When it comes to working in Hollywood, the only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain. One individual who has pushed pass that statement is actor Jennifer Finnigan.
For over twenty years, Jennifer has built a resume in film and television that would be the envy of any working actor in the industry. The three-time Daytime Emmy Award winner has appeared in films such as The Opposite Sex and The Coverup.
On the small screen, she’s appeared in the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful and series such as Tyrant, Monday Mornings, The Dead Zone, Crossing Jordan, Close to Home and Psych. Now she returns to Hallmark for her latest project, Welcome to Christmas. The movie will premiere on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, December 9th at 8/7c.
We sit down with Jennifer to talk about her latest Hallmark project, her love for the series Salvation and her character Grace Barrows and what it was like shooting one of the most difficult and intense scenes she’s ever done in the series Tyrant.
Pop Culture Principle – What was it about the script for Welcome to Christmas that made you sign on to the project?
Jennifer Finnigan – I would say it was the right time. I had finished Salvation two weeks earlier and I was still in work mode. It had been a couple of years since I had worked with Hallmark and I’ve had good experiences with them. So, I was interested in doing another holiday movie.
Also, a lot of the television that I usually work on is fairly dark and dramatic, so I was really feeling like I needed to do some comedy to lighten the mood and to stay fresh in the comedy arena. I had also worked with the director a couple of times prior, so I had a nice relationship with him.
When Hallmark scripts come my way, I find myself leaning towards the ones with quirky, comedic moments because, for me, that’s the joy of doing these movies. That’s what I look for and I saw that potential in this one.
Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us a little bit about your character Madison Lane?
Jennifer Finnigan – I think she sort of fits the profile of a lot the Hallmark leading ladies in the sense that she is a driven career woman from the big city. She comes to this small town because her boss implores her to consider the town of Christmas, Colorado as a contender for building one of their ski resorts. She’s dead set against it but does it to placate her boss. She goes there and mistakenly runs over the town sign which sort of sets the mood for her meeting with the townspeople, who are very adorable and quirky. Through a series of events, she is kept stranded there, but of course, there is an attractive sheriff who also keeps her there for other reasons. 😊
Pop Culture Principle – You star in Welcome to Christmas with the talented Eric Mabius. Can you tell us what it was like working with him on set?
Jennifer Finnigan – Eric is very grounded in terms of his acting. He doesn’t have to do a lot in the sense that he is very charismatic, so it’s nice to play with someone who has years of experience behind him. He’s such a pro in terms of always knowing his lines and always knowing the direction of where he wants his character to go and the scene to go. It was such a joy to be on set and work with Eric.
Pop Culture Principle – Are you required to stick strictly to the script or are you allowed to play around and improvise with the script?
Jennifer Finnigan – Because I have been doing this for so long, my intention is always to “make it work”. When something does stick out to me as unnatural or doesn’t feel good and natural for me to say, I’ll always speak up and always try to come up with a different alternative.
I always make sure that before I start a project that the showrunners and writers are on board with that. I don’t want to mess too much with people’s words and dialogue. I know that writers are artists as well, so what they put on the page is what they want the actor to say and I am sensitive to that.
Sometimes things come to life more when there is wiggle room and you are able to adjust things to sound better for you specifically. Things can often be written in somewhat of a generic voice and my job as an actor is to come in and make it not generic and make it specific to me and my energy and my vibe and what I bring to the table. So, I like to play around a little bit, but always while respecting the general tone of the scene.
Pop Culture Principle – Would you agree that the town of Christmas is its own character in the movie?
Jennifer Finnigan – I agree, 100 percent. The town is its own character and I think that the town’s people bring it to life and it’s one of the reasons that she falls in love. It’s not just with the leading man, it’s with this town and everyone that lives in this town and its charm. So, the town of Christmas is definitely one of the key players.
Pop Culture Principle – What message, if any, would you like viewers to take away after watching Welcome to Christmas?
Jennifer Finnigan – Hmm, that’s a good question and a big question. I guess I would say have an open mind and an open heart because just when you think you have everything figured out, different circumstances can change. One small occurrence can change everything, so keep an open heart and mind.
Pop Culture Principle – Hallmark has such a vocal and passionate fanbase. Have you had any interaction with them on social media?
Jennifer Finnigan – You know, this is only my third Hallmark movie in about six years. My interaction with the Hallmark fans has been limited, but I have a feeling that is going to change with this project. I’ve been very present and vocal with the Salvation fans, who are called Salvies, and they really changed my level of interest in interacting on Twitter.
I never wanted to do that and up until now, I have been a very private person, but when I started working on Salvation, the enthusiasm and support and intelligence of those fans made it very alluring and I wanted to interact with the fans. I really thank the Salvies for bringing me out in a way and making me more active on Twitter with the fans. I am much more open now and it will be my pleasure to get on Twitter and interact with the Hallmark fans.
Pop Culture Principle – When did you find out that CBS had canceled Salvation?
Jennifer Finnigan – I found out about the cancellation a couple of days before the general public and to be honest, I am still grappling with that questionable decision. I’ve said this a few times and I really mean it, I’ve gone through two of the most important years of my life both being pregnant and having a baby while working on this show. Actually, Ian did the same and Santi wasn’t too far behind with a one-year-old. We were all learning about parenthood and raising families for the first time together.
We had a very tight-knit group and a very close relationship. The same with me and the showrunners Liz and Craig who are also parents to an amazing young woman and having them there and constantly supporting me was amazing.
Pop Culture Principle – What will you miss about playing Grace Barrows?
Jennifer Finnigan – Being on Salvation was an experience that I’ve never had before in the sense that every element worked. The showrunners, the cast, and the writing and I fell madly in love with my character. It pains me still thinking that I am never going to step into her shoes again. I already miss her. This is the first time in my twenty-year career that I am honestly devastated about a cancellation. The Salvies are on the ball and just incredible and you know what, you never know, but I am trying to come to terms with it and say goodbye in my own way, just in case.
Pop Culture Principle – In the series Tyrant, you had one of the most gut-wrenching scenes we’ve ever seen on the television screen. The scene where your daughter in the series is murdered and all your character can do is watch. Can you talk to us about shooting that very intense scene?
Jennifer Finnigan – At the time, I was not a parent, but I spoke to a lot of parents and I put myself in the darkest place imaginable for weeks and weeks because everything following that scene was very dark and difficult. We only did one take of that scene I think because the crew and director could not handle doing another one. A lot of the crew were very disturbed. The boom and the boom guy were shaking. I was shaking where I could barely move when they yelled cut. My co-star Adam had to pick me up after the scene was over.
Now that I have a daughter, I don’t think I could have done it at the time. I don’t think I could have gone to where I did because I would not have been able to come back. It’s one thing to imagine the most horrible scenario and speak to people who have been through it or speak to mothers about their relationships with their children and the thought of losing a child and the research that you do and the dark place you put yourself in and all of the tragedies that you’ve experienced in your life that you draw from in that moment. I think it’s another thing to have an actual daughter at home as I do now. Would I have been able to go to the depths that I did back then, I don’t know. Just out of protectiveness of her, I don’t think I would have wanted to.
Pop Culture Principle – We loved the short-lived TNT series Monday Mornings. Can you talk a bit about your time working on that series?
Jennifer Finnigan – You know what, Monday Mornings was oddly the only other show where I fell in love with the cast almost as much as Salvation. I adored the people I worked with and I was constantly in awe of the cast. I got to watch and work with incredible actors like Alfred Molina, Ving Rhames, Jamie Bamber, and Saraya Blue and they are all dear friends. That was just a beautiful and sadly way to short-lived experience. I did a lot of scenes with Jamie and I just adore him. He was just a true gentleman and a true professional and I think he just oozes charisma.
To be honest, that cancelation hurt as well. I think we all just assumed with the cast and with the people behind it, David E. Kelley and Sanjay Gupta, we just assumed that we would have a five-season run and the cancelation was a shocker.
We would like to thank Jennifer Finnigan for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us. You can catch her all-new Hallmark movie, Welccome to Christmas on Sunday, December 9th at 8/7c!
**Welcome to Christmas photos courtesy of ©2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Allister Foster**
**Salvation photos courtesy of Sergei Bachlakov/CBS**
**Tyrant photo courtesy of Vered Adir/FX**