Interview With Actress Barbara Niven, “Murder, She Baked,” “Chesapeake Shores,” and More

By Ruth on June 18, 2016 in Interview, movie, mystery, television
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About three years ago, a show arrived on the Hallmark Channel that changed my life forever. I had no idea at that point how it would ultimately impact my life, but there was something about Cedar Cove that I liked. At first, it wasn’t even my favorite show, but I remember noticing the sweet Peggy Beldon and loving her instantly. It wasn’t until the following summer that I discovered this character was played by Barbara Niven, and it really wasn’t even until it was preparing to go into production of the third season that I truly connected with this phenomenal lady. I was captivated by her character’s story in season two (the slap heard around the world that I will never forget as long as I live), but as I began to discover the woman behind the actress, I was completely mesmerized. Furthermore, I never heard one bad word about her. In fact, there is a certain charm that occurs when her name is mentioned in any of the circles I have visited or been a part of. She is known for her outstanding compassion, her relatable nature, and her vivacious personality, not to mention her steadfast devotion to her craft. For several months, Barbara and I had attempted to set up an interview, but it was so difficult to work around both of our schedules. I never lost faith, nor did she. A few weeks ago, that blessed event occurred, and I am certain that you will realize what an extraordinary tribute you are about to read. As Barbara and I discussed such an extensive variety of topics, I cannot begin to list them all here. While this is a longer-than-usual article. I invite you to read it till its conclusion, for in my opinion, few women–few people, really–are quite as engaging and genuine as Barbara Niven.
barbara 4Even on her three-day weekend, she was busy getting work done with her business partner, Sue Melke. The gal never stops! And the fact that she took the time to chat with me? Well, that’s something I’ll certainly treasure.

RH: I don’t know how you keep up with your schedule sometimes.

BN: Well, everybody is busy. I remember doing what my daughter is doing now. She has a full-time job and two babies and just started selling a product called Beauty Counter. We women just make it work somehow, don’t we?

When I said I was interviewing you, people were Ex-Treme-Ly excited. 

O–h that’s so kind. That’s just so nice. My fans are the best people in the world. I think social media is such a great tool to bring people together–not just to gab, but to connect. I think it’s the best tool for paying it forward and being an influencer and inspiring each other because what I send out, I get back in spades way more than I give.

I know my format of interviews is a little bit different, but I truly have been enjoying putting my personal touch on things. It’s taken some time to find my style, but I love it.

It’s so exciting to see how your career has been taking off.  You’re writing is personal. That’s what I like about it, too. It’s like sitting down and reading a chat between friends. I know what you mean about finding your niche because I started out in TV news, and that just didn’t fit me either. I like making people feel emotions more and not just being restricted to–you know, you do a great hour and a half interview with the cameraman, and you have to narrow that down into a minute twenty of sensational, little sentences. And you can’t even have joy or emotion in it because it’s news. So it just didn’t fit me that well either. I’m glad you’re finding your spot because there is a good spot for you.

There were so many questions that people submitted, Barbara. It was hard to select which ones to ask.

Really? Oh, I just feel so blessed. Let me say “Hi” to everyone and also “thank you.”

Your fans said to be sure to thank you for all the interaction online and all the behind-the-scenes stuff that you post. I know I appreciate it, and all your fans do. 

It’s so much fun to share that stuff with everyone because I think everyone likes that kind of stuff. It makes it feel more human. Also, what I’m grateful for is that sharing behind-the-scenes is a way for everybody to feel a kind of ownership with the project. It’s not just our show. It’s your show, too. That’s why it was hard when Cedar Cove got cancelled, we all–including Hallmark–got blindsided. And it was just so hard. And also because you guys supported us so much. Hopefully, with Chesapeake Shores now, we have a chance to redo whatever went wrong, and I hope we and the powers that be have all learned. We think it’s going to be a great show. We’re loving the scripts and loving the story and loving the family, and I love my character so much.

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Picture Credit: Liz Rosa

Picture Credit: Liz Rosa

KWIK KWOTE

Giles Panton, Actor and co-star in Cedar Cove

“Barbara was actually the first cast member I met on Cedar Cove. It kind of felt like my first day at a new school, and I was a little nervous. I walked up to the make-up trailer, opened the door, and she turned and immediately greeted me with this warm smile and bright “hello.” Any fear I had disappeared, and I very quickly felt like one of the team. It set an amazing tone. From then on, I looked forward to working with her on set. She was always joking around or teasing us about something. It was a ton of fun, and I loved her high energy and playfulness. I couldn’t be happier about her new show and know she’s going to be amazing. Lucky cast and crew to have her.”

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That’s just great. I have not read the books–which reminds me. Sherryl Woods said to tell you that she has been watching the dailies, and you are nailing it. 

Oh my gosh, I could just cry! Seriously?!?

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Sherryl & Barbara

Yes, that’s what she told me to pass on to you.

That’s just so nice! Thank you for passing that on! I got to have dinner with her last December, when they had the last TCA’s, and I just fell in love with her. And what a talent. Well, I’ve read several of her books. I wanted to get some background on the characters and the family. But, of course, we bring ourselves. We bring our ideas.  It’s such a creative process. Our show runner, John Tinker, comes from a famous Hollywood family.  John Tinker–when I heard he was going to be show runner, I just gasped because he and his brother, Mark Tinker,  have done some of my favorite character dramas. They did St. Elsewhere–I loved that show! With Bonnie Bartlett and all of them. What he’s created in the dynamics of this family–he’s just giving us gold. And we are all going in, and in our first week of filming and following, it seriously is blessed! The crew has gelled. Our family has gelled. I’m having all the kids call me “mom” already. I want to be the mom. One of my favorite roles in my life is to be mom. They even let me change it from the kids calling me Grandma to Mimi. So it’s pretty special.

Barbara & Tinker

Barbara & Tinker

That’s so neat. I know from talking with some of my friends on social media that they have been concerned about the direction of the show based on what they might have seen on the promos or heard about.

(The phone rings while I’m talking to her, and what does she say?)

It’s okay, honey. It’s just me.  And if it’s your family, I have a rule. If it’s your kids that call, no matter what kind of business call it is, you have to take that call. And Michelle Vicary does that, too. She’s the executive VP of all programming of Crown Media, and she does that, too. I admire her so much. This high-powered woman, but no matter who she’s talking to, if something “family” comes up, she says, “Oh, it’s Hannah” or “It’s Ian. I’ll have to call you back.” And those are the right priorities.

Definitely. Well, the nice thing is my daughter and I live with my parents, so we’re all together.

Oh, nice.

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Andie MacDowell, Actress and Co-star in Cedar Cove

“I would say she’s a brave actress who is willing to take chances and step out of her comfort zone. Off-screen, she’s an inspiration to everyone she meets. Fun to work with because she takes that same attitude to work.”

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Back to where we were, some people, and even my mom have been concerned. She saw the promos for Chesapeake Shores, and I know the concern is, Cedar Cove began to push the boundaries in some areas, and some wonder if Chesapeake Shores is also going to push the boundaries. 

I don’t know exactly what pushing boundaries is, but we’ve got such quality acting in this thing that as long as it stays a family drama with the generations. I mean, oh my gosh, we have Diane Ladd.   I had the honor of really getting to know and bonding with her. What a class act. Every scene you do with her, she shows everybody what a master actor is like. She’s a thousand percent there on your close-ups, even when it’s on the back of her head. And that’s the way I learned to act as well. We’re not going to squander that kind of thing. All of us, me included, like working with Hallmark because I can watch it with my grandchildren, and they’re not going to sacrifice that.

But, on the other hand, I know that they want it to be a family drama, and with Jesse Metcalfe and Meghan Ory, they make a beautiful couple. In the second block of scripts, Jesse sings. And Treat Williams, who was on Broadway in Hair, he and Diane Ladd are going to be singing in some of this. Not that it’s going to be a musical, but families do sing. I just want people to be really surprised, and I hope they see themselves and their families in this. Hallmark stands for the heart of TV. I don’t necessarily mean that excludes somebody. Hopefully everybody will find someone they can relate to. They might think, “My aunt is a little kooky like that.”  or “My step-mom is.” or “I come from a divorced family, and I can see how the family dynamics are not perfect.” Maybe we can watch as they mend and help each other heal.  That’s what we want to do with this show.

Barbara, that is great. I think what you are saying here could really quell some of the concerns that people have privately raised to me. One of the issues raised was, “They’re going to go completely off the books and mess it all up.”

You know, people always think that because when we read a book, we get to play all the characters in our imagination. I don’t think anything on-screen is ever going to live up to a book. But hopefully. we can bring our best, and I really hope that people like what we’re doing. We’re really honoring Sherryl Woods and every one of her characters. But also, they have to add on a storyline that they can add onto each week. We do the best we can with it. My character, Megan, is not as fleshed out in the pilot, I don’t think, as how I feel she is in the series. I’m hoping I bring a real humanity to her though.

Well, Barbara, it’s you, so of course you will.

Oh, but I know Megan. None of us are perfect. And sometimes, a Hallmark movie or scenario in our head ties it up in a neat little bow. But we’re going to do a TV series that hopefully goes on for years. And so you can’t tie it up all neatly because then where do you go? I hope that people really give us a chance. I know that we will have growing pains as we get the series going. But just know that we are bringing our heart, our soul, and I really feel like we have a magical project here that’s beyond what anyone ever thought we could do alone. And I am so proud of it so far. They’re taking some chances on how they’re shooting it and doing hopefully just enough that people will go “Oh wow! This is Hallmark.” But just stick with us, and let’s see what happens.

I like what you said about taking a chance on the show because if you go in with the mindset of, “Oh, I’m not going to like it because of this and this,” then you’ve already made up your mind that you’re not going to like it. 

I read all the social media and Facebook pages, and when they have a series of books that they love, they complain all the time, “Oh, you’re not going with the character,” or whatever. If they do like it, that’s great. But if they don’t like it, God bless them, and I hope they find one that they do like. We are giving it heart and soul, and I hope they love it as much as we loved making it.

Barbara & Erin Krakow

Barbara & Erin Krakow

I think it’s funny how most people don’t complain about When Calls the Heart not following the books. In fact, that show has nothing to do with the books. 

I love that show. I just love it. I died when he almost got killed this last season. And she was there when he wakes up. Oh, it was so good.

I read all those books, and I was expecting them to follow the books, and the story is completely different.

It also takes a turn because we get the material, and the cinematographer, the DP, has to put his magic in.  Maybe the way he lights up something in the scene lights up something different that you ever would have noticed. And as actors, all we have to use is our magic and our own lives.  I’ve been putting me into Megan–my quirks. It’s what I’ve learned to do now with acting instead of trying to give them what they want. All I can do is put me in it. And Treat’s doing the same thing. All we have to do is put our own magic in.  Just really hope they will like it.

Well, I’m looking forward to it. And I know there are a lot of people who are looking forward to it. And now I’ll be able to go back and tell my mom, “It’s going to be okay. Barbara said it’s okay.” (laughter)

Yeah, and again, we’re finding our way because what show is perfect out of the box? But we’re finding the different characters. We’re finding the relationships. We’re learning how we gel together and how to work together. Oh my gosh, we’re putting some comedy in this, too. One scene looked like something from Woody Allen. It was almost like a farce we did the other day. It was all timing. And we were all laughing–it was such a rush to get to do such fun acting.

It’s those kinds of experiences that you’re going to remember. And if you enjoyed it, we’re going to get to enjoy it. 

Barbara & Treat

Barbara & Treat

And Treat–he’s the hub for this scene. We had to go so fast and keep moving and we were all huffing and puffing and going “Yay!” afterwards. It was so fun. We all love to act. There’s not a prima donna here, which is really good to know. We LOVE to act.

And most of the time, that seems to happen at Hallmark. Everyone seems to be on the same team.

What I always tell young actors–or any actors, I guess–is that–and this is across any industry. Show business is just another industry. It’s another business. You’re so excited to get that one job, but repeat business and relationships are how you have a career. That’s why at Lifetime, for instance, I’ve starred in thirteen different movies for one producer there. And I’m so utterly blessed and grateful that Hallmark has me on two series here. I get to play with Ali Sweeney in Murder She Baked, which is a very different character from Megan in Chesapeake Shores. And then they took another chance on me and gave me this one, too. I say, “Thank You, Lord, for my blessings,” because at my age, you’re not supposed to get hired as an actress. Past forty. And I have so many people who kind of dwell in that negativity, and I think that what you think, you create. And I’m just really glad, and I want to use my “success” in this to help other women in whatever industry they are in to know they are not out of the ballpark and that their relevancy doesn’t end when they’re past forty or fifty. I’m sixty-three, and I’m working more than I ever have in my whole life. And I love my life. Gravity sucks. I love being a grandmother, and I love being able to work like this. If I’d done a lot of plastic surgery like I know a lot of people do–a lot of actresses in Hollywood do that and elsewhere as well–you can’t play real people. If I had done that, how could I play everybody’s mother? So I finally have enough age on me now that I can get cast as everybody’s mother. And I am having the time of my life in my career.

I love your outlook. 

What I really think, Ruth, is that we are all here to help each other, and I finally realize–my time, my wake-up call is that I am really in line with my purpose. I used to think, “Wow, I love to act. I love to entertain.” But what has finally dawned on me is my actual purpose is to use this sphere of influence–whatever fans I have or people that I know on social media or the people that I meet–I can use that to inspire them and pay it forward. And then they pay it forward concentrically. And then we can make a bigger difference together, and I don’t mean that to be “Pollyannaish,” but I really do mean that we are here to help each other.

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Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove 1012 Final Photo AssetsKWIK KWOTE

Sebastian Spence, Actor and Co-Star on Cedar Cove

“She brings so much warmth to her work and to her cast mates, that she truly is a joy to work with. Her bright disposition is contagious, and her genuine love for what she does shows not only in her work, but makes you just want to hug her. She is one of the nicest people I have ever worked with, and I mean that. She is a truly remarkable woman inside and out. She always brought a smile to my face when I saw her on set, and she was kind and generous, both as an actor and a person to her cast mates and the crew. I can’t think of one person who wasn’t glad to have the opportunity to work with Barbara, whether they were driving her to work or acting in a scene with her. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work alongside her and to get to know her as a person. She is a remarkable human being first, and a wonderful actress to have the pleasure of sharing the screen with.”

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I think it’s great that people can see you doing all this because some people, when they get to be your age, they kind of retire from life. 

Yes, they do.

Murder She Baked A Deadly Recipe Final Photo AssetsBut it’s such an encouragement to me. When I saw your tweet last night about your being in your sixties, I read that to my mom, and my mom said, “Just wait till she’s seventy.” (laughter)

I want a picture of you and your mom. See we have to start now. We have to teach our daughters coming up they’re worth is not based on what look they have or what their weight is, but their worth is based on the person they are and how they raise their kids, and that they help somebody who needs a handout or that just needs some help. Not because they’re making brownie points, but because it’s the right thing to do.

My mom probably does more now than she ever did. We live out in the country–five acres.

Oh, nice, that’s like our dream

And she’s the one who mows the grass. She’s the one who takes care of the animals. We had goats for awhile, but the goats were jumping the fence, so we had to get rid of them. 

My daughter’s dream seriously is to have goats. I grew up in a place in Portland, Oregon, where we had a horse in the backyard. And when I moved to LA with Jessica, I made sure I got a place so we could have horses again in the backyard. But to afford it–because I was a single mom with little income and I really struggled–not the best way to make a living or to have any kind of security. I got roommates so I could have horses in the backyard, and Jessie and I shared a bed. So every morning before school, she would get up and muck out and feed the horses. Then she’d run in, and we would talk while she had a bath. We were so poor, but we look back at it now and that really was probably our best time together that we ever had. So she was raised with Oregon values.  I kind of think you carry your ethics and your values with you wherever you go.  So glad you’re mom does that.

Oh yes, she is very active. People do not believe she’s in her seventies. She keeps herself busy, and she doesn’t do a lot of complaining. I know she suffers from arthritis, but she just keeps going.

All those labels we put on people. I remember my grandmother. We’re not the same women they were. We have opportunities now. Things that make our life a lot easier. We don’t have to fold up and get the grandma label. I don’t know that many people who use the label “grandma” any more. I was going to be Grammy until it came up, and I thought, “Mmm, it doesn’t feel quite right.” So I picked Mimi. We don’t have to be what we thought getting older was. Right now, everything is still possible.

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Teryl Rothery, Actor and Co-star Cedar Cove

“I don’t have enough words to express how much I adore this woman!!!! Barbara is one of the most open, genuine, loving and giving human beings. I adore her and miss her everyday. Love you Barbara!! xoxox” 

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Lola & Lucy

Lola & Lucy

I know a lot of people asked if your dogs are in Vancouver with you.

No, I left them in LA. I have a house sitter who has been with me for years now. And because the dogs are older–and thank you everybody for all the prayers and support of my little Lucy’s surgery and recovery. I love sharing that again because we went through something very bad, and I can feel the support on social media and the power of prayer is incredible. And I know there were so many prayers.

It would have been hard for my dogs to live up here because I am not here, and even in my trailer, if I’m at set, little Lucy is fifteen and deaf and almost completely blind, and she’s my glue. She has to be in my arms. Unless they wrote Megan with a dog in her arms in every scene, Lucy wouldn’t have been able to stand it. They’re happier at home now.

Lucy

Lucy

And I have my house now, as they know, I’m animal crazy. I have it so much safer for them now. I have a doggie door through my bedroom wall that goes out to a platform that goes out to a ramp and down to a closed-off area where I planted jasmine and grass all around. That’s where they can safely go down the ramp and go out and do their business. So I don’t have to worry about Lucy hurting her leg again. And I also put a ramp out my back door. And I just put all these rod iron gates back there to to make sure they’re completely safe.

I’m in this beautiful ocean view suite here with my own kitchen, bedroom, and everything. It’s like going away to the most beautiful vacation we ever had. And even better, I get to do what I love. But it’s just not dog-friendly. And I don’t want to leave them somewhere. My dogs have never not slept with somebody in bed with them.

What charities are the closest to your heart?

It really is animal rescue. I donate like everybody else does, but I really try to do as much animal rescues as I can. I do a lot of the CARE petitions online. I don’t know if they help. Oh my gosh, I probably do twenty of these petitions per day. I put some of them out on twitter. Now, I know other people help to support, too. If somebody needs help, I just feel like we can come together and make a difference. I don’t know how best to do it. All I can do is do my best. But even if you save one dog, you’re not saving the world, but for that dog, you are saving their world.

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Thom Rafferty, Writer/Fan

“Barbara Niven’s acting longevity isn’t just owed to her considerable talents. When you are as nice as you are talented, it gets noticed by peers and public alike.”

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I’m sure everyone loves the animal petitions just like I do. 

I try not to do it too much because I don’t want it to be that I just start asking people for things. If I feel like it hits a heart button with me, I know that it will with somebody else, too. And my favorite rescue that I work with is Laurel Kinder4Rescue. My FOBN (Fans of Barbara Niven) group actually had a convention last year, and we raised money to give to Laurel. That’s where I got my Lola from. And Laurel walks the talk and talks the walk. She is out there every single weekend helping get dogs adopted. She started a low-cost pet clinic ’cause that’s her dream that people wouldn’t have to turn their dogs over to the shelter when they have an emergency because at least ninety percent of them get euthanized in those shelters. Those families just need a little bit of help and alternatives. So she’s made that possible by bringing talented doctors and surgeons, and they come on their off time. And she’s got a clinic now. So she’s doing what she can to help save them. She also started something called Project Flying Chihuahuas, where she rescues dogs that were going to be put to sleep and makes an arrangement with an airline to ship them back East where they don’t have enough small dogs. So she saves a lot that way, too. I don’ t know how her heart stands it because to go into shelters and look at those animals and you know–it’s almost like Sophie’s Choice. The ones she doesn’t save, are going to be euthanized. But what I can do is help our cause with money and support and things like this. People can know about her and help her cause, and I hope they will.

Well, I learned something then. I always try to know a lot, but I admit I don’t know everything–

Oh pulease, you can’t know everything. This is just a little window anyway.

I honestly support so many actors and causes. Sometimes I feel like I’m tweeting and promoting all day long.

Yes, I know that feeling, and you can’t do that because somehow, you still have to have a life. Before I started filming here this time, I was so spread out. I had so many other projects going–Sue Melke, my business partner, and I had so much going on in social media, that I just literally needed to shut down and get off the grid. So I did for about three weeks. And I got my head right for this show. It’s a big deal to have to leave home  for two and a half or three months. And I just needed to do that. And now I’m ready.

But sometimes we get so spread out on social media and all the other stuff that we do that we forget. It starts at home, and you have to be good to yourself. And if you’re feeling like you’re overwhelmed, unplug for a day or at least for an hour. Just reconnect with what’s real and what you can touch and feel.

I can sympathize with all that. People have been warning me to slow down, and I have listened. It’s not always easy. It’s a lot.

Yes, it is. Plus you’re still a mom. How old’s your daughter?

She just turned thirteen.

Awwww nice, I remember that age.

And thankfully she’s a really good kid. I am so blessed. I’m a single mom–

Yeah, I know.

–and I didn’t know how it would all work out, but thankfully God did. 

Exactly. You just have to realize it’s already written, and the story’s unfolding. You just have to say, “Thank You, Lord, for the lessons.” And pass it on to your child, too. And that’s what’s important.

And she’s much smarter than I ever was.

(laughs) I know, mine, too. I never finished college, and my daughter got a master’s in environmental education. She’s now curator of education at the LA Zoo. Isn’t that amazing? Her passion has always been to save animals and save people and to make a difference. And so she’s in the perfect spot. She’s also selling something called Beauty Counter now. Jessica’s the kind that never really wears make-up. But she has her priorities on right. She found something that I’m loving too called Beauty Counter, which is a mission basically to help families and find make-up and products that are nontoxic and that are totally safe. And to make new rules and regulations in Congress so that we have safe families. So, she’s having a ball with that. It’s her purpose.  So no matter how old you are, being a mom is still the best thing ever. And I still do sniff her neck. You know how you have to inhale your baby? When no one is watching, she still has to let me sniff her neck.

Cedar Cove Episode 3007 Final Photo AssetsIn Chesapeake Shores, are there any similarities between your character Megan O’Brien and Peggy Beldon from Cedar Cove?

They might see some similar mannerisms because as actors, all we have to use is ourselves. So I put my weird sense of humor, which is probably not very linear in here, but it works. Peggy always had Bob. They were partners forever. When people read the story of Chesapeak Shores, they’ll find out that years ago, Megan left the family. You know, sometimes people thought she was horrible for leaving the kids, but the way I see what happened is that–what we were just talking about–you want to make the best life for your kids. She was arguing all the time with Mick, who is played by Treat Williams. The kids were growing up hearing arguments in a very harsh atmosphere because of it. And so she finally decided she was going to go to New York and then bring the kids afterwards, as soon as she got her place. And then–but it’s so complicated–’cause the house that they were all growing up in, Chesapeake Shores, when you guys see it on TV, you are going to be blown away. I have never seen a location like this. Olivia’s house in Cedar Cove was great, but it’s beyond that, and the location is incredible. And we had all these kids. And my daughter, Abby, was going to be graduating high school the next year. How do you–because you’re moving and you can’t make it work with your husband–do you uproot all your kids and put them in what? Two bedrooms in a New York apartment when they have a great life here? And then, of course, Mick brought his mother, Nell, played by the incomparable Diane Ladd, to help raise the kids. And so Megan, for their benefit, though it just broke her heart, she let them continue living there. And the kids did not follow her. And so she’s kept in touch as much as she can, but there are so many relationships that are just broken.

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Cedar Cove Episode 3002 Final Photo AssetsKWIK KWOTE

Cameron Bancroft, Actor and Co-Star Cedar Cove

 

“Barbra and I did not have a ton of scenes together, but I did enjoy her company on set. An extremely thoughtful and talented actor eager to make everyone feel comfortable around her. She thinks of others before herself, and I admire and respect that very much in an actor or as a person.”

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When she comes back to Chesapeake Shores, she’s walking a minefield through not only the house–that’s where she and Mick were married and had all their kids and all the memories there, but also the relationships because she’s been close with Abby and her grandkids in New York because Abby lives on the East Coast. But all the other kids she’s basically lost touch with. There’s a lot of resentment. So she comes back, and it’s just delicious drama. And my character says, “Just be patient and be kind to yourself.” So in each one of the scenes, I–as the actress playing Megan–I am trying to look for little victories. Little things to celebrate. A mile that maybe I get. Just a little clue. Like when somebody calls me “mom,” I haven’t heard that in years or maybe forever.  So, it’s just delicious things for me as an actress to play. And there’s so many places for this to go. How do you heal the relationship with Mick, too?  Now we’re some years later. I’m thinking in my head it’s fifteen, but I’m not sure. Maybe he doesn’t want to just work any more. He was a workaholic. He was never around. I was raising the kids by myself. Plus, when he was there, we argued all the time.   Now we both have reached an age where you think back on it, and go, “Why were we arguing?” ‘Cause we had so much. So it’s delicious to see what the writers are coming up with. To see how we can put this back together. And if we can put it back together. The relationship with Mick. The relationship with Nell. As the first couple episodes go, we have to see how we can try to put this back together.

That sounds like a very complex story.

So it’s not the “all tied up in a pretty bow” kind of story. And this is real life. ‘Cause so many of our families are divorced and broken. They have fallouts with one or both parents. Or one gets estranged. How do you navigate? I hope that our show is a little bit of a lighthouse to help people come back together. I hope families will watch it to give them maybe points that they can talk about, and a start for the conversation.

People were also wondering if your character has a larger role than–

Yes! Yay!! I haven’t seen all the scripts yet, but from what I’ve seen, yes!! I loved playing Peggy, but it was like going in, playing with Bob, and then walking off again. Megan is such a deliciously complex wonderful role. She’s vulnerable, and she tries to cover it with humor. Maybe a little angst. She’s just trying to put it back together. She just gives me so much to do. As an actress, I love it. I wake up in the middle of the night going–’cause I always love to do this when I act–to figure out the moments. And I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night, thinking, “Ah!” I’ve been working on it in my sleep. And I think, “Oh my gosh, that’s that moment!” If I did that little color, that’s what it’s all about. It’s just so thrilling.

CjFUZF0UkAAYDUaThey also would like to know if you’re going to periscope from the set.

Yes–tell them, Yes! The problem is I was already going to do it. We have very bad wi-fi up here. In this huge, big house. If you saw the picture I tweeted out, the big expanse, what I’m looking out over, that is the house. My cell phone service is really spotty there. And I don’t have wi-fi right there. I know that’s not going to be the only location where we shoot at, so let them know, yes! I will absolutely be doing Periscope. As soon as I can get it together and get a good wi-fi connection. It’s really fun. The only bad thing with Periscope is trying to read questions as they come up on the screen ’cause they’re so little on my Iphone. But it’s so much fun. It makes it way more fun for me when I get to share the excitement and the  adventure with everybody out there.

The next installment of Murder She Baked comes up Sunday, June 19. One of the questions–actually the person who had the best questions was Lisa Colangelo. 

That’s great! Yes, I know who Lisa is. I am very thankful to her! Isn’t it funny we know who all these people are?

Yes! Her question about Murder She Baked–Will #TeamNorman ever come over to #TeamMike?

#TeamMike??

#TeamMike??

Oh, you know, that Mike is awfully dang cute, but I do, as Delores, want a dentist in the family. But Mike is winning me over. But don’t you want your kids to be safe and know that your grandkids are close by? Norman lives in the neighborhood, and he’s got his dentist practice. It’s really been so fun having #TeamNorman and #TeamMike. And #TeamNorman, I have to say, has some pretty great stuff coming up in Murder She Baked: A Deadly Recipe coming up June 19th. He is giving that Mike a run for his money.

He started that last time–I remember.

I know! Oh my gosh, we have so much fun on those. To play Delores with the big hair and the tight dresses and the long eyelashes. She is just a blast. I call her a “force of nature.” So I have to know my lines really well because she speaks really fast and never lets anybody get a word in.

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brad krevoyKWIK KWOTE

Brad Krevoy, Producer Murder She Baked

“Working with Barbara Niven  on the MURDER, SHE BAKED series, as well as the other Hallmark movies we have done together, is always a true pleasure. Barbara has such a generous spirit, and I’m looking forward to continuing my working relationship with this talented actress in the future.”

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But you do it so well!

The comedy for a change. And Alison Sweeney–she is brilliant at this. And from the very first, we had just a great chemistry. And our director for the last two has been a wonderful actor and actor director named Kristoffer Tabori. And he is just brilliant. So we can trust him to help us with the rhythm. You know, we’ve kind of gotten it down now. But especially when we were starting out, most directors have you not ever overlap in dialogue, but Kristoffer brings a reality to it. I think in Chocolate Chip Mystery, Ali and I had to keep walking upstairs over and over in that big building. And we were literally sweating, out of breath, and Kristoffer kept saying, “You guys can overlap because it’s real life.” And we started doing that, and we were off to the races. As people are. You don’t have to actually look at somebody when you’re talking. In real life, maybe I say something and you say something, We’re in our own reality and then we realize, “Oh did you say something?” So that’s what we’re having a lot of fun exploring.

#TeamMike???

#TeamMike???

Alison Sweeney–I don’t know how she does what she does. She is the force of nature behind Murder She Baked. She is the executive producer, and not just in name only. But she is there on every word of the script. Every rewrite. On the wardrobe. When we did ADR back in LA, she directed that session for us. I mean she does everything. She’s a mom. She’s an author. The last time we were shooting, she was doing editing on the galleys on her laptop in the van on the way back to set to location because they were due to her editor. She’s a powerhouse, and she inspires me. She should inspire all of us that we can do more. My old acting teacher always used to say, “Say yes, say yes. Keep saying yes because the more you do, the more you can do.”

There is a chemistry that cast has.

I so agree. And Lisa Durupt, who plays Andrea, too, she is brilliant in comedy. And she always throws in some improv, too, and you try not to laugh, ’cause you’ve got to stay in character, but she’s just so funny. And yet I love that we all have these warm moments, too. I think people are going to love this next one, ’cause we have some pretty cool things that happen in this episode. I don’t want to give anything away, but I think people are going to be really happy.

Murder She Baked A Plum Pudding Mystery Final Photo AssetsI know that I’m looking forward to seeing it. I’m always looking forward to watching anything with people that I support like you.

Thank you so much for your support all this time. It has meant the world.

I have truly enjoyed getting to support people and finding out that there’s a lot of good people in the entertainment industry. And those are the kind of people I like to support. 

Well, thank you very much.

barbara 5

You’re welcome. (pause) So a lot of people, and I’m included in this, are curious about the status of the Nesting Doll Production.

We had to keep pushing it back because I keep getting things. Our next Murder She Baked is scheduled to shoot I believe in August , the first of September. And then we want to get right on to Nesting Doll. But nothing is confirmed or set in stone yet. ‘Cause I’m one of the executive producers, too. I want to be there for every bit of it as well. And I’m not sure where we’re shooting it yet. I would like to shoot in LA actually just so I could have home base there and be around my family again because I’ve been gone so much. And we just spoke with Cale {Ferrin} to make sure he is available. We just want everyone to know that it has to keep being pushed because of schedules–mostly mine. We were going to shoot Chesapeake Shores a month earlier and be done by June first. Treat was actually going to do a play somewhere, but that didn’t work out. We didn’t even start shooting. So, hence, everything got pushed again.

That’s the nature of this business. 

That’s what we have to learn. Our time is not our own in this business. But there’s so much good about it that I’m good. I’m fine with that. Make lemonade. We just have to trust that it’s all happening in its perfect season.

If there was going to be a movie made of your life, what actress would you like to play you?

Gloria Grahame

Gloria Grahame

Oh my goodness. That’s so funny. You know who I identify with most of all ’cause I love old movies?  Do you know the actress Gloria Grahame? That’s who I would pick to play me. ‘Cause I think we’re a lot alike. I think we’re the same kind of actress. I’ve always considered myself a character actress. I love being able to play different characters. I think I’m an anomaly becuase it really doesn’t bother me to play characters with no make-up. Like in My Mother’s Secret, I never put any make-up on–like nothing. And I am so blonde without make-up. I used to hate that before I became an actress, I realized I have such a good actress face because you can paint anything on. Heck, I got to play Marilyn Monroe. They could paint that on me. I just really like to become a character. Megan is very classy. She’s very New York. Softer hair than what Peggy had. Each one is me, but it’s a little bit different. But I would cast Gloria Grahame, oh my goodness!

Barbara as Marilyn Monroe

Barbara as Marilyn Monroe

Have you ever done any directing or writing?

Yes, I’m a writer. I have done several screenplays that we haven’t actually gotten produced yet. I also helped write Nesting Doll. And I’m such a vicious character in that, too. I call it one of my passion projects. I love working for Hallmark and all of that. But you also have to do projects that you take a bet on that you think will make a difference, at least for me. And Nesting Doll is going to do that. It’s written around a special needs boy, and we found this amazing kid named Cale Ferrin, who is–I don’t know if you remember Jerry Maguire. Do you remember the little boy Jonathan Lipnicki? I think people are going to fall in love with him even more. I think Cale’s even more special. And just a brilliant little actor. When we cast him, we essentially rewrote it to fit him.

My character is this very bitchy senator who also has a prescription drug problem. She has not made good choices in her life. She just has a very mean heart and a very unhappy marriage and is a very unhappy woman. All relationships in her life are unhappy. And then there are three other women in this, too, and we wrote this to show all these broken relationships and see how they hopefully heal and come together. And would you believe this is such a community project that because people believed in us and the message, we raised the money with donations. Then we also got a funder that has matched the donations. We raised almost 500,000 dollars in donations. And I’ve invested in it, too. I put my own money into this project ’cause I believe in it. And then we found an investor who doubled it. So we have almost a million dollar budget to go make a movie.

For an independent film, that is an unbelievable budget.

I know! Isn’t that nuts? As you and I were saying, things happen for a reason. Nicole Conn has always wanted to make a movie about the special needs community ’cause she has a special needs son. She wants to show how they feel like they’re different. She wants to shed light on this community, not because you need us, but because we need you. I’m hoping it turns out as good as what we think it will. I think it’s pretty special. I can’t wait to get started with it.

barbara 8Nesting Doll was named by Nicole’s daughter Gabrielle, who has grown up with Nicholas, this special needs brother. She and Nicole always have exchanged nesting dolls. You know, those little dolls that you open up, and one is inside the other, and then another, and then another. It’s because each of us, when we meet people, leave a little piece of ourselves with them. I can’t wait to get on this and share behind-the-scenes. You know, I hope it’s a project you’re all going to be really proud of.

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nicKWIK KWOTE

Nicole Conn, Writer, Director, Creator; Nesting Doll Films

“I’ve known Barbara Niven over 25 years. In that time I’ve seen her not only be the hardest-working actress I know, but also one that never cowers from a challenge. She is a director’s dream – a consummate professional – always bringing the kind of business that only Barbara can bring. Every take is a new adventure. I cannot wait to work with her for the 3rd time on the set of “Nesting Doll.”

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I’m as hopeful as you are that it will be. (pause) So is there any character you have not played that you would like to play?

Isn’t that interesting? I’ve been able to play a lot of different characters, to tell you the truth. I love playing a bitch–crazy bitches on Lifetime. They have let me do some wonderful roles. The more complicated, the better. When you’re younger, as an actor, you kind of play the ingenue, which is not as much fun, in my opinion, because they’re not as complicated. But the older you get–like look at Jessica Tandy and Katharine Hepburn and what they showed as we watched their career progress. Their whole life experience is there on screen as you watch, and the music that they played and their orchestra just swelled with what they could do. I don’t know. I want to do roles like they did–Trip to Bountiful or On Golden Pond. I just want to do it all.

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A Christmas Detour Final Photo AssetsKWIK KWOTE

Marcus Rosner, Actor and Co-Star A Christmas Detour

“Barbara was someone who seemed to just love what she does for a living. I only spent three days with her on set, but she always seemed like she had a fresh excitement for being on set. Which was a great energy to be around and somewhat unique for someone who has been doing this for so long. Really seems like she’s doing what she loves.”

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Honestly, both my mom and me–whenever we watch you–I know you haven’t done all the plastic surgery stuff, but you look incredible. And I know it’s not just the physical. You have lots of joy and happiness with what you’re doing, and you have that inner light that radiates out.

Thank you, that means the world. And tell your mom, “thank you,” too. My dad passed away at eighty-six without a single wrinkle. But he was the ultimate optimist, and every day, he learned something new. He had a Facebook page at eighty-six. And I want to be like my dad. But I do do Botox, I have to admit, I do Botox. Little bits, just because it is acting. It’s just to soften things. But I’m not going to do plastic surgery. I go into auditions and sit next to actresses that I’ve admired for years. And you can’t even recognize them. You can’t look at them ’cause you do a double take. They don’t look like real people. So as an actress, how can you play a real person if you don’t look real? But I’m always worried about losing five pounds. The camera adds a frickin’ ten pounds. I just want to be a good role model, and know that we’re all trying our best. And to be kind to each other. All that other stuff doesn’t make any difference anyway. Gravity’s gonna happen anyway. You just have to worry about the right things. Celebrate the right things and quit worrying about the things that don’t really matter.

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warren againKWIK KWOTE

Brennan Elliott, Actor and Co-Star Cedar Cove

“Barbara is one of the sweetest ladies I have had the chance to meet and work with. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and her passion to reach her fans as well as towards her work really comes through. Very rarely do you meet someone with such a long and distinguished Hollywood career who is so humble and gracious. A true doll!”

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And hey, my daughter even knows who you are!

Oh, that means so much, thank you.

I have so enjoyed our conversation, Barbara.

Me, too. It’s been a pleasure. We’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. I knew you were a sweetheart ’cause I’ve seen how you write, and I see how you encourage people, and it means the world.

Well, thank you, that means a lot. 

And please know that I will always be live tweeting anytime one of my things is on. It’s a little bit tricky up here because they don’t get Hallmark Channel in my hotel here. I know Murder She Baked airs June 19, and no matter where I am, I will still follow along with twitter and tweet.

Your dedication to live tweeting is incredibly appreciated by all of us. While some actors cannot tweet, and I understand that, but even if they come on for just a short time and do it, it’s really neat. 

I think it’s so fun. I love what I do so much, and it’s even better when I get to share it.

I think that’s what was hard about Cedar Cove Season three. There was not as much live tweeting going on. But you and a couple others could always be counted on to be there.

Yeah, I wonder why. And nobody knows why or what happened. I was live tweeting every time. I still don’t know. I don’t think anybody knows really why it got cancelled. Hopefully, for whatever reason, we have to bless it, take the lesson, and hopefully do it right and better this time. It blindsided us, and it was hard on the people at Hallmark. This was their baby. But they answer to a board. They’re not big, bad people. Bill Abbot has got the biggest heart of anybody I know. He is so into animal rescue, he does a whole feral cat colony by himself. Michelle Vicary, executive VP of all programming, and this was her baby, too. All you can do is suck it up and try to make it work next time and say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Sending a very special shoutout and thank you to everyone, and I appreciate you guys so much. And an extra special shoutout to #FOBN!

(A call from Diane Ladd interrupted our interview right at the end–pretty cool, huh?)

And contact me any time and let me know how I can help your cause as well.

Thank you, Barbara. Again, it was wonderful getting to talk to you. You’re just as wonderful as I would have expected you to be, and even more so. 

And I you. So I feel the same way.

Murder She Baked A Deadly Recipe Final Photo Assets

 

After chatting with Barbara for well over an hour, I have to say that I now know exactly why her co-workers love her, not to mention her fans. I know I often say it’s rare to find so-and-so in this business, but with Barbara, she is in a distinctive class all by herself. It’s common to have many of the kind people who work for Hallmark thank you and express their gratitude in sincere ways, but with Barbara, it goes far beyond that. Several times, I attempted to compliment her, and she performed that lovely trick that turned the compliment around to praise me instead of her. And if you could have heard the passion in her voice as she bubbled about her upcoming projects, especially Chesapeake Shores, you would have been just as enraptured as I. Usually, I’m the one who is attempting to set the interviewee at ease and sometimes gently open them up. But with Barbara, none of that was needed. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and she instantly puts the person to whom she is talking at ease. In fact, I was so comfortable with her that I was able to share my heart and even some of those concerns to which I have been privy concerning Chesapeake Shores. Scarcely ever would I broach that potentially sensitive issue with the majority of the people I interview, but I’m so glad I did. For me, Barbara Niven is such a genuine person that I sincerely believe I could share anything with her and never worry about impending judgment. I couldn’t think of her as just an actress before, but now I feel as though I have bonded with her even more. Let me say this. When I grow up, I want to be Barbara Niven! And I mean that–I’ve never said that about another person in my life. In this household, everyone knows Barbara, and we don’t neglect watching any of her films or shows. She is an exquisite person, but she is also an unparalleled talent. I am privileged to be able to share such an epic chat with all of you, and I hope that you will tune in Sunday, June 19, to the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel to watch Murder She Baked: A Deadly Recipe. And also don’t forget to tune in this August to watch Chesapeake Shores on the Hallmark Channel! You won’t be sorry because not only will it be family-friendly viewing, but you will treated with a performance by the Queen of Hallmark herself (okay, so that’s my term for her, but I bet many of you would agree).

Follow Barbara:

Website

Facebook

Twitter

IMDB

And as promised, dear Barbara, here is a picture of my family!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mel (my dad), Neva (my mom), Ruth (me), Martha (daughter)

 

 

 

 

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
42-year-old single mother of an active 13-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

5 Comments

  1. Amazing interview Ruth!!! Well done! Thoroughly enjoyed reading!

    • Author
      Ruth June 19, 2016 Reply

      Thank you Tara. So glad you enjoyed it!

  2. Charity June 27, 2016 Reply

    Amazing interview with an amazing actress, animal enthusiast, and just a down home lady. The questions were endearing and the answers were honest but more importantly real. Barbara Niven shows us that you can be a part of Hollywood and still be yourself with out all the trappings that the business seems to offer. With any luck, they (Hollywood) will continue to shine their light on her and hopefully learn a few things. Your writing brings out the best of them and wish you continue success in your endeavors. Thanks again.

    • Author
      Ruth June 27, 2016 Reply

      Thank you so much Charity for all your kind words. Barbara is truly amazing–I’m glad to have brought out the best of her as you mentioned.

  3. Cynthia Debello-Kelly December 16, 2016 Reply

    I’ve only had small discussions and comments with the beautiful and talented Ms. Niven. I’m so honored and blessed that she is as much of an amazing person as an extraodinary Actress. I’m blessed for being apart of the Hallmark channel family and a #chessie. Barbara always continue just being you.

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