Hallmark Stars Barbara Niven and John Kapelos Hit the Stage in Los Angeles

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
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Hallmark Channel favorite Barbara Niven is spending her lead-up to the holiday season this year doing something a little different – acting in a play.  Niven will star alongside John Kapelos, her co-star in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film Crossword Mysteries: Abracadaver, in the world premiere of The Last Word, running at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Los Angeles November 7-17.  For the Chesapeake Shores star, like most magical experiences in her life, she has Hallmark to thank for the opportunity.  “I was so lucky that the writer Jan Miller Coran actually had me in mind when she wrote it,” Niven explained during an exclusive chat with MediaVillage.  “Originally it was pitched to me as a Hallmark movie for me to present to them but, unfortunately, it wasn't quite the right formula.  After reading it I told her I loved the story, but it read like a play.  I suggested she do it that way and two days later she delivered it.  I read through it and I cried, I laughed, and I said, ‘I have to do this.’”

Niven plays a ghost haunted by not having closure in life who must attain it before being able to move on.  As a staunch fan of the play Blithe Spirit, one she’s longed to tackle, The Last Word came at the perfect time.  “Doing a play when you're an actor is a luxury,” she said.  “I'm a working actor and doing theater is a love for actors, only it doesn't pay the bills.  Plus, I've been traveling so much.  Thank goodness for Hallmark because they've given me the luxury that I could choose to stay at home and do a play.

“I've always thought things come into our lives for a reason,” she continued.  “My mother's birthday was November 4, we open on November 7, and the play is about losing a loved one and what if [the deceased] had a second chance to return and tell the truth?  To move past all the secrets and things you may not have talked about, resolve them and finally be at peace.  Looking back at things, all those moments are just one page of our entire story and that intrigued me.  This is a love story.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, it's comedic, the other actors are fantastic, and the script contains some beautiful things.”

For Niven, getting to tread the boards with a fellow Hallmark star only sweetened the experience.  “It's great having John Kapelos on board,” she said.  “We got to work closely on the last Crossword Mysteries movie and even got to dance!  We had great chemistry and I thought this guy had the chops to do this play.  For a woman to be this emotionally available and vulnerable on stage, that's something.  So, to find a great actor who can do the same is hard to find.  With John, it's like our souls are working together and because we’re genuinely moved by the subject, I'm sure the audience will be, as well.  I suggested him for the part.  I texted him and said, ‘You're my first choice, so please read it.’  He did and I'm so thrilled he agreed to do it as he's such a powerhouse actor.

“The stage is a very different medium, and the immediacy of having an audience there is an amazing energy,” she added.  “John’s done a lot of theater but frankly, I haven't done it for so long because I raised my daughter as a single mom while acting.  Putting her through college, I couldn’t afford to do theater, except every once in a while.  So, this is a luxury.  This timing was perfect and it's one of the best characters I've been fortunate enough to play.  I have to say, I just love this whole process, and going to the theater every day has just been fun.”

Niven is currently waiting to hear if Chesapeake Shoreswill be renewed for a fifth season.  “We find out about that in January, as the announcement is usually made at the winter TCA tour,” she said.  Meanwhile, she’s delighted that the third of her Christmas in Evergreen movies, Tidings of Joy, will be telecast Friday, November 29.  “I think this is the best one,” she declared.  “Everyone involved got goosebumps this time.  My character, Carol, is explored a lot more and without giving anything away, she finds a message her parents left her.  While filming it I really felt my parents' presence.  Many of the original cast came back and all these actors are just such good people.  Hallmark has really made us all family.  These are people you want in your life.”  (Pictured above, left to right: Holly Robinson Peete, Paul Greene, Maggie Lawson, Rukiya Bernard and Niven.)

She’s also thrilled that many Hallmarkies will be attending the play. “So many of my friends, I don’t like calling them fans, are coming from #FOBN (Fans of Barbara Niven), a wonderful Facebook group.  Looking at my career beyond acting, I’ve always thought my purpose was to bring people together and help make a difference.  #FOBN is that.  They are the nicest people and I’m proud to consider them friends.  Many are flying in for the play.  Some are even coming to all the first week performances!  I’ll be going to dinner with them and will be able to thank them for all their support over the years.”

Christmas in Evergreen:Tidings of Joy, will be telecast Friday, November 29 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel.  The Last Word runs November 7-17 at the Garry Marshall Theatre in Los Angeles.

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