Exclusive: Hallmark star Erica Durance on love, loss, and rediscovering joy in her new movie, Unexpected Grace

Erica Durance in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace.
Erica Durance in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace. Pic credit: Allister Foster/Hallmark

Sometimes projects come into your life exactly when you need them. Just ask Hallmark and Smallville star Erica Durance about her current role, Unexpected Grace, a bittersweet film for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Durance is best known for her roles as Lois Lane in Smallville (2004-2011), Dr. Alex Reed in the medical drama Saving Hope (2012-2017), and Alura Zor-El in the superhero series Supergirl (2017-2019). She has also appeared in the movies, The Butterfly Effect, Wedding Planner, Mystery, and Color My World with Love.

Recently, Durance headed to Canada to film Unexpected Grace. The moving movie follows Noelle, whose daughter suddenly passed away two years ago and is now facing a divorce in the midst of potent grief.

Amid all of this upheaval, Noelle meets a young girl named Grace (who is grieving the loss of her mother) and her father (Michael Rady), and their friendship leads them on an unexpected and healing journey.

The backdrop for the movie in the Langley, Abbotsford area near Vancouver, Canada, is both charming and picturesque.

Durance said she especially enjoyed co-starring with her leading man, Michael Rady. “We had all these things like life transitions to discuss,” Durance exclusively tells Monsters and Critics. “We had a lot of wonderful conversations between scenes. Some of what we were playing was mirroring some things in life, like learning to grow and change and grow up in this industry and looking at different roles and different projects. We had a really great time!”

Read on for Erica Durance’s take on seizing opportunities, finding your own way to deal with loss, and enjoying “cozy time” with Hallmark movies.

Monsters and Critics: How quickly did you agree to this role?

Erica Durance: I was excited to be part of it. When they brought me the script, I went, “Well, sign me up. When [can I] be there?” So, it was quite something to be a part of that.

M&C: What was it about the script that spoke to you and made you want to play Noelle?

Erica Durance: I think things come to you in your life when you’re going through your own stuff. I’m going through quite a big change in my own life, and I’m managing my own level of grief. This movie came along, and I could identify with it. I’ve been trying to balance is my experience of how we walk with the loss of something, how we walk with our own grief and yet stay open to possibilities in the future of new experiences.

So, this landed in my lap, and here is this woman that is grieving the loss of her daughter, and you can think that that part of your life is over forever. Then this miracle occurs, and she gets another chance to experience not the same thing but to help another young person out.

M&C: Please tell me more about the story of Unexpected Grace.

Erica Durance: She meets this girl, and they have this experience and she gets to kind of be not a mother again. … It’s just this idea that the universe can bring you other opportunities for hope and joy and relationship and connection with people, even if you’ve had these other losses. It is just part of our human experience.

M&C: I love the idea in the movie of celebrating the person that you lost, as opposed to mourning all the time.

Erica Durance: Right. I think there is definitely a time where all of those things just progress and happen, and your body just – you go through that. I don’t know if there’s any way to force yourself not to be in those spaces, but the beauty is to be able to look back, and part of the healing process is to be able to look back and celebrate that they were part of your life, that you did get to experience this soul, this human being and all the joy that they brought.

I think that counters the loss. I am sure that there are many waves that somebody would go through when they experience that sort of thing. I can’t speak to that specifically. But I do love that coming around of celebrating them, and in that perhaps there is a sort of healing.

M&C: How did you get into the headspace of your character?

Erica Durance: I do not think it’s ever one thing, but I think it’s a little bit more of what I had spoken of earlier in our conversation, is the idea of – how do I say this? Of grief, of loss, of life not looking exactly the way that you thought it would and how you move forward, and how you continue to be kind to yourself. 

How do you kind of keep going when not everybody else gets to keep going with you? Fortunately, I have not suffered the loss of a child, but I have experienced loss and I kind of went with that. Then some stuff just kind of came to me. I do have children, and although I have this strange superstition that my brain will not let me really do a specific substitution there, the idea of the loss of a child and having children certainly can put me in that head space quickly.

Erica Tremblay as Grace and Erica Durance as Noelle are sitting on the edge of a bed in the top floor of a cape cod style house in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace.
Erica Tremblay and Erica Durance in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace. Pic credit: Craig Minielly/Hallmark

M&C: Obviously, being a mother, you related to both her maternal feelings for the daughter she lost and the young girl that she found.

Erica Durance: Yes. Absolutely, it was a major hook for me having my children and sitting with that a little bit, how would that potentially be, what would that look like for me? And would I have the courage to open myself up to a new person in my life, like that other girl that came along?

The fact that she had the courage to stay open and step in and form that relationship with this girl who had lost her own mother. I think that part of what makes this so beautiful is that there is the possibility that even in our own loss as we continue in our journey. We take those experiences with us, and we can give and share and love other people, and there can be a sort of healing and real magic in that. They both lost somebody, and that loss brought them together.

M&C: This is the first divorce that I’ve seen in a movie in a long time where people were reaching out to each other and wanting to help each other, as opposed to throwing things at each other. I really appreciated that.

Erica Durance: Yes. It was important to me, as well, that I represent a relationship changing and growing and becoming something else, transitioning. That it doesn’t have to say, hey, because we’ve transitioned and our relationship is different, we’re going to hate each other. That was a big deal for me when we dealt with that relationship.

There is a scene that speaks to that specifically, that we can still learn to love each other in a different way, and we can respect what each other was in our lives in such a way. It does not have to go to hatred and all the toxic stuff. Everybody has their moment, for sure, but we can come together. They came together over the love of their daughter and what they shared, and what that meant for them. 

 M&C: Talk about working with Michael Rady. Had you worked with him before? Did you know him?

Erica Durance: No, I knew of Michael. I had never worked with him before. We bonded a lot over being parents and the responsibility of parenting. He has four kids, and I’ve got three. So just juggling all of those things. We entered the industry at a similar time. 

I have a friend, Justin Hartley (This is Us), who I worked with on Smallville, who had worked with Michael a few times. So we got chit-chatting about that. So I felt like I kind of already knew him a little bit because of that other connection. It was just so nice. He’s a very generous actor. He’s really great to work with.

M&C: Please talk about what you enjoyed about working with Erica Tremblay, the actress who played Grace.

Erica Durance: Oh, she was awesome. She has a wicked sense of humor. A wonderfully self-possessed young woman. She just was so professional and so good at her job and made everything look incredibly easy, as young people do. There are not as many struggles to get to a particular point. She would just come in and do her work, it would be beautiful, and she would leave with just such grace. And then she’d just go back to the room and go and do her work at school. Michael and I were laughing about that, how we would go in and do this work in these scenes, and then we’d come and sit down, and we’d rest and relax, and she’s having to go straight into work.

But she was just such a fun person. She, at first, was a little quieter, and then as we got going in the filming process by the end, I could just see some of her cheekiness coming out, and then she was starting to poke fun, and then we were starting to laugh a little bit more together. She is just a wicked brilliant, awesome kid. So much fun. Brought so much life and energy to us. Michael and I were laughing about how we felt so old, and she was just awesome, she was great.

Erica Tremblay as Grace, Michael Rady as Jack, and Erica Durance as Noelle walking away forn a stone-front house. Grace and Noelle are holding yellow baloons, in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace.
Erica Tremblay, Michael Rady, and Erica Durance in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace. Pic credit: Allister Foster/Hallmark

M&C: I think this movie brings out our soft sides. 

Erica Durance: If you can stay soft in life, then that is a miracle. I think that’s what we always try to put out in these movies, whether it’s your story of the grief you’ve gone through and you still maintain a sensitivity and an openness, that takes a lot of courage. 

M&C: Talk a little bit about Smallville and Supergirl. Is this a fond memory? And is this still a genre that you keep in touch with?

Erica Durance: I certainly do. I’ve been lucky enough to keep in touch with it. Smallville has kind of had its own little resurgence in the convention world, and so it’s almost like having a little mini-reunion with my friends every couple of months somewhere in the world. It’s certainly a luxurious type of job to have for sure. 

I have such fond memories of that show. It was my first love and my first big job that lasted a very long time. I really got my feet wet in that job. I enjoy that genre a lot because you just never know what you’re going to get to do or who you’re going to get to play when you show up to work. As a viewer, I have always enjoyed watching those kinds of shows, and then I had the opportunity to be part of it. I have so much fondness when I look back on those shows.

M&C: Have your kids watched any of your work?

Erica Durance: They watched one of my Hallmark movies that I did with Alison Sweeney. My older son, Lochlan, watched some of it. He kind of stomached it for about 20 minutes, and then he didn’t want to stare at mommy anymore, he was done. Plus, he doesn’t really like me with any makeup or hair done, so he thought it was weird looking.

Whereas my youngest, who’s six, likes the “done-up hair and makeup.” They argued about that a little bit. Then, as all kids do, they just kind of went off to do their thing or said, “I’m hungry now. I want some food, please.” So, that’s about as long as it lasted.

Erica Durance as Noelle and Michael as Jack are in their outdoor clothes, standing in front of a fireplace in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace
Erica Durance and Michael Rady in the Hallmark movie, Unexpected Grace. Pic credit: Craig Minielly/Hallmark

M&C: Lastly, why do you want my readers to watch this movie? What are a few reasons?

Erica Durance: It’s an emotional journey to experience joy and solace and love and hope and be able to take that away. Whatever is going on in their lives, there are so many things that make us the same, and we can join in that. I think by joining in that we don’t feel so alone in our different journeys that can be full of all sorts of ups and downs.

I truly hope that they take away that life can bring us all sorts of miracles, it’s not just one thing. If we can be gentle with ourselves and keep going around the corner could be something really, really beautiful for us.

Unexpected Grace premieres Sunday, March 12 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Next, Exclusive: How Hallmark star Alexa PenaVega fell for the City of Light in her February romance, A Paris Proposal

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