Interview With Actor Niall Matter, “Engaging Father Christmas”

By Ruth on November 12, 2017 in Interview, movie, television
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If you’re a fairly devoted Hallmark fan like me, you probably noticed a new face last year during Hallmark’s summer movies series in the film called Stop the Wedding, but no doubt many Hallmark fans knew about Niall Matter long before that. Hearties will remember him as the single father, Shane, who kissed Faith on their first date. And fans of Finding Father Christmas will remember him as Erin Krakow‘s co-lead last year in that blockbuster Hallmark film. In anticipation of his upcoming sequel, Engaging Father Christmas, I had the honor and privilege of chatting with one of Hallmark’s new preferred leading men!

 

Photo by Russell Baer – © Russell Baer

RH: Thank you so much, Niall, for making the time to chat with me today. Everybody is so excited to see you in the upcoming Engaging Father Christmas movie. 

NM: Thank you, Ruth, I’m looking forward to it too.

I will say from the outset that the Hearties are very disappointed that you are not able to return to When Calls the Heart this upcoming season.

I was too. I was signed on to do the show, and I planned on being around for awhile, but for whatever reason, my character was no longer needed on the show. At least at this point. But I will say I’m not opposed to ever returning to the show if they need me. I would love to do it again. I’m not sure why this happens with shows sometimes, but I will say I loved my time on When Calls the Heart.

Well, you are still very much loved, and they’re all saying how much they’re gonna miss you.

Oh, that’s sweet. I wish I was going to be there for season five, but I will say I still love doing these movies with Hallmark, and hopefully we can work together more in the future.

Ok, logistics question here. How do you pronounce your name? I’ve heard it pronounced in various ways.

It’s “Nile Mayter.” Most people get both names wrong, but that’s the correct pronunciation.

Thank you for clearing that up. I had your first name right thanks to the interview I did last season with the boy who played your son on When Calls the Heart, Liam Hughes.

Oh, Liam! He is amazing, isn’t he? I’m glad he’s back on the show. The fans will get to see him some more, and I’m really happy for him. He’s such a great little actor and such a sweet kid.

So Niall, how did you get started in acting?

I started when I was thirteen. I had just entered high school, and while I was only thirteen, I had grown up in a very small town, and in the eighth grade, you were already put into high school. I was approached by the drama instructor because he had seen me do an air band competition. I was doing a Nirvana air band, and I was the frontman, Kurt Cobain, because he was one of my idols when I was growing up. That’s the first live performance I ever did. And after the drama teacher saw me, he came and pulled me out of mechanics ’cause I was a farm boy and I was taking mechanics. He pulled me out of that elective course and asked me about pursuing the arts–drama. I was like, “I don’t know about that.” It wasn’t something that really interested me. He asked me to come and sit in on a couple of his classes, and I did. He got the bug in me, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

I read that you worked on oil rigs for a period of time.

Yes, I’m a third-generation oil rigger. I worked at the oil rigs from seventeen until I had a really bad accident the year I turned twenty-six–I was twenty-five when I had the accident. My grandfather took me out to the rigs when I was seventeen. I was a little bit of a wild child, and my parents said, “You either move out of the house or you go work on the rigs with your grandfather.” So I was sent out to work on the rigs with my grandfather. Actually, my grandfather is responsible for turning my life around.

You’ve been involved in many shows over your career, but what do you consider your first big break in the business or your first role that really got you established?

from Eureka

The first role that got me established…The N Network is no longer there. Nickelodeon had the older teen network, I think, called N Network. They cast me in something called The Best Years. It was a co-production. It was a U.S. production with Canadian producers. They hired me and flew me to Toronto to film that. I played a bartender with a cocaine addiction. That was really the first role that kind of got me going.

Then as soon as I came back to Vancouver, it seemed like everything I read for, I wound up getting. Luckily, I found myself landing a sweet guest star spot on the then-popular series Eureka. I thought it was gonna be for just one episode, but they seemed to like what I was doing enough to keep me around, and I ended up becoming a series regular later on with them. That is the show that really put me on the map in regards to my U.S. exposure ’cause it was a brilliantly written dramedy. Jaime Paglia was the creator of that, and we became really good friends.

EUREKA Photo by: David Cooper/Syfy

I worked with actors like Joe Morton, who’s on Scandal now. I worked hand-in-hand with Joe ’cause we were the science/tech guys, and him and I had to fire out these diatribes of dialogue all the time. Joe and I rattled off quite a bit on set. I also worked with Colin Ferguson, who’s had an incredible run and an amazing career. He’s kind of found himself at Hallmark now too. Colin and I have become really good friends since then. Then I worked with Salli Richardson-Whitfield who’s gone on to great things. Matt Hastings, who’s also been going on to great things. And actually, on The Best Years, I worked with Chris Grismer, one of the directors, and he’s had an incredible career. So at the beginning of my career, I was fortunate to get to work with some really great people. They’ve kind of all remembered me and helped me out along the way. I’ve learned a lot from everyone. That’s the great thing about this industry. You know, when you work with people and they like you, they tend to keep you on their mind.

And that kind of segues into me working on the Canadian show, Remedy. I worked with Sara Canning from The Vampire Diaries earlier on in our own series Primeval: New World. Then I met Enrico Colantoni, and he’s always kept in touch with me. It’s really great in this industry how you make friendships, and they seem to last a really long time and hopefully for the duration of your career.

Now, I first noticed you in the Hallmark movie Stop the Wedding. I remember how I had never heard of you, and the next thing I know, you’re in this movie. I believe that was your first Hallmark movie, correct?

Yes, Stop the Wedding was my first Hallmark movie for sure. Hallmark had expressed interest in me earlier, but I was really swamped and super busy and going from series to series. Unfortunately, the windows you often have between shooting different things are kind of short, and nothing had really worked out before. But when Stop the Wedding came about and I found out it was gonna be Alan Thicke and Rachel Boston and I read the script, I really liked it. It was a romantic comedy, and that’s kind of where I’d like to be is in that genre. So it was something that really hooked me in and started my working relationship with Hallmark.

Well, Stop the Wedding was a definite fan favorite, and you seemed to fit in really well. Seeing how you were someone I had not heard of, you seemed like a perfect fit. And I guess Hallmark agreed because you were cast next in Finding Father Christmas. That was one of our family favorites last year. As well as one of the top Christmas films last year. 

That’s awesome.

So which came first–Finding Father Christmas or When Calls the Heart?

Well, I had worked with Rachel on Stop the Wedding. And then I worked with Erin Krakow on Finding Father Christmas. It was crazy. From the first day Erin and I met each other, it was like we had been friends for a long time. We had an instant friendship, and we worked really well together and had a lot of fun. I was familiar with and friends with Daniel Lissing before even working with Erin because Daniel and I worked together on Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce–not together on the show, but at the same time. So we were at the Sutton Place Hotel in Vancouver, and that’s where Daniel and I met, and we became friends. So Daniel was familiar with me. Erin was able to ask him about me. I was able to talk to him about her. It was great. And at the end of that shoot, Erin was like, “Hey, if we’re looking for characters on my show When Calls the Heart, would you come on board?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’d love working with you. It’d be a lot of fun.” Daniel talked to me about it too. So my role on When Calls the Heart really came about because of my friendships with Erin and Daniel, which was awesome.

I know last season all the Hearties wondered who would become your romantic interest.  And then all of a sudden, your character was going out with Faith, and there was this big kiss between your characters. I remember some of the Hearties saying they thought your romance was going too fast, especially when compared with Jack and Elizabeth.

While I can’t speak to why Faith and Shane had the kind of romance they did–I’m not a writer or a creator–I am an actor, and I had my questions about it too. When playing that character, you want to know where this came from and where it was going. So when I asked, I was told that Shane had begun showing interest in her, and even though he had a few episodes off right before, I just went for it. So I don’t know what the plans were for this romance, but since I’m not back, I can say that romance is no more. Andrea {Brooks} and I were both excited about exploring where the romance was going to go, but at this point, it’s not going anywhere. And that’s just the way things happen sometimes.

Well, at least we get to see you in the sequel, Engaging Father Christmas

Oh yeah, it’s a sweet movie, a great movie. Erin and I had an absolute blast working together again. The director, David Winning, did a fantastic job. Obviously, Wendie Malick is always awesome. Michael Kopsa, P. Lynn Johnson, Jim Thorburn–everybody that we worked with was great. It was just nice to see everybody. It was like a family reuniting. I like the story, and it’s a really good movie. We really hope everyone will enjoy this one as much as they did the first one. Robin Jones Gunn was there on set too. It was great to see her again and visit with her again. She’s a lovely woman. Hopefully, there will be a third. Who knows?

Right! I know that a third one has been hinted at. I saw that it might be called Marrying Father Christmas and might come out next year. And that is exciting. And I am hoping for an even more successful movie this year than last year. 

Yeah, let’s keep our fingers crossed for sure. It’s just such a cool little town and a great story. In this one, there is obviously mystery as well, and there’s some things from the past that come back, and so Miranda goes through her journey with that. I don’t want to give away too much, but obviously the title gives away a little bit of what happens which is a very lovely moment in the movie. We enjoyed making it, and hopefully everyone is gonna enjoy watching it.

And then it was so exciting to see you on The Good Doctor recently. 

It’s a fantastic series, and I’m really happy for them and their success. They’re breaking records with their ratings which is phenomenal. It couldn’t happen to a better cast and crew. I hope that show goes for a very long time for them. I didn’t get to work too much with Freddie Highmore, but I got to work with him a little. He’s just an incredible actor; it’s no surprise to see him in that role and doing as well as he’s doing. And Nicholas Gonzalez–I worked every day with Nicholas, and I can’t say enough great things about him. We’ve become friends since then ’cause he’s got a baby girl, and I’ve got a baby girl. We’re a little bit ahead–our daughter’s three months ahead–so we’ve been taking stuff over to his place and helping them out while they’re up here. As new parents, you’ve got all this stuff and you’re transporting that stuff from Los Angeles to Vancouver and back and forth. He and I bonded right away over being new dads, which was exciting. And it was actually interesting to portray my character in The Good Doctor ’cause I just went through that. Not that traumatic or anything, but it wasn’t that hard to put myself in those shoes of an expectant father faced with these dilemmas and these unfortunate decisions to make between your baby’s life and your wife’s life.

Well, I think the message came across very clearly. You couldn’t help but watch and think about what you would do in that position. The show does an expert job of presenting both sides and really makes you think through those kinds of hard situations. {pause} Is there anything else upcoming that you can mention?

In between seasons, I snuck in The Predator which is a really big feature film coming out next year. That’s a great role, and I’m working with Sterling K. Brown, who just won an Emmy and is on This Is Us. I’ve had a really good run here in the off season.

I was on a recent episode of Supernatural also. So if there are any Hearties who like Supernatural, be sure to look up my episode. It aired November 2nd, and it was the fourth episode of the thirteenth season. I really was excited to about this character on Supernatural because it was something I had never gotten to play before. I’ve played the zombie before in  Fear Itself with Briana Evigan way back in the day. And of course, that was a blast. But this role on Supernatural  was really fun. It’s more of a guest star cameo for me to go in and pull this off with them. I was just shocked that they had been filming in Vancouver for thirteen seasons, and I had never been on the show before. But I moved down to Los Angeles in 2007, and have been down there ever since. I’ve been back and forth between Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal because being a Canadian with a green card in the U.S. means I can work in all of North America. But we reside in Los Angeles. So I’m used to the back and forth and have done it quite a bit.

Now that you have a family, has that made schedules more challenging for you? 

Well, it definitely throws challenges your way. Memorization is a challenge too when you’re auditioning and you have a screaming baby, it’s a little bit harder to get your focus and concentrate. You want to help out as much as possible and you want to be available. I would say I have definitely taken some time and given back to my family. I find that I have stepped back a little bit more than I used to. I was hitting the pavement a lot harder before and trying to get my face out there a lot more, but with the family, I want to really enjoy this time with my wife and daughter and work on things that I want to work on. But not overdo it. I used to really overdo it and burn my candle at both ends so to speak. And things just change when you have those responsibilities. Obviously, I had the responsibility of providing for my family, so I can’t take too much time off. But I definitely have been taking time off to help with my daughter and make sure that my wife is happy and that the family is doing well.  At the end of the day, that’s our legacy. That’s what we should be doing is taking care of our families.

One last thing. A lot of actors begin to look towards writing and directing as well as acting. Is that something you are thinking of doing some time in the future?

Yeah, absolutely. That is something I’ve always wanted to do. Even after I got into acting at thirteen, I started writing and directing films. That’s what got me into the medium after I got into drama. I had written, directed, and starred in seven short films by the time I was seventeen. All self-produced.  I would do everything from editing to sound mix–everything. I learned it all. I made sure I had a good grasp of this art form before pursuing a career full-time in acting. It is something I really want to do. I want to step back and get into the director’s chair. That’s probably gonna have to come with another series regular or series lead. On Primeval: New World, unfortunately, it didn’t get to a second season, but in the second season, we had directing episodes in that deal. It is something I really aspire to do and would love to do it. I think that would match fatherhood and being a parent. It’s very grueling to do that job, but I might not have to do as many projects as you do as an actor to support your family.

Niall, we are so blessed to have you as part of the Hallmark family. We look forward to Engaging Father Christmas, and we hope you’ll get to do many more of these films and shows with the network. But no matter what, the Hearties will support you.

Ruth, I want to do as many of these Hallmark projects as I can. I love working with the executives over at Hallmark. Bill Abbott has treated me incredibly as has Michelle Vicary and everyone at the network. Everyone I’ve met are just great people and they’re really fun to work with and work for. But when you get some time off and you go to an audition and another network picks you up, it just ebbs and flows. As an actor, I just have to roll with the punches and go wherever the work requires me to.

I want to be sure to tell all the Hearties that we all definitely appreciate all your love and support and I can’t thank the fans enough.

Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images

Before I interviewed Niall, his agent told me what a lovely person he was and that I would certainly adore him, and I completely concur with her estimation of him. Of course, I was his fan before I chatted with him, but after hearing his words and sensing his passion for what he does as well as his inimitable humility and manifest kindness and consideration, I can vouch for that fact that the man we see on the screen is the man with whom I spoke. His authenticity and ardor, not to mention his unrivaled skill, consistently come through his on-screen performances as well as his off-screen interactions. There is no doubt in my mind that his devotion to his craft is only matched and exceeded by his commitment to his family. Indeed, his passion lies with the family-friendly romances created by the Hallmark network, a company who has resurrected and elevated the art of Rom-Coms.

So please tune in tonight (November 12) to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries for the long-awaited Finding Father Christmas sequel, Engaging Father Christmas, in which the viewers will be transported to Carlton Heath to experience an unforgettable Christmas story accompanied by a bewildering mystery along the way. And since our two tour guides, Erin and Niall, will be at the helm, we can rest assured this story will be told on screen in a way that only could be conceived in Hallmark heaven! And be sure to check out all of Niall’s works/links below (I know I certainly have some catching up to do), and come support this man who is quickly becoming a household name amongst Hallmark’s ever-expanding fanbase!

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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

4 Comments

  1. denise November 13, 2017 Reply

    I do enjoy his boy of work as an actor.

  2. Bee November 14, 2017 Reply

    Sounds like you would enjoy the movie that Niall was in that premiered on the UP Channel last year – “Falling for Christmas.” He plays a retired hockey player and single dad who sparks with a champion ice skater nearing the end of her career.

    • Author
      Ruth November 14, 2017 Reply

      Thanks Bee I saw that one last year. It had a different title at some point, but I know exactly which one you’re talking about. It was cute.

  3. Patt Vanderplow December 14, 2017 Reply

    I have loved the “Father Christmas” series. I hope that there will be more. Every time it is on the Hallmark Channel I try to watch it. My granddaughter loves the movies too. They have been good family friendly entertainment. Niall Matter is great.

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