Hallmark Channel’s newest series, Chesapeake Shores (premiering Sunday, Aug. 14 at 9pm ET/PT), blends a bucolic seaside town with engaging family drama and a steamy modern romance. The result is a summer series that is as welcome and refreshing as a cool glass of lemonade.
Meghan Ory effervescently leads the ensemble cast as Abby O’Brien, a successful but harried businesswoman who returns home for an unexpected weekend and finds herself reconnecting with the people and places she left behind. “When you grow up and you’ve been away from home for a long time, and then you go back and have all those same ways of interacting with your parents or your siblings, you fall back into the same old patterns,” says Ory. And a few of those patterns that Abby is hesitant to revisit include a strained relationship with her once-distant father (played by the ever-charming Treat Williams) and an ex-beau she isn’t quite over (welcome back, Jesse Metcalfe!).
When Abby left Chesapeake Shores 15 years earlier, she was an ambitious teen who saw the bustling city as the only way to fulfill her life’s dream. But now Abby is a recent divorcée and mother of two daughters who finds the slower pace of home to be the ideal environment in which to raise her family. When she’s in the familiar embrace of her hometown, she is able to let her hair down — literally. “I love that you noticed that!” exclaims Ory after I noted her character’s physical and emotional transformation. “That was something that was really important to me. I think that it says a lot when you’re done up and put together and then you are finally able to breathe a little bit more.”
In a plot point that made me stand up and cheer, Abby’s move home doesn’t mean the end of her hard-earned career; a change of office from New York to Baltimore allows her to keep the occupation she loves, at the pace she needs. But Abby’s personal and professional path will still require her character to do a lot of juggling, admits Ory. “She’s finding the line between being able to fulfill yourself and your career goals, and still be able to give yourself to the people around you and your family.”
The series, based on books by New York Times best-selling author Sherryl Woods, premieres as a two-hour movie that focuses on Abby’s life and relationships, but Ory reveals that subsequent hourlong episodes will expand the focus to the series’ strong ensemble cast. “Everybody has their own stuff going on,” the actress says, “which is great because ultimately it’s about a family.”
Ory reveals that her character enjoys many special bonds, but that Abby’s relationship with her grandmother Nell (delightfully played by Diane Ladd) is especially powerful. “She definitely is the matriarch of the family and holds court and whatever she says, goes.” The actress gushes about her costar, saying, “Diane is so wonderful, and she plays the role so brilliantly!”
Brilliant chemistry within the cast is also evident between Ory and Metcalfe, who plays Trace, Abby’s former high-school flame. The pair have worked together on two prior projects and Ory jokes, “We keep running into each other!” She reveals that their friendship helped to forge their characters’ chemistry, saying, “We already had a shorthand, which was really nice for establishing the Abby and Trace relationship.” Metcalfe’s fans, who recall his swoon-worthy shirtless scenes on Desperate Housewives, can be reassured that the handsome actor does appear sans top. But perhaps the bigger treat is that the actor, whose character is a country singer, has a remarkable singing voice and performs on the series.
Ory shares that although the boisterous O’Brien clan is fictional, the fun that she and her castmates have on set is genuine. “It really on set has become a real family,” she shares. “Everyone’s yelling and talking over each other. You can be yelling at each other one minute, or say something that is very truthful, but not the nicest, but then be hugging the next minute.”
And Ory delights that she’s found herself among a “family” with some pretty remarkable talents. She reveals, “Treat Williams plays my dad, and he is a pilot in real life, and they’ve written that into the script. We shot a scene where he was parking the plane, but he was driving the plane down an active runway and just pulled it into its spot just like I would park a car! It was pretty cool.”