Alison Sweeney returns to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries this coming Sunday with a new entry in her wildly successful Murder She Baked movie series. In Murder She Baked: Just Desserts her character, Hannah Swensen, finds herself part of her first-ever televised bake-off competition. When the judges start falling faster than failed soufflés, Swensen realizes that as lead judge in the competition, she could very well find herself the icing on the murderer’s cake.
Starting work on a new Murder movie is usually a joy for Sweeney (pictured at top), she recently told me, as she loves re-teaming with Cameron Mathison as her detective beau Mike and the delightful Barbara Niven as her mother Delores. But this time a new “ingredient” in the recipe for the production proved unwanted and troublesome before they had filmed even a single scene.
When I caught up with Sweeney prior to production starting, she was nursing a brace on her leg -- and let’s just say she wasn’t overly thrilled about it accompanying her on set. “I tore my ACL while skiing this winter,” she explained. “It's fine and I'll be fine. It’s just a big headache.”
Unsure how this setback might affect production, the actress quickly donned her executive producer cap, called together the movie’s creative team and with some last minute rewrites made lemonade out of a potentially big lemon. “[The injury] now actually serves the story,” she smiled. “So I wasn't too upset about it and am thankful that it all worked out great for the movie!”
The always upbeat and active Sweeney tried not to dwell on the setback too much, preferring to embrace the silver lining. “It's been a good learning lesson,” she admitted. “I feel like I've become a more patient person and now have a nice understanding and appreciation for my body.
“The takeaway that's good is it has been great for my kids,” she continued. “They’re learning to do things for themselves, getting a little more responsibility and are helping me out. In a weird way it has been a really great thing for me in that my kids are doing a lot and always asking, ‘Do you need any help?’ It's actually been pretty remarkable in that respect.”
Injury aside, Sweeney was looking forward to this fifth installment of the Murder She Baked series. “The big No. 5!” she beamed when talk turned to the project. “It's going to be super cute. I think we’re going to be able to sort of elevate the franchise to a new level; make the story really fun and deliver what you expect from Hannah, but it may also be a little more dangerous and mysterious. Hannah is always out there looking for trouble and it seems to find her. I love this franchise because they're just really good mysteries and we tend to focus on just telling a good story.”
Sweeney has been happy to call Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies and Mysteries home for a number of years now. In addition to her work on the Murder She Baked movies, her production company has a development deal that includes pitching product to the networks. “I have a Christmas movie in the works with them,” she told me. “It might just be a single movie though, and not a franchise.
“As a part of that deal I can develop scripts myself,” she added. “I do have a writer that I work with and a team of people around me to come up with content. I develop them into scripts to shop to Hallmark and other sources, so that has been great. I'm really excited about this next big step in my career."
Sweeney was quick to praise the Hallmark team. “They’re just amazing to work for, and with, and I'm always proud to be a part of the Hallmark family," she said. "They’re all wonderful, caring, thoughtful people who care about me as a person as well as my family. It’s exciting, challenging and invigorating to go sit at a table and talk about what we want to do next.
“I can't tell you how many people I meet every week that talk about how Hallmark is the one channel they can count on to have movies they know they're going to like and can watch as a family,” Sweeney concluded. “It's a nice break from a lot of stuff that is on TV right now.”
Murder She Baked: Just Desserts premieres Sunday March 26 at 9 p.m. on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.
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