Interview With Actor Oliver Rice, “Chesapeake Shores”

By Ruth on October 1, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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Being the Hallmark fan and “Chessie” that I am, I consistently pay careful attention to one of my favorite shows, Chesapeake Shores, and the moment that Simon Atwater was added this season, I found myself somewhat swooning. How on earth could a girl not be charmed by a romance author with an impeccably enticing (and smoothly sexy) British accent? I was ecstatic to have the recent opportunity to speak with Oliver Rice, who has portrayed this character with such elegance and quintessence, and chatting with him was seriously one of the best ways I could have spent an hour of my life!

Photo by Alexander Michaelis

RH: Oliver, I’m so glad it worked out to chat with you today.

OR: Absolutely. I’m in rehearsals for a play at the moment, but fortunately, I have a later call today, so this worked out perfectly.

As you know, I’m sure, all of us Chesapeake Shores fans are enjoying you in the role of Simon Atwater. 

Yes, I had so much fun this summer filming it, and I’m really, really enjoying watching it. I caught up with most of the first season, and I’m following this season every Sunday. It’s been great.

I don’t know if you are aware of it, but your character had a fun part last week that Kirsten Hansen said was inspired by me. Your character’s backstory that mentioned he was from Tacoma, Washington, and a Woodrow Wilson High School graduate–

Yes, Kirsten told me on the day we filmed that–she was on set that day. When she told me that story, I thought that was wonderful.

It was a nice little surprise for me. 

It must have been. I guess you made sure that you were focused and concentrating so that you could pick up on that. It’s funny ’cause I say that part as a joke, and then Bree comes back and says, “No, no, no. He was born in North Wales and grew up in London and went to Oxford.” When I read the script, I was like, “Hang on a minute. That’s what I did! I was born in North Wales. I grew up in London, and I went to Oxford.” When they wrote it, it was clear they had done their research because they dropped a bit of my life in there as well.

Oh, that’s nice. 

So we both got a little tribute in there.

2016 Photo by Geoff Howe © UBCP/ACTRA

Yes, we did. What a sweet and fun thing for Kirsten to do. {pause} So, Oliver, how did you get into acting?

Well, I always did little plays at school; I really enjoyed that. I played a lot of sports too. I kind of mixed up my extracurricular activities with sports. I played a lot of rugby, a bit of football (soccer), and some cricket. They’re all very English pastimes. But I did the theater thing as well. I went to University where I studied law. I was very lucky that the university I was at–King’s College London–has a really fantastic drama society called the King’s Players. We have this gorgeous theater in London. It’s actually quite a funny story how the theater came to be. The university has a hospital attached to it as well–a teaching medical hospital–and there was a professor named Dr. Greenwood who had taught at the school. When he died, he left a large sum of money with the express intention of building a theater. So they built this beautiful theater. I think it has five hundred seats, and it’s a proscenium arch theater with a huge fly tower. Really very impressive for a university theater. And the story goes that it was only after they built this theater that they realized he probably meant to build an operating theater to go with the hospital rather than a dramatic theater. {laughs} That’s the myth. But I was very lucky. I spent a large part of my student life performing in and directing plays with the King’s Players. And that solidified my love for the theater.

When I was studying for my law finals, I was also auditioning for drama schools. Which is probably not the wisest decision. Fortunately, I got my law degree and I got into drama school. I went to the Oxford School of Drama. I did a one-year post-graduate diploma program and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was very tricky actually. It was a very tough year and very intense. I had to sort of retrain myself completely. I’d spent three years studying something very analytical. I had to do away with that and get out of my head and more into my body and my instincts. Although it was a challenging year, it was quite nice being in the post-graduate class. When it started out, there were fourteen of us, and we ended with eleven or twelve. Everyone had come from quite diverse backgrounds. It was a really interesting year, and I made some incredible friends during that course. There was one girl there who was a journalist and another that was a self-made businessman and others who studied different things at University. We all brought different sort of backstories with us. And working in such close proximity…we worked nine till six every day at the school. The school itself was beautiful. It is on the Blenheim Palace estates, so it was about a half hour drive outside of Oxford. There were no distractions. You were in the middle of nowhere. No even any shops. There were just these couple of buildings in the field that are beautiful. It was a great place to learn the craft, and there were some great teachers there. It was a challenging but incredibly rewarding year.

I came out of that program in 2005 and worked in theater and little bits and bobs on TV in the UK and around Europe.

on Supernatural © The CW

From England, how did you start working over in Vancouver? Do you still go back and forth between London and Vancouver?

Yeah, I do go back and forth some, but I’m pretty settled in Vancouver now. I came over in 2012. I was just about to turn thirty, and I was enjoying life in London…maybe a little too much. I had become quite content and comfortable, and I lived in an amazing house in North London with four of my closest friends. We had such a nice, lovely life. But I think all of us weren’t pushing ourselves professionally. I was the first to make the decision that I needed to shake things up in my life and change things. I honestly don’t know how I came to decide that I was gonna chance it on my own in Canada. Logistically, it made sense. It was a lot easier for me to get a visa to come and spend some time in Canada. I hadn’t intended on moving here permanently; I just thought I was going to try something new. I came over for a year initially. I worked a bit and had to find my feet and kind of start over again. I had to find a new agent and make those connections with casting directors and people in the industry. That took a bit of time, but I started to work in that first year. Then I decided to renew my visa for another year, and in that second year, I met my wife.  She’s Canadian.  So that kept me in Canada.  Since then, I’ve had a son in Canada, so I have a dual citizen British Canadian son, and that has kept me in Vancouver.  But I am fortunate in that I do get to go back home; when my son was born, we spent six months back in the UK.  That was incredibly important to allow my family to have a relationship with my son. I do feel kind of guilty since my parents’ only grandchild is ten thousand miles away from them. But my parents and my brother have come over and visited.  And we go back as much as possible.

from Once Upon a Time
© 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

I noticed your early credits in Canada include Supernatural and Once Upon a Time. Was Supernatural one of your first credits in Canada?

I think it was my first real TV credit here. I did a funny little commercial as my first actual job in Canada. I think it was for football. Maybe not the Super Bowl, but some sort of football, and it was a commercial that came up during that. I remember the audition was all very focused on football; I know nothing about American football. I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing and just kind of bluffed my way through it, but I think they may have been a bit charmed that I didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.  But Supernatural was my first proper acting gig in North America. It was really a wonderful experience–such a big show and such a massive following. And of course, an incredibly established cast and crew.  It was nice that that was my first experience with North American TV; I had great fun doing that in spite of playing a horrible Nazi necromancer.

on Supernatural © The CW

I’ve talked with a lot of actors in Vancouver, and we all tend to agree that Supernatural is almost like a rite of passage in Vancouver. It seems like almost everybody in Vancouver at some point makes it onto Supernatural; or if they haven’t been on the show, they want to be on the show. 

Yes, it seems that way. Of course, England is a lot smaller market. There is great content that is made in England though. There used to be a show called The Bill. It was a police drama that was on like three or four times a week. And everyone had done The Bill. And the other one was Casualty, which I got on. It’s a hospital drama. I was quite upset that The Bill finished before I got a chance to be on it, but I did manage to get on Casualty. And now I’ve been on Supernatural.

I didn’t even realize you had been on some Hallmark things before Chesapeake Shores. Hopefully, I’m not the only one who didn’t notice you until we saw you as Simon Atwater. 

Yes, I have had great fun with Hallmark. I’ve done two films. I think I filmed them quite close together, and I think they went out one day after the other. I think one came out on a Friday night,  and the other came out on a Saturday night. They were fantastic experiences. I did Wedding Planner Mystery. It was directed by Ron Oliver, who is just an incredible director. So much fun on set and a great big character. And Erica Durance, who I’d seen in Smallville. She was delightful to work with. It was such a wonderful set to work on. And the crew was just wonderful. I remember on set–I think it’s a Ron Oliver kind of thing–he plays music while they’re moving the sets and the lights around. There’s always music playing, which makes a huge difference. It makes the atmosphere on set a really fun experience. And I did My Boyfriend’s Dogs with Erika Christensen. And that was just so much fun. I think a lot of these Hallmark movies and shows are so much fun when you watch them, and I think that mirrors the process that has gone into making them. They’re a lot of fun to make. You know, they are filmed in quite a short period of time…usually about three weeks. You’re doing a lot of pages every day, so there is pressure to get a lot into the day. Despite that, they always seem to be very relaxed and fun sets to be on.

I will have to go back and watch both of those films when they’re on again now that I’ve chatted with you. I don’t recall your character from Wedding Planner Mystery, but I think I remember you from My Boyfriend’s Dogs. 

Just like in Chesapeake Shores, I also play a writer in My Boyfriend’s Dogs. I was the rather self-important one.

Thankfully, they are both favorites that get played frequently on the network. 

I know My Boyfriend’s Dogs gets syndicated around the world. I heard from a Polish fan who saw me and asked, “Are you an actor? I think I’ve seen you.” And it turns out she had seen me in the Polish-dubbed version of My Boyfriend’s Dogs, which I haven’t seen, but I’d love to because I could watch myself speaking perfect Polish. {laughs}

Before we get to Chesapeake Shores, I notice you were in Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce and The Magicians. So you’ve had roles in a couple other well-known shows. In both shows, was it just a guest spot, or is there a chance your character could return?

They were both guest star one-episode roles. I’m definitely not coming back in The Magicians anytime soon because my character suffers quite a brutal death.

With Pascale Hutton
Once Upon a Time
© 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

I was afraid of something like that because I know that happens a lot in those shows.

Unfortunately, I’ve died quite often. SupernaturalOnce Upon a TimeThe Magicians–all dead. But I really enjoyed working on Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. I think I was in the first season, and as they are going into the third or fourth, maybe even fifth now, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be back in that one. But it was a lot of fun to make. I did my scenes with Beau Garrett and Janeane Garofalo, who I don’t think is in it anymore. But she was amazing. Both of those ladies were great to work with.

How did you get the role of Simon Atwater on Chesapeake Shores?

They had seen me for a role in season one that I didn’t end up booking. They called me in for the audition. The director of episodes three and four of the part where I come in was Terry Ingram, who had directed me in My Boyfriend’s Dogs. That’s always nice to go into a room and have that connection with someone who is already on the panel and is potentially going to give you the job. I did one audition for the role of Simon, and quite quickly they let me know through my agent that I booked the role. I know Emilie {Ullerup} from other work I’d done before. I was really excited to get to do it. Initially, I think I was down for just three episodes, and I think the character ended up being a bit different as he evolved within the show. I had such a blast doing it. It’s such an amazing place to be–Vancouver Island. It’s really nice me being in Vancouver but still relatively new to Canada to get to go over there and spend time exploring. I got to fly over there in a little seaplane. I hadn’t done that before, but it was lots of fun.

as Simon Atwater
Chesapeake Shores

I think this season from the moment your character appeared, many of us were quite taken with him. I think we decided Simon Atwater was a nice addition to the show. 

I’m glad you think so. Not that I was nervous about it, but he’s quite a different character. One, he’s British in this very American town, and he does stand out. And two, he has such wonderful clothes. The costume designer, Glenne Campbell, I think she really enjoyed it. She’d go out and buy these beautiful, floral shirts and burgundy pocket squares. He’s quite different to how everybody else is dressed in the show. I think that added to the sense that he is an outsider, someone new coming in. I remember how exciting it was when I was in school and we had people coming in from overseas. These people have different experiences and different stories to tell. I think it sends a positive message. Everyone within the Chesapeake Shores world was very accepting of this new guy showing up from England in his floral shirts. Likewise, everyone in the cast and crew was very welcoming. They made me feel very, very welcome indeed.

I think we also liked seeing Bree stand up to your character and tell him how much she didn’t like his writing. She’s being so honest, and he’s letting her be who she is. She hasn’t had that because, in her last relationship, Martin was trying to make her be who he wanted her to be. And now she has someone who lets her be who she is and appreciates the fact that she is outspoken. I think that’s been a nice part of the story too.

Yeah, I think the best relationships are the one where you bring out the best in each other. You bring out the best in someone else, and that person brings out the best in you. You recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I think there was an obvious initial attraction for Simon as Bree wasn’t just a sycophant who was just gonna tell him what he wanted to hear. He really appreciated her honesty, and that was the initial intrigue. But now having spent time with her, I think he’s discovered what an interesting, strong, independent woman she is. And also how talented she is. You know, talent goes a long way; it’s a very attractive quality. I think he’s bowled over by how accomplished she is. But I also think it’s quite endearing when someone is quite talented but is not necessarily confident about their talent. It’s nice to see someone like Bree, who is humble about their talent.

as Simon Atwater
Chesapeake Shores

With season two ending soon, we all hope that season three happens and that your character returns. We hope we haven’t seen the last of Simon Atwater. 

I really hope there is a season three. I know that my mum will be devastated if there isn’t because she’s really gotten into Chesapeake Shores. On Netflix in the UK, the episodes come out every Tuesday. So my mum gets together with one of her neighbors every Tuesday and they have a glass of wine and watch the latest Chesapeake Shores. So I know she’ll be very upset if there isn’t a season three. My mum just enjoys it. She’s been incredibly supportive, but she doesn’t give much feedback. She just likes to watch the shows, and she’s proud that I am in it. But my dad, who I would say is not the typical Hallmark demographic–he’s military and he’s played rugby his whole life–he is really into Chesapeake Shores. He tells me what’s happening and what they’re saying on the Afterbuzz TV. He keeps me posted about what people are saying on Twitter. {laughs} It’s really sweet. My dad is a huge “Chessie.”

Next up King Charles III

So is there anything else upcoming for you besides Chesapeake Shores that you can mention?

I’m currently in rehearsals for a play called King Charles III. I believe it’s the Canadian premiere. It’s going up at the Arts Club Theater in Vancouver. Previews start October 19th, and I think our opening night is October 25th. It runs until the 19th of November. It’s a fabulous play written by Mike Bartlett, and he calls it a “future history play.” It’s written in blank verse in much the style of a Shakespearean history play, but it’s set in the very near future and opens with the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Basically, it goes from there. It’s really a remarkable piece of theater, and I’m thoroughly enjoying being back in theater rehearsals. It’s so very different from the sort of TV and film work I’ve been doing.  It really takes me back to my roots in the theater. And that’s what I love to do. I’m incredibly excited about this play.

Then I filmed a movie in Kelowna this summer called Distorted. I had a lot of fun on it, and it is a psychological thriller. It’s with John Cusack and Christina Ricci. I think that’s coming out next year. A very interesting script and we had a lot of fun making it.

Are you thinking of ever doing any of your own writing or directing in the future?

I do hope so. Right now, I am trying to gain some experience in different facets of the film and TV world. I’ve done some editing. I’ve worked as a technician. I’ve done some script editing. So right now I’m trying to build my tool kit before I jump in and try to make something truly personal. But it’s certainly something that I have a slow burning desire to do at some stage. I think it’s important to come at that from a position of having as much experience and knowledge as possible. Right now, I don’t have anything in the pipeline. But I think and hope I’m building my skill set. I’m developing and learning…gosh, I’m learning so much and I have so much to learn as an actor. But who knows what the future holds? I just hope to keep learning in every facet of my life and see what happens.

You know, I’ve always been keen to not be mediocre. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t pursue a career in law. I loved studying law, but I knew I didn’t really have a passion for it. If I did pursue that as a career, I probably would have been a sort of mediocre lawyer. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do something I was truly passionate about that I could invest in wholeheartedly. And that’s why I’ve pursued the path I have. If I pursue anything new, I don’t want to do it halfway. I want to make sure I’m in a position to do it well, rather than just doing it for the sake of doing it.

Since you have been playing a writer, who are your favorite authors?

I probably don’t read as much as I could or think I should. To be honest, I spend most of my time reading the newspaper. That’s how I keep my connection with England by reading the English press. I read far too much English news every day. In terms of books, my all-time favorite author is Haruki Murakami. I love his sort of surrealism, and I love his imagery. I’ve been reading him since I was in University. Every time I read another, I have a desire to visit Japan. I haven’t yet, but I will. My brother went last year, and I’m very jealous. He has lots of great experiences and stories to tell about it. So I love Murakami, and I also love David Mitchell. I’ve read Cloud Atlas, and the first book I read of his was Black Swan Green.  Such a beautiful coming-of-age story that I really connected with. And I believe David Mitchell spent a lot of time in Japan himself. I think he has some sort of connection to Murakami–not sure if Murakami taught him or what. At the moment, I’m reading a lot of biographies of the royal family since I’m about to play Prince William. I enjoy reading them though.

The last thing I will ask is when you have free time, what do you like to do? 

Well, I’m trying to embrace this beautiful part of the world that I find myself living in. I like to go on hikes with the family. My son is two and a half now, and he loves being outdoors. We spend lots of time at the local farm, feeding the ducks and the chickens and playing with the goats. I like to be outside. It’s very different because I spent pretty much all my life in London. So my free time was basically spent doing cultural things and going out and enjoying the social aspect of living in a huge city like that. But now that I’m more settled and getting a little bit older, I’m trying to just enjoy the outdoors more and explore. I find I enjoy quiet time a lot more than I used to. But having said that, I still like to go out and see things. We went to see a local band, Elliot Brood, this past week. I saw them in London when I was there for work a few years ago. My wife said her favorite band was playing in London, so I went to see them in a little pub in London, and now we saw them in quite a big venue in Vancouver. So that was nice.

Well, it sounds like you’re spending time with your family, which is great. And it sounds like you’re a fairly balanced person who is balancing your work and private life fairly well.

{laughs} I don’t know about that, Ruth. I try. Sometimes it does feel like I’m walking on a balance beam and going left and right, but I try.

Well, maybe that’s what I’m sensing is that you’re trying to be balanced. Maybe you don’t always succeed, but you’re trying to be balanced, and that is probably the better way to say it. I sometimes have the same problem trying to balance everything, and I don’t always get it right.

You know what I just started? I just started going and using a float tank. I have been to two sessions so far; I’m trying to do it weekly. I have found it’s great to help you balance out. It’s absolute sensory deprivation for ninety minutes. I thought before I did it the first time, “What am I gonna do? I’m gonna get so bored and my mind is just gonna race. I’m gonna feel claustrophobic and this is not for me.” You know the place where you go is all very peaceful and they all speak melodiously and it’s a lovely environment and there’s soft music playing. But when you actually get into the tank, it is just pitch darkness, no sounds, floating, and ninety minutes went by in a flash. I came out feeling incredibly peaceful and balanced for want of a better word. Starting rehearsals for this play are always quite stressful, and I just felt pretty calm and pretty relaxed about everything. I’ve never been very good at meditating. I’ve tried in the past, but every time I ended up falling asleep and then being a little embarrassed since I was in a class. They call everyone to come back, and everyone gets up and leaves the class, and I’m fast asleep. {laughs} But this experience being in a sensory deprivation chamber was just so nice.

Oliver, thank you so much for taking some time today to chat with me and share so much of your life with my readers and me.

It has truly been a pleasure, Ruth. And thank you for reaching out. I do appreciate it.

Rarely do I get the chance to chat with anyone from England (I do admit to a bit of a love affair with England myself), and the fact that Oliver was so willing to share multitudinous details of his life and work was truly an extraordinary treat for me. Although he shared rather extemporaneously, there is no doubt that he is thoroughly grounded and well-adjusted to the career he has chosen for himself. To say that he has a passion for acting is an immense understatement as his talent in and knowledge of his craft transcends what many people his age have in their performance arsenal. With his tremendous intelligence and profound understanding of the world around him, he could have taken practically any route he chose, and yet he selected one of the most difficult careers out there–that of an artist.

I was thoroughly impressed with how easy it was to speak with Oliver and how his kindness emanated from every ounce of his being. He was not in a rush to end the interview, and I was even touched that he was well aware of my backstory and how his character on Chesapeake Shores had brought such a special milestone for me personally (it’s the first time I ever inspired anything on any professional work of fiction). He readily shared details of his life and personal stories that I didn’t even have to inquire about, and whenever I jumped in with my effusion of excitement over some detail and inadvertently interrupted him, he was gracious and merely waited for me to stop babbling before he continued. He was sensitive to any cultural disparities and always made it a point to explain any terminology that may not have transferred smoothly to American vernacular, but he did it in such a way that he never came off as being superior nor talked down to me.

If you have not had the opportunity to watch Chesapeake Shores and revel in the wonder that is Oliver Rice in the role of Simon Atwater, be sure you take the time to do that soon. There are only two more episodes left this season, and I sincerely hope everyone supports the show this Sunday (October 1st) and next week as well on the Hallmark Channel. Furthermore, I would invite everyone to check out all of Oliver’s links below and consider following him where applicable. I earnestly wish I could make the trek to Vancouver to see him in this upcoming play, but I know that we shall see him again soon on some network (it would be great to see him as a lead in a Hallmark movie as he has more than earned his place). After all, his undeniable charm, limitless talent, positive outlook, and inexhaustible humanitarianism (not to mention his handsome features) are just the kind of attributes that I predict will continue to propel him into the forefront of film and television credits that will only become more significant and intense in their requirements.

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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth
43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA Entertainment Writer Available For Interviews and Reviews Substitute Teacher

2 Comments

  1. denise October 2, 2017 Reply

    Enjoyed the interview.

    It’s not uncommon to find someone from the UK or another country in the US, even in small towns. True for the East Coast, at least.

    • Author
      Ruth October 2, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Denise you are oh so right

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