CEDAR COVE’s Dylan Neal Unveils New Hallmark Project: GOURMET DETECTIVE
Cedar Cove’s Dylan Neal will soon be starring in his own detective movie. The Gourmet Detective, from Hallmark’s Movies and Mysteries, will be executive-produced by Neal.
The Right Pitch
I gave Neal a call in Vancouver to talk about this new concept and how it got started. He revealed, “It’s something that I’d pitched to the network with my wife, Becky Southwell. I’d had a conversation with Michelle Vicary (Executive VP of Hallmark Programming) during the first season of Cedar Cove when I asked if they’d be interested in having a possible movie franchise with me if I pitched them my idea. She said, ‘absolutely.’ So, I was trying to find either a book property or an old TV series that I could adapt that would be suited to the Hallmark brand and to me as the lead. I found an old BBC series and my producing partner, Joel Rice, found the Gourmet Detective books. We took both of our readings to the network, and we pitched them. They were the ones that decided that they liked the Gourmet Detective book series.”
He went on, “I knew that I wanted something with food as an element. I thought that would be a good concept for the Hallmark audience and a very family-friendly concept. Hallmark is all about family and family values. Food is about bringing the families together and eating around the dinner table. They saw that right away.”
Straying from Book Series
Neal admitted that the final cut of the movie uses very little from the Peter King books. He explained, “We were completely having to tear these books apart and re-imagine them. The character Maggie doesn’t exist in the books. The books take place in Europe. We set our movie in San Francisco. Henry doesn’t actually solve the crimes in the books. Really, what we opted was the title, Gourmet Detective. And, in each book, there’s the crime that we try to implement. We get the starting point from the books and then we throw the books out and completely re-imagine them. It was challenging and yet freeing to not be constrained by anything. In the first book, I think there’s 35 characters. We break it down to just a hand full. In a movie, you have to break it down cos you only have so much screen time. Also, at the core of Gourmet Detective, it’s less about the actual crime investigation than the relationship between Henry and Maggie and the love-hate relationship that they have. That’s what we focus on even more than the crime.”
San Francisco was a logical choice for location. “It’s a logistical choice. We were originally going to make it Chicago but didn’t because of the nature of tax credit and certain logistical issues. Then we looked at what city on the west coast was big enough to have recurring crimes. We settled on San Francisco and then we settled on shooting in Victoria, British Columbia on Vancouver Island because it has a lot of Victorian architecture and it’s big enough to support multiple movies. It’s also not been overused in shooting in the way that much of Vancouver and the surrounding area has. It was a process we went through in ultimately having it set in San Francisco. We were going to take a unit to shoot exteriors in San Francisco and use stock footage for the rest. So far it’s working well.”
A Bit About Cedar Cove
In teasing a bit about Cedar Cove’s upcoming third season, Neal teased, “Last season was a big cliffhanger between Jack and Olivia. And obviously that needs to be dealt with right away. There’s going to be a lot of new characters for this season. I think we’re going to be spreading the storylines out a little bit more. Some characters are coming back that went away in the second season. And, the community of Cedar Cove is gonna come back into play. That’s such an important part of why people respond to the show. People like to feel that they’ve either been to Cedar Cove or run away to it.”
A Lot of Ground
Neal has played such a wide variety of television over the years. I asked him if there’s a part he’d like to have on television in the future. He confessed, “I’m fortunate to have been doing this (acting) for 30 years, and I’ve covered a lot of different genres. I think I’d like to be on a hard-hitting show at some point down the road. I’ve done a lot of soft television, and that’s wonderful and comfortable for me. I also love comedy. I would certainly love being on a sitcom again. It’s a great schedule for having a normal life. So much of my work takes me away from Los Angeles, where I live. Now, I’m away from home eight months out of the year. I haven’t worked in L.A. in over three years, so working there would be a wonderful gift.”
In the recent past, Neal has also worked with up and coming actors, teaching the craft. “I haven’t been able to do that for the last two years,” he said, “but I started doing it in Vancouver shortly after I was working on a series called Blood Ties. I started just doing a couple of workshops, Q&A’s, and an acting school. I didn’t think I’d particularly enjoy it, but I really did. Then, I started private teaching out of my home and opening up more studio space. I get a lot of enjoyment out of those light-bulb moments that students have when they’re trying to push through a barrier. They have that ‘a-ha’ moment. I remember those in my own development. It’s really gratifying. I forgot how much knowledge I’ve acquired over the decades, and it helps me as an actor. It reminds me of things, and it lets me explore things as an artist. It’s very rewarding.”
A Total Escape
Another escape of Neal’s is woodworking. “I’ve been a woodworker for about 20 years. I actually worked as a professional cabinet maker during the writers’ strike in 2008. It’s been a wonderful hobby for me. It’s just a place to escape to. Bit by bit, over the years I’ve gotten more knowledge and more tools and over the years have been able to do more complicated pieces. It’s something that I enjoy for myself. It’s not a business or anything. But, I can pretty much do it all.” His favorite woodworking pieces are 19th century reproductions and antique finishes.
Gourmet Detective premieres on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries on May 16 at 9 P.M.