Even on our most serious days, TV has room for light-hearted (and, sometimes, light-headed) fun. On Sunday, when most people are watching the presidential debate (or football, or HBO), the Hallmark Channel has alternatives. On the East Coast, where the debate starts at 9 p.m., it's the season-finale of "Chesapeake Shores"; on the West Coast (6 p.m.), it's the second half of a light movie called "Autumn in the Vineyard."
That one also airs at 9 p.m. Saturday, complete with romance, anger and a llama. Here's the story I sent to papers:
By Mike Hughes
Starring in a TV
movie can be a mixed blessing, Rachael Leigh Cook found.
On one hand, you're
in the beauty of wine country.On the other, one of your co-stars is a
'trained llama' is really misleading,” she said.
In “Autumn in the
Vineyard” -- which the Hallmark Channel debuts Saturday and reruns
Sunday – she buys a friend's vineyard. It comes with great grapes
and an errant llama.
Yes, that was her
first time acting with a llama; “I hope it's not my last,” Cook
said. She found the critter to be friendly and charming ... but
disinterested in doing what the script said. Some scenes required her
to improvise -- “it really forces you be be alert” -- and some
had to be thrown out.
the sort of confection Hallmark prefers: Cook, 37, plays someone who
has devoted her life to wine country. Now she and her nemesis (and
ex-boyfriend) both claim they own the farm.
Yes, that fits a lot
of the standard romantic-comedy rules. Then again, that's a form Cook
has mastered. In this week's episode of “Superstore” (8 p.m. Oct
6, NBC), its heroine says she just wants to see old movies: “I'm
thinking mid-90s rom-coms, like Freddy Prinze Jr. takes the nerd to
the prom, because underneith her glasses, she's really beautiful.
That's a reference
to “She's All That” (1999), with Cook as the bespectacled beauty.
Nowadays, she seemed delighted to hear it's become a pop-culture
reference. “I had no idea that it would be as popular as it was,
(but) it was one of my favorite characters to play.”
As a kid, she had
some things in common with the nerdy character. “I wanted to be
popular and I was not,” Cook said. “I felt I was different than
Her plan was to
“sort of skip over childhood” and become a performer.
Fortunately, she was in the right place (Minneapolis, which has a
vibrant entertainment scene), with the right parents. Her dad (a
social worker and former comedian) and mom (a cooking instructor and
weaver) went along with her plan.
Cook modeled at 10
for Minneapolis-based Target and others and auditioned for acting
roles at 14. The next year, in Disney's “Huck and Finn,” she
played the classic character Becky Thatcher ... a distinction she's
shared with Jodie Foster, Melissa Benoit (the current Supergirl) and
Four years later
came “She's All That” and then the title role in “Josie and the
Pussycats.” Her TV roles ranged from “Perception,” which ran
three seasons, to “Fearless,” which was yanked before it aired.
starred in “Summer Love” for Hallmark and was impressed.”The
speed with which they can make a movie is unparalleled,” she said.
So she wanted to
make another one, this time through her production company. Adapting
a series of “Vineyard” books seemed to fit her tastes. “My
husband and I actually got married in Napa Valley.”
The movie was filmed
in a British Colombia area that looks like Napa. Soon, she was
As she was talking
by phone, Cook was in Atlanta, where her husband (Daniel Gillies) is
in “The Originals,” playing good-guy vampire Elijah. They had
just finished their daughter's 3rd birthday party, an
intimate one that included their 1-year-old son.
All of this is fine
for now, she said. But when the kids reach school age, “our nomadic
lifestyle will have to change.” She'll want to find something
that's steady and, perhaps, llama-free.
-- “Autumn in the
Vineyard,” 9-11 p.m. Saturday, Hallmark
-- Repeats at 5 p.m.
Sunday, 7 p.m. Oct. 15, 1 p.m. Oct. 16