I have been a steadfast fan of the Signed, Sealed, Delivered franchise from Day One, and I always pay particular attention to the actors that are brought in for the special roles in the films. Because of this, I was introduced to the immensely talented actress, Tammy Gillis. Although her role was relatively small, it was absolutely pivotal. As I began to follow her career, I discovered that this zealous actress is an immeasurably adept and versatile nymph who is always willing to rise to any challenge on the screen. As she has become a favorite Hallmark character actress, I was very pleased to have the opportunity to chat with her recently about her career in general with a predominant focus on all things Hallmark, including her current role in the upcoming Hallmark film, Wedding Bells.
I’m glad to get a chance to talk to you.
Thank you so much for contacting me.
What is it that inspired you to become an actress?
Well, it’s interesting because I’m from a really small town–in rural Manitoba. I’ve never really known anyone personally as an actor. The most famous people we met were hockey players. When my friends and I were in school, there was this traveling road show that would come to McCreary–the town I grew up in–and we would literally line up to see this live theater. And I remember seeing the audience and being totally transfixed in this world and loving it so much. But it wasn’t until my English teacher in high school, Darlene Grimstead, moved to our town, and she created a drama club. And I joined it, and from the very first play we did, it was like I was hooked after that. She changed the path of my life for sure.
So from there, what kind of training did you have to pursue this dream?
Well, at that point, it was still something that was just kind of a hobby. I’m from a pretty practical family. My dad is a farmer, and he worked for the railway. And my mom was a secretary at the school we went to from kindergarten through grade twelve. There was just one school. So I went to the university originally to go into law. And I found out I didn’t love all the reading and all the time spent in the library. So I changed my course, and I got into business. It was in my first year at the university, I’m pretty sure, I was scouted for modeling. So I started doing some modeling and started auditioning for commercials. And then I booked a couple of commercials, and I was like, “I like this A LOT.” So I started switching some of my elective classes. I started taking theater. I started studying with some local acting teachers in Winnipeg. And then I worked on my very first movie, and I was actually a stand-in. Talking to the actors from LA was Chad Lowe, Rob Lowe’s brother, Sean Patrick Flannery–who I’m still friends with to this day and talk to–and Kelly Rutherford, who is well-known from Gossip Girl. When I worked on that project with them, I was talking with Kelly and Chad about being an actor and trying to find out if this was something I really could do. And they were like, “You have to do this! This is your calling!” They were really great because they provided a lot of support and kind of made me feel like there was a possibility.
So many actors have said, “It was my calling.” I think that’s a really neat way to look at it. If it’s your calling, you have to do it. You can’t do anything else.
It’s so funny. I’ve tried to walk away from it a number of times, but it totally just pulls you back in. I audition a lot–more than anybody that I really know. Sometimes I’ll be like–I can’t even wrap my head around memorizing something new and trying to create something new. And then I’ll have a week or two without an audition, and I’ll be jonesing for it. I’ll be like, “What’s going on? I know I said a week ago I was over it, but where is it? I need it!”
That’s great! Then we all get to benefit from it. Honestly, the first time I figured out who you were was Signed, Sealed, Delivered.
That was one of my favorite roles for sure.
And from there, you jumped into Unleashing Mr. Darcy, which was such a totally different role. And it was cool to see your versatility.
Oh, thank you. My role in Signed, Sealed, Delivered was some of the most fun I’ve ever had as an actor. I felt a huge responsibility in getting that card right. But it was so amazing and such an incredible experience. Even the first movie, we had shot more scenes with me in the first half of it. But they cut them out, probably for time or whatever reason. That was my first sort of discovery into that role. And the scenes that were actually cut out were of me on the military base when I decide to get in the helicopter and go up on this secret mission. That whole set was unbelievable. It was in this giant gravel pit, and they had these fake helicopters that were lifting up and off the ground. There were so many military vehicles. It really gave me the feeling of being on a military base in the middle of kind of nowhere. And it was crazy ’cause we were shooting at night, and it was really, really dark. And it was so ominous as if anything could come over the wall. And I was like, “Man, I have so much respect for military people that put their lives on the line day in and day out and put themselves into the situations where they don’t know what’s going to happen.” I got such a small sense of it. But as an actor, I literally didn’t have to do a lot. It just dropped in on me.
That had to be an awesome experience–I can’t even imagine. One of those moments you’ll never forget.
I know some of the fans continue to talk about that they really want a sequel for Unleashing Mr. Darcy.
(laughs) So do we! I loved shooting that movie so much.
During the shooting of Unleashing Mr. Darcy, were there any favorite or special moments that stood out to you?
We had so much fun. Literally, we got along so well as a cast behind the scenes. Cindy [Busby] was the spearhead of it all. There’s a game Ellen [DeGeneres] had on her show called “Heads Up,” I think. It’s kind of like charades. One person has the game on their cell phone, and there will be like a person’s name or a movie title or something like that. Everybody watching has to try to get the person holding the phone to say the word on the phone. We played that game every day. And we would literally get in trouble from production all the time because we’d be so loud. While they were setting up the shot or shooting other coverage, we would get so into it. And the funny thing is it records everybody else. The person who is supposed to guess the word or phrase holds it on their forehead, and it records everybody else. So we had these hilarious videos, mostly on Cindy’s phone–we had a ton of these hilarious videos of us just screaming. And Frances Fisher was right there all the time in the mix of it. It was totally hilarious.
I love hearing those kinds of stories, and they seem to happen so much with the Hallmark network. There’s always that camaraderie, and everyone gets along. They seem to hire the best cast and crew.
Hallmark is just like a lovely family, you know, and it really becomes like a family.
I love it! I love doing RomCom so much. They’re one of my favorite things to do. Having fun with it. Finding those moments..I’ve been lucky. Unleashing Mr. Darcy and Wedding Bells for me they felt like they were a lot about the relationship. With Cindy’s character–I was her sister, Jenna– and now in Wedding Bells, it highlights my character with Danica’s character, Molly. And I love that there’s a romantic element involved, but there’s also that really strong love and friendship for my friend or my sister.
I also love when they write crazy stuff for us like in Unleashing Mr. Darcy when they had us at all the dog shows–that was amazing. And then also when we had that giant ball. We were wearing these beautiful gowns in this stunning house and all the men are in tuxedos . It was kind of like living a little bit of a fairy tale. And even with Wedding Bells, you should see the wedding dress that I wear in the show. It’s unbelievable. It weighed a lot. I could not sit down very well in it. But I loved it. I love the Hallmark movies where I get to do stuff I have never really had the opportunity to do in my real life. It’s sort of life “Cinderella” moments, which I totally love.
He’s ridiculously handsome. And he eats like nonstop. I was like–how is is possible? Every time we had a moment where we could walk away from the set, he would be at craft service eating something. Anytime anyone would ask, ‘Where is Christopher?” He’s at craft service, I can guarantee it. He’s ridiculously handsome and just so lovely. It was a real pleasure working with him.
Without revealing too much about Wedding Bells, what message do you hope the viewers will take away from the film?
It’s interesting because there’s two kind of main story lines. There’s Molly and Nick and me (Amy) and Christopher (James)–actually there’s kind of three. We talked a lot about that–how there’s three different storylines that all kind of come together. But I think that the main thing is to not be afraid to listen to your heart. There’s where it really stands out for me. And it kind of follows all of the story lines. You’ve got to be free to listen to your heart whether it’s good or even if it might be bad.
So in addition to Wedding Bells, I believe you have at least one other thing coming up really soon, don’t you? Can you tell us about your upcoming film?
Yes, it’s called Menorca. I shot it last summer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. It was pretty cool to go back (home) there and work with a bunch of people that I had originally worked with. And we also shot for a week in Menorka, Spain. It’s an independent feature. And it’s interesting because when we were shooting it, I thought it was really dark material and that it was really heavy material for me. But I went to Winnipeg earlier this year to do a lot of ADR for it ’cause there is sort of a running narrative throughout the movie. And it’s a lot more funny than I thought it was going to be. It was surprising in a good way.
So I’m playing this–I’ll give you the tag line for it– I’m playing a hedonistic soccer mom who indulges in her fantasy world breaking away entirely from her family and life of motherhood. As she embarks on a journey through bad decision-making, she comes to the conclusion to the singularity of her life’s purpose–to win back her son’s affection. So for me, it’s like this woman. She’s kind of going through a mid-life crisis. She’s in a situation that she didn’t expect her life to be in. And she’s totally miserable. And it’s either she makes a change or literally, I felt like, she would die. And so she makes the decision to leave her family. But in the process of making this journey, she realizes what’s (or who’s) the most important thing.
Wow–that sounds very deep, but rather intriguing. So since this is independent, where will it be available for people to see it?
We’re hoping for film festivals, for sure. Right now, we have Canadian distribution through a production company in Toronto. So at the very least, if we don’t get into any festivals–but I’m hoping and praying we get into tons–we’ll be screening across Canada for sure. And so hopefully if we get into some film festivals, we’ll get a U.S. distributor, and then you’ll get to see it in the States.
Best of luck to you on that.
Oh, thank you.
I remember you talking about that film. It sounds like something to watch for. Do you have any other upcoming works that you can talk about?
For right now, that’s pretty much all I have on my slate. I am going to the Leo Awards on Saturday as I am nominated for a Leo Award for Best Guest Performance for my role in Ties That Bind. It will be quite a weekend. We have the premiere of Wedding Bells on Friday and Saturday, the Leo Awards.
I do remember reading that now. And that’s pretty cool because Ties That Bind only made it for one season. I know I’ve heard rumors…
I’ve heard rumors as well. Sheryl J. Anderson was the creator and show runner. She’s been putting hinty messages on Twitter. It would really be exciting if it came back. I really loved working on the show. It was a fun show, and I felt like the Kelli Williams storyline was really interesting.
Well, I can say, best of luck to you (at the Leo Awards) too.
It would be awesome to win, but the fact that you got nominated is an honor.
It is, that’s for sure.
What would be your dream role?
I would definitely say like more of the actiony stuff. I love it. I got a taste of it on Signed, Sealed, Delivered. I was falling out of helicopters, falling down a cliff. I was shooting guns. But that to me was so exciting and so fun. I would love to do some sort of super spy, secret agent kind of stuff. That would be like the best.
I could see you doing that. They should put you in some more of the Hallmark mystery films.
Ah, for sure! That would be super fun. I could be like the killer.
Is there someone you would like to work with one day? It’s probably a long list, but who are the top people?
Yeah, super long list. But for sure, Meryl Streep hands down. Cate Blanchette absolutely. The list is so long. A lot of women stand out for me for some reason. Not only are those two women such strong actors, but they have such a broad range to them. Especially Meryl Streep. She does comedy so well and she does drama so well. But I also like Cate Blanchette–she played Bob Dylan.I’m trying to think of a director I’m dying to work with. There just are so many. Martin Scorsese–I can’t even imagine, you know, it’d be so amazing.
What are your thoughts on gender inequality in Hollywood?
Well, it’s interesting ’cause being an actor, generally if you watch the majority of any movies or TV shows, there’s always more male roles than female. Hallmark’s pretty good in that they do have a lot of female-driven–well, all of their stuff is basically female-driven content. Which I think is really incredible because there’s a giant market for it. Women want to see shows and movies about women. And I think what’s amazing is that slowly some of the bigger studios and the bigger budget features are leaning towards that. For example, the female Ghostbusters–there’s such an uproar about it, but I’m dying to see it! Like those women are funny! It’s interesting and tough because I feel like film and TV should be representative of our society as it is and studios need to see that women want to see shows, and movies about women.
It’s also very hard to find female directors, producers, and writers.
I find that there are definitely more female producers than female directors. Even when I look at my own career, I’ve really only worked with three or four female directors, which is kind of sad in a way. Women bring such a different perspective, I find. Last summer, I directed and produced a web series. It was my first time directing something. It was interesting because I did definitely get backlash from males that were not happy being told what to do by a woman. And it was really shocking to me. I was like, “Woh! Really? Really!?”
I think you’re right that a lot of guys don’t want to be told what to do by a woman, which is kind of sad in this day and age.
What I’ve heard is that the networks and the studios are changing things and even for financing in Canada, some of them are making it a mandate that you have to give fifty percent of the financing to women. So definitely things like that, if they’re starting to implement they’re going to help change things because it gives women more opportunity for sure.
Hearing Tammy speak from a women’s perspective was so invigorating and inspiring for me as a fellow woman. Furthermore, being regaled with her behind-the-scenes stories she told about each of her films confirmed to me what every actor has always insisted about Hallmark–they are superlative when it comes to the people that work for them. And, of course, one would scramble aimlessly to ever find a woman as gifted, gracious, and exquisite as Tammy. What you see on the screen is who she is–a woman who thrives on challenges and adventure, but still keeps her unyielding pragmatism when it comes to the work, toil, and sweat necessary to create a memorable role that truly connects with her audiences. Be sure that you catch Tammy in her new Hallmark film Wedding Bells, premiering tonight (June 3) on the Hallmark Channel. Oh, and she and co-star Danica McKellar will be live tweeting tonight, so don’t miss it!
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