Exclusive interview: Alison Sweeney on Hannah Swensen’s return to Hallmark Movies and Mysteries

Hannah bakes
Sweeney reprises her role as Hannah Swensen this Sunday for Hallmark. Pic credit: Hallmark

Hannah Swensen is back on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries. Star and executive producer Alison Sweeney brings author Joanne Fluke’s book, The Cream Puff Murder, to life in Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery.

This Sunday on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries and after a few years away, Sweeney reprises her fan favorite for Hallmark, Hannah Swensen, and is paired with Cameron Mathison cast as Mike, her fiance.

But, of course, there’s a fly in the cookie dough and a murder to solve.

Sweeney is the lead star and now the executive producer in these adapted screenplays for television based on the prodigious mystery novels written by author Joanne Fluke. The latest television films centered around small-town baker Hannah Swensen, portrayed by Alison Sweeney, and Detective Mike Kingston, Cameron Mathison.

This premise centers on a strange murder with confusing clues that happen at Hannah’s gym, and the pursuit of the killer may put a dagger in Hannah and Mike’s wedding plans as Hannah’s knack for sleuthing puts stress on Mike’s actual investigation.

Unlike most characters seen these days on television, Sweeney plays Hannah with an air of class and intelligence, never flustered, as this baker has a nack for picking up criminal case clues and leads that others seem to miss in her small town.

Alison Sweeney and Hallmark

Sweeney has an admirable track record with Hallmark. From 2015 to 2017, Sweeney appeared in five Murder, She Baked movies for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, based on Joanne Fluke’s books.

And for the first time since 2017, Sweeney and Cameron Mathison have reteamed as their popular characters from those earlier Murder; She Baked TV movie series with this Sunday’s Hannah Swensen Mysteries for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Barbara Niven is also back as Hannah’s mom, Delores Swensen.

Sweeney is an award-winning actress, producer, director, content supplier, TV host, and author with a huge social media following. For this film, Sweeney serves as an executive producer alongside Craig Baumgarten and Lighthouse Pictures. This film marks the franchise’s sixth production with Sweeney as Hannah, all based on the mystery novels by Joanne Fluke. Fluke has 23 books in this series.

Many fans also follow her longtime role as Sami Brady on Days of Our Lives.

In this Monsters & Critics exclusive interview, she dishes about all of it and hints Lucas and Sami may reunite.

Exclusive interview with Alison Sweeney

Monsters & Critics: One of my favorite aspects you bring to Hannah Swenson is that you play her as kind and as a grownup. She’s got situations with her mother and Mike’s coworker, who is kind of rude. But Hannah is a class act, and she doesn’t go there. How did you want to present Hannah when you first got acquainted with this character?

Alison Sweeney: This particular movie is based on The Cream Puff Murder. And as you can tell from the movie, it’s named that for the cream puffs she has to make for her mother’s event.

And that whole sequence I took straight from the book, because It’s so funny to me, that whole situation with her mother writing a romance novel about her love life and her not knowing it.

I mean, I can’t tell you how that tickled me. That was sort of where it came from, but you’re right. I think, in general, I read 12 or 15 of Joanne Flukes’ books.

And one of the main things I took away from this character is that she is the down-to-earth one surrounded by her sisters and mother. She’s the straight man in the dynamic. She has to kind of put up with everyone else’s idiosyncrasies, I guess.

M&C: More than that. An attractive detective working with Mike and Hannah had a very contentious greeting, with constant friction throughout the movie, but your character Hannah didn’t go there. You played Hannah very calmly.

Alison Sweeney: Hannah kind of goes against the drama, and in moments like that, I think there is certainly room. I thought that actress was so talented.

She was so wonderful to work with. Because it is uncomfortable for Mike, there’s a lot there for him to deal with. I thought it was fun to allow her to be the one to make that uncomfortable for them, if that makes sense. I hope to have her back. I thought she was so great.

M&C: Barbara Niven, how much fun is she to work with?

Alison Sweeney: I have so much fun with her. She is really a dream. And she’s such a delight to work with such a lovely human, but also so talented in this role. And I have to tell you. I was thinking about her the entire time we were in development planning.

She’s why I picked this book, this mystery, because I could see her doing it. I could see her performing these scenes, and it just brought, it brought me such joy.

M&C: Now you’re wearing the hat of not only the star, but you’re also an executive producer. What are some of the responsibilities? How do you bifurcate your talent between managing the entire production and running the show and being the star?

Alison Sweeney: It’s a lot to deal with. There’s always so much to think about. There’s a lot of different steps. It’s the development of the story. It’s reading the right book and then convincing everyone else that it’s the right book. And then sticking to that.

And finding a great writer like Marcy Holland was a big part of it too. And bringing her into my set of how we wanted these characters to go. She was fantastic to work with, super fun, super excited, and willing to dig into these characters.

And she just got it right away. Those are the first steps. And then, as you get closer, it’s casting and finding locations and trying to bring that cohesiveness for the whole of Hannah’s story so that the fans really feel like it’s all connected in Hannah’s life.

There were many elements like that that everyone was relying on me to bring to our development meetings and working with the director on who these people are and how we can keep them all tied together.

M&C: I think (author) Joanne has written 23 books, and I think you’ve been in five of them for Hallmark. This is number six. Are you planning on taking Hannah, and this would tie into my next question, but are you planning on producing any more of these with yourself as the lead, as Hannah Swensen?

Alison Sweeney: Well, I’m so glad you asked. I would love to do more, and we are hopeful that Hallmark feels the same way. So, certainly, this is the first step, and we’ll see how it goes on August 8th. I would love to hear the fans support another one after this.

M&C: In the books, Hannah picks Ross. She doesn’t pick Mike. Is Cameron on shaky ground?

Alison Sweeney: I know. Well, let’s not get crazy (laughs). Cameron Mathison is definitely not in danger. I have a wonderful relationship with Joanne. She’s such a talented writer, and of course, she has so many great books to delve from or pull from. She loves Cameron.

She loves the way that we’ve brought Mike and Norman, the triangle to life. And so, we’ve found a way to delicately balanced the way the story shapes up within the books versus the stories we’re going to tell in the movies. And in some ways, I think her stories are told over the course of, I think she started writing these books in the eighties, if not the nineties.

So, she understands that on television, it’s a little different than what she gets away with writing. She doesn’t have anyone to answer to. It is a dance we’re doing, but she’s a big fan, and she’s made it clear that she loves the way we’re bringing these characters to life. I feel very supported by her.

M&C: Well, you’re an author too, so that’s got to make you feel great. She respects your work and vice versa.

Alison Sweeney: Thank you. But also for me, I’m a reader, and I love books more coming to the screen. But I want as a reader to be satisfied by that. I want to know that the people who made this movie appreciate that. I read the book too. Like I like that feeling, and I totally understand that rarely can you turn a 300-page book into a one, a two-hour movie successfully?

There’s too much that goes on in a book that it doesn’t translate exactly equally. Right? So I’m willing to give a lot of room, but there are just acknowledgments or little moments that I want to be able to say, like, oh, that was in the book. That is really important as a producer to make sure that we give the readers of the book.

So those little nuggets, those Easter eggs along the way that let them know, we see you, that’s our wink and acknowledgment. And thank you to you as a reader for supporting us.

M&C: Is it more fun to do a Hallmark Mystery than a Hallmark Romance or a Hallmark Christmas movie?

Alison Sweeney: I love the mysteries because of the action scenes. I love the stunt scenes. That’s my favorite. And of course, the producers, my partners always tease me that I’m trying to get myself into every stunt possible.

They’re like, Ali, you’re not allowed to do that. I’m like, ‘oh, but I asked the producer, asked myself, and I said it was okay. ‘

I love a stunt scene. I love the tension and the drama of the danger and all those kinds of moments. So for me, yes, those are my favorites to do. Don’t get me wrong. I love the romance, I love it all, but for me, my favorite is the [Hallmark] Mysteries [movies]

M&C: I have to ask you a Days of our Lives question because my mother has been watching the show since 1965. When I told her I’d be speaking with you today, she immediately looked at me and said, ‘Is she getting back with Lucas? ‘

Alison Sweeney: (Laughs) Yes. It’s a tricky question. I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you how this ends up, but it certainly, was enjoyable to play Sami and Lucas reuniting after all this time. I was definitely surprised when the writer mentioned to me that Sami and Lucas would revisit their relationship after all these years.

And I just thought it was adorable and fun and working with Bryan Dattilo. I’m just so grateful to work with him. He’s so talented and fun to work with. We have such a history and such shorthand as a result of that. So it was really fun to revisit that, but of course, he’s a big part of Sami’s life.

And also even, never mind how she feels about him, or how much she loves him. Like she’s also someone who does not give up easily. So in the face of being told, like it’s not going to work out or whatever negative feedback she gets, that makes her knuckle down and work harder to get what she wants.

M&C: The other question she gave me for you was which character who’s no longer with us on Days of our Lives is someone you really miss, loved, and treasured having scenes with them?

Alison Sweeney: Well, the easy answer to that is Margaret Ann “Peggy” McCay. She played my grandmother, Caroline {Brady], on the show, and she felt like a real grandmother to me. I just adored working with her.

She was just such a lovely person. She was so classy, and she had so many great old Hollywood stories. She had been on soaps when they were live to television. And she just had the great stories of working in this town for so many decades. She was an advocate and animal lover. She just was such a talented woman.

And, of course, she was such a loving person that our scenes just felt so real to me, her playing my grandmother and I miss working with her. She was a gem.

Sweet Revenge: A Hannah Swensen Mystery airs Sunday, August 8 at 9/8c on Hallmark Channel.

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2 years ago

Where is the question to this answer? Seems to me it’s been left off because the only one Samantha was fighting for was EJ.

“And also even, never mind how she feels about him, or how much she loves him. Like she’s also someone who does not give up easily. So in the face of being told, like it’s not going to work out or whatever negative feedback she gets, that makes her knuckle down and work harder to get what she wants”

Samantha wants EJ, lets not make this about Lucas.

2 years ago

Love Sami & Lucas!