“New York Times” Best-Selling Author Debbie Macomber Cedar Cove TV series comes to Hallmark Channel July 20
What a burst of sunshine. New York Times best-selling author Debbie Macomber is one of those people who always see the glass as half full, finding happiness in the simplest of things. “I’m a generally happy person,” she admits. “When [Wayne and I] were first married, he would wake up and he would say, ‘Do you have to shine so bright in the morning?’”
The author of over 100 novels continues to shine, and even brighter, this month as Hallmark Channel rolls out its first ever scripted TV series, Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove, based on her best-selling book series of the same name, on Saturdays beginning July 20.
Set in the picturesque small town of Cedar Cove, Wash., the series follows the life of Judge Olivia Lockhart (played by Andie MacDowell) and the issues that surround her day-to-day decisions as a judge, as well as her personal life and that of her family and friends.
Laughing cheerfully through much of our interview, Macomber shares her love of good storytelling, how her fans have helped shape her career and a few secret ingredients in her favorite recipes.
This is Hallmark Channel’s first venture into scripted serials, so it’s a high-profile event. How are you feeling as far as pressures, worries, excitement?
Debbie Macomber: I think you said it all right there — pressures, worries, excitement. I was on the set a couple of weeks ago and two things happened that literally brought tears to my eyes. One was Andie MacDowell herself. She came up and said, “Debbie, I have to tell you that I go back to my hotel at the end of the shoot each day and turn on the TV and the world is a dark place. But when I come to the set, I feel light. I so love and enjoy working on this series.”
Well, your stories are quite uplifting. Do you think there’s a lack of that type of programming in general?
TV has gone toward shock value. For me I cannot watch this violence. Even though it started off as good entertainment and justice shows, now it’s “How gruesome can they get?” The comedies that are out there are so full of sexual innuendos that I’m not comfortable watching it. I really feel there is a huge need for just plain good storytelling. The story is so important. Everybody is looking for a good story.
How does the Cedar Cove TV series keep pace with the books?
Hallmark hired, and very wisely, [Stargate producer] Carl Binder, who is the showrunner. I didn’t even know what that term was when they told me about him. I am in awe of this man. He is a phenomenal storyteller. He has created a number of scenes that are not in the books. One of them I can tell you is about tearing down the lighthouse. It sets up perfectly for one of the characters by the name of Warren [Brennan Elliott]. Warren is sort of like the bad guy. But you don’t realize it — he’s very good-looking, very suave — but it sets it up. He bought that land and he wants the lighthouse torn down. I didn’t write that. I didn’t even think of a book about tearing down the lighthouse, but that was such a great idea. I wish I had thought of it. The series is taking these characters and putting them into these scenarios that could have been in the books. I want the series to last for years and years and years. I don’t want to use every scene up in the first year.
You are an executive producer, so how involved are you?
I have given them different pieces of advice — or my input I guess you would call it — and they have listened. And that has been very rewarding. I read all of the scripts and have been on the set twice already. I’m going back again and I’m actually going to be in a scene. My son is going to be in a scene [the bachelor auction], so he’s buffing up for it. I have a lot of friends in the knitting world — one of my friends is Rick Mondragon and he’s the editor of Knitter’s Magazine, and the two of us are going to be in a scene knitting.
Considering all 14 books, is there a character you can’t wait to see how they bring him or her to film?
Absolutely. One of my favorite characters in the whole series is a chess player by the name of Bobby Polgar. I named him after Bobby Fischer and the Polgar sisters, who are chess champions. He is one of the most endearing characters I’ve ever created. He’s played chess his entire life from the time he was 4 years old. He falls in love with a hairdresser. For the first time in his life he doesn’t think; he feels and he falls in love. I just can hardly wait to have them bring him to life.
How close was Andie MacDowell to the Olivia you envisioned?
The casting generally has been so spot on. I’m just so pleased how well they’ve done. In my mind Olivia had short hair, but other than that she’s so perfect for this part. It’s just amazing. She knows the character. She’s actually such a superb actress that when she goes on that set she becomes Olivia. It’s amazing to watch the transition.
How did the Cedar Cove Cookbook come about?
I listen to my readers. They are the ones. They have guided my career in so many different ways. The Cedar Cove Cookbook is a good example. I’m a foodie. I love eating and I love cooking. Peggy Beldon [one of the characters in the book] is a wonderful cook. The first time I mentioned her special blueberry muffins, the office was flooded with mail from people. “Oh can I have the recipe?” I didn’t have a recipe!!! [Laughing] But thankfully my assistant did, so she shared. Once I did this experiment with macaroni and cheese and it turned out so good, you won’t believe it. I’ll even tell you what it is. It’s cottage cheese. I had some leftover cottage cheese and I was making this cheese sauce so I added it. Cottage cheese melts just like butter and it added this really nice texture to the cheese, so I talked about Teri’s special macaroni and cheese that everyone loves. And again the office was flooded with “What does she do?” So I started putting together all these recipes and took them to the publisher and they thought it was a great idea. It was so popular that the first week it was out, it made the New York Times list.
If there are a few recipes you absolutely have to try in the cookbook, what are three we should consider?
The peanut butter sandwich cookies are out of this world — they are filled cookies. There’s a salmon recipe with jalapeños. The macaroni and cheese recipe [Teri’s Macaroni and Cheese] — not only did I add the cottage cheese but I put in sour cream later — that creamy homemade mac and cheese is just phenomenal.
[Note: I tried both the mac and cheese and the peanut butter sandwich cookie recipes and both were fabulous. Made the mac and cheese for my extended family — huge hit!]