Alison Sweeney Returns to Hallmark in "Carrot Cake Murder," the Seventh "Hannah Swensen Mystery"

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: Alison Sweeney Returns to Hallmark in "Carrot Cake Murder," the Seventh "Hannah Swensen Mystery"

It's been a little while since fans of Hannah Swensen have bitten into one of her delicious mysteries, but this week Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is serving up a new adventure with Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. The gang is back, as Hannah tries to uncover how the body of Jerry McDowell ended up in a disused elevator shaft back in 1995. Reprising the role of Hannah for this seventh installment is Alison Sweeney, who feels that slipping into the character is like putting on a favorite sweater. "It is a bit like that," she fondly reflected in an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "It's different from playing Sami when I was doing it every single day on Days of Our Lives. You never have that part where she goes away into the closet as you sort of [always] live with it.

"That's the interesting difference," she continued. "There's a challenge, but a familiarity in that once a year, if you're lucky, you get to pull [Hannah] out and sort of dust her off and go, 'Wait, how did this work again?' Luckily, we have such talented writers that when I get the script, I can hear Barbara Niven's voice and every line in my head. I know how she's going to play it, feel her energy in it, and that brings me to life. I totally feel connected to [Hannah] that way, so that's the stuff that really helps me get into the character again and up to speed."

Reuniting with her co-conspirators in the mysteries, Barbara Niven (who plays Hannah's mom Delores) and General Hospital star Cameron Mathison (Hannah's fiancé Detective Mike Kingston), is something Sweeney always looks forward to. "They're just so funny," she said. "Cameron (pictured at top with Sweeney) and Barbara (pictured below left) are hilarious, and we do miss each other. Having done so many movies together, it is fun looking back at those 'remember that time' moments. They're like, 'This isn't the first time we've climbed in a dumpster.' You have this shorthand with each other and a familiarity that helps you get into character. Cameron and I have such a great working relationship, and good chemistry and a good vibe. He's genuinely the nicest person in television, so he makes it easy to come to work every day."

Given the speed at which they shoot these movies and working behind the scenes as an executive producer on the franchise, Sweeney is thankful all the leads have invaluable training gained working in daytime television. "[Daytime] is a very unique way to work," she explained. "First of all, there's a professionalism and a speed we all bring from daytime that we do without really thinking it through. You just expect it from each other. We come to it with a good work ethic and that mindset. You're always ready. Always on time. Always know your lines. Always hit your mark and do what the crew needs you to. I have to tell you, it's a relief, and a luxury, to work with people with that attitude.

"Even though Cameron and I didn't work on the same soap we have that shorthand," she continued. "We know the same people, and it's always interesting to hear how they did [things] on All My Children and in New York. Its fun hearing those stories, and we share such a similar career path, and the same friend group. It does feel like we went to the same high school, but were in different crowds, and that's funny."

While Sweeney still relishes her executive producer role, she's usually juggling a few balls. "It's maybe a double-edged sword," she shared. "I love being involved in all the detail as no detail is too small. I love the nitty gritty and having peace of mind. With projects I'm not executive producing, the part that kills me is when a mistake happens that's missed. Like a line that doesn't connect a scene, or the reason we have this [thing] is because its needed for that other scene later. Murder mysteries are tricky because they have a lot of moving parts. Believe me, I've thought everything through, and we've discussed it at length. Also, having the actors be comfortable knowing they can ask me any question. If they don't like something, I'll tell them, 'If you really don't like it, here's option B.'"

Her passion for true crime isn't the only thing Sweeney shares with Hannah. Her tenacity feels very familiar. "I'm definitely someone who doesn't like to give up," she said. "I'll keep plugging away at something and I think Hannah does, too. Maybe it's the baking in her. She's willing to wake up early, stay up late, and enjoys the precision and meticulousness of baking. She's willing to do the detailed work she needs to get the job done -- like me."

Carrot Cake Murder also sees Hannah in the midst of planning her wedding to Mike -- just don't expect her to be baking a wedding cake in this one. "I want to encourage the fans to remember there are thirty books in Joanne Fluke's series," she laughed. "I don't think there's any end in sight. We all feel we've been given such a gift by Joanne to share these characters she created. In her mind, there's a roller coaster of Hannah's love life that certainly plays out throughout these books, so we're asking everyone to ride that roller coaster and tune in. You never know… We are the keepers of Joanne's vision and I do my best to be very respectful of that."

Fans will be excited to hear they won't have to wait too long for the next chapter. Hallmark Media has already greenlit the eighth movie in the series, and Sweeney is just as excited to see where Hannah goes next, admitting in closing, "All I can say is I think the fans will be very happy with what's in store."

Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mysteryis telecast Friday, May 19, 9 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

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