Interview With Jason Cermak, “Framed For Murder: A Fixer Upper Mystery”

By Ruth on January 15, 2017 in interview, movie, mystery, television
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When I was watching When Calls the Heart season three, I noticed this handsome, distinguished doctor played by an actor with whom I was not previously familiar. He developed quite a following last season, and I had the opportunity to interview him during that time. While Jason Cermak has not returned to this beloved show for season four, his career has continued to soar and attain new heights, and he has become a much-featured actor within the Hallmark network. In anticipation of his most current work airing tonight (January 15), the first of the new Fixer Upper Mystery films which stars the iconic Jewel, I had the opportunity to interview Jason for the second time. We chatted about all things Hallmark in addition to his other upcoming works, as well as some insight into his blossoming career.

RH: Good to see you again.

JC: And you as well. Thanks for the interview. It’s been a nice start to the year here.

That’s what I noticed. Have you finished this movie you’re working on now?

We’re about halfway through. We’re on day nine of fifteen. So about another week. It’s pretty cute. Lacey Chabert is the lead in it. Her last Hallmark movie was A Wish For Christmas. She’s really, really sweet. It’s a joy to work with her. I’m the supporting lead on this one. I play Lacey’s brother. It’s nice to be a part of this cast, and this role, especially is a nice change of pace. Being a supporting lead is not nearly as stressful and time-consuming as being the lead. I just pop into scenes here and there, do a couple scenes with my love interest, and then I’m just milling around the rest of the time and enjoying the cast and storyline. I have a line here and there. It’s refreshing. I show up on set, I take my mark and chill out. If you’re a lead, you have a lot more to memorize, so this is a nice break for me while still being a part of a wonderful cast and film.

Family Photo on set of Curveball. with Lacey Chabert, Rebecca Staab, Keith MacKechnie from National Lampoons Christmas Vacation

Do you know when this one will be out?

You know, the turnarounds really depend. The Fixer Upper series, we did in November. Most of the time, the turnaround is four or five months. So it’s probably gonna be summer. It’s called Curveball. I don’t know why they call it Curveball, to be honest. It takes place in Vermont. Her dad owns a B & B, and she’s a real estate agent. She goes through a break-up and decides to come home. As her brother, I’m playing a computer programmer who’s working in New York, and I lose my job, so I come home to live with Dad and Mom. The kids are back home, and they may find love there.

Well, they could change the title. That does tend to happen with Hallmark and Lifetime quite a bit. 

The one I did with Jewel had some completely unusual title when we filmed it. It was something like Fixer Upper Mysteries: This Old Homicide. I thought that was a weird title.

Psycho Wedding Crasher

,

They’re calling it Framed For Murder now. 

Oh, okay, that makes sense. Our next one is called something like Crown Moulding and Murder. The Lifetime one where I just did a lead is called Psycho Wedding Crasher. Heather Morris from Glee is the other lead in it. She actually petitioned to have the name changed. She didn’t really like the name, but so far, they wouldn’t budge on it. Death of a Vegas Showgirl–that title was pretty on-the-nose, and they kept it the same.

I have not watched that one yet, but it is on my DVR to watch.

There’s a lot to watch if you’re following all the Hallmark stuff. They did a lot last year.

I have the situation of having a teenage daughter, and there are some Lifetime movies I don’t want her to see.

Oh yeah, Lifetime is definitely edgy.

Right. With Hallmark, there’s never a problem. Everyone can watch that.

That’s what I love about Hallmark, to be honest. I can do these shows and then hang out with my family and watch them. It’s great. Whereas some of the other stuff you do, sometimes I have that feeling of, “I hope my family never really sees this.” Not that’s it’s bad, but it can be upsetting. I remember I did Hell on Wheels, and I did a hanging scene. It really upset my mom. She found it on her own and watched it when I wasn’t around, and it really upset her. And yeah, you shouldn’t have to watch your son be hung. That’s not right.

Well, it seems like things are beginning to come together for you.

In this industry, you don’t want to get ahead of yourself at all, but coming into 2017, I have four projects lined up already. I have this movie Curveball, which has been amazing–really great. Zoo is bringing me back, so I’m curious to see what they’re doing with that storyline. Then I’m back with Jewel in February with the next Fixer Upper mystery. And that series is fun. Man, Hallmark does put together a really great cast of human beings that are so great to work with. You know, some sets you get people with egos, but never at Hallmark. It’s always just lovely people. Hats off to them for doing that. Jewel is amazing. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s really hard-working too ’cause she recognizes she is a singer first and is a little new to the acting scene. One of my good friends, John Cassini, is her acting coach. They’re constantly working together.

So the first Fixer Upper airs January 15 here in the U.S. Not sure about Canada.

Yeah, it’s here as well. I’m curious to see it. I did some ADR for it. I think Jewel is great in it. I feel like it should be pretty well-received. I’m gonna watch the series. She’s one of the better heroines of Hallmark’s line-up, I think, but we’ll see what the fans think.

What can you tell us about your role in the series?

For this series, I’m playing Tommy, a cop that’s really good friends with Jewel’s character. We grew up together and went to school together. It’s really wonderful that they just gave us the opening script and left some room for interpretation. The writers are there, and we could talk to them about our characters. I personally love Jewel and have had a crush on her my whole life. And so I said that I was pretty sure that Tommy has a crush on his friend here, and the writers were okay with that. So we’ll see if they run with that. My role is basically a liaison between her and the police chief. She’s a civilian who has a good sense about crime-solving. The police chief is her antagonistic force. He’s like, “We’ll take care of it.” And she’s like, “But I know there’s something behind this.” She comes to Tommy and tells him he has to talk to the chief about it. She twists my arm, and I’m like, “O—kay, I’ll do it. You’re gonna get me in trouble.” That’s the gist of our relationship.

This is a much-anticipated series. They announced it long ago, and we wondered if it was going ahead. Then I heard you were in it, and I interviewed Marcus Rosner, who was just getting ready to film it.

Yeah, it seems to be one that’s been kept low profile for now. We shoot the series in Victoria.

Photo: Jason Cermak, Jewel Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

So any behind-the-scenes stuff you can share from filming it?

Let’s see. There was a wild owl that hung outside the set on the last day of shooting. Everyone came out, and we looked at the owl. {laughs}

Weather was a major issue. We had this pretty scary storm during the filming of this movie. We were filming right by the waterfront. It’s called the Breakwater there in Victoria. All the ferries were shut down. Colin Lawrence is playing the police chief. He and I were flying by float plane between Vancouver and Victoria, and while we didn’t get stranded, our flight got canceled multiple times. So we had to take the ferry, but it was going to get shut down too ’cause the waves were getting really high. The weather was pretty rough. In fact, one day we had to stop shooting. It was dangerous. The trees were falling over, and we were doing an outdoor scene where I’m chasing a suspect. The producer came up and said, “Everybody, leave. This is not safe.”

So Colin Lawrence is in it too?

Yeah, he’s doing three shows right now, two in addition to this one. He’s such a great guy. He’s on Riverdale. And he’s also on Rogue. He’s got a wife and two kids, and his wife is an actress too. And he’s got the best attitude in the world. I applaud them both for having great acting careers and having a great family life too.

That was something about the weather. I didn’t know about that.

Yeah, and a lot of the crew there came out to Victoria for one Hallmark show, which rolled into three, so a lot of them were living out of a hotel for three or four months. It is beautiful out there, but when you don’t expect to be out there for that long, you might miss your home a little bit. And now a lot of that crew is going to Victoria next month for the next Fixer Upper, and they sound like they’re looking forward to it.

Photo: Jason Cermak, Jewel Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

This interview is exactly what’s needed right now because Jewel just announced that she’s sick and won’t be live tweeting during the premiere. 

Oh, that’s too bad. Jewel has to watch out with getting sick, especially since she’s a singer. I remember when we wrapped on the last day, and everybody was giving hugs, and everybody wanted to give Jewel a hug….There were so many sick people on the set, and she was like, “No offense, but I gotta get out of here.” She left early, not to offend people. But you gotta think about that. I’m sorry to hear she’s sick. Hopefully she’s over it before we film next month.

I know she felt bad. She had been really supportive. She’s done a whole bunch of interviews and a lot of promotion stuff this week. Maybe everything just caught up with her. It’s been a bad season for sickness.

Poor girl. She really gives a lot of herself, you know? She doesn’t complain either. She knows when she’s had enough and she has to leave or whatever.

Zoo

So let me give you another interesting fact on Curveball. In Death of a Vegas Showgirl, I worked with Fiona Vroom, a good friend of mine. Then, with Psycho Wedding Crasher, she played my wife. So back to back projects. Then I’m in wardrobe for Curveball, and they told me that my love interest is going to be this girl, Fiona Vroom. And I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” We just got cast in the last three movies together completely independently, different casting directors. And she auditioned yesterday for the next Fixer Upper, and I had to laugh. I’m like, “What are the odds of you getting on that?”

That is really something! I know who Fiona is, and I’ve interviewed her. She’s great. {pause} So I’m sure you have no idea when Psycho Wedding Crasher is coming out, do you?

I don’t know. We haven’t done any ADR for it yet, so it’s not close to airing.

Zoo

Sometimes the turnaround on those Lifetime films can be two or three months, and other times it’s over a year. So we can hope we’ll see it this year. 

While they’re a little more edgy, I do enjoy the Lifetime films. It’s nice breaking out and doing something a bit edgier. And I really enjoyed on Zoo that I’m kind of the villain on that show. {laughs} I’m kind of a jerk. But it’s nice. I’m used to playing the happy-go-lucky Hallmark guy, but it’s nice to play the villain for something different. It’s really satisfying.

Do you know when you start filming that?

Well, they’re auditioning people for the first episode of season three now. I heard maybe the end of January, but you never know. I haven’t gotten anything official yet. And in this industry, they might change their mind and decide not to write you in. It depends on their vision. So who knows? Until you’re actually on set, you never assume anything, right?

Right, and then sometimes when you film it, your character can still be cut from the show. 

It happens. Until you actually see yourself on screen. And that’s a heartbreaker if you don’t find out until you’re watching a show or a movie. And then being actors, you wonder if it was cut because you were terrible. There’s actually a lower probability that’s the case. Maybe that’s true, but it’s more due to the story flow.

I talked with a cast member from Zoo who had a very interesting outlook on just this thing. He opened my eyes to the power that the editor truly has over modifying our performances. It can make or break it, to be honest. He was telling me about a scene that he had just shot where his character is supposed to erupt very angry at the end of the scene. He chose that his character would keep it somewhat subdued. What they did in the final cut is they edited it so that his anger came right away at the start. He was like, “It looked really bad and like I didn’t know what I was doing. But it was what the editor and the director wanted. They’re ultimately in control of it.”  That kinda took the wind out of my sails. We feel like as actors that we contribute significantly to the story with our choices and what we do with the character, but it is at the end of the day a collaborative medium. We’re like the clay for the editors, and they’ll sculpt it into whatever they need it to be. Actors are important. They’re not as important as a lot of them think they are however.

And that’s one of the reasons that when I do write reviews, I always try to be nice about it. People are very quick to blame the actors or the writers, but then you realize they may not have had any control over it. What you’re seeing may have been the choice of this editor or that assistant director. 

Even on set, the director gives you what he wants, depending on the type of director he or she is. Quite often they tell you how they want you to deliver your lines for a certain reason. You’ve got to bring something to the table. You gotta come prepared and give them something to work with, but then you have to add in what they want and what their vision is. Unless you’ve reached a level where you’re this superstar actor and people sit back and let you do what you want for the most part. And that’s not most people.

Jason Cermak (Dr. Burns) Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Eike Schroter

I know there are still Hearties who wish the writers would bring you back to When Calls the Heart. But that has happened to so many actors. They come in for a season or a couple episodes, and then they don’t come back. 

That’s just the way it works in this business.

I was telling my mom that I was going to interview you and until I told her that you played the doctor last season in WCTH, she didn’t know who you were.

That’s a good indicator of how my career is going. I’m not known yet. It’s just a matter of doing the best job you can on the projects you’re given. They call it your break. Like Zoo could potentially be that. It’s CBS and it’s got a lot of viewers, and if they decide to make my character significant, then suddenly, people recognize me, and it’s easier to get more roles. When you’re not recognizable, it’s tough. You have to constantly prove yourself and introduce yourself every time.

Zoo

In this business, there is no formula to success. You got to put in the work, but then it’s still up to so many other people. It just has to fall into place. Like in Zoo, I got to talk to the writers and thank them. In season two, I was a peripheral character that really didn’t matter. They said that’s why they picked me because they needed someone that no one would suspect. Even the cast was like, “What? Who is this guy? Why is he doing this stuff?” It worked with the audience as well. I have sixty acting credits. I’ve been doing this for like sixteen years now. The writers told me, “Yeah, we took a gamble on you. We took a risk.” I was thinking, “Is it a risk? I’ve got this many credits.” But when I think about it from LA’s perspective, I’m nobody really. I might tank them or I might fall flat if I can’t pull it off. They said they were happy with what I did though. So it worked out.

With the Fixer Upper series, it sounds like Hallmark is pretty pleased with this series. 

Yeah, I got that feeling as well. I’m planning on live tweeting during the premiere also.

That’s great. I really think Hallmark is offering some amazing mystery series now.

Yeah, great shows. Back in the ’80’s and ’90’s, there was Murder, She Wrote and all those mystery shows, and now Hallmark is offering a wide variety of shows  just like that. I think they know their audience well, and they are appealing to that with great stories and amazing casts and crew.

 

Photo: Jason Cermak Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

One of the things I genuinely appreciate about Jason is that he has been as supportive of my career as I have been of his. He makes it a point to occasionally drop me a line and ask how things are going with my interviews, publicity agency, and more. While I wouldn’t ever expect that from any actor (or individual, for that matter), it’s delightful to know that he has made the effort to connect with me in an authentic way in this somewhat superficial world in which we dwell. Additionally, Jason is one who regularly engages his fans when he has the time to post on Twitter or Facebook. He appreciates every iota of support that his fans–new and old–send his way. He may be that quiet, underrated actor in the background who is not known by name nor reputation by a considerable amount of people, but he is a working actor who is willing to immerse himself in every character, get along with his peers whether on set or off, and above all, never think more highly of himself than he ought. He adheres to the simple principle that if you put in the work, in time, success will ultimately come your way. While it may never find him amongst the glamor and glitter of the Hollywood greats, his achievements are not rated by those standards. No matter what, he cares about the important things in life: family, friends, reputation, and remaining true to who he is. In the eyes of this fan, Jason has not only accomplished an incredible amount within his career given the fact that he has had to stand out from the murky sea of the hundreds and thousands of aspiring actors, but he has not become arrogant, rude, nor self-seeking. So I can only believe the best for him as his career is beginning to crescendo to new heights and he adds new experiences and roles to his credits. Please tune into Hallmark Movies & Mysteries network tonight (January 15) and support this industrious, benevolent, pragmatic actor in his new film Framed For Murder: A Fixer Upper Mystery. Moreover, consider following him at the links below lest you miss any of his updates or news from what I predict may be a game-changing year for him!

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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

2 Comments

  1. Net March 14, 2017 Reply

    Enjoyed this interview with Jason, Ruth! You have such a gift and flare for writing! I always love reading your interviews and getting a new fresh perspective on the stars, and sometimes the co-stars, of the Hallmark movies we watch week after week!

    Jason sounds like a true down-to-earth kind of guy and I’m so looking forward to seeing him in more “Fixer Upper” Movies and “Moonlight in Vermont” with Lacey Chabert!

    Blessings on your day!!! Net 🙂
    Net recently posted…Hallmark Movies & Mysteries *Hammers Out* an All New “Concrete Evidence: A Fixer Upper Mystery” starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson!My Profile

    • Author
      Ruth March 14, 2017 Reply

      Net, you are always such a wonderful support. Thanks for your kind words. And yes Jason is all that. Really easy to talk to.

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