What if you’re about to walk away from the very place you’re meant to call home? The place where love may find you?
UPtv presents the third installment in its Love Finds You In movie franchise with Love Finds You in Valentine. The original UP Premiere movie debuts on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2016.
This inspiring romance is based on Irene Brand’s popular novel and boasts costars Diogo Morgado (Son of God, “The Messengers”), Michaela McManus (One Tree Hill, Aquarius), Ed Asner (UP, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), and Lindsay Wagner (The Paper Chase, The Bionic Woman).
When inquisitive, strong-willed Kennedy Blaine (played by McManus) travels to a small town in Nebraska to sell the ranch she inherited, she’s led to reconsider her decision as she becomes enchanted with the beauty of the land. When she discovers there’s a mystery behind its spectacular expanse, she puts to use her skills as a newly graduated law student to solve it. Along the journey, she encounters reunions with family members and even someone who wants to run her off her own land. Aided by ranch foreman Derek Sterling (Morgado) and his mother June (Lindsay Wagner), Kennedy sets out to investigate some unsettling circumstances.
Sonoma Christian Home had the opportunity to speak to Michaela McManus about her upcoming film. SCH Editor at Large Melanie Pickett reports.
SCH: UP is known for uplifting television and many faith-based programs. How did you see your faith enhanced or God moving in this project?
MM: It’s funny because I’ve done a lot of shows and films recently that are darker and one of the reasons I was so excited to do this film was my aunt is a nun. I knew that she would absolutely adore this movie so that made me excited to do something I could really share with my family like my Aunt Mary. My son is one, so it is something that I know at some point he will really enjoy. That definitely drew me to this particular project.
SCH: The Love Finds You In series has been UPtv’s most successful franchise. How does it feel to be part of that success?
MM: It’s really exciting to be a part of it because I feel like there are three films now and I think there could be so many in the future which is always exciting to be part of something like that, especially when you can feel proud of the movie and excited to share it with people. Before I started shooting Love Finds You in Valentine, I watched Love Finds You in Sugar Creek. I was so touched by the story and I was really impressed with the film. I thought the acting was great and the production value was terrific. It made me that much more excited to sign on to Love Finds You in Valentine and be part of this world.
SCH: The character you portray on Love Finds You in Valentine is Kennedy Blaine, a newly graduated law student. Did your role as ADA Kim Greylek on Law and Order: SVU in any way help you prepare for your role as Kennedy?
MM: It’s funny because there are obviously some similarities, but character-wise, they couldn’t be more different. Every role you play you’re trying to find aspects of yourself in that character so I think I can relate to Kennedy in that I definitely was on a path to becoming an actress like I was going to do “A., B., C. This is how it’s going to work.” It’s not quite the same in the acting world. You have to rely on a lot of luck and being in the right place at the right time, but I definitely could relate to Kennedy as far as being really passionate and driven towards following a certain career path.
SCH: Kennedy is very strong and fearlessly speaks her mind, but also had a tender side as well.
MM: Yes, I think that’s what I love about her too is she does have that balance. I think she’s definitely strong-willed and opinionated and like you said, she doesn’t really shy away from things. She definitely is someone who lives in the moment and doesn’t apologize for it, but at the same time she’s not too proud. She’s willing to take in the world around her and let it affect her and let it change her, and that’s really what happens in this movie.
SCH: Does Kennedy Blaine inspire you?
MM: It was really fun to play Kennedy because I felt like it was an easy transition for me. Day one I really felt like Kennedy and I were one in the same. I felt I could step into her shoes pretty easily and I really did love her and it was fun playing her. She goes on such a journey and there are so many different sides we see of her. As an actor, you hope for that. I love playing someone from one spectrum to the other. (There’s the love story and the kidnapping scene, the scenes with her long-lost grandfather that really touch upon the relationship she had with her parents and how much she misses them. Then you see the Steve storyline and that kind of complicated relationship in her life). There was a lot for me to play and as an actor, that’s always a gift.
SCH: In Love Finds You in Valentine you costar with Ed Asner, Lindsay Wagner, and Diogo Morgado. What was it like to share the spotlight with them?
MM: I absolutely learned from them. It’s always fun to work with people who’ve had such long careers and seeing what their process. I adored them both. It was really special to work with Ed because he is such an iconic actor and he’s really had quite the career span. Having an opportunity to work with him was really special and to learn from him. He is super funny and kind of everything you would expect him to be. I think what really impressed me the most is he is so prepared. He didn’t miss a beat and I think that speaks volume to who he is as an actor.
Lindsay was just lovely. We clicked right away. We had that relationship in the film where she kind of takes on this motherly role with my character and I felt that off-set as well.
I worked with Diogo for most of the film and I just couldn’t say enough nice things about him. He’s such a breath of fresh air. We bonded immediately. What I love about him is he’s a serious actor. He takes his craft very seriously but he can also be super goofy at the right times and really silly, and we had a ball together. I’m hoping that that reads on screen as well. You always feel lucky when you can really feel those bonds off screen.
MM: Hunter Cross who played Steve in the movie is really only in a few scenes and wasn’t there much of time, but we actually really clicked too. I had a lot of fun with Hunter. He’s really a funny sweetheart of a guy in real life, but it was always our joke “Ugh, Steve. Why is he still here? Steve just can’t get a hint. He’s just really trying to track Kennedy down. He’s not about to let her go without putting up a fight for her.”
SCH: Love Finds You in Valentine was filmed on a farm in Millersburg, Ohio. The scenery was spectacular. How was it filming there?
MM: Isn’t it stunning? I was so impressed with some of the shots they were able to get. It really was a magical place, a magical setting. We shot mainly on this family-owned, beautiful ranch and the sky was a rich blue like I’d never seen and there was lush green grass and trees, and the breeze. There were horses everywhere you looked. It felt like a magical place. It was really beautiful landscape and perfect to film a movie like this.
SCH: Kennedy did some skilled horseback riding in the movie. Was that all you?
MM: Not all of it. I definitely was up on that horse. It was slightly scary for me because right when I heard that I was going to have to ride a horse, I had flashbacks to when I went on a family trip to South Dakota. I was about 9 years old and I was alone on a horse. It went off the beaten path on its own and started galloping away from my family so it was a terrifying moment for me as a child.
When I heard I was going to get back up on a horse, I started taking lessons here in Los Angeles so I could be better equipped when I got to Ohio. Something about really immersing myself in the role, I really did feel comfortable and it felt natural. Those horses are so one with the land and you kind of fall into that spirit while you’re there. It was special. That’s one of the perks of this job is you get to go places and do things you normally wouldn’t do in life. It takes you on this fun, exciting journey. You learn so much and that was one of these experiences.
SCH: Can I ask you a few fun questions before we end our time together?
SCH: Coffee or tea?
MM: Coffee all the way. I would be lost without coffee. It’s almost a problem at this point.
SCH: Barefoot or shoes?
SCH: What was the last movie you saw?
MM: My husband is a writer so he gets a lot of the screeners and we just saw Straight Outta Compton. It was super interesting. It’s intense and was really well done.
SCH: If you could play any role, past or present, what would it be?
MM: I’ve always wanted to play Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It’s a role I’ve always had my eye on. I come from a theatre background and it’s just one of those roles that I would just love to dig in and play.
SCH: What actor/actress would you most like to share the screen with someday?
MM: There are so many. You know who I truly adore is Julianne Moore. She never disappoints. I find her captivating and whenever I’ve seen her or read interviews, she seems like someone I would love to work with.
See Love Finds You in Valentine during the UPtv premiere, February 14th, 2016 at 7PM ET!