Brittany Bristow On the Family Affair That Is Hallmark Channel’s "A Tail of Love"

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Cover image for  article: Brittany Bristow On the Family Affair That Is Hallmark Channel’s "A Tail of Love"

Hallmark Channel favorite Brittany Bristow returns to the network this weekend, starring opposite When Calls the Heart’s Chris McNally, in the heart-warming movie A Tail of Love. After providing so much family fare over the years with her Hallmark projects, Bristow was thrilled to have been a part of this project in particular -- which was a real-life family affair behind the scenes. “My parents had seen this project a long time ago as one they really wanted to get on board with and take under their wing and produce,” she explained during an exclusive chat with MediaVillage. “After a few years [they] wanted to rejig the story a little bit and had the idea that it would be really fun to all work together. So, my mom rewrote the script to make it really the story we all knew it was capable of being, and my dad was available to direct.

“I’d sort of reached 'leading lady status' if you will,” she continued. “And they were excited about the idea of working with me. It just all came together. Then we were so lucky that Chris McNally (pictured at top with Bristow) came on board. It was so much fun, and we had an absolute blast making it. My parents are so supportive, and they believed in my ability to [play] the role. The only thing that would have made it better was if my sister could have been a part of it, but she's a chemical physicist, so I don't really know what she would have done.”

In the film Bristow portrays Bella Channing, who with her grandmother Lily (Jayne Eastwood) runs a dog rescue and rehabilitation center that specializes in homing ex-police and military canines. But when the surrounding land is sold to a developer by the recently deceased owner's son JR (a soldier on leave to handle the sale), things look bleak for its future. Especially as Lily can’t find the title document proving her family purchased the land years before. As JR (McNally) joins the search for the document, he bonds with Indie, a retired military dog, and as the hunt continues, begins bonding with Bella, too.

Having the role of Bella (practically) written for her made the character a perfect fit. “My mom definitely tried to throw in a couple of little jokes she felt I could run with,” she laughed. “I felt close to Bella. I loved her as a character and feel very lucky I got to play her. She's very sure of who she is. She knows what she wants out of life. She’s very confident, incredibly caring, generous and selfless. She’s just [cautious] about being vulnerable.

“I’d like to think I'm a lot like Bella,” she added. “With so many roles there are small parts we can recognize in ourselves. I kind of looked up to [Bella] in a way. But the thing that was really interesting in playing her was how she's afraid of her own vulnerability. That's something I think everybody can relate to. At some point in our lives, we have to face our vulnerability head-on. But she does it with such openness and was so aware that she was afraid of her vulnerability and how it was holding her back. [Having] that self-awareness is incredible and getting to play somebody with those qualities was really inspiring in my own life.”

Bristow wasn’t sure if by naming McNally’s character JR, the movie was trying to shine new light on a name usually synonymous with Dallas bad-guy J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman). She was just happy McNally was by her side. “Chris is one of those people that brings so much authenticity to his roles and to the set every single day,” she said of her co-star. “He was so eager to do a good job. He's invested and knows exactly what he wants to do. He brought such life to the set every day, and it's incredible to work opposite that. He was the No. 1 pick for the role, so when he agreed to do it, everyone was so excited. We all thought he’d be so perfect. He was!”

Add to that a horde of pooches, including scene-stealer Moxie (as Indie), and the recipe for success is complete. “I'm such a dog lover that I wanted to take every single dog on that set home with me,” she said of her canine co-stars. “But they all have very loving owners. And Moxie (pictured below) … she's just so special. I loved her! She'd never been in a film, commercial, or anything. She's incredibly intelligent, and hands down could probably take my job. I actually think she took direction better than I did. I was in awe of her every single minute she was on set.”

With A Tail of Love being such a collaborative experience, Bristow feels spoiled. And with her parents behind some of the network’s biggest hits, she’s hoping to have the chance to do it all over again for Hallmark. “This one was special," she said. "I'm so grateful to be a part of the Hallmark family, and I don't take the fact I was welcomed so beautifully by them for granted.

“As an actor, it’s rare you feel completely supported,” she added in closing. “But here you are, supported by these wonderful people who go to work every day making family friendly [entertainment] where everyone can feel hopeful. Honestly, one of the greatest gifts of my life is being a part of the Hallmark family. I wouldn’t be where I am had they not welcomed me.”

A Tail of Lovewill be telecast Saturday, April 23 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel as part of the network’s Spring into Love programming event.

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