It’s been more than four years since Hallmark Mysteries & Movies viewers last saw Alison Sweeney and Cameron Mathison solving crimes as baker Hannah Swensen and Detective Mike Kingston, but they’re back at it in August 8’s Sweet Revenge.
In the latest Hannah Swensen Mystery, Hannah and Mike juggle wedding planning with another murder: a body at the 24-hour gym, with her baked goods at the crime scene! Plus, Hannah’s mother, Delores (Barbara Niven), has written a romance book…and just wait until the baker gets the details of the story.
TV Insider caught up with Sweeney, who is also an executive producer, to get a preview of Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery. She also discusses what it was like to step back into this role and work with Mathison again and if there will be more movies.
I am so happy to have another Hannah Swensen movie because I was thinking we might not get another one and it’s such a fun series.
Alison Sweeney: I know. Thank you. I felt the same way. I just was so thrilled to be able to make it happen.
What made now the right time to revisit these characters?
Well, to be honest, there were a lot of behind-the-scenes complications that made it take a long time to bring it all together, and it just was so exciting once we got through all the red tape to be able to make it happen.
Talk about stepping back into Hannah’s shoes after playing Alex over on Chronicle Mysteries.
They’re such different people. As an actor, the script really helps you find the character, find the voice, but for me, being part of the development and the producing and reading the script so many times and the book and pulling from the book to make the movie, I felt like I was really in Hannah’s world for a while before I started having to think about playing her. It’s just so special and she’s such a unique character. I remember the first wardrobe fitting where there was this beautiful, bright yellow shirt and the turquoise apron, and when I pulled it on, I was like, “Oh my gosh, it’s Hannah.” It just was so perfect.
What can you preview about this movie’s case and what pulls Hannah into it?
As usual, Hannah is super nosy — or I guess just very observant of other people, what’s going on in town — and she catches wind of this uncomfortable situation at the gym, where she works out. And she’s got a lot going on planning the desserts for her mother’s big party. And then her sister surprises her coming home. But of course, Hannah always has time for the intrigue in the rest of the town, and she happens to stumble across another dead body and she immediately feels involved. She knows the players, she knows what’s happening, and she can’t help but feel like she can help solve the mystery. And of course, inevitably there’s always a tie-in to the bakery or to her. She has a way of wheedling her way in.
How is being engaged going for Hannah and Mike?
If you’re a fan of Joanne Fluke, which of course we all are, these books really take their time [with the romance], let me just say that. Hannah gets engaged and unengaged. There’s lots of things that go on in this relationship. I think for the audience, it’s fun to see every stage of it, so we didn’t want to skip over any of the parts. So we’re playing this story as if they’ve just gotten engaged, but they’re taking their time and they’ve been busy and they’re figuring out what this new step in their relationship is going to be like. And of course, Delores is there interfering. So it’s hard for them to figure that all out on their own terms. That’s a really fun aspect of this couple: They’re so caught up with Hannah’s family and the town, it takes a long time for them to figure out where they are in the world.
How does wedding planning fit into that?
Dolores is spearheading the wedding planning and trying to get Hannah motivated. I was joking with Barbara that we needed a new term because Hannah’s not the bridezilla, but Delores is definitely the momzilla of weddings.
Talk about working with Cameron again because you two are so good together on screen.
Oh, thank you. I love working with Cameron. Of course, I’ve seen him so many times since then on Home & Family and he and I would always talk about how every time we saw each other, how often the fans would respond to any comment we made asking for more Hannah Swensens. So it was just fun to finally get to bring it all together for the fans and make it happen. He’s such a nice guy, such a good actor. He’s perfect for Mike. And he just really made the whole thing really fun.
Norman [Gabriel Hogan] is still around though, and that’s a little complicated.
What’s going on there?
Again, I refer to the books because they’re such a crucial part of this story. And for these characters — Joanne Fluke [has written] a lot of books — we definitely incorporate Joanne in our thoughts and our ideas for the storyline. We have to honor the story that she’s written. And so it’s fun to incorporate that in the development of the romance and where is this headed?
What do you think it is about Norman that makes it seem like it’s easy for Hannah to relax around him?
Yes, exactly. The way she wrote it in the books, Norman is really her friend and he has so many wonderful qualities and he really is a co-conspirator. He helps her. And yes, she can relax around him. And with Mike, it’s very much this passion but his job keeps him busy and away from her a lot. We want the audience to feel what Hannah is feeling. It’s hard to choose, I guess, but they both are such different guys and they bring out different parts of her character and her personality. Mike has a job to do, and she’s always interfering with that and getting them in trouble, so it creates a very different dynamic.
Because of that job, Norman can help with investigating in a way that Mike can’t.
Exactly. But in this one, we try to give Mike a little more understanding of her investigating and that he isn’t such a scold about it. But it still isn’t ideal for him.
What can you tease about Delores’ romance novel and its effect on Hannah?
That’s actually why I picked this novel for us to make the next movie. It’s my favorite part of the story. I think it’s hilarious and adorable. Delores has written a romance novel and she has, unbeknownst to Hannah, made it about Hannah’s love life. She has written a book that has things go the way Delores wanted them to go, not necessarily what Hannah wanted. The first part of the book, she’s celebrating, they’re getting ready for the big event of the release of her new book. But then everyone keeps asking Hannah, “Have you read your mother’s book yet?” And Hannah says no, confused. Then finally, there’s this big reveal where she realizes that this book is about her love life and she’s just mortified and horrified for Norman and Mike and herself. It’s just so embarrassing, and Delores of course pretends like she has no idea what Hannah is talking about. It’s so funny.
I love that family so much.
Yeah, me too. When I was reading the book and then when I read the first draft of the script, I just kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can picture how fabulous these scenes are going to be, how perfect Barbara is going to be playing Delores in these scenes.” I had this big smile on my face the whole time.
You mentioned how different Hannah and Alex from Chronicle Mysteries are from each other.
Especially in their personal lives. Hannah is good at managing [it] and she’s so patient with her mom. She is much more involved in the family dynamic, whereas Alex was out on her own and is having to learn to adapt to all these different personalities at the newspaper and make friends. She was very much used to relying only on herself, so it’s new to her to have a team of people who want to help. Whereas Hannah has this whole family and town of people — Norman and her sister and her mom, they’re all sort of her assistant spies and crime solvers — who are in her corner.
What can you say about future Hannah Swensen Mystery movies? Because I need more.
I hope so, too. I just am really hopeful that the fans respond well. I hope we deliver on our promise. If they keep tuning in, Hallmark will keep wanting more. So I hope everybody watches on Sunday and enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.
Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Movie Premiere, Sunday, August 8, 9/8c, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries