Oliver O’Toole. We talk with him about what fans can look forward to with the new movie, what real life person his character was based on and his thoughts about the show moving from a series to the two-hour movie format.

Pop Culture Principle – For people who may not have seen the series or watched the first movie, can you tell us the basic premise of Signed, Sealed, Delivered?

Eric Mabius – Oliver O’Toole is the leader of a misfit group of brilliant postal detectives. Everyone is quirky in the DLO, but all together they make up a whole organism and complement each other in a very special way.

Pop Culture Principle – You are back with the second movie Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris with Love. Can you tell us the plot to this movie?

Eric Mabius – Oliver’s estranged wife, Holly, surprises him by flying in from Paris to explore the fate of their marriage. On the same day Oliver's missing wife reappears, we deliver divorce papers to another couple grappling with the true meaning of love and marriage.

Pop Culture Principle – One running theme throughout the first season of the series was what happened between Oliver and his wife. Will we finally get the answer to that question?

Eric Mabius – Yes, we do and I think Martha handled it in a very skillful way without betraying the covenant of marriage that Oliver has stuck by in such an incredible and real way. I think with having Holly coming back, everyone will ultimately have their questions answered. The path we take to get there certainly isn’t predictable and that’s what I love about Martha’s writing.

You end up rooting for everyone which is great. It’s such a delicate balance and I think Martha always handles it in such a good way. She has a lot of faith in us as actors and I think we’ve really grown to trust one another in this partnership that has developed over the last couple of years.

Pop Culture Principle – Poppy Montgomery guest stars as your wife in the movie. What was it like working with her?

Eric Mabius – She’s spontaneous and fun and she came very prepared. It can be difficult to come on as a guest star on a show because we are all vibrating at a certain speed. The guest star can jump on board and get what we are doing or they don’t and it becomes apparent right away that she came to have a good time. I had so much fun in my scenes with her. It was great to be able to push in a scene and have someone push back in such a great way.

Pop Culture Principle – What was it like being back on set with Crystal Lowe, Kristin Booth and Geoff Gustafson?

Eric Mabius – It’s nice and it’s like coming back to a family. I think we all support one another because Martha always brings these characters into periods of transition and evolution. We as actors are supportive of one another as we try and embody those new things and new challenges. With this new script, we didn’t know how Martha would top the Christmas movie and I felt in a lot of ways she did. The way she tackled faith, belief and covenant in the first movie, those themes are no less small in this new movie and I think this movie is even better than the previous one if that is possible.

Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think the series and now the movies are resonating so much with the viewers?

Eric Mabius – Well, I think Martha really writes from the most honest place of any show creator I have ever worked with. She intertwines personal experienced of hers and others that she inquires about and there is an authenticity to watch what she creates which is a joy to be a part of.

I also think it rings true that there are very few things that are made up from the ether in her scripts. They are either things that have happened to her or someone she knows or one of us. When you intertwine all of that, it sort of builds a very strong foundation and I think audiences tune into certain shows wanting to be transported to a fictional world. Our show has such a broad appeal and the themes are so universal and I am so lucky to be a part of it.

Pop Culture Principle – How much input have you had creating and developing Oliver O’Toole?

Eric Mabius – Oliver was originally based upon one of Martha’s favorite people in the world, her grandfather. That is the template for him and as she has gotten to know me and seen Oliver develop-it has taken on a life of its own, but her grandfather was the inspiration for the character.

Again, you build up trust in any relationship and I think this is definitely not the exception. She will write things and say, “I don’t know how you are going to do this, but I faith in you and your ability to do that thing that you do.” She puts the words into motion, but she is aware and respectful of that magical synthesis that occurs when the director yells action.

My job is to think of as many possibilities as I can for a scene, but it’s nice to ride that razor’s edge sometimes of not knowing exactly what I am going to do until I respond to whomever is in the scene in that moment. One of the great things about working with our director Kevin Fair is that he really harbors that intention and he knows how to bring those things out in people.

Pop Culture Principle – Hallmark decided not to renew the series for a second season, but instead will produce several two hour movies. When did the cast find out about this decision and what were your thoughts?

Eric Mabius – We found out I think in the fall and I think everyone was a little shocked at first because we were sort of humming along and we thought we were doing a great job. There is the issue of the bottom line and also Hallmark was a new network for series. They don’t make a lot of pilots and sort of pick one out of the ether like some of the other networks would with a lot more money. Hallmark has to figure this out as they go along so there is essentially only series and no pilots per say.

Our show is not like the other shows on Hallmark and we are proud of that. Trying to make our show solely about a weekly procedural doesn’t necessarily benefit character development, what we like to do as actors or what Martha necessarily wants to create.

The upside in general for these two hour films are greater for everyone. We can get much deeper into the characters and we enjoy that rather than having to fly by the seat of our pants making that 43 minutes and having the present wrapped up in a nice little bow by the end of that.

I don’t think our show really flourished in that environment and everyone has a different opinion than me; some similar and some dissimilar. I much prefer the two hour format for that reason. Would we like many more years of the show? Certainly, but I think everyone shines in this two hour format. I really enjoy this because the audience wants to trust their characters, believe in them and be invested in them.

These are aspects of their own psyche that they are able to access and the characters provide a type of catharsis and I think in a two hour format that is much more possible. I’m frustrated by most television because of that reason and I don’t watch much television these days. I think we are provided with a really unique opportunity to do films that certainly aren’t being made on any other network and I think are unique for the network itself.

We would like to thank Eric Mabius for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us about his latest project. You can watch Signed, Sealed, Delivered: From Paris With Love, this Saturday, June 6 at 9/8C on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.

**Photos Credit: Copyright 2015 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss**

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