Actress Jessy Schram, a fixture of the Hallmark family, returns to Hallmark Movie & Mysteries this weekend in the long-awaited Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas, co-starring Brendan Penny. The film is the fourth in the series inspired by the Blake Shelton song "Time for Me to Come Home" and the book by Dorothy Shackleford and Travis Thrasher. (Shelton is an executive producer of the movie.) A year ago, Schram found herself working with country music royalty (Wynonna Judd, Sarah Evans and Kix Brown) in the fantasy holiday-themed A Nashville Christmas Carol, so when I asked if the former Nashville star now only does Christmas movies associated with a country music pedigree, she laughed. "You know, I feel like I should put it in my contract," she said during an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "I don't know where along the way they got that idea, maybe from my soul somehow, and I wanted to. But it's working out well. I guess (playing Cash Gray in) Nashville helped, so some seeds must have been planted along the way, like, 'She's comfortable with Nashville, let's give her all the country,' which I'm fine with!"
In addition to being the fourth film in the franchise, Time for Them to Come Home marks Schram's fourth Hallmark holiday project and her 19th in total. "Yeah, everybody asks how many Christmas movies I've done," she reflected. "I always forget that Hallmark doesn't just do Christmas. I've done a lot of harvest season movies. I realized, again, another country setting. Then with the Jane Doe (2005-08) mystery series, they all add up."
What hit home with this project for Schram was that as a woman suffering from amnesia (following an accident; the only clue to her past life is a cryptic invitation to a tree trimming event), her character is known only as Jane Doe. Schram explained why of all the holiday themed projects on offer this year, this one leaped off the page. "I feel like Christmas is always special," she shared. "When I look at the scripts that are coming in, my first thing is, 'What's different about this one to the others I've done.' It needs to have elements that are different, exciting and wrap me into it. One of the things I loved about this, because it's not real life, is that in my character has amnesia. So, a lot of the interesting parts of my character were having to put myself in a position of not remembering.
"What would be the feelings of confusion?" she mused. "Where does guilt come in? When you don't have memory, who are you? And when you get it back, are those elements still a part of who you were before and didn't have your memory? For me, this was fun because as the character goes along, you think you know what's happening, but in reality there's the mystery of [my character is]. And is that [a life] I want to go back to or pictured for myself? There are a lot of little nuggets throughout this that weren't just the typical, 'Oh, I remember who I am, and life is amazing.' It's more, 'Oh, [if] I remember who I am, what's the process of coming back into this life?'"
Without any memories, Jane Doe accepts the invitation of Paul, a benevolent nurse (Perry), who offers to help in her quest for self-discovery, taking the stranger on a road trip home. As fragments of her past flourish, she's left wondering if the chance of a clean slate is a blessing in disguise? "That was one of the things, as an actress, and a human being, I looked [into] while doing this," she reflected. "A lot of it is, 'If you don't have your memory, what are you missing? So, for a lot of it, I feel like there was more frustration on my part of not knowing. Then looking around during the holidays and seeing people's families, and is that something you might have, or that you should have, and longed for? But what's interesting is this can't be a feeling that you already know because you don't have memory or attachment to it.
"That was one of the fun traits about this character," she added. "She doesn't have things holding her back that normally would. So, while the clean slate is amazing, wanting to know your story is important. What's also interesting is my amazing co-lead has all the backstory. I got to work on being in the present moment and creating a story that we don't know yet for myself, which was challenging and fun. Brendan carries a lot of the heart of this movie as well, so it was a partnership, which is also something that drew me to the script."
Schram revealed she didn't watch the previous movies, only because she didn't want anything to skew what she was doing. So, when a few Easter egg nods to the past films appeared, she was in the dark. "Those did have to be pointed out to me," she recalled. "The only thing consistently used from the other films was the song. Yet it's the first time that we're using Blake Shelton's version. I was listening to that throughout the movie, knowing that it was one of the things that tied all of this together.
"The thing I love about holiday films is they [fill] a certain place in someone's heart that they're looking for at that moment in time," she added in closing. "I love being a part of that, and the excitement or the feeling that people get. That's why I'm drawn to Christmas and the holidays … I want to be a part of what makes you feel good."
Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas will be telecast Saturday, November 27 at 10 p.m. on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries as part of their annual Miracles of Christmas programming event.
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