*Holly Robinson Peete returns as Billie Blessing for another installment from the “Morning Show Mysteries” titled “Murder Ever After,” airing Sunday night (May 23) on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
Per press release, after the discovery of human bones in a basement, an entire small town is shaken to the core with fear, suspense and accusations pointed —a true “Who done it, and why mystery!”
Holly stars an overzealous, top morning show producer whose curiosity gets the best of her. Billie takes the investigation into her own hands and starts to unravel the mystery, incriminating people she cares about and risking her own life to uncover the truth.
“I’ve been so excited to get back to work on this. It’s our sixth installment and it’s just a blast to shoot. I really love the genre,” Holly exclusively tells EURweb.com.“The whole mystery genre is something that I really enjoy doing. Someone pointed out to me the other day that there aren’t a lot of African American females playing these types of roles where the Murder, She Wrote type of Nancy Drew role, we don’t really get those. We get cops and I played one on Jump Street. I was a detective on Jump Street, but I’m really excited to be playing a role like this where you don’t usually see us.”
Holly co-produced the sixth movie in the franchise with Al Roker, who penned the “Morning Show Mysteries” book on which the series is based.
Check out the rest of our conversation with Holly below about bringing Roker’s popular Billie Blessing character to life for the small screen.
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Do you binge on murder mysteries and detective shows before you set out to fully occupy Billie’s world?
Holly Robinson Peete: Yes, I did. I looked at so many murder mysteries. I looked at the other murder mystery wheels that are on Hallmark Channel, as well, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. I binged Murder, She Wrote. I do read a lot of mysteries. I love Agatha Christie novels. So I was a fan of the genre to begin with. And then when Al approached me and between the Hallmark Channel, when we decided we were going to do a movies series based on Al’s books, that just kind of all fell together and the character was Billy Blessings, Billy with a Y, he was a man, kind of loosely based on Al. We just get added an IE and got it going. But I did love the genre I also really love exploring a new character and figuring out who she is and what drives her and what moves her.
Do you have much creative input in the development of your character with each film?
Oh, absolutely. It was a very collaborative effort. Al is very involved in the casting and the shaping of the whole series as we’re adapting his novels. And we have another executive producer, Orly Adelson, who’s really like the engine between us and keeps everyone connected, but all throughout the series, also at the first five movies, Al would come visit us. He would usually come in, make a cameo. He would connect with us on set. He was very involved in the creative process. As I started to develop in my mind who I thought Billie Blessings was, I always ran it by them. And now, with this new movie, we have some new characters, so that even brings out a different energy and different flavor of who Billie Blessings is. And that’s always fun because it creates a different vibe on the set and then you get different colors.
Do you try to bring something new to Billie Blessings for each film?
Yes. I try to bring something new and I try to bring a different energy. When you’re creating a character or you’re just starting, you’re getting to know her, too. So you start to feel certain ways as you inhabit her and think, “Oh, what would she do in this moment?” And you really have to actively push yourself aside and say, “Okay, Holly would not do that, but Billie would.” And that’s also when you’re playing a character that’s single and childless, which I don’t even remember being single and childless. So it’s very cool to be able to have the opportunity to paint different colors onto this character with each movie. And I’ve really enjoyed that.
Every time you have a new scenario, a new case to solve or new characters and new actors, it always brings out different layers. So this particular movie, the sixth installment Murder Ever After, we have a new detective, a new homicide detective in town, and he definitely changed the way Billie looks at things. He’s a totally different character from others that she’s interacted with before. And so that immediately brings you a different color.
Was there anything you were hoping to do more of in terms of character or story development that the creative team had not explored in the previous films?
The only thing that I wanted Billie to do was be a little bit more bad-ass. I want Billie to be more of an action … not an action star, but I want her to be more active as far as getting out there. I love physical-ness. I love physical comedy. I love being physical. And so I want to do a little bit more physical and some of the movies, a few of them, there were some scenes where I was very proactive in taking down the bad guy, but some of them, I was a little more passive. So I’m always getting them to say, “Billie needs to be going after these people and she needs to be able to defend herself.” And so I have told them that, “Hey, Billie either needs to get her black belt in something and make sure that she is ready to defend herself.” So that’s one thing.
The other thing that’s really interesting is that Billie is one of those people that goes places where you’re screaming at the TV saying, “Don’t go down there.” Billie’s nosy and she goes down there and watching that at home with my husband is hilarious because he is constantly screaming at the TV. “Aw, Billie, don’t go in that basement.” He is all over that. So it’s funny watching some of the things that she does that I wouldn’t do, but overall, I think her character is pretty cool.
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What makes this latest installment unique compared to the previous five films?
Well, each film has a different flavor because of the different crimes and there’s always a different element and storyline. So Billie is a talk show host, she’s a restauranteur, she’s also a chef so she knows how to cook and bake. There’s a whole lot of things that she knows how to do and she’s very inquisitive. So each time you have a different storyline, you see a different color, a different shade of her, but this time what’s happening is that since the last installment, Billie now gets to work with this handsome, new detective played by Colin Lawrence and he is actually my co-star from the Christmas in Evergreen movies and so we get to play together again, great guy.
And you also see Karen Robinson who is just the heart and soul of Morning Show Mysteries, it’s just such a pleasure to be around. And she’s that funny auntie that just tells you like it is and she doesn’t pull any punches and she will let you know how she feels at all times. I think we’re related somewhere. We’re trying to trace our genealogy because we’re both Robinson’s, we have that kind of connection. So her being back is just terrific.
There’s a real sort of a clue, you know, like the game Clue with the Butler and who did it. It has that kind of old-school mystery energy, which I love. There’s a very funny dinner party scene where Billie and Aunt Cassandra think they’re invited to a black-tie event. It turns out the only guests there are suspects and the other people are people that are close to the murderer. So everyone is sort of awkwardly dressed up and staring at each other crazy. So this movie, I’m very excited about because we have so many new characters and that bring really terrific energy.
How much of your own personality do you embed in a character like Billie?
Not a whole lot of personality because I am kind of irreverent. I’m a lot funnier than Billie. I’m a lot more off the cuff than Billie. Billie is buttoned up and she is very career-driven and very protective of everything that she’s built in her life. And she’s not so lucky in love. Obviously, I’ve been married for over 25 years. So there’s not a lot of me. I’m a decent cook. I’m not a chef-quality, blue ribbon like Billie is, but it’s fun creating characters that are not very much like you because then you can research things, and then it just gives you more depth and more places to go.
So I’m wondering, with Billie and the hot detective (played by Colin Lawrence), are we going to see a love connection in a future film?
Maybe. I mean, you see Aunt Cassandra trying to make that happen. So she’s constantly trying to set Billie up and making sure her love life gets right. And so you never know, there’s definitely some chemistry. I mean, he needs to loosen up a little bit, so I think Billie can soften him up because he’s a little uptight and he’s so by the book and don’t eat carbs and all that stuff. I’m a chef, Billie’s a chef. How are you going to bake muffins and your man doesn’t eat carbs? Come on. So I think there’s going to be some interesting chemistry between these two. And I’m very much looking forward to doing another movie with Colin so that we can see what happens with Billie and Tyrell and see where it goes.
The film premieres tonight, will you be live-tweeting or following the hashtags related to the show to see what viewers think of it?
Oh, I’m all over it. I’ll be live-tweeting. I will be on with clues and I’ll be very interactive with the whole case. It is very interactive where you solve the case along with me. And so those are things that we shoot on set, you know, “Hey, here’s another clue and this is what you just found out last act, what are you going to do next? What do you think when he found those bones in the basement?” So we are very proactive on this and I love social media. I’m all over it. So I will be live-tweeting. I’ll be doing Instagram live with Colin on the morning of on Sunday. We’ll be doing that. And yeah, it’s all about getting out there and being proactive and interacting with everyone. The engagement is very important and gone are the days where you just do a movie and then it comes out and maybe you do some press. You have to be a real interactive soldier for your projects and that’s part of it now. And fortunately for me, that’s something I really enjoy.
Are there any other projects you have coming up that we should be looking out for?
I just am working now on a script of a new Hallmark Christmas movie that I’m very, very excited about. I can’t say too much about it, but I can say that there’s an autism theme and that is something that I’m looking forward to. As many people know, I am a huge autism advocate and I just don’t see enough representation on television and in movies about this disorder that affects so many people. And so there’s that. There are a couple other projects I can’t quite talk about now, but don’t worry, you know I’ll be back to talk about it. And one I’m particularly excited about, a comedy. I just finished doing five or six episodes of American Housewife, which was recently canceled, which I was so disappointed because I was really enjoying being on that show on ABC, but it really made me lick my chops a little bit and go, “I want to go back and do some more comedy again.” And so I’m really actively working on getting back into that genre a little bit and more to come. You know I’ll be calling you so we can talk about everything.
Will you and your family ever do another reality TV series?
We did do that. We did it across two networks OWN and Hallmark Channel. We did Meet the Peete’s and For Peete’s Sake and I loved it. I love what we got on film. I love that we were able to document so many special moments for us, especially from the autism angle and raising awareness and acceptance on that end. What I loved about those reality shows is that they were very aspirational. There was no table flipping and no chaos and it was really more inspirational, aspirational. And so that’s kind of the only type of reality show I think I would want to be involved in, but you never know. As we get older and the kids are, all of them are adults now except for one, and they had been approached, a couple of them have been approached to do some other shows. So we’ll see, we don’t have anything in the plans for right now, but I loved doing the both of the reality shows that we did. And I really feel like we were able to put forward some good content.
Last question, why is the Hallmark Channel the perfect home for the Morning Show Mysteries franchise?
I think Hallmark Channel is such a good home for Morning Show Mysteries because they have so many terrific mysteries now and this one is by far the most diverse, and that is key. That’s important for me. It’s not just about being number one on the call sheet, but I want to make sure two, three, four, and five are also representing properly. And I just love that we’re the most diverse mystery movie wheel that they have. And hopefully they will bring some more on, but I think it sets us apart. Again, I love the fact that I’m a sleuther, I’m solving crimes and a career woman. All of these mystery series are led by women who are aspirational and smart and funny and career-driven. So I think this is a perfect spot for this, and I’m just hoping that we’re able to do many more.
The all-new, original “Morning Show Mysteries: Murder Ever After” premieres Sunday, May 23 at 8/7c on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.