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Interview: Jesse Metcalfe

One thing is for sure when it comes to the new Hallmark Channel original series Chesapeake Shores, the network has another hit on its hands.

Right out of the gate, the series premiered to strong ratings for Hallmark and already has a devoted fan base. One of the many reasons the show is a success is the work of actor Jesse Metcalfe who plays Trace Riley.

Jesse first jumped on our radars on the soap opera Passions where he played Miguel Lopez-Fitzgerald. He then became a household name playing John Rowland for several seasons on the ABC hit series Desperate Housewives. That led to his starring role on the series Chase and most recently, he starred in the revival of the 80s powerhouse drama Dallas.

On the big screen, he starred in the film John Tucker Must Die, along with future Chesapeake Shore’s co-star Meghan Ory, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and most recently God’s Not Dead 2.

We sit down with Jesse to talk about his character Trace Riley, the importance of family and relationships in Chesapeake Shores and his thoughts on making music in the future.

Pop Culture Principle – When you read the pilot script for Chesapeake Shores, what made you decide to be part of this series?

Jesse Metcalfe – Well, this opportunity kind of spawned from another project that I did with the Hallmark Channel called The Country Wedding. I played a country music recording artist and played and sang three songs in the movie. They had this other project called Chesapeake Shores where they had acquired this series of books from Sheryl Woods and they wanted me to be a part of tthat project. The character they wanted me to play was Trace Riley.

Now, Trace Riley wasn’t really that big of a character in the books and he was also a graphic designer. So, basically the producer on this project, the Hallmark Channel and the writer of the original pilot Nancy Silvers and I worked on the character together and developed the character.

Right from the jump it was very collaborative and a great opportunity for me to basically tailor-make the character to my liking. Also, the fact that they wanted to bring a music element into the series, which wasn’t in the books, was very appealing to me because it was an opportunity for me to show people another side of me and to bring one of my other passions to the screen.

Pop Culture Principle – When speaking with Meghan Ory, she said that she was asked not to read the book series as not to put ideas in her head about how the series would unfold? Did you read the books to prepare for the story or where you told the same thing?

Jesse Metcalfe – I wasn’t told that and actually I did read about half of the first book, but for me it didn’t really say all that much about my character and we really took artistic license with Trace and took him in a whole other direction. I felt like that backstory wouldn’t necessarily be useful to me.

Pop Culture Principle – Both you and Meghan have history working with each other which definitely comes across on screen. What has it been like working with Meghan on Chesapeake Shores?

Jesse Metcalfe – She’s a great co-worker, a great actor and a really good friend, so it makes it easy. We’ve been told time and time again that we have great chemistry together which I think we both chuckle about a little bit because she’s married and I’m engaged and we are just the best of friends. We love working together and she takes what she does very seriously and she’s very collaborative. So, it’s fun and when you are having fun with somebody, I think it comes up on screen as chemistry.

Pop Culture Principle – We’ve been given bits and pieces of what happened to Trace while he was in Nashville. Will we learn any more details about his time in Nashville this season?

Jesse Metcalfe – Absolutely. That was definitely an aspect of the character that I really wanted in there. I wanted him to have a dark past and to have a secret and for that secret to be slowly revealed through the course of the eight episodes and the course of the series. I like that idea of intrigue and that he was keeping things from these people that knew him as a young man and that he had a bit of a dark past.

Every episode you get a bit more information until finally he reveals what happened back in Nashville to Abby. I actually just did ADR on that scene and it’s a pretty emotional scene. I think the Hallmark audience is going to really love it.

Pop Culture Principle- Along with Meghan, the series also includes a phenomenal cast including Diane Ladd, Treat Williams, Barbara Nivens and Emilie Ullerup to name a few. How have you enjoyed working with this multi-generational cast?

Jesse Metcalfe – It’s a privilege to work with Treat Williams and Diane Ladd especially because they are two very decorated actors who have worked with amazing people and have amazing stories. They are always sharing stories and anecdotes with the rest of the cast on set. I got the opportunity to spend some time with Treat and played a round a golf with him. It’s really a stellar cast from top to bottom, but Treat and Diane definitely deserve honorable mention considering their resumes are very long and very distinguished.

Pop Culture Principle – We are learning a lot about the O’Brien family, but will we learn more about Trace’s family in future episodes?

Jesse Metcalfe – Yes we do. My father and mother are introduced midseason. They are both incredible actors and I really enjoyed working with them and we did some great work together. It’s just another dimension to the show that I think the viewers are really going to enjoy.

The show is about relationships and character. I think people are hungry for that type of television especially in the reality television age. If I had to describe our show in a nutshell, I would say it’s Parenthood meets Nashville.

Pop Culture Principle – Although it seems that Abby is open to a second chance with Trace, it seems she’s a bit more unsure or hesitant than he is. Would you agree with that?

Jesse Metcalfe – She’s definitely hesitant and probably more hesitant than Trace because she has two daughters. When you have children, you have to put their needs before your own if you are going to consider yourself to be a good parent and that’s what she is doing.

It’s my character’s job to make her realize that just because she has an ex-husband and just because she had two daughters and just because she has a family that depends on her, doesn’t mean that her life is over. She still has to be open to finding happiness and joy for herself and through that she can be a better mother and a better daughter and possibly find love again.

Pop Culture Principle – Music is obviously a big part of Chesapeake Shores. Are you involved with the writing of the songs and singing?

Jesse Metcalfe - I’ve been playing guitar and singing and writing music for ten years. I wrote the title track to an independent film that I did years ago called Loaded. The film didn’t get that much attention, so this was an opportunity to write some original material for a project that I was a part of. Two original songs made it into the series and we also recorded another song that was purchased by our producers and by the Hallmark Channel. These songs are in the first eight episodes and I am really proud of all three of them. The first original song, which was in the pilot, is called When It’s Real and the second original song which is in the second episode and will also reappear later in the series is called Begin Again.

Pop Culture Principle – Do you see yourself possibly releasing an album of original material in the near future?

Jesse Metcalfe – Absolutely! It’s something that I always wanted to do and it’s something that I am very focused on right now. It’s another blessing that this show has really brought into my life. It’s brought music into the forefront for me and has forced me to focus on it and write for the show. It has inspired me to do a lot of other writing and I am actually in the process of working on an album.

Pop Culture Principle – One of the major themes in Chesapeake Shores is family and no matter what, family is always important. Would you agree with that?

Jesse Metcalfe – Definitely one of the main themes. It’s also about healing old wounds and letting go of the baggage that we collect as we grow up and grow older. We have a tendency to hold onto a lot of pain and resentment from our pasts, specifically from our childhood.

Another major theme of the show and maybe the biggest theme is that it’s never too late to start over. It’s never too late to give a relationship or your life a second chance. So, it’s a show about healing old wounds, second chances and the importance of family.

Pop Culture Principle – Chesapeake Shores is your second project with Hallmark. What do you enjoy most about being part of the Hallmark universe?

Jesse Metcalfe – It’s actually my third time working with the Hallmark Channel. Over ten years ago I did a movie for them called Fairfield Road. Hallmark is really good to their employees and actors. They take good care of you. There is always a certain level of quality on the Hallmark Channel that as an actor you come to expect and also the viewers come to expect. I think that’s why the network is so successful and why their viewership is so loyal.

This particular project has superseded the experiences and expectations that I had from previous projects because I really feel that the characters are very layered. Much more layered than a large amount of what Hallmark puts out there. These characters on this show have real problems and often times Hallmark creates this Utopian kind of perfect world where there are obstacles and challenges to their characters getting what they want, but they are not as quite as big as they are on our show and I like that.

Family is important and we need to take an honest look at family. The O’Brien family is dysfunctional and the Riley family is dysfunctional, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t keep trying to work on those relationships because that’s real and that’s real life. I think that the show that we made definitely mirrors real life and it’s all the more compelling because of that.

Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to with the first season of Chesapeake Shores?

Jesse Metcalfe – Trace has a woman from his past come and visit him in Chesapeake Shores which really complicates his relationship with Abby and that leads to him making new music. The last song that people are going to hear on the series is called Lean and it’s a duet. So, I think people are really going to love it.

We would like to thank Jesse Metcalfe for talking with us about his new series Chesapeake Shores. You can catch brand new episodes of the series every Sunday night at 9/8c only on the Hallmark Channel!

**All photos Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographers/Marcel Williams/Brendan Meadows/Ricardo Hubbs**

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