Jill Wagner on her Family-Friendly Western, ‘The Legend of 5 Mile Cave’

©John Roberts

For families, it can be a challenge to find a film that is exciting and appropriate for both kids and adults. In The Legend of 5 Mile Cave, premiering June 9 and re-airing June 29 on  Western-inspired network INSP, the past and the present collide when a young boy believes that a tale of long-lost gold could be the key to saving his family’s farm.

In the family flick, while Tommy’s (Jet Jurgensmeyer) widowed mother (Jill Wagner) struggles to avoid foreclosure, a mysterious stranger (Adam Baldwin) arrives looking for a room to rent. A bond with the boy grows as the drifter recounts breathtaking stories of Shooter Green (Jeremy Sumpter), a legendary gunslinger accused of Arizona’s biggest gold robbery, and Tommy tries to discover if the tale is fiction or fact.

“It’s an old-school Western,” says Wagner, who shares that she’s a massive fan of the genre. “I grew up with Gunsmoke and Little House on the Prairie, and really, we don’t have a lot of that programming anymore. I think what my hope is with his movie is that hopefully, we can bring back some of those films and maybe the TV shows because I really like it. There’s nothing more romantic than the cowboy life, I think, and I think it’s just a great place to build stories. It’s a great world to tell stories, and so hopefully this will take you back to those days when you used to watch Westerns on TV.”

Jill Wagner has fun in-between takes with Legend of 5 Mile Cave costar Jet Jurgensmeyer. Andrey Solodyankin Films

When we spoke with Wagner, she revealed that parenthood has fueled her interest in being part of projects that the whole family can enjoy. “I have a nine-year-old stepdaughter,” she explains. “And I never thought about those things prior to her, but now I certainly do because everything that I do, I want it to be something that she can watch, and I won’t have to be embarrassed and have to explain things, or I’d like to not have to close her ears with the language. So, it’s nice. It’s nice that she can watch it and then she actually likes these kinds of movies.”

Wagner shares that when she hears from other families their own frustrations about the lack of appropriate family programming, she encourages them to vote with their remote. “I think that if we support movies like this and you show Hollywood that you want to see these by watching the film, they will make more. So, I think it’s our responsibility as viewers to really tune in and support films like this and show everybody that, ‘Hey, we want to do more of these,’ because I promise you, if Hollywood thinks they can make money off of it, they will make more, so we just have to show them. We just have to show them that these are the kind of films that we want more of for us and for our children.”

For Wagner, The Legend of 5 Mile Cave allowed her to check two items off of her bucket list in one fell swoop. “My character’s world is set back in a time that I would have loved to have lived — in the 1920s,” she shares. “I’d never done that before, and that was definitely on my bucket list and then the fact that it was a Western. I had never done that before, and that was on my bucket list, too. And now that I’ve done them both! I loved it. It was a lot of fun for me and I want to do a spinoff of with the character Susan. I want my own show where I just play Susan all the time; she’s so awesome and I want to live in her world a while longer.”

This isn’t the first time that Wagner has worked with INSP, she also served as the host of the network’s long-running series, Handcrafted America. Wagner is also one of the most popular and prolific actors in the Hallmark cadre of talent, appearing in films including Karen Kingsbury’s Maggie’s Christmas Miracle, Pearl in Paradise and Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa, and stars alongside Kristoffer Polaha in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries franchise, Mystery 101.

The Legend of 5 Mile Cave > INSP > Sunday, June 9 at 8/7c; re-airs Saturday, June 29 at 8/7c.