Why Andie MacDowell Is a ‘Great Fit’ for Hallmark’s ‘Cedar Cove’

Andie MacDowell in "Cedar Cove" (Hallmark Channel)

Andie MacDowell, who most recently played a “The Devil Wears Prada”-type character in ABC Family’s “Jane By Design,” returns to TV as another take-charge woman, Judge Olivia Lockhart, in the new Hallmark Channel series “Cedar Cove.”

Based on the 16 best-selling books by author Debbie Macomber, “Cedar Cove” will follow the lives of the denizens of the small town of Cedar Cove, but be focused on Olivia, who has to decide whether or not to follow her dream and take a federal judgeship, which would require her to move to the big city. If she does, she will leave her friends and family behind, as well as Jack Griffith (Dylan Neal), a new romantic interest in her life, who also happens to be the editor of the Cedar Cove Chronicle.

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The series, which also stars Teryl Rothery (Grace), Bruce Boxleitner (Bob Beldon), Barbara Niven (Peggy Beldon), Brennan Elliot (Warren), Paula Shaw (Charlotte) and Sarah Smyth (Justine), will debut on Saturday, July 20 with a two-hour premiere before returning to a weekly -one-hour drama format.

In an exclusive interview with Macomber, XfinityTV.com spoke to the New York Times best-selling author about her feelings on transitioning her characters to the small screen, how close MacDowell is to her vision of Olivia, what it was like to visit the set and what she hopes won’t be changed for the series.

Watch the First 10 Minutes of “Cedar Cove” Here:

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What was the inspiration for Cedar Cove?
Other than my house payment? (Laughs) Actually it was my readers. I had done a number of series through the years, limited series, six books here, six books there, three books here, three books there, and every day the mail would come in with somebody wanting to know what had happened to a certain character. Would I be writing another story? I thought, “Just get smart here, and listen to what the readers are telling you, that they don’t want to let go of the characters. So, this is the first series I’ve ever written in which I did not have every book plotted out in advance. This was a real learning experience for me.

When you write the characters for your books, do you ever see actors in your head?
Well, I don’t see actors in my head. I know there are lots of writers that think that way and even will cut out pictures, put them up, and use them. I don’t. I just see the character and I don’t even really see their faces. I just see their personalities.

How close is Andie to Olivia?
Andie is a great fit. She isn’t like what I had envisioned Olivia to look like, because in my mind Olivia had short hair, but personality-wise, she portrays her beautifully, because she really gets the heart of Olivia. That’s the test of a really fine actor. She is able to slip into that character so perfectly is like fitting a hand in a glove.

Having met several members of the cast now, does it change how you think about them? Do any of them remind you of your characters?
It does. In fact I have written whole books without describing people, because, first of all, description is my weakest drawback as an author, and second, it isn’t important to me. My editors all come back, and one time I wrote a whole book without once describing any characters, so they came back and said, “Could you give them maybe blue eyes or something?” So, the physical it’s true, they may not match up, but they do personality wise.

I just spent the weekend with the two actors that play the roles of Seth (Greyston Holt) and Justine, and we were talking about the character. They didn’t once ask me if they looked physically like the character. What they wanted to know from me was what background. What can you tell us more about these characters so that we can better portray them? That’s the important thing.

Go Behind the Scenes of “Cedar Cove”:

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So do you have backstory to give them?
Yes, oh yes. Because the scripts are limited, and the focus is limited, they can’t go into the depths that an author does. They were just astonished to know that Seth had been Justine’s brother Jordan’s best friend. She always blamed Seth because Jordan died when they were 13. She’s convinced her brother would have lived if Seth had been there that day.. He wouldn’t have drowned.

That’s a big if.
Of course, and totally, totally, it’s wrong. There’s no way that she would ever know, but still she harbors that. That was what had kept them apart. He’s been in love with her from the time he was a teenager when they were in high school.

Other than visiting the set, which is where I assume you spent the time with them, have you been involved in the series at all? Have they asked your opinion on anything?
Oh, yes. I’ve been asked to be very involved in it. I’ve been up to the set now three times. I’ve read all of the scripts and had input into that. They’ve actually changed some of the things per my suggestion.

So is it hard to watch someone take your idea and change it to make it work for television or can you stand back and say, “Okay, they have to do these things?”
It hasn’t been hard mainly because the check always clears the bank.

(Laughing) There’s that mortgage again.

The other thing is, I have worked so closely and I have such a deep trust with Dan Wigutow Productions. They’ve been phenomenal to work with. I’ve done four movies with them, so I know them. Best of all, they know my heart, and they’ve just stayed very close to the characters. Now there are, and there would have to be, scenes that they created, and storylines that are not part of my series. In the very first episode Warren Saget wants to tear down the lighthouse. Well, I didn’t have that in my book, but doggone it that was a great idea I wish I had thought of it. So they’re staying very true to the spirit of Cedar Cove.

Is there one thing you hope they won’t change?
Yes. Bobby Polgar. I love Bobby Polgar. He is a chess champion. I named him after Bobby Fischer and the Polgar sisters, so he’s this phenomenal chess player who falls in love with a hairdresser. He’s always been a thinking person. He always thinks about chess, and when he falls in love, for the first in his life he feels emotion. He’s such a wonderful character. I’m just so crazy about him, so I hope they don’t change him. I don’t think they will because they know how I feel about Bobby.

Do you have a favorite moment from the premiere?
Oh, there is the scene at the cemetery where Cecelia (Katherine Isabelle) goes to put flowers on her little girl’s grave, and she finds a teddy bear, and it says “Daddy’s girl.” Oh, it’s just so moving.

What has it been like on the set?
I’ve had two really beautiful moments on the set. One was from Andie herself. I was up there the week they found the girls that had been held captive in Ohio for ten years. And she said, “I go back to my apartment, I turn on the news, and it’s so bleak and dark. Then, I come to work and I feel light.” She’s so enjoying this role and it shows. So that was a real blessing.

Then one of the crew, who was carting around cords and cameras and things, he stopped me, and he said, “I understand you’re the author.” I said, “Yes. This is very exciting for me.” He looked me in the eye and he said, “Thank you. Because of you I have a job.” I teared up actually.

“Cedar Cove” premieres Saturday, July 20 at 8/7c on the Hallmark Channel.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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