Just as we were finishing up our new little house on Bow Hill, I decided that now was the time to get a dog. A retriever, of course, one that I can play ball with.
I told my good friend Dr. Jerry Eisner that my only hesitation was that as soon as I got a dog, I’d get a job and then who’s going to watch the new addition when I’m off shooting a movie in Schitt’s Creek or wherever.
Jerry, with his usual wisdom, says “Wouldn’t you rather have both (a job AND a dog) than neither!”
A few visits to the Skagit and Whatcom shelters and of course NOAH, but no perfect matches. Too many onerous declarations on their cages that this dog doesn’t get along with people or cats.
Then the phone rings and it’s a producer friend and he wants to know if I’m available RIGHT AWAY to direct a Hallmark Movie in Canada. He’s based in Vancouver and that’s convenient and what the hey, sure I’ll do it.
Oops, no crews available in Vancouver, now known as Hollywood North, so off I go to Ottawa, where they’ve put together an inexperienced but eager local group with some imports from Toronto.
My leading lady is Ashley Williams, who is also the co-executive producer with her husband Neal Dodson. They are a dynamic duo, and they have this adorable toddler named Gus.
Now you’ve all heard tales of directors falling in love with their leading lady, but I fell in love with her kid. Gus is the most curious little man I’ve ever met and we hit it off instantly. Probably out of respect to my age, he immediately dubbed me “The Man” and this kid isn’t even two years old yet.
I would carry Gus around and he would point at objects and say “What’s that?” and I would say what it was, “a green truck” or “a dishwasher” and he would repeat the word back to me.
Ashley and Neal told me that when we were apart, Gus would often say “where’s Mel?”, and we would sometimes Skype each other when I was on set with his Mom and Dad and Gus was back at the condo with Michael, his nanny.
Ashley’s mom was played by Marilu Henner, who is one of the most interesting people I have EVER met. If you think this is hyperbole, check out her piece on 60 minutes: she is one of the very few people on the planet who have total recall of every day of their lives.
“Okay, September 5th, 1959, what day of the week was that?”, I ask. Marilu hesitates for three seconds and says “a Saturday”. And of course, it was a Saturday, it was one of the great moments in history—the day of my Bar Mitzvah!!!
This woman was unstumpable and I’m sure she knows unstumpable is not a word.
Oh, and she’s a terrific actress, and extremely recognizable going back to her days on the sitcom Taxi, and best of all, very gracious to all of the people who recognized her and approached her wanting to take a picture with her.
Ashley’s big sister Kimberly is married to country music star Brad Paisley who happened to be playing at the summer Bluesfest in Ottawa when we were there. As Brad’s guests, we got to hang out on the back of the stage while he performed for 25,000 adoring fans, talking to his Dad at times, taking photos, just loving watching a concert from a different perspective.
After an intense three-week shoot in the beautiful little town of Almonte, we had a wrap party and I got to hold my new best pal Gus Dodson again and was trying to make eye contact with him for an emotional goodbye for now, but Gus just kept looking over my shoulder at anything around us, asking “What’s that?” “A martini”, I would answer, or “An inebriated electrician”.
I jetted back to Vancouver on a very short post production schedule due to an upcoming October 1st airdate. And then I got to move into my new home on Bow Hill with the most amazing view of Chuckanut Bay and the San Juan Islands.
And now to find the perfect dog!
You can watch the premier Love on a Limb, Saturday, October 1, 2016 on the Hallmark Channel.