When Rochelle Aytes began her role on the Hallmark mystery Redemption in Cherry Springs she began with some extensive research.
Best known for her roles in Mistresses and The Forgotten, Aytes said she had previously portrayed a reporter and a detective, but she had never played a hard-nosed investigative reporter who goes to such depths to find out the truth.
The movie follows Melanie, a reporter, who goes home to small-town Cherry Springs for a break after the fallout from a big story. Along the way, after a close friend disappears, she helps the local detective with his case, much to his extensive protest and utter dismay.
Aytes enjoyed watching Reese Witherspoon on Apple TV + The Morning Show, but most of her research wasn’t actually centered on investigative techniques, she explains. But instead, it was focused on the plight of factory workers at the heart of one of her investigative probes.
“This is what Melanie was looking into back in Boston before she went home,” Aytes told Monsters & Critics.
“So I wanted to find true to life stories of people who have been victims of that; I wanted to make it real for myself.”
Monsters & Critics: Rochelle, please tell me about the physical training you did for this movie.
Rochelle Aytes: Well, Melanie goes to a boxing gym and ends up boxing with a trainer. So, I took a boxing class to get myself familiar with the techniques. It was a lot of fun, but I was super sore afterward. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it and how freeing it was. It is also something I would like to do in the future.
M&C: What attracted you to this character and this movie?
Rochelle Aytes: Melanie is so smart, clever, and brave, I couldn’t wait to dive into this character.
M&C: Why should my readers watch this movie?
Rochelle Aytes: It’s not going to disappoint. Since a lot of people are amateur detectives who enjoy solving cases and they can live vicariously through me and have the gratification and a roller coaster journey along the way, I think it will keep everyone on the edge of their seat and be shockingly surprised at the end.
M&C: Is this your first Hallmark role?
Rochelle Aytes: It’s my second. My first was the 2020 movie A Christmas Tree Grows in Colorado.
M&C: Why do you enjoy working for Hallmark?
Rochelle Aytes: Hallmark is a great place to work. I appreciate the fact that there is such diversity, and so many female leading projects; I am so honored to be part of it.
M&C: How do you watch Hallmark movies and what are your favorite snacks for doing so?
Rochelle Aytes: You will find me watching in my den, probably wearing sweat pants and a T-shirt and a robe over it. I enjoy drinking some hot tea and eating pumpkin or apple pie.
M&C: Did you know your co-stars in this movie? There was nice chemistry there.
Rochelle Aytes: I know Keith Robinson from LA. I went to his Super Bowl parties and birthday parties, but I had never worked with him before. There was a great deal of mutual respect. I admire him as an actor and we work so well together. I know that I would enjoy working with him again.
M&C: Why did you become an actress?
Rochelle Aytes: I used to be a dancer. I have always been a performer, including Ballet Hispanico in New York and Aida on Broadway. So I would sing, dance and act, and soon I got the acting bug. After my tour was over I started taking acting classes and received a lot of encouragement, and it was then that I came to realize how much I loved acting.
M&C: What are some of the highlights of your career that you enjoy talking about?
Rochelle Aytes: I had the honor of working 3 years on a beautiful show Mistresses on ABC – when I see clips of it, it brings back so many memories. I played a mom and I see Corinne Massaih, who played my daughter, and all of that is a special time in my life.
M&C: How has COVID-19 changed you and your career?
Rochelle Aytes: It completely changed the way we audition and the way we get jobs. Everything is at home. So, you can have a lawnmower going off or other noises. There are so many elements that disturb the process. I miss going into the room. You get to take your time to perfect this audition. So, there are some good and some bad.
M&C: Do you know what you are going to work on next?
Rochelle Aytes: I am in the middle of the TV series SWAT with Shemar Moore.
M&C: If you had an entire weekend to chill out how would you spend it?
Rochelle Aytes: First, I need to de-clutter some of these closets of mine. But I also want to see Candyman at the movies.
M&C: What are the life lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Rochelle Aytes: The biggest one is that our health is so important, and not just when you think you are getting sick. Also, that friendship, family, and meditating. Keeping yourself spiritually fit is vital.
M&C: I liked the dynamic between Melanie and her two best friends.
Rochelle Aytes: Yes, I did as well. With these three best friends and their solid relationships; the writing was clearly there.
M&C: Do you have close friends like this?
Rochelle Aytes: Yes, I have three best friends from high school, from where I grew up, and even if we don’t speak every day before COVID-19 we would get together on each other’s birthday and during the pandemic, we would Zoom, special to know It is so important to take that time with girlfriends.
M&C: What was it like filming this movie? Are there actual towns like Cherry Springs?
Rochelle Aytes: We made this movie overlooking the Hudson River in Newberg, New York, and some of the scenes surrounding the homes we filmed in were so picturesque. So, yes there are towns like that out there and I was able to experience that a little bit.
M&C: Do you think we could be heading back to Cherry Springs for a sequel?
Rochelle Aytes: We shall see…
If you are looking for more Hallmark mystery movies go to Exclusive Interview: Hallmark’s Danica McKellar on finding the perfect match, ‘Become the person you want to date and love will follow!’
Redemption in Cherry Springs premieres Sunday, Sept. 12, at 9 p.m. ET