Category: Kate O’Hare

‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground': Martha Williamson on Faith, Love and a Touch of the Blues

Martha-Williamson-Signed-Sealed-Delivered-1On Feb. 2, “Touched by an Angel” creator Martha Williamson sat down for a talk at Bel-Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles, as part of its faith-based Beacon Hollywood ministry.

Williamson is currently known for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” a series of movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which premieres a new installment, “Higher Ground,” on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 9 p.m. ET.

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The series focuses on the “POstables,” a team based in the Denver, Colorado, office of the U.S. Postal Service, which attempts to deliver mail lost in transit and left undelivered. It’s up to the POstables to make sure the “dead letters” are, as Williamson says, “delivered late, but right on time.”

Here’s what’s happening in “Higher Ground,” from the official Website:

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans handyman and blues singer-songwriter Gabe Recolte was left homeless before he had the chance to express his love for club owner Hattie. Oliver and his team retrieve Gabe’s love letter years later and face challenges in solving the mystery. Stars Keb ‘Mo, Eric Mabius, Kristin Booth, Crystal Lowe and Geoff Gustafson.

While the stories of the POstables continue through each movie, “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” also lets Williamson tell a story about new characters in each Martha-Williamson-Signed-Sealed-Delivered-2installment — as she did with “Touched by an Angel” — with faith themes threaded through.

We’ll deal with “Touched” in another post, but here are some selections from what Williams had to say about her new project.

On the tentative romance between head POstable Oliver O’Toole (Eric Mabius) and postal detective Shane McInerney (Kristin Booth):

I wanted to explore a man who’s a Christian, whose life was messed up. So, he’s married, and his wife has left him and taken off to Paris. He’s finally worked through that, and what it meant to be a man of honor and not take up with this other woman, even though he hadn’t even seen his wife for almost three years. But he wanted to do the right thing until he was released to do something else, and he was really was struggling.

He’s basically in love but hasn’t said it yet to Shane.

She is a 21st-Century technology woman, and he is a 20th-Century, basically a Luddite, who doesn’t even own a cellphone. The two of them should not be together whatsoever, but that’s not how God works, and so they’ve been going back and forth.

She’s not a believer and he is, so to pitch that to Hallmark without them thinking it it’s going to be a Christian show, was a real tap dance. But I said, “Just trust me, and as we develop these characters you’re going to want to see what happens, and you’re going to want to see his level of faith.”

On how Hallmark responded:

Michelle Vicary, the senior executive vice president [at Hallmark], said, “I’m not afraid of God,” which I thought was a very powerful thing to hear at a network.

They’ve been very supportive and I think the challenge for this that they are human. They are walking in faith, and they are at different points at faith. And they actually are responsible for maintaining other people’s faith. It’s a tremendous act of faith.

How fan response planted a seed for “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”:

I found some letters that had been written to me that I never read. Fan letters. I was reminded of how people’s lives had been changed. …

I’ll never forget this one little boy in an airport once he said, “My mommy and my sister and me, we watch [‘Touched by an Angel’] all the time. My daddy watches it too, but he watches it in the den because he cries.”

And I thought that was just adorable because it said so much, that this poor man, you know, was wanting to feel things but he didn’t want to appear weak, apparently. So I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to have somebody like Oliver, a guy who’s really weak in so many ways but strong in his faith and that’s what keeps him going, and he’s a kind person?”

There’s this amazing web of fans for this crazy little show. They just deconstruct every single line. They see the Biblical references in it, even though it’s not there. … What they love is there’s this really sexy guy who struggles. He has fallen and gotten himself back up. He made bad decisions but he can still be a man of faith, and he’s a gentleman. He opens the door not because you’re a woman, he opens the door because you’re a human.

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On the mature love story in “Higher Ground”:

Keb ‘Mo is one of the most remarkable blues artists in the country. Back, a few months ago performed in the White House for President and Mrs. Obamam and he performed with James Taylor and Eric Clapton. I mean, he’s an incredible musician and he’s an old friend.

One more thing you should always do is never be afraid to reach out to somebody you admire and tell them that you admire them and say thank you. Which is exactly what I did with Keb ‘Mo, and we ended up begin friends, and now he’s on our show. Hallmark is not known for its diversity, and so it took three years to get this romantic couple on the screen, and I’m very happy about that.

And also, we know this, they ain’t young. They’re older folks. Who can fall in love too.

On the romances you’ll see — including Oliver and Shane — and the future:

I didn’t know if “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” was going to be picked up for three more movies, so I wrote this with the intention that, if this is the last show that we ever see in this series of movies, we will resolve some things.

The two couples that you see will come together in ways that the audience has been waiting for for a long time. I’m very happy about that, but most importantly, we finally see Shane realize, step up and become something of a believer, I would say.

She acknowledges that God has been working in her life. That’s huge. So, all the little tiny pieces were pulled together, and happily, we were picked up for three more movies for 2017, so I’m going to be busy for a while.

Here’s a sneak peek at “Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Higher Ground” …

Images: Courtesy Hallmark Channel

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

 

 

Chris Brancato: The ‘Narcos’ and ‘Of Kings and Prophets’ Writer/Producer Shares Showbiz Wisdom

Chris-Brancato-NarcosDuring my years as an entertainment journalist covering television, I got to meet a lot of great people. One of them was Chris Brancato, a writer/producer I first interviewed when he was working on a Syfy (then Sci-Fi) Channel drama called “First Wave.”

Luckily for me — and especially for Chris — his career trajectory continued upward. He’s written and produced for such shows as NBC’s “Boomtown” and “Hannibal,” Netflix’s “Narcos” (which he co-created) and ABC’s Biblical drama “Of Kings and Prophets” (click here for a story about that).

Last November, he accepted an invitation to come and speak at Family Theater Productions’ monthly Prayer and Pasta event, discussing the challenge of keeping the core of your project alive during the pitching and production process.

But, the week before that, I headed to his offices on the Walt Disney lot to capture some of his wisdom on camera. The result is this trio of videos, which are a tidy little masterclass for anybody interested in making TV series, from someone who’s been there.

Enjoy!

Image: Family Theater Productions

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘The Crown': Bishop Barron Weighs in on the Netflix Royal Drama (Plus JFK Casting!)

The-Crown-FFBDon’t know about you, but with wild weather all over the country, if there ever was a weekend meant for relaxing indoors, this might be it. For Catholic families, it might be worth putting “The Crown” on the menu (along with some tea and scones, if you like).

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer:

The sumptuous drama premiered in its entirety on Netflix back in November, but Los Angeles’ own Bishop Robert Barron had his say about it just last week.

He emphasizes how “The Crown” demonstrates the willingness of the young Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) — as a God-anointed monarch, rather than an elected leader — to subsume her own wishes to the demands of her position. Consistently, she puts duty to crown and God over self, remaining bound more to traditional values than the vicissitudes of society.

Here’s his commentary:

Bishop Barron’s thoughts echo some of what was said about “The Crown” in a recent commentary at the Catholic magazine Crisis. Here’s an excerpt:

The monarchy may not be politically powerful anymore, but the crown is still heavy, both literally and figuratively. Nearly every historical drama makes something of the struggle between tradition and changing times, but most cheer for progress, with the result being a triumphalist vindication of modern-day mores. The Crown can’t easily follow that path because of, well, the crown. If society’s primary goal is to throw off the benighted ways of our forbears, kings and queens will be the first thing to go. In discerning a meaningful role for the monarch, one must also find a meaningful role for tradition, and this is a major theme of the show. The young Queen Elizabeth must negotiate a blitz of conflicting demands that are placed on her, most of which are rooted in one way or another in the soil of tradition. As queen, she knows that she has particular obligations to tradition, so she is uniquely entrusted with sifting through the relevant questions.

“The Crown” is not perfectly historically accurate, but it’s not bad. It’s visually stunning (and apparently had a hefty price tag), but unlike many historical dramas, it doesn’t rely on titillation and scandal. This is true to life. Whereas Queen Elizabeth II’s sister and children have had their personal peccadilloes plastered all over tabloids in the U.K. and around the world, the queen herself has remained a model of rectitude and self-possession.

As head of the Anglican Communion, she also hasn’t been shy about speaking on faith. Here’s her most recent Christmas greeting. The beginning is more secular, but at about the 4:20 mark, she begins talking about Christ. The queen even echoes Saint Therese of Lisieux, in talking about “doing small things with great love.”

As far as family viewing goes, “The Crown” isn’t without flaws. There are a couple of scenes of the backside of Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”) who plays Prince Philip, and some brief female nudity during scenes in Africa. There’s blasphemy and profanity scattered here and there (the series is rated MA for two stronger uses of profanity).

But overall, with some caution — and a recommendation for parents to watch WITH their kids —  “The Crown” is suitable for mature middle-school students and high-school students.

As a Catholic American of Irish and French extraction, I have no particular love for the British monarchy. But, in a self-indulgent world obsessed with tossing aside tradition in search of the next hot trend, Queen Elizabeth II stands as an example of someone who’s devoted her entire life to a duty she neither sought nor actively chose.

And she’s done it well.

By the way, there will be a second season of “The Crown,” which begins in the 1960s with a storyline involving war in Egypt and the downfall of the queen’s third prime minister. “Dexter” star Micahel C. Hall has been cast as Catholic U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Jodi Balfour as his wife, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Image: Courtesy Netflix

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

 

Movieguide’s Faith and Values Awards Gala: An Awards Show You Can Get Behind

movieguide-faith-values-award-reelz-benhur-hacksaw-ridge-risen-andrew-garfield-joseph-fiennesOn Feb. 10, Christian media group Movieguide offers the 25th Annual Faith and Values Awards Gala, an awards show that might be upbeat and positive — and about showbiz instead of politics.

What a concept, eh?

Terry Crews is host, overseeing a slate of nominations that includes Epiphany Awards for a TV show and a movie that “greatly increased man’s love or understanding for God,” according to the press release.

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The movie nominees are (in alphabetical order):

  • “Ben-Hur (2016)”
  • “God’s Not Dead 2″
  • “Hacksaw Ridge”
  • “Hail, Caesar!”
  • “Miracles From Heaven”
  • “Risen”
  • “Silence”
  • “The Young Messiah”

And the TV nominees:

  • “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”: Season 3, Episodes 20-22, “Emancipation,” “Absolution,” “Ascension” (ABC)
  • “The Bridge Part 2″ (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)
  • “Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love” (NBC)
  • “Operation Christmas” (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)
  • “The Passion: New Orleans” (Fox)
  • “Pocahontas: Dove of Peace” (CBN)
  • “A Time to Dance” (Hallmark Movies and Mysteries)

Also, the Grace Awards honor an actor from one movie and one TV program for offering, as the release says, the “most inspiring performances in movies and television demonstrating God’s grace and love toward us as human beings.”

For movies:

  • Roderigo Santoro (“Ben-Hur (2016)”)
  • David A.R. White (“God’s Not Dead 2″)
  • Melissa Joan Hart (“God’s Not Dead 2″)
  • Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”)
  • Josh Brolin (“Hail, Caesar!”)
  • Robert Pike Daniel (“Hail, Caesar!”)
  • Jennifer Garner (“Miracles From Heaven”)
  • Kylie Rogers (“Miracles From Heaven”)
  • Cliff Curtis (“Risen”)
  • Joseph Fiennes (“Risen”)
  • Adam Greaves-Neal (“The Young Messiah”)

And TV:

  • Natalia Cordova-Buckley (“Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”)
  • Faith Ford (“The Bridge Part 2″)
  • Ted McGinley (“The Bridge Part 2″)
  • Alyvia Alyn Lind (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Gerald McRaney (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Dolly Parton (“Dolly Parton’s Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love”)
  • Tyler Perry (“The Passion: New Orleans”)
  • Devielle Johnson (“A Time to Dance”)

Here’s a look at what else is on the agenda:

For 32 years, Movieguide and Companion Christian Film and Television Commission have been “redeeming the values of the entertainment industry by influencing industry executives and by informing and equipping the public about the influence of the entertainment media.”

The honors will be telecast on Easter Sunday, April 16, on the REELZ cable channel.

Images: Courtesy Paramount/MGM; Lionsgate; Sony/Affirm; Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘Faith in Media': Honoring Don Bosco With Patrick Coffin and Joseph Nesta on Media Evangelization

Don-Bosco-Joseph-Nesta-Patrick-Coffin-ffbJan. 31 is the feast day of Giovanni Melchiorre Bosco, also known as Saint John Bosco, also known as Don Bosco, an Italian priest, educator and writer during the 19th century.

He was famous for educating street children and troubled youth in Turin, Italy — and he’s the patron of apprentices, schoolchildren and youth — but because of his love of learning, he’s also the patron of editors and publishers.

If Don Bosco were alive today, like modern editors and publishers, he’d certainly be on the Internet, and maybe radio and television as well.

As part of our ongoing “Faith in Media” interview series, here are a couple more media pros, continuing the conversation (started in this post, with speaker and evangelist Father Tony Ricard, and “media nun” Sister Nancy Usselmann of the Daughters of Saint Paul) about using modern media to evangelize.

First up is Joseph Nesta, the senior community relations officer for Catholic radio network Immaculate Heart Radio. Among his topics is the ongoing relevance of one of the older mass-media technologies, radio, and how it impacts people even today.

Then we have Patrick Coffin. He’s a cradle Catholic, an author, speaker and radio host — for many years, he was the host of “Catholic Answers Live” — and now has embarked on a solo venture at www.PatrickCoffinmedia, featuring news and a podcast. He emphasizes that everyone can have an impact, even if they’re just doing it as an individual.

More from these media pros in a later post!

Images: Courtesy Family Theater Productions, Wikimedia Commons

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘Faith in Media': Father Tony Ricard and Sister Nancy Usselmann Talk Media Evangelization

Faith-in-Media-Evangelizaton-Father-Tony-Ricard-Sister-Nancy-UsselmannIn the next two installments from our “Faith in Media” series, we look at using modern media to evangelize. While some Catholics shy away from mass media and popular culture, if you plan to reach people where they are, you’re doing it wrong.

As the Apostles used the Roman roads and all the available tools in their day to get the Word out, it’s incumbent on us to figure out not only how to use media to spread the Gospel, but to unearth all the places in existing media where a seed of faith can be found.

First up is Father Tony Ricard of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a dynamic speaker and media evangelist, or, as his Twitter account describes him, “A gifted teacher and anointed preacher.” In particular, he talks about what St. Paul might be saying if he were around today, which is “get a camera, and I need wi-fi” …

Next is Sister Nancy Usselmann of the Daughters of Saint Paul, the new national director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies. She seeks to develop a theology of popular culture and “becoming cultural mystics,” inspired by Bishop Robert Barron, and encompassing everything from movies to songs by Eminem and Yelawolf …

More to come!

Images: Courtesy Fr. R. Tony Ricard; Sister Nancy Usselmann

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.