When I had the privilege of watching and reviewing Unleashing Mr. Darcy on the Hallmark Channel earlier this year, I connected with several actors who were featured in that beloved film. One of those people was Lini Evans, and although I have since discovered that I have seen her featured in other works, I count Unleashing Mr. Darcy as the initial point of contact. Recently, Lini was gracious enough to take some time out of her schedule to answer a few questions about her career, including her Hallmark works and more.
Wow, inspiration is a great question and thought-provoking to me. To be honest, I’ve never known or wanted to do anything else. I’ve been blessed to support myself since age seventeen solely as a performer. I guess my passion started around age eight when I made family and neighbors buy tickets to my frequent outdoor “variety shows” – as if they had any choice to say no!
My biggest influence growing up would have been listening to records (yes LPs) of Barbra Streisand and watching her movies with my mom. I wanted to do exactly what she did – sing, act, entertain and make people smile. My favorite album of hers is still Color Me Barbra, and when I was fourteen, I performed her song The Minute Waltz onstage, standing there like a human clock with my arms outstretched, counting down the time while I sang its extremely fast lyrics. Seriously! Then just a few years ago I had the best full-circle moment of my life when Streisand did a concert in Vancouver, on a Monday night of all things, which also fell on my birthday. Come on, how often are big concerts ever held on a Monday?!? The tickets were crazy expensive, but she rarely tours, so I knew I had to be there. What an absolute thrill and honor to be able to afford to buy tickets for my mom and I. It was a magical night, and we both teared up at different points. Plus the concert was held at Rogers Arena, where I had sung a duet just a few years before – and now Barbra Streisand was singing on the very same stage!
I’ve trained with different acting instructors (never trained for singing), but oddly enough, training didn’t start until after my first agent pursued me, and I’d booked a job. Kinda backwards, I guess, but in this business, there’s no blueprint to follow, and never a guarantee of success, so whatever works, works. Two instructors really impacted my career: Michael Coleman, who plays Happy on Once Upon a Time, for his exuberance, audacity and can-do spirit, and Andrew Mcilroy for his attention to detail and instilling in me an unrelenting commitment to “do the work”. When I prepare for an audition now, I not only create the character’s backstory, but also their raison d’être, choices, etc. right down to their footwear. When I auditioned for a small part on the TV series Bates Motel, I knew my character’s “spine” by creating details like her imaginary boutique name and which color of toenail polish I’d choose while wearing sequined turquoise sandals. Specificity works for me, and that little part ended up becoming my first recurring role.
What do you like about working for the Hallmark brand?
I love that they stay true to what they are and who they do it for. Hallmark can always be counted on to deliver uplifting, relevant stories about family, friendship, work and love. They constantly create new content and original movies, yet despite some current trends towards dystopia, SFX or violence, Hallmark steadfastly remains true to its roots of heart and hope. I admire that. And especially when faced with today’s life challenges, we all sometimes need reminding that’s what really matters. I think that’s why their audience is very, very loyal–like family.
It means the world to me that friends across the world ask how they can watch my latest Hallmark show with their entire family, from as afar away as Australia and Asia (hi Kate and Tony). How cool is that?! My fourteen-year-old niece teased my sister for crying at the ending of one of my movies, but then again, she’d sat there WITH my sister and her dad for two hours versus glued to some screen by herself posting or playing.
Finally, I applaud Hallmark for producing so much female-focused content. With the cast of Stop the Wedding!, three of the five top roles are female – Rachel Boston, myself and Teryl Rothery respectively. Plus we’re all over the age of thirty, so that’s even more fantastic!
Tell us about your experience working on Unleashing Mr. Darcy. Any special stories? What was it like working with the cast and crew?
I think we were all blown away by the response to this charming, modern-day version of Pride & Prejudice from author Teri Wilson. Maybe part of its success was the bonding that began when Frances Fisher organized a movie night at a cinema for our main cast just before filming began. I’ve never had that happen before and loved it. I even took Frances grocery-shopping afterwards because she wanted healthy food for her hotel room. I met my two TV daughters that night, Cindy Busby and Tammy Gillis, and we had a blast on set. Ryan Paevey was a lot of fun telling stories while we waited to film. AND it would make a great sequel… HINT, HINT, HINT!
I particularly enjoyed working with one of my all-time favorite directors, David Winning, whom Hallmark seems to like with good reason. He’s a great guy who sets a wonderful, easy tone and guides actors in the warmest way so we always feel supported and safe.
Tammy Gillis, co-star Unleashing Mr. Darcy
Lini is an absolute joy to work with. We had so much fun shooting Unleashing Mr Darcy and in particular, the birthday restaurant scene. We got to improv the end of it, and she is so funny, it was hard to stay in character!
Your most recent movie is Stop the Wedding! How did you get involved with this project?
It’s surprising how many bridal scenes I’ve shot lately – does someone know something I don’t? I was invited to read for this by a casting director who holds a special place in my heart, Jackie Lind (she’d brought me in to audition for my first lead role a few years ago), and I was thrilled to audition for Anne Wheeler, who is a Canadian director I’ve greatly admired. In fact, I thanked her in the room for writing back to me after I’d emailed her about her wonderful work on the film Chi. I was happy with my audition, but heard nothing before going on vacation. Upon returning from the airport on Easter Sunday, my phone rang, and I was shocked when my agent told me I booked it. Within days I had a wardrobe fitting and then started filming the next week – the pace is fast.
Please tell us a little about your character. How would you describe her role in the overall story without giving anything away?
I play the role of Belle, who is the aunt of Anna (Rachel Boston), whereas in Stephanie Bond’s book, Belle was her mom. I quickly get engaged to a movie star (Alan Thicke), so his son Clay (Niall Matter) and Anna set out to break us up because they’re jaded about love. My fiancé and I become more determined than ever, but it still may not be enough. I adore my character! She’s caring and supportive, but also speaks her mind and looks out for those she loves.
What was it like working with your incredible co-stars?
You mean in between the guys’ endless hockey chatter?! It’s okay, it was the NHL playoffs starting, so I understand the overriding importance of sports reports. (Laughs) Rachel and I had so much fun filming the opening scene inside a lovely home, while its real family sat watching us, and outside at night, yelling and jumping over bushes. Our dedicated director even sang at the top of her lungs, so we’d have to yell louder! Niall and I had great conversations about growing up in Alberta, and he was so sweet. Alan Thicke gave me nothing but trouble. Just kidding – I learned so much from this veteran actor and immense talent. He has the sharpest wit I’ve ever encountered and is also an accomplished writer and songwriter. I’d had no idea he was a writer of variety shows long before appearing onscreen. My favorite memory with him was when he brought his ninety-three-year-old uncle to set, who posed for photos with us gals in his dapper three-piece suit and tie. Alan confided it was the first time in years he’d donned a suit, and it was so touching to see them together. Teryl Rothery and I play sisters, and we became like real ones! We get together for lunch when we’re not filming, and I’d say we look more related than either of my sisters do with me.
You are also featured in the new Aurora Teagarden film. What can you tell us about your role? What was it like working with your co-stars?
Yes, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, which premieres this Sunday, June 11. This was a small but fun role for me. Once again, I’m in a bridal scene somehow, go figure. But I’m delighted to add that this film stars two females over forty and is directed by Canadian Lynne Stopkewich. Gals, we’re makin’ progress!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have any scenes with Yannick Bisson, but Candace Cameron Bure and Marilu Henner were a lot of fun in their fuchsia gowns.
I notice you’re also a singer. Please tell us about your music–I didn’t know you were a singer.
It takes one to know one, huh Ruth?! I like that we share that passion, as I’ve often said that music is the air I breathe. I’ve been singing professionally since age sixteen, starring in an amusement park show with Fred Flinstone and gang. In my twenties, I began adding foreign languages to my repertoire. My style is easy-listening and jazz. For decades, I’ve been singing here and internationally in eight languages (English, French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Tagalog, and Norwegian). It may seem unusual I guess, but I have a deep desire to communicate with people of all ethnicities, and am told I have a good ear for languages. I once sang live in front of thirty thousand people in Taiwan (including their President) and was the only singer in BC to sing for the Premier of China when he visited.
A recent highlight of my career was when my two greatest passions of singing and acting intersected. I co-wrote and performed a Japanese version of the song The End of the World in a scene for the Amazon series The Man In the High Castle.
Any other upcoming works you can mention?
Well my Japanese version of The End of the World, had such a positive response that I’ll be releasing it along with a number of other songs I’ve recorded, some in English and some in the other languages. Maybe one will be the Cantonese version of Careless Whisper I’ve sung for years.
I also did another film directed by David Winning called Under Fire that is a thriller, but I don’t know when it will be released. Auditions continue and fingers as well as eyes, arms and legs are crossed for my most recent one which is a Disney feature. It’s a terrific concept I’d love to be a part of, that my family, extended and otherwise across the globe could enjoy. Stay tuned!
After this phenomenal and newsy interview, I was completely blown away by Lini and her dedication to her craft. Moreover, I learned that her talent is so multi-faceted, I can hardly wrap my head around the marvel she is. And if that weren’t enough, she has not permitted the world to tarnish her gift, and she remains the humble, sweet, and lovely woman you see in every one of her works. Oh, and if you didn’t detect it, I would say she is quite jubilant about the success of women in films (and especially those of us who are a bit more mature–I’m right there with you, Lini!). Be sure to watch for her on both Saturday, June 11, on the Hallmark Channel, for the premiere of Stop the Wedding!, and don’t forget to look her up Sunday, June 12, on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel for the newest in the Aurora Teagarden mystery movie series.