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Alison Sweeney Teases One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery, Introducing Victor Webster to the Franchise

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Hallmark Mystery may have a new name in 2024, but the thrills it provides remain. Alison Sweeney, who talked with TV Fanatic about Hannah Swensen Mysteries: One Bad Apple, understands.


When the Murder, She Baked franchise ended, she swung around and brought the Hannah Swensen mysteries to another level. It’s some of the most fun you can have watching TV as Hannah cooks up mouth-watering delights and stumbles into a warm body far too often.


One Bad Apple marks another turning point for the series — the departure of Hannah’s long-time cohort and love, Mike.


Fear not, faithful Hannah Swensen devotees, because Alison’s good friend and former costar Victor Webster joins the cast as the pragmatic (and handsome) new prosecuting attorney, Chad Norton.


Alison enthusiastically breaks down the latest entry in the Hannah Swensen series in our interview below. Enjoy!


Thank you so much for talking with me today.


Yeah, happy to do it.


You’ve been playing Hannah Swenson since 2015. What keeps you coming back?


Yeah, I mean, I try not to do the math on that, but I love this character. I love this world that we’ve created. I love working with Barbara Niven. The whole cast is sensational, and they make me laugh. I mean, Gabe Hogan makes me laugh every single day. It just, it’s so funny.


And now, welcoming Victor to the cast has been a dream. He’s great, and we just have a lot of fun. So, for me, I love this character. I love how the fans feel about this character. I mean, this series is still happening because of how strongly the fans felt about Hannah Swenson.


So here we are, getting to make more of them, and it’s just really exciting for me.


You’ve experienced a lot with Hannah. She’s been through many different phases. What have you enjoyed most about her character arc?


Well, I love where we are now that she’s come a long way in terms of solving the mystery. She has a strategy. She has the clues that she gets now, and she needs to put them up and organize them.


She also needs to have the strategy brainstorming sessions she has with her sisters and her mom and think it out loud while she’s baking.


I love that she’s really got a thought process on how she goes about solving these now. And she believes in herself a little more. It’s not so piecemeal, and I think that’s a natural arc, right?


We’re acknowledging that she solved eight previous murders and that everyone in town has started to talk about and rely on her to get to the bottom of it. And so I think that’s a fun acknowledgment in the story that that’s who Hannah is. She bakes really good cookies and solves crimes for people.


And now of course, she’s got to win somebody else over to who she’s become.


Yes.


Tell us about Chad and how they form their initial bond.


Yeah, that was really fun for me to bring in a new character who is definitely more skeptical of what’s going on here, who this woman is, and who does she think she is getting involved in these murderers? He also comes at it from a different point of view.


He’s looking at this evidence more objectively, more with an eye toward, “Is this really the offender, and am I going to put him on trial or on trial and convince a jury to convict this person?” And so he’s looking at it more like wanting real evidence, cold hard evidence to convict someone.


And I just think that’s a little more of a new element for Hannah. It’s more, dare I say, realistic but certainly challenging for her.


How long will it take him to become comfortable with how she inserts herself everywhere?


That’s a great question. I’m hoping it takes a very long time. I don’t want him to be comfortable with it. But I liked, at the end of this one, where he asks Lonnie, “Does she do this all the time?” And his answer is, “What do you mean by all the time? Depends on your definition of all the time.”


So I think he will perhaps have to become resigned to it, but I’m not sure that I don’t think he’ll ever be comfortable with it. And also, again, as I said, I think he comes to it from a different point of view. He’s not involved.


What I also like about his role in this process is that he’s not meant to be involved in the investigations. That’s actually not his job. So, in some ways, they won’t be stepping on each other’s toes. He has his own thing he has to focus on, and she really needs to help him to get him to that place.


So, in some ways, I think it could really be a nice symbiotic relationship without being repeatedly doing the same job.


I loved it in the movie when she was trying to explain to him what she’s learned about the investigation, and he’s like, “Okay, well, tell this guy.” And Hannah looks at him like, “Are you kidding me? Do you know who I am?”


So that part is very much taken from my real life in which my husband, who was an investigator for many years, basically looked at me like, “Why are we talking about this right now? Can we watch Formula One?” He has zero interest in my crime-solving conversations. So that was a little real life for all of you.


How does your history with Victor Webster help bring this new dynamic to life?


Well, it gave me so much comfort, and luckily, we knew Victor had said yes. I pitched him the idea for his character in the world, and he really loved that sort of broader vision I had. And so I was able to write the script really with him in mind.


Knowing him, having done two movies with him, and knowing him all the way back from Days of our Lives, I felt really comfortable. And as an actor, writing for an actor, there’s a lot of extra stress that you feel in your mind wanting to, knowing I’m going to have to face him when he does these things.


And my dialogue. I hope I didn’t mess it up too badly, I guess. But it also gave me a familiarity with how he works, how he speaks, and what kind of role. I can really picture him playing this role. That helped me a lot in the writing process.


And we have to talk about Dolores’s new journey. Speaking of knowing somebody well and knowing how to write for their strengths, how fun is that?


Oh my gosh, I cannot describe to you the multiple levels of it. First of all, I just loved coming up with these ideas. I was seriously behind my computer, giggling to myself. Like that cat meme, the cat that’s typing, that’s how I felt. I was just, ah, so entertained.


And when she read it, and then when we were in the scenes, Barbara was teasing me, “Are you laughing at your own jokes?” And I’m like, “No, I’m laughing at you. You are funny. I feel I played no role in this. You brought this to life. You made this happen. You put these ideas in my head.”


She gets full credit for how brilliant Dolores is in this movie, and it just brings me such joy to be able to give that platform to Barbara Niven because she deserves it, and the world deserves to experience it with her.


I would love to see you spin something off. Give her a standalone episode where she does something similar to what Hannah does.


Don’t think I haven’t brainstormed those ideas. I know. I love it, too. I’m telling you, there’s so much outtake footage of her detecting around the hardware store and then getting the fingerprints off the car and then at the floor.


All that stuff is just; there was so much material and content, and her ad-libbing through all those scenes was hilarious. And it’s heartbreaking when you have to trim it down. You can only have 84 minutes in the movie. And so I’m like, oh, it was so crushing.


But she was so brilliant.


How much ad-libbing do you do in these movies?


Well, so I certainly allow for and welcome a lot because I know everyone really well, and you have to be really accurate with the clues of the mystery.


So that’s the part that requires a little bit more accuracy and attention to detail because you cannot go astray and accidentally leave off an important element of the mystery. So that part’s a little bit more structured.


But the family dynamic, the funny scene between Norman and Bradford when they’re with Hannah, the cookie jar, and he asks her on the date in front of Norman, and the two of them just were ad-libbing back and forth.


The actor who plays Bradford is a Brit. And so I told them, “I know I am just writing from what I’ve seen in Bridget Jones’ Diary, so feel free to fix it if I did not use your British euphemisms correctly.” And boy, he just went to town.


He’s like, “This is what you Americans think of us anyway. I might as well.” He played into every stereotype hilariously, and I mean, it’s like an eight-minute scene that we had to trim down because it was so funny. And they were so good at it.


We’re going to need a two-and-a-half-hour extended cut.


Yeah, the director’s cut.


I’m just thinking about Norman and how much I enjoyed his arc in this movie. You really wrote some really great individual arcs for other characters in this one.


Thanks. I love Norman. I always have had a soft spot for Norman in these movies. I love that he’s like the underdog in the love triangle and that he’s still just there, like this good guy. And, of course, he’s a catch, too.


And so he moved on and has his own love interest, but he’s always going to have a soft spot for Hannah. And she asks him to stage some sort of distraction for her at the college. He’s like, “Yeah, sure. Whatever you need, I’m here for you.”


They have that connection when they’re in danger. When something is happening, they’re in it together. And that’s a real, I don’t know. It was really important to me to help the audience remember and treasure that in this movie.


It worked really well. I was skeptical of what was going to happen with the casting change. We’re so used to a particular dynamic on screen, and of course, the books change, everything changes, and characters always change. But this turned out so well.


Oh, thank you.


It was one of the ones I enjoyed most, which says a lot.


Oh my gosh. Wow. Yes, it does. And that means so much to me. Because I do approach it in every aspect of my job. I approach from the audience’s mindset. That is what’s most important to me.


I want the audience and the Hannah fans to know that I feel and I went through all the same feelings they went through as I was developing this, and I want them to know I don’t take them for granted.


I’m not taking it lightly that this is a big change, and this is hard. It’s hard for me. It’s hard for them. It’s hard for everyone.


And so I want to honor that and treasure them as fans and give them something to show them I’m working really hard to keep this alive and keep it interesting and compelling and fun and give you all the things that you love about why you love the series and something new.


Bring in the new character. And that is, to your point, a big part of Joanna Fluke’s success in writing these novels, that it wasn’t always the same, that sometimes, you go quite a while before you figure out who’s even the victim of the murder mystery, nevermind who the suspects are.


She has all these delicious treats that she mentioned throughout the books and recipes that are just as important to her and her audience, her readers, as the mystery. And so I felt like it was really important for me to celebrate in this episode.


And I feel like we need a recipe for those apple roses.


Yeah.


Oh my gosh. They are so beautiful.


They were beautiful and delicious. The trick was soaking the apple in lemon juice, like lemon juice sugar and lemon juice water, for long enough so that they would roll like that. But yes, that was a really fun one.


But I will tell you, actually, the best recipe for the whole movie was the chocolate marshmallow bars, oh my God. I made the mistake of tasting one of those. And I was like, “Oh, no.”


The whole crew, everyone gorged on those after the scene. Luckily, the props department has to make extra money for retakes. There were some leftovers, and everyone had a tiny square because they were delicious.


Where do you imagine Hannah goes after this?


Well, I love this new challenge that she has of demanding more from herself in terms of finding real evidence to help Chad in his prosecutions of the suspects to make sure she’s really found the right person. I like that she’s really honed in on that. In her scene with him, I’m looking for justice.


And so I think that’s a really important element of her acknowledging she solved nine of these crimes now. She has to expect more from herself as we move along. But I do like that, and I like that I really try as a fan of the genre and a fan of women in this genre; sometimes she saves herself.


Sometimes, she needs to be saved. Sometimes, it’s a team effort, and everyone’s involved in the act nine saving process. And so I like that it keeps everyone involved.


And where do I see it going next? I just want to keep the family dynamic alive. I love that. That’s my favorite part. The family scenes are just hilarious to me and fun and complicated. And we’ll see where things go with Norman and Chad moving forward and see what’s next.


One Bad Apple: A Hannah Swensen Mystery premieres tonight on Hallmark Mystery at 9/8c. You won’t want to miss it!


***This interview has been edited for clarity and content***

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, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.



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