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Exclusive: Author and Exec. Producer Sherryl Woods on why we keep going home to Chesapeake Shores

Treat Williams and Meghan Ory on the set of Chesapeake Shores.
Treat Williams and Meghan Ory on the set of Chesapeake Shores. Pic credit: Crown Media/Ricardo Hubbs

Sherryl Woods understands that Home, the melodic theme song for Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores, is all about finding comfort in this close-knit family and seeing our own loved ones reflected in their myriad of bitter and sweet emotions.

As we gear up for the 10-episode season 5, we are ready to cozy up to the loving O’Brien family and all of their emotional ups and downs; which include the departure of Trace Riley (Jesse Metcalfe) and the entrance of billionaire developer Evan Kincaid, (Robert Buckley), who breezes into town and clearly adds some humor to the series.

Kincaid is there to build a boutique hotel in town and brings a great deal of humor with him. He is also seen as a possible new love interest for Abby (Meghan Ory), who everyone in the family is concerned about following the departure of Trace, Abby’s first love.

“It’s a classic romantic-comedy, Tracy-Hepburn type of thing where they don’t get along,” Chesapeake Shores’ new showrunner Phoef Sutton told TV Line. “But they will in the future.”

“You have to make the character completely different so the audience doesn’t feel like, ‘Well, now we’re replacing Trace with another Trace,’” Sutton explains. He says he had seen that approach work before as a writer on the classic sitcom Cheers when Shelley Long left and Kirstie Alley was cast as Ted Danson’s new sparring partner. “Whereas Trace had a brooding James Dean swagger, Evan is relentlessly positive and playful.”

It won’t be love at first sight, Sutton continues. “It’s a classic romantic-comedy, Tracy–Hepburn type of thing where they don’t get along…but they will in the future.”

Ory, who plays the oldest daughter Abby O’Brien, explains to TV Line that her character has doubts about the new guy. “Evan (Kincaid) is all over the place and unpredictable. Abby already has two children and doesn’t need a third.” But her brutal honesty piques Evan’s interest in working with her. “She’s not charmed by his quirkiness or the trappings of his lifestyle,” Buckley says, “and that’s a rarity for him.”

Woods, the show’s executive producer and bestselling author of the 14 Chesapeake Shores books, was eager to share her point-of-view on her beloved characters, some twists and turns ahead, and how we continue to identify with the O’Brien family. The emotional, poignant, and romantically woven stories continue to sweep us away, as they have done from the beginning.

Nearly two years ago, due to the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, there were only six episodes, so the fact that the series is back to a full season of 10 episodes is extremely exciting for the cast and viewers. The filming of season 5 began in April (2021) and was completed in July. The season 5 premiere of Chesapeake Shores is Sunday, August 15.

What we know about season 5 is that Abby is reflecting on her relationship with Trace and what it means for her future and the future of her two young daughters. Her sister Jesse (Laci J. Mailey) and her fiancé David Peck (Carlo Marks) begin preparing for their wedding with the usual interference from David’s parents. While her sister Bree (Emilie Ullerup) returns from London and receives an intriguing job offer involving her high school nemesis. And there is much more…

Woods believes that fans of the series, and her books, keep “going home” to Chesapeake Shores because the family is so relatable.“The stories and characters bring that heart, that humor, and that romance to the screen,” she exclusively told Monsters & Critics. “What I think we all love is the emotions, the sense of community, and all those things that I try to put in my books are able to be captured on the screen.”

Monsters & Critics: Sherryl,  I love the heartfelt theme song, Home, by Daughtry. It makes everybody want to run out and get a fire pit, get cozy under a blanket, make some smores, and drink their cocoa around that fire. 

Sherryl Woods: I have the same reaction to it every time I hear it. It’s such a part of it all. I’m so glad that we were able to find it and that we were able to keep it and use it again this year as the opening. It fits the show. And, as we all know, music can make such a difference in terms of what it says about – that’s why composers win awards in movies and all sorts of things because they know how to capture that moment and crystallize it for the viewers.

M&C: What was it like to resume filming of the show after all of the pandemic delays and difficulties?

Sherryl Woods: I’m not on the set, but I am watching the dailies and I was excited from the start. This show is my baby; my firstborn, so to speak. I love the characters; I love the cast and it was wonderful for me to be able to sit and watch dailies every day and see what (showrunner) Phoef Sutton has done with them. I’ve read the scripts, but it’s still not the same as when you’re actually seeing it on film.

M&C: What’s in store that you can share with us?

Sherryl Woods: There are some big changes and interesting twists and turns. I think it’s a fun season and a very emotional fifth season. It’s got all those good things that we love about Chesapeake Shores; emotion, fun, and romance.

M&C: Why did Trace (Jesse Metcalfe) leave the show, since there’s a lot of fans who were thrown for a loop because they wanted them to eventually get together, or at least keep the hope alive?

Sherryl Woods: Jesse decided he was leaving the show. And, of course, Trace was the original love interest for Abby in the book. Book fans were very loyal to that couple. But, you’ve got to keep changing things. When somebody leaves, you just have to sort of scramble and try to come up with interesting ways to deal with that. 

I think Jesse gets the kind of farewell that will be emotionally, I hate to say, satisfying because nobody wanted him to go, but that will bring closure for the fans and Abby and then open the door to new challenges and new interests for Abby.

M&C: It looks like Abby may have a new love interest…

Sherryl Woods: Evan Kincaid is a new character played by Robert Buckley. What he does at the end of a scene just as they are yelling cut is that he will make a comment that I’m thinking, ‘Oh gosh, what a shame we can’t use that.’ He’s a very funny guy. I think that will come across and make him very appealing to the audience.

Robert Buckley on Chesapeake shores
Robert Buckley. Pic credit: Crown Media/David Astorga

M&C: Are there concerns about Evan being accepted as the newest character?

Sherryl Woods: All you can do when you bring in somebody new to play a major role on a show is hope that the viewers will love them and invest in them, as they have in any other couple. It’s like anybody in real life. If a couple that they are friends with breaks up, there’s a period of mourning for everybody, not just the couple themselves. But then everybody has to open up to new opportunities.

M&C: Are they the same fans – lovers of the books and lovers of the show?

Sherryl Woods:  Not necessarily. I do think there are fans of books, not just mine, but across the board in life, who are never, ever going to be totally happy with the way it’s translated onto the screen. I told [executive producer] Dan Paulson when we were first working on the show and I said to the people in the cast that my biggest thing is that they capture the heart of the O’Brien family and the heart of Chesapeake Shores.

M&C: They really can’t be the same.

Sherryl Woods: Exactly. You can’t have the same exact storylines nor the same sized cast; the O’Brien family in the books was much bigger than just Mick and Megan and the children. There were brothers and sisters, and we did half-brothers. There are some book fans that will never be there, and at the same time, I think there are people who love the show for what it is. 

M&C: There have been hints of Mick (Treat Williams) and ex-wife Megan (Barbara Niven) getting back together and a date between them. That’s pretty exciting.

Sherryl Woods: It is, and that’s one of the things that I’m extremely excited about this season is that finally, finally, this is happening; because in the book Mick and Megan got back together by book four. And for a long time, we haven’t been able to go there. This season they finally are being more drawn together. Again, there are some interesting twists and turns as we get into the season that makes that relationship interesting. Again, I think fans of the show and fans of the books will all be invested in what’s happening.

Treat Williams and Barbara Niven on the set of Chesapeake Shores
Treat Williams and Barbara Niven. Pic credit: Crown Media/David Astorga

M&C: Do friends, family members, or fans still come up to you because they’re not seeing the new season until August 15th and ask you to spill the beans?  Or some spoilers? 

Sherryl Woods: It’s funny with fans I just am very vague and I’ll just say I think you’re going to like it. But every now and then because they know I’m seeing dailies and reading scripts people in my family will say, ‘Well, as long as they’ve done this,’ and they’ll kind of watch my face, or ‘As long as they haven’t done that it’s okay.”  They’ll look at me to see if I’m going to twinge or something and give it away, because they know I’m not going to answer them directly. I don’t give anything away to anybody if I can help it.

M&C: Please talk about the beautiful setting for the show – the town, the house on the waters – the entire backdrop.

Sherryl Woods:  The two-hour movie was shot primarily in Vancouver and not on Vancouver Island. And the fact that we were then able to move to Vancouver Island for the series and the setting is just beautiful. I was fortunate enough to be out there during Season 2 and desperately wanted to go back this past summer, but because of COVID-19 restrictions getting into Canada and the quarantining, it just didn’t work out.

It’s a beautiful setting that captures the kind of small-town that I believe Chesapeake Shores would be if we could draw it from scratch. 

M&C: The last time we talked, I think the actresses who play the three sisters – Abby (Meghan Ory), Jess (Laci J. Mailey), and Bree (Emilie Ullerup), were all new moms. How exciting!

Sherryl Woods:  Right. I know at one point they had talked about maybe having a nursery for the kids or something like that. I don’t know how that got handled, but the girls send me pictures of the babies every now and then, so I get to vicariously watch them turn into little people.  I love seeing them.  As pretty as these women are, they have very cute kids, too.

M&C: Lastly, what should we look forward to in season 5?

Sherryl Woods: The development of the relationships in the series. We will see that everybody is facing changes and moving on, and making tough decisions and challenges. I think they’re taking us on the journey with them. I think it’s an exciting season for them and I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans.

Season 5 of Chesapeake Shores premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, August 15 at 8 p.m. ET.

Check out more about Hallmark’s Chesapeake Shores: Chesapeake Shores begins production on the long-awaited 5th season.

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