You say the name Dylan Neal and many hits series come to mind. Some of you may know him from his long run on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. Some may know him as Doug Winter on the hit series Dawson’s Creek. Most recently he appeared on the CW popular series Arrow. Dylan has built quite the resume and along the way, continues to be one of the most sought after actors today.
Currently he stars in The Hallmark Channel original series Cedar Cove which just had its season two premiere. Dylan plays Jack Griffith, the new editor of the local newspaper, the Cedar Cove Chronicle, and love interest of Judge Olivia Lockhart played by Andie MacDowell. Dylan was kind enough to sit down with us and talk about his character, the Hallmark brand and what fans can look forward to in season two.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us what Cedar Cove is about?
Dylan Neal – It’s about this beautiful Pacific Northwest town called Cedar Cove. The way the audience comes into the series from the beginning is kind of through my character Jack Griffith. Jack is a big city reporter from Philadelphia who is a recovering alcoholic. He had a family, a successful career and lost it all because of the drinking. The only job that he could find is running this very small town newspaper which is pretty much a one man shop. He’s pretty much a fish out of water; a big city guy in this quirky, quaint little town.
What really catches his eye is the town’s judge Olivia Lockheart played by Andie MacDowell. You have these two characters that are circling each other looking at each other trying to figure out what each one is doing there because they both don’t fit the mold of everyone else that is in town. This fun relationship develops between them and during the course of the season, Jack finds out that he really does love this place and it is home, despite how he thought he viewed himself. So, the show follows the citizens and the relationships in Cedar Cove and at the heart of it is the relationship between Andie’s character and mine.
Pop Culture Principle – Although your character is a recovering alcoholic, the disease does not define the character. Was that important to you that this was handled with delicacy and respect?
Dylan Neal – You can’t forget that we are dealing with the Hallmark Channel and they have a very specific brand that they rightfully nurture. The Hallmark Channel audience is a very particular brand and they know what they want and Hallmark gives it to them. What we’re trying to do and you’ll see more of this in the second season, is we do touch on topical issues, but of course we don’t go into super dark places. We aren’t trying to be Mad Men or Dexter obviously, so we try to treat these issues that the Hallmark Channel audience will enjoy but we aren’t going to offend their sensibilities. This is a family network and they pride themselves on delivering entertainment that the entire family from kids all the way up to grandparents can watch together like we use to do many years ago.
That’s part of the recipe for the success of the Hallmark Channel with these new television series. It’s been a long time since shows like Touch By An Angel and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman were on CBS. It’s been at least ten years since CBS has been in that game. So, for over a decade television audiences that want more wholesome programming have been out of luck unless they wanted to watch reruns. The Hallmark Channel very astutely realized these are our people; we are already making them television movies, why don’t’ we get into scripted television and that is why they are having tremendous success because they really are the only game in town.
Pop Culture Principle – One of the cornerstones of the series is the relationship between Jack and Olivia. Their relationship had to be believable for the show to work. It really does work on the series. What is it like working with Andie MacDowell?
Dylan Neal – Andie is fantastic. You are absolutely right that it’s really important that Jack and Olivia work. You just never know. Every time on a series you do your best and no matter what you think you are creating, it’s not up to you and you never know until you get that feedback. Both Andie and I were naturally worried. We thought we were doing a great job and we knew how important that relationship was to the show. It would be a big problem if the audience didn’t like us together and fortunately they really do. We feel very thankful and very gratified by the outpouring of love and support that we’ve both received for our characters. We are really protective of them and we really care about them. I think Andie and I do have great chemistry and we have fun with it. She’s such a great actress. You throw the ball at her and she’s going to throw it right back and that makes it fun.
Pop Culture Principle – We see another side to your character when your son Eric is introduced in the first season. Do you think it’s important to see another aspect of Jack when it comes to dealing with his son?
Dylan Neal – Yes. It’s just like life where you see all sides of people and Jack happens to be a father. Because of his history with alcoholism, he has a really rough relationship with Eric and Jack has to own that. What we get into with the second season is that their relationship starts to mature. The first season is all about Jack trying to prove he’s a new man and that he can be a worthy father. In the second season, Eric has to come to some kind of conclusion about that. Eric has his own issues with him being a potential father with his girlfriend; he’s going to need to rely on his own dad to go through those challenges. There are also some other big hurdles that come into Eric’s life through Warren Saget, played by Brennan Elliott and that of course has big ramifications for Jack. As in any show, the relationships get more complicated, they evolve and you keep coming across hurdles.
Pop Culture Principle – One of the important messages in the series is that people can get a second chance and it’s up to the individual what they with that chance. Would you agree?
Dylan Neal – Absolutely. The first year we talked all the time about how this show is about second chances, especially for Jack. He knows that Cedar Cove is his last chance. He needs to embrace that or pay the consequences. In the second season, he will be faced with other big challenges and how you deal with them not only affect your life, but the other people in your life. Some are not recoverable if you really screw them up of course. That’s part of the fun with entertainment is to take the audience on that ride. You root for the good guy and cheer for the bad guy, but you enjoy all of it and go through the twists and turns and see where you come out.
Pop Culture Principle – Jack had the opportunity to go back to Philadelphia and work for a big paper again. He decided to stay. Do you think that he really took the offer seriously knowing how he felt about Olivia?
Dylan Neal – I think he had to take it very seriously. He never thought he was going to get that kind of offer or change again. He thought that his old life at the big city paper with the big readership was long gone by his own fault. It’s something that you really had to think about because so many of us are defined by our careers. A lot of our happiness and fulfillment comes through our career, so Jack had to think that one through carefully. What is important to Jack? What has Jack learned from moving to Cedar Cove? What has Jack learned from his relationship with Olivia? Again, your own personal growth comes through what are you learning along the way and are you learning from your mistakes or are you just going to keep repeating the patterns. I think he contemplated it very seriously and realized what was most important in his life and that was Olivia.
Pop Culture Principle – There are some great characters on the show, but the town of Cedar Cove is an important character to the story as well. Would you agree?
Dylan Neal – Absolutely. That’s what we’ve said from day one. The town of Cedar Cove is very much a character. The way we shoot it, it’s the most idyllic, beautiful town any viewer has ever seen and that is the intent. You want people to dream of either visiting Cedar Cove or uprooting their life and moving there.
Pop Culture Principle – Why do you think Cedar Cove is really resonating with the fans?
Dylan Neal – There are a couple of reasons. One, that audience has been ignored for over ten years. Number two, Hallmark was very smart in partnering with Debbie Macomber, who is the author of the book series that Cedar Cove is based on. She’s had huge movie successes on the network. So, with Debbie having sold around two hundred million books, she’s a huge author with a built-in fan base. Obviously that is smart programming because you’ve already got a built in audience wanting to see these series. Then you couple that with casting Andie MacDowell, a movie star of that stature, it’s really a perfect storm in terms of marketing and strategy. It’s paid off in spades and you see that with the other shows as well. If you give quality family entertainment, there is a sizeable audience that still wants it and always will want it; they aren’t going anywhere. It may not be the sexy type of programming or get the critical buzz that some of the “cool programs”, but it’s a really solid business plan and Hallmark is doing extremely well with this plan.
Pop Culture Principle – What can fans look forward to in Season 2 of Cedar Cove?
Dylan Neal –We have a massive cliffhanger in the second season; not only with Jack, but some other characters. The stakes are a lot higher in the second season. If you loved what Cedar Cove was doing in the first season, just stay tuned because it really gets amped up in the second season. The network is thrilled with it and I love what are showrunners are doing with the show and we are in really good hands.
We would like to thank Dylan Neal for taking time out of his schedule to talk with us. Be sure to tune in to The Hallmark Channel every Saturday at 8/7c for brand new episodes of Cedar Cove. Also, if you would like to keep up with the latest information on Dylan Neal, you can follow him on Twitter @DylanNealStudio!