The Martha’s Vineyard Mystery series returns to Hallmark Movies & Mysteries this Sunday, and we spoke with star and executive producer Jesse Metcalfe to learn more.
We chatted with Jesse about the new Martha’s Vineyard chapter, got a tease about Chesapeake Shores, and discovered good news for fans of his Netflix film with Bruce Willis, Hard Kill.
Find out all about it and more by reading below.
You have got a lot of irons in the fire with Hallmark. Can you talk a little bit about the unique aspects of filming standalone movies, a series of mystery movies, and an episodic series?
Well, I mean, first, I’d just like to express my gratitude to the network. They’re amazing to work for. They really are, and they’ve really let our relationship evolve, now allowing me to produce with the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, and I couldn’t be more thankful to them.
I mean, no other network has really put this much faith in me before, and it’s been so much fun. I mean, being able to be involved in every creative facet of producing content has really been like a dream come true because I went to New York University for film.
Initially, I wanted to be a director, but not an actor. I ended up falling into acting. So, I mean, I think I’m uniquely qualified to do this job. And I’d like to think that that four years at NYU was helping me create some really great content for Hallmark.
And you’re one of the rare males who were part of a mystery series where everything is from Jeff’s point of view, essentially. What are the character traits that were important to you for Jeff to have?
Well, I think any time I participate in a project with the network, I like to make sure that there’s great character development. I think the reason why so many of my projects have resonated with the audience is that there’s always been really well-developed character arcs within my movies.
Whether it’s a movie that really got to start over at the network, which is A Country Wedding or it’s Chesapeake Shores, or it’s Christmas Next Door or Christmas Under the Stars, I like to make the audience feel something.
And that means that the stakes need to be high from an emotional standpoint.
And if that is not on the page when I accept the project, I make sure that the script gets there and that the performance is good, and I think quality is important.
So as far as Jeff Jackson is concerned in the Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries, he’s such a layered character. So I don’t get bored with the character because he has a past.
He has this deep storyline that runs through all of the movies about finding out who shot him, and he has some PTSD around those events and losing his partner.
That, coupled with the romantic storyline between him and Zee Madeiras, coupled with a new mystery in every new installment makes for a really fun role to play.
How important is it for you to get the storyline right regarding Jeff’s PTSD and what he’s going through? That’s obviously something that people go through for many different reasons.
From a medical standpoint, it’s pretty important to showcase all kinds of different ways that those symptoms and stuff play out. How do you feel about that?
It’s incredibly important. And I think, for me, it’s something that ties the series together from movie to movie so that these aren’t standalone movies.
The characters are progressing from movie to movie. And for me, I think that’s vital because I really want to see an evolution with these characters. And I think that’s what keeps people engaged. And from an acting standpoint, it’s what keeps me engaged because I don’t have to come to set each movie and play the same beat.
There’s constantly something new for me to explore within the character.
And what can you tease about Ships in the Night?
Well, I can tease that Jess gets closer to finding out who shot him. Jeff and Zee get closer romantically, and we have yet another interesting and complex mystery to solve.
One of the other aspects of this particular mystery show that I really like is that the relationship between Jeff and Zee is real.
There isn’t a will they/won’t they aspect, but instead, they’re genuinely interested in each other and taking it slow and making it meaningful when there are so many other shows that dangle on the precipice of whether or not they’ll go there.
Why choose the avenue of yes, they’re there, and make it a little bit more slow and easy?
Well, I’m so glad you bring that up and thank you for acknowledging that. We still like to tease the audience as to is the relationship going to progress in the new installment of the movie. But it’s very important for me to keep the relationship grounded and real.
And it helps that these two characters have a history together, but they also bring their individual baggage to the relationship. And I like to keep the obstacles, which is their baggage, very grounded and real.
Jeff dealing with his past, his PTSD, really wanting to find out who shot him so that he can put it to bed and be available within the relationship.
And also, in this installment of Martha’s Vineyard Mysteries and Ships in the Night, we get a greater insight into Zee’s reservations about taking the relationship to the next level.
Again, it’s very real. Talking about her past relationship and being cheated on by her fiance. So there are things holding these characters back, but they’re still great friends, and a relationship is happening. They are dating, but yes, they are taking it slow, and there are reasons why they’re taking it slow.
So that it’s not just plot-driven or trying to keep the audiences as to will they or won’t they kiss or do this, or do that, which I think can be very contrived at times.
It can, and what I like is that they actually communicate. They don’t hold back on what issues they’re dragging about. They’re out there, and so they know to be cautious.
It’s just more grounded, more authentic. And the banter between them and the humor between them. I mean, they mask a lot of what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking with humor, but it’s just right there under the surface to where we’re not really hiding what these characters are going through or what they’re feeling.
And it feels authentic. And that’s the most important thing, to tell a story and to present characters that are real and authentic. I mean, that’s our job as storytellers and actors.
And while we’re speaking of the will they, won’t they, you also star in Chesapeake Shores as Trace. And while we know it’s coming back, do you have any idea when it begins filming? Have you seen any scripts? What’s going on with Chesapeake Shores?
We’ve written the entire season. That is one of the gifts of putting season five off a full year due to the pandemic. But I have yet to read anything. I have a good feeling about it as we have a new head writer, Phoef Sutton, who has great credentials.
He was a writer way back in the day on Cheers, so I’m hoping he can bring up some great dialogue to our show, which I think is an area, maybe, that we needed to improve.
And our executive producer, Dan Paulson, has great faith in him. So if Dan believes in him, I believe in him, and I’m literally chomping at the bit to at least read a couple of episodes. And from what I hear, we plan on going back into production in April.
And as the man who plays Trace, what kind of future would you envision for him?
Well, I have been tipped off as to a couple of plot twists concerning Trace, and something happens that I don’t think anyone is going to see coming. So I think it’s going to be a great turn for Trace and for me as the actor who plays Trace.
It’s going to be something new and something very different that Trace has to deal with. So Trace isn’t on tour anymore. He’s going to be spending a little bit more time in Chesapeake.
So as to whether or not that kiss at the end of the episode of season four means that Trace and Abby are back together, remains to be seen.
It also allows you to showcase your music. What do you have lined up for fans from that aspect?
Well, I mean, obviously, I absolutely love that facet of the show. It’s so fun for me, and I think that the fans of the show really respond to it. It just goes to show the power of music and specifically the power of music in television and film.
But I’m always working on new material. So I’ll present some new songs to our producers and kind of see if they bite, and Dan and our other producers are always great at sourcing music for the show.
And I learn those songs and kind of do my take on the songs, my rendition of those songs. And hopefully, there’ll be a lot of music in season five, but I mean, that aspect of the show is not really under my control.
So I hope we continue to do that, and I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t, but that’s a surprise for me as well. But we always get great songs. I mean, people are constantly reaching out to me over social media, asking me where they can get these songs.
I make the music that I’ve written and recorded for the show available on my website, officialjessemetcalfe.com.
But these other songs, I really have been pushing our producers and mostly our producers really; I think the Hallmark Network is game, and the executives over there are game to do a soundtrack, but that really has yet to come to fruition.
And I mean, there are really some hits that people love — Freefall; and people love to hear these songs over and over again.
Hopefully, we’ll get that. The people behind the scenes are changing; they have Hallmark wine and everything. So I would not put a soundtrack out of the realm of possibilities.
Well, from your lips to God’s ear. From your lips to the network’s ear.
Finally, you are associated with two of the most iconic franchises in American television: Dallas and Desperate Housewives.
What did you learn from those experiences that you bring into everything that you do now?
Oh, my God. So much. Where do I begin? I feel really good about where I’m at as a man, as an actor, as a 42-year-old. I’ve learned so much in this industry, sometimes the hard way, but I think this industry is about relationships, and it’s about synergy and collaboration. It’s really about working with others.
And I think that’s the thing I learned the most, how to work well with others, and Desperate Housewives was just a total whirlwind. I was a young actor that really had no idea that show was going to fly the way it did and be such a tremendous hit and now part of popular culture.
So I think the lessons I learned on that show were the lessons of a young actor, but the experience I gained riding that wave was immeasurable.
Now, as far as Dallas is concerned, I really put a lot of pressure on myself during that show to do right by the brand and make a show that was as good or better than the original series. But what I realized on that show is that one person, one actor on a show, can’t make that happen.
It’s a collective effort, and I was incredibly proud of season one of the reboot of Dallas, but I think we lost the plot a bit moving forward. And obviously, losing Larry Hagman was a huge blow because Larry Hagman was Dallas.
So I don’t think we ever really recovered from that. I was hoping that show would go at least five seasons, but I was honored to be a part of it while it lasted, and I think back on those times fondly.
And is there anything else that you would like to share with my readers?
Well, I recently got some good news. As your readers may or may not know, I did a movie with Bruce Willis called Hard Kill. It reached number two on U.S. Netflix, number one on U.K. Netflix. And I’ve recently been told that we are doing Hard Kill II. Nice!
So I’ll get to share the screen with the great Bruce Willis again and the rest of the ensemble of actors on that project. I had a blast making that one, and I know it’s going to be a great time making number two.
Ships in the Night: A Martha’s Vineyard Mystery airs on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on Sunday, January 17 at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.