Earlier this year, as I was watching Unleashing Mr. Darcy, I couldn’t help but notice the dastardly villain of this delightful piece–Grant Markham. I was so impressed with the actor who brought this rogue to life that I researched him and discovered that within the past couple of years, I had seen him in more things than I realized. He was equally impressed by my review of his work, and so I approached him about the possibility of interviewing him right then and there. Well, finally, a short time ago, Ken Tremblett found some time to sit down and chat with me, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Not only did we talk about all things Hallmark, including his upcoming film Garage Sale Mystery:The Novel Muders, but we discussed such a wide variety of topics that it made for an incredibly entertaining hour for both of us.
KT: I’ve got Good Witch on in the background.
RH: Oh, really?
I don’t have the Hallmark Channel, but it comes on the Women’s Network here. It was good to see my buddies on TV.
What inspired you to become an actor?
I got in acting in high school back in the ’80’s back east when my parents were moving to a different city, and I wanted to graduate from the same school because it was October or November when we were supposed to move. And I thought, “Well, I want to stay here. I don’t want to go to a different city and finish off the last few months of school and not know anyone.” And I was in Biology class, and a friend of mine asked me to audition for the school Christmas musical because they didn’t have enough guys auditioning. And I just said, “No way. There’s no way I’m going to be acting.” I just thought it was weak, and it wasn’t manly. And then I thought, “Hey, if I get a part, they’ll let me stay.” And I auditioned for it, and I got the lead, and they said, “Well, I guess you have to stay.” And from that, I did three more plays. And I went to the Drama Festival, and I thought, “This seems to be a good job.” And it really broke me out of my shell because up until that point, I was just a face in the crowd. And I only knew a couple of people. But it really opened up my life, and that’s what I’ve always liked about the film industry–that collaborative effort.
From there, I decided that that could be a job for me. And I went to the university for a year, and then I decided, “No, I’m gonna pursue this.” And I moved across country to Vancouver, and I’ve been here essentially ever since. So it started out by just a ploy to graduate. And then I guess I got the “bug” that is often talked about.
This is why I love to ask this question. I have not heard that one before.
Yeah, I kind of went into it backwards, if you will, because it wasn’t my intention. But after I got there, I thought, “Wow, this is great!’ I could actually do it. Now, it was another story when I went out to pursue it professionally. That took a little while longer. (laughs) So far, so good.
When I put out your name for questions, everyone started asking, “Isn’t he Officer O’Reilly from When Calls the Heart?” And, of course, the Hearties know every single episode much better than I could ever hope to.
Oh, yeah. Those fans have taken that show as their own child. I mean, they know everything. They care for that show, which is brilliant for both the producers and the creators as well as all the actors. It really is like a family. The responsibility is shared.
I left the business for about five years, and in coming back, the Hallmark family’s been really good. You know, they’ve taken me in like everyone else here in Vancouver.
Other than the fact that they’ve sort of taken you in, what do you like about working for Hallmark?
I will echo what Dan Payne and others have said. These shows–you can watch them with your family, which is always nice. I know when I was growing up and watching TV with my family, there was always the sex more than the violence–the sexual innuendo, and sometimes it wasn’t even an innuendo–it was just blatant. And I think parents want to watch shows with their kids on Sunday nights. I grew up watching the Disney shows. But as time has gone on, there’s all that shock that they want to provide for audience members, and I think there’s a huge segment that just wants to watch interesting, heartfelt stories. Otherwise, you’re watching the news, and it can sometimes be horrific. You just want to relax and watch something that makes you feel good and bring a little bit of a tear to your eye. I really like that it’s just good, warm stories. They’re rooted in the nicer parts of humanity. And that’s what was really great about When Calls. You could see those characters always striving forward for something better in their lives and in their community, which I think is what any average person wants in real life, too, right? And I think that’s one of the big selling points for that show in particular.
But also beyond that, the people I’ve worked with at Hallmark–the producers and the directors they hire and obviously the crews–I mean, you walk onto those shows, and it’s like you’ve been there your whole life. Because even though I’ve worked here a long time, I walk onto many sets and don’t know anyone, or I only know a few people. But with Hallmark, everyone is moving in the same direction and has the same focus, and it makes it pretty easy to go to work, and I hope it’s easy for them, too, and not just us. It’s a well-organized machine.
Next up for you is Garage Sale Mystery. What can you tell us about the on-set environment and working with all your co-stars? I had also realized that when I interviewed Jason Cermak, he mentioned how this project was so great.
He’s a really nice guy, and I saw him on the set of Garage Sale, and that’s the thing about working in this community here. Every once in awhile, you’ll get to work with your friends. And that guy is really good and definitely has a future. There’s no question about that. He looks good. He’s good at his job. I think people like him on sight.
But Lori Loughlin–I cannot say enough good about her. I worked with her briefly on When Calls about two years before. And on this show, immediately on meeting, it was conversation–very casual, hanging out in between set-ups. And the rest of the crew took me in like I had done all of the Garage Sales with them. I had worked with Kevin O’Grady before on the Unauthorized Save By the Bell Story. And he’s a funny guy. And Steve Bacic. I’ve known Steve for fifteen years here in the city. And there’s a guy I never worked with before, and you get to work with one of your friends. And you get away from yourselves, and you become these characters, and it’s a different relationship right away. Sarah Strange–I’ve worked with her many years before, and it’s like just picking up where you left off. And also I’d worked with the hair department and wardrobe before. Norma Bailey actually directed us on Caitlin’s Way, a TV series I did for Nicklelodeon back in 2000-2001. We did 52 episodes of that, and shot out in the foothills of Alberta, which stood in for Montana. It was just awesome.
It was comfortable right from the get-go because trying to step into something like that, which had already done five shows, it’s easy to feel out of place, but they provided all the comfort anyone could want. Lori is a true professional. What I really liked about her was the conversation–you could have the most casual conversation you’ve ever had, and she was willing to rehearse with you, go over the scene and ask you what you think. You really feel like you’re peers. That’s really a great place to be. It’s just more comfortable–the scenes roll. It’s a nice franchise they have.
What you’ve said about Lori Loughlin is what I’ve heard from everyone who has worked with her. Is there anything you can tell us about your character in Garage Sale Mystery?
Well, I’m helping Lori solve this next mystery. I get to be her “partner in crime” in helping her solve this murder. It’s good in that I got to work with her so much.
Well, that’s different than when you were in Unleashing Mr. Darcy.
(laughs) Oh yes, another group of people that took me in.
So, with Unleashing Mr. Darcy, you got to work with a lot of your friends on that?
No, I didn’t know those people. All the main players had already been working together for a number of days by the time I showed up. Cindy Busby was super nice because her reaction line to me at the dance when she says, “Grant Markham!” That’s how she referred to me the whole time I was on set. (laughs) In the lunch lineup, or wardrobe, make-up–“Grant Markham!” And she said, “We’ve been talking about you for days now. It’s great to meet you.” And like I said before about being taken in as a part of the group–same thing. All of those people had been working together for days or maybe two weeks together, and I show up for this important scene, and it was like I’d been with them the whole time. We ate lunch together. We played “Heads Up” in the green room–it was amazing. And Frances Fisher was conversational, friendly, outgoing, open–it’s so refreshing to know that this is who she really is. She’s not putting on an act. She’s not standing away from everyone else. And that’s part of why she’s still working. I don’t think you can be a bad person and be successful. And David Winning, the director on that, I worked with him over twenty years ago on a TV series here in the early ’90’s with Carl Weathers. And I did a movie with him again, maybe in the late ’90’s. It’s good to bump into these people you’ve worked with, and then you just pick up where you left off. A decade can go by, and then it’s like “Hi, David.” “Hi, Ken.” And it’s as if no time has passed.
I don’t always hear that from people I interview, but maybe it’s because I’ve been interviewing so many people who are younger, and you’ve been in the business awhile.
(laughs) Oh yeah.
I feel great. The age thing is funny because when I was thirty, I thought I was old. I was very concerned that I was thirty. What I’m doing? It’s all over. And I got to forty, and my life shifted. My younger brother passed away when I was forty, and that’s when I left the film industry for about five years shortly after he passed away. But I turned fifty last year, and now I feel like I’m thirty again. I feel energized. I feel more comfortable with myself. I feel healthier and more excited about the future. It’s strange that whole adage that fifty is the new forty or forty is the new thirty–it has become true. I feel much younger now than I did, say fifteen years ago. Odd, but good. I’ll take it.
I think sometimes people grow into their age. Maybe I’m returning to my age–I don’t know. But you play it out no matter what.
Something else I want to add. My whole idea of the camaraderie aspect of the film industry, which I’ve always enjoyed right from the time I was in high school, is when I go to an audition, it’s usually with the same people. Throughout every category of your life, you’ll see the same five or six people auditioning. And the one thing I’ve always noticed from being here in Vancouver is that it’s very supportive. You know, I’m watching Dan Payne on TV now. I’ll see Dan Payne at auditions. Sometimes he gets them. Sometimes I get them. Sometimes somebody else gets them. But there’s no animosity because we all know we’re all sitting in the room and we just know one of us is getting the job, but no one tries to psyche anyone out. No one is trying to harass anyone else. We all know it’s part of the business, and it’s the way these stories are written and put together. There’s a look to the cast. There’s a look to the film or series. And sometimes I fit properly and sometimes I don’t fit. But no matter what, at the end of the day, I believe people are genuinely happy when someone gets a part. It makes you feel better because someone recently said that they didn’t understand how I could do this job. There’s so much rejection. And I said, “There’s not rejection. They just choose one.” You’re not rejected. You’re just not chosen. I think with that mindset, I’ve always felt more comfortable. It’s a process, and there’s a lot of moving parts to it.
I think you have to grow into that. Some people just have it naturally. I have gone through the ups and downs of that thought process, too. Especially when it’s a part that you really want or a part that you really think you’re going to get. Sometimes you have people around you going, “You’re perfect for that!” And then it turns out you weren’t even close. I think I can feel confident that I will get work. And like anything else, you can’t have everything. And sometimes it’s better that you don’t get everything, right? One door closes, one door opens. Patience is a virtue.
In addition to Garage Sale Mystery, is there anything else upcoming that you can mention?
I’ve got Midnight Sun coming out this summer. I don’t have a hard date on it. That’s directed by Scott Spear with Patrick Schwarzenegger, Bella Thorne–they’re the two leads in that. And Rob Riggle is also in that. It’s a retelling of a Japanese story about a girl who can’t go out in the sunlight. If what I saw comes out on the screen, it’s going to be a real tear-jerker.
And Brain on Fire, which is the story of Susannah Cahalan, the New York reporter who had some kind of brain disorder that made her think she was going crazy, and it turned out she wasn’t. But it’s based on the book of the same name. I just have a small part in that, but it’s an important part.
And I just found out I’ve been booked on a new Hallmark movie called Relevant. Unfortunately, I don’t have any details, but at least I know there is more Hallmark in my future!
No matter what, it will be another busy year here. We’ll all be working. Me, Martin [Cummins], Sebastian [Spence]–you know, we’ll all be out there.
You probably didn’t know, but I’m really good friends with Sebastian.
No, I didn’t know. Should I get some spoilers from him about you?
And we both laughed at that comment.
This led to a lively discussion about all sorts of actors we knew and didn’t know–many were mentioned, but for the purposes of the interview, we’ll move on.
Over the years, you can really tell there is a great talent pool in Vancouver, and I oftentimes credit the crews here. It just seems to be a no-brainer to say that there are such great crews. That’s easy. They’ve been doing this a long time. And when you look at the casting though, I think there’s a lot of people here at all ages who can pull off an entire movie. There’s a lot of talent here. I think that goes along with the amount of work that is available. When you do a job again and again and again, you do get more proficient at it. That’s just fact. And I’ve been really, really fortunate to have been able to work because I remember years ago, going to LA and meeting people there who had come in from other cities, and they had been there three or four years and they’d only had one job. It’s such a difficult place to make a living as an actor. And here we’ve been very, very fortunate that the work has been available to us. I think the next generation behind us are just going to be that much better. So I think the future here for Hallmark or anyone else is definitely in good hands–crews and otherwise.
I agree. I’ve gotten to interview some really great young people, and that’s what I always feel. Mitchell Kummen–you know who he is?
That was probably one of my best young people interviews. I was so impressed with him.
And when you see him working, he’s good, you know. He knows what he’s doing. And he’s a nice young man to chat with, too. It’s funny that I’m saying cliches that I’ve heard over the years. Now I’m saying them as well. And it turns out cliches are there because they’re true. I feel very fortunate to have worked. I feel very fortunate to have worked with the people I have worked with. You do get that sense of camaraderie. You know, I just look forward to doing it more and more. That’s why people want to do the job. That’s why stars who are millionaires keep going back and doing smaller jobs or cameos because they love it. They don’t need the money. They do it for the job. They do it for the people. That’s like any job. You know, you can work in an office, and if you hate the people, it’s a terrible job. You have to like the people. Again, it’s been really great for me to have worked with the people I have. People keep their eyes on the prize. Just keep being respectful and dedicate yourself. It’s great. Carry on.
I have started writing, and that is a fun thing to do. Finishing it and getting it produced? That’s the hard part. I’ve got two scripts now that are this far from being finished. But I was even thinking about it last week. I was thinking, “After it’s finished, then what?” They’re full-length features. But a friend of mine said, “It doesn’t matter if it ever gets produced. Just write.” It’s all part of the creative outlet that I and other people require in their lives. We just need to create something. So even if you’re home alone, writing is one way of at least creating something. I like the idea of writing and producing in the future and just furthering that creative process. You can make money doing anything but telling a story seems to be the bigger prize. I got all my cards there. I just put them on the board.
So what do you do in your free time?
Auditioning, mostly. (laughs) And I’ve recently started doing construction. A friend of mine owns a construction company, and every once in a while, he needs some extra hands. I used to work on a table saw twenty-five years ago. What!?! Twenty-five years ago? (laughs) Yeah, I quit my job twenty-five years ago working construction. See, that sounds odd because I’m only thirty. (laughs) It just seems so weird. I’ve been auditioning a lot recently. My spare time from here on in will be memorizing lines. I hope so anyway.
I don’t do much. I live downtown Vancouver. It’s a great neighborhood. There’s lots of places to go walking, go for coffee. I’ve got friends, watching the NBA playoffs, the hockey playoffs. I have a pretty casual life. I joke with my friends that life is all about choices, and sometimes I feel like I made very few. Because I’m not married, and I don’t have children. Coffee and a walk down to the English bay sounds good.
We kept talking about more actors, including Marcus Rosner..
Another good-looking devil.
Oh, definitely, the women still go crazy over him. When I interviewed him, he claimed to have a boring life.
Well, I think if you’re not raising a family, your spare time is just trying to get more work. At many levels, you’re not doing the work because you need the money. You’re doing the work because you want to do the work. That is something I didn’t completely understand or didn’t understand at all when I was in my twenties. You know, you start out and are like, “I’m going to make money. I’m going to be famous.” And then after awhile, you think, “Oh, you know what? I don’t need to be famous to be successful. I don’t need to be rich to be successful. The word successful has taken many forms in the last twenty-five years. And right now, I feel very successful. I’m working doing something I enjoy. And I have some free time. I don’t know how that’s not success. I had a friend recently, just before Christmas, ask me if I thought it was time to quit. And I said, “Well, why?” He said, “Well, you’re not really successful.” And I explained to him that I think I am. You don’t need to be rich and/or famous to be successful. I feel very good. I’m in a good community. I’ve got an agent I trust. I work with directors and producers that entrust me with their projects. And that makes a big difference. Jonathan Axlerod, who is the executive producer on Garage Sale Mystery , was very supportive right from the audition into the wardrobe fitting into some very important scenes we had to shoot–some with some tricky dialogue. He never wavered. He gave me his full support and confidence. And when you have that from the top guy, it makes you feel better. It gives you a nice solid, foundation to work from. That’s something I’ve come to learn and know over the years. It’s hard to come up with any bad things to throw at you for this interview.
That’s good. I always appreciate positivity. Some people tend to look back when they’ve had a long career and complain about how things are different now, and the 1980’s or some other time was better than now.
Well, sure, things have changed over the years, but when I start to think of any negatives that might crop up, those are the things I can and I need to address myself. The industry has pretty much for the most part for the last hundred years been the same. It’s about someone who wants to make money from telling a story, right? And then they hire all these people to do it. It’s a business. If you want to be part of the business–show business–you have to become a professional as well. Things work different from the ’80’s to the ’90’s, from the ’90’s to the 2000’s, and from the 2000’s to the 10’s. But I’m also different. I’m not twenty-three any more. My career in my twenties is vastly different from what it is now. There’s more people in the industry. There’s more ways to watch shows. But, you know, I’m still here–a lot of people are still here–and you just find a new way to get in. If I don’t work, I’m not blaming anyone else. There’s always something else we can do. And at the end of the day, I don’t have to be in the business. No one’s forcing me to stay here. So I would say to anyone who’s really negative about the industry, you need to look at yourself and if you have to, leave. When I left after my brother’s passing, it wasn’t because my brother passed away. But just another thing that led me away because frankly–and I told my agent at the time–I wasn’t learning anything anymore. I had stopped. I wasn’t moving myself. I left completely. I left the city. I left the country. And after just over four years, I thought, “I think it’s time to come back.” And it took me a year to get a job. Then about a year and a half, and I changed agents, and she’s been fantastic. So always look at yourself. The industry will always be the same.
As far as I’m concerned, it just doesn’t get better than an actor with exceptional talent, a wide range of diverse acting skills, and a pragmatic, positive outlook. And indeed, Ken is all that and more. While he is certainly not in the category of “oldster,” he has definitely been around the block a few times, and it is not his first rodeo (see–I’m using those famous cliches just like he does). He is someone who understands and appreciates the inner workings of this sometimes baffling world of entertainment, and he refuses to waste any brain cells on worrying over his future, lest he miss the good things happening to him now. I sincerely believe that young and old alike can learn from his phenomenal skill as well as his warm and genuine nature. He made my task easy, and the fact that he chose not to be negative was a rare blessing, especially in those of his age and profession. Oh, and he is favored with a quick wit that only adds to the charm of his gracious temperament. Be sure to check out Garage Sale Mystery: The Novel Murders this Sunday (June 5) on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. Moreover, don’t forget to check out his entire repertoire, as you’re sure to find many more gems from this talented guy!