Even if your mind isn’t eagerly anticipating “the big game,” Hallmark’s newest romantic comedy, Love on the Sidelines, is all about giving love a sporting chance. In Saturday night’s charming flick, Laurel Welk (The Walking Dead’s Emily Kinney) is an out-of-work fashion designer who lands a job as a personal assistant to superstar quarterback Danny Holland (John Reardon of Syfy’s Continuum). Holland’s been sidelined with an injury and the last thing he wants is a female assistant, particularly one who knows nothing about football. But the two opposites strike a bargain and agree to work together on a trial basis. While Laurel struggles to master her job, Danny struggles to maintain his star image even though he’s concerned his injury might impact his career. Things get even more complicated when employer and employee start to notice there’s more to the other than meets the eye.
Lending counsel to his injured son is Danny’s father Owen, played by legendary NFL quarterback, Joe Theismann. “I flew out on Thursday and we shot 16 hours on Friday. We did my entire part of the movie and it was fun,” he shares.
Theismann is no stranger to sports excellence. In addition to a playing 12 seasons with the Washington Redskins, the former Notre Dame star was also drafted by the Minnesota Twins to play professional football. But what the winning quarterback of Super Bowl XVII is perhaps best known for is the horrific career-ending injury he suffered on Monday Night Football in November of 1985. A flea-flicker trick play turned tragic when New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor accidentally broke the quarterback’s leg while tackling him for the sack. Theismann never played professional football again; and the injury is still difficult to watch, even 30 years later.
Even today, Theismann is upbeat about the moment that changed his life and its lasting legacy. “I didn’t plan it but, again, I think it really changed the way injuries are presented today. I don’t think they stay on it with the player on as much. They go to commercial, then come back and give you an update. They don’t replay the injury as much as they did mine.” And, he shrugs, there is one upside of notoriety, “When anybody breaks a leg, I get all these phone calls. I’m the resident guru on broken legs.”
“For me, it’s like déjà vu all over again,” says Theismann, whose real-life pain helps him related to his TV son. “I get to play a dad of a guy who got hurt who was a terrific quarterback who got hurt,” he shares. “He’s the star of the team and I could sort of relate to the character of what is was like when people tried to help me through my injury and encourage me.” He reveals that some of his lines are the actual words of wisdom that he was once given. “As you go through the scene, for me I’ve had people tell the same thing that I’m telling him in real life.”
But Theismann stresses that Love on the Sidelines is more about relationships than athletics. “It’s not about football,” he says. “Football is somewhat of a through line, but it’s more about a relationship between a father, a mother, a young lady and a young, which I think that everybody can relate to.”
Post-football, Theismann has been an in-demand sports broadcaster and has acted in film and TV projects before, Including Cannonball 2, B.J. and the Bear and the TV series Necessary Roughness and a recent episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Theismann told me that he loved the experience of working on a Hallmark film, saying, “One of the things about Hallmark in this crazy world that we live in today where so many things are presented in a negative way, Hallmark is like a bright light that shines because if you want to feel good, watch a Hallmark movie.”
Theismann says he’d love the opportunity to appear in another movie for Hallmark, he raved about the support he got from the cast and crew. theThey kept adding lines for me. It’s like, ‘Let’s throw in a few more lines for Joe to remember,” Theismann laughs and adds, “Terri Ingram is such a director. He said to me, ‘Look. You don’t have to follow the lines verbatim. Just get in the general area of what we want to say. We’re okay with it.’ That’s the kind of director you want to work with.”
Theismann, who also tours around the world as a motivational speaker, also shares that he enjoys being a part of the production process. “I enjoy this world; I hope people really understand. They get to see the end results but the wonderful people and the hard work that’s involved in shooting this from the cinematographers, the camera people, the script writers, the editors, the actors, everybody really, really works hard at being really, really good at putting out a product that everybody can be proud of. It was like being part of a football team.
He continues, “You have one goal and that’s to be successful. You want everybody to feel good about the work that’s being done and everybody has to contribute for that to happen. That’s exactly the way it felt for the movie.”
And being connected to and a part of a team is never far from the mind of the athletic great. “Yes, you’re on television or yes, you played professional athletics or you’re an actor, actress, or musician, he says, [but] we’re really no different than every person out there that’s strives to do something better every day. That’s what I try and share with them.”
And since we had a football great in our midst, we asked Theismann to share his playoff and Super Bowl predictions. “I think Arizona. I like Arizona in the east. The Redskins I would love to see them win this week and go on. I still like New England. You’ve got to prove to me you can beat New England when they get their players back. Last month they played without Danny Amendola much. They didn’t play with Edelman — Julian is a very big part of what they do. Tom [Brady] is Tom. Now they’ve had a couple weeks to rest. Their offensive line will get back. Their defensive line will get better.” The actor laughed and jokingly nudged his costar Kinney, who was listening with rapt attention. “Emily knows exactly what I’m talking about with all of this stuff. She’s actually in character right now. It’s the same look she gave John when he was giving her instructions. I swear; it’s the same look.”
While she chatted with the former quarterback, Channel Guide’s Barb Oates couldn’t help but notice a few impressive pieces of hardware on Theismann’s fingers. “This is the World Championship ring,” he said, pointing. “This is the NFC Championship ring.” Theismann reveals that he enjoys wearing the baubles to show to sports fans. “A lot of people don’t get a chance to see them. I just feel like it’s an opportunity for people that love sports to get a chance to see what they’re really like. They’re a 30 penny-weight.”
But Theismann marvels that his rings are dwarfed by those of other Super Bowl champs. “Now keep in mind, Refrigerator Perry who played for the Chicago Bears, my ring is an 11. His is a 19. It’s actually a bracelet. The Pittsburgh Steeler ring is bigger than the face of my watch — with six diamonds in it. The New England Patriots ring from this past Super Bowl, it’s an inch by an inch, I swear! If the Steelers win another one, they’re going to have to come out with watches! They’re going to wear this medallion around their neck — It’s going to have these rings on it.” Oh, Joe, you’re such a hoot! Someone sigh this man up for a comedy tour, and another role on Hallmark.
Love on the Sidelines > Hallmark Channel > Sunday, Jan. 18 at 9pm
Love on the Sidelines images: © 2015 Crown Media United States, LLC