Real life Hollywood couple Melissa Gilbert and Bruce Boxleitner recently took time to answer questions from television critics about their TV movies for the Hallmark Channel. Sacrifices of the Heart stars Melissa Gilbert and Ken Howard. It was written by Patti Davis, the daughter of President Ronald Reagan. The movie is about the onset of Alzheimer's disease and will air March 3. Boxleitner stars in the movie Pandemic which premiers in May. It is the story of a deadly virus that is about to take hold of Los Angeles.
Although they were there to discuss their separate projects, this is some of what the couple had to say about working together and about aspects of the entertainment industry.
When do you actually decide when you're going to work together, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of doing that?
Melissa Gilbert: We actually are in two separate projects for Hallmark, and it depends on the offer. If we're asked to work together, we generally tend to do it. The advantages of working together are --
Bruce Boxleitner: We get home about the same time.
Melissa Gilbert: Actually, the disadvantage of working together - one of the strangest things we have ever had to do was having to do a love scene together because we had to do something that we do in private in front of all of these people, and it was actually really awkward, wasn't it?
Bruce Boxleitner: In front of 50 people, yeah.
Melissa Gilbert: Yeah. We don't generally have 50 people standing around at home watching.
Bruce Boxleitner: I kept praying for the director, "Please say cut. Please say cut soon."
You would think it would be more comfortable than doing it with somebody who might be a relative stranger, but for you it's the other way around?
Bruce Boxleitner: I think so, strangely enough. I think it is.
But you had all that free rehearsal time.
Bruce Boxleitner: It's true. It depends on this situation. For this particular one [I was referring to], he (the director) kept going and going and going. I don't know how much more clothing we get off. It was a network movie. But we love working with each other. Don't get us wrong. We weren't married. We were just going together the first time we [worked] together. And it was a totally enjoyable situation.
Melissa Gilbert: Until you pulled my hair out, but that's another [story].
Bruce Boxleitner: I was being a little rough then.
You are in separate Hallmark movies. It seems like one of the hallmarks of the Hallmark movies is that the ones that can be filmed in Southern California are filmed in Southern California as opposed to a lot of other TV movies that go to Toronto or Australia. With your past work with the Screen Actors Guild and the AFLCIO and the California Film Commission, what aspects do you think it is about Hallmark that for budgetary reasons or cast determinations allows them to be filmed in Southern California?
Melissa Gilbert: Well, they have created an environment and a relationship with all of the unions, the Screen Actors Guild, the DGA, the WGA, and especially IATSE that allows for an agreement in which they can shoot here in the budgets that are allotted. And I think that is a very wise move. More people are willing to work here. Since September 11th, fewer people want to travel. They don't want to be away from their families. It's very difficult anyway to have a family and to be gone for four [to] six weeks shooting. And we all know, you know, I'm not casting any aspersions on other countries, but this is Hollywood. This is where it all started. This is where the best crews are, I think, the best actors. And I'm thrilled that there is a network that's devoted to keeping the work within our own borders. It certainly has made a difference for SAG members.
Bruce Boxleitner: I think it's a treat to shoot here at home. I really do. I know for a long time, we've all had to go do [work in Canada] -- and nothing against Canada. I love Canada. I just came back from Vancouver a few weeks ago. But I think it's wonderful to see the work coming back because it was gone for so long.
What would you like your legacy in the business to be?
Melissa Gilbert: Oh, Lord. You'd think it would be an easier question to answer. I don't know. I think it kind of goes along with my philosophy on life in general. I really want whatever memorial there is to say, she tried everything, or did everything. I mean -- my life has been such an extraordinary adventure, you know, starting out with my first Carters baby clothes commercial at the age of two, to four years as President of Screen Actors Guild, and all of the incredible actors I've had a chance to work with, and the projects that I've done, let alone ten years with Michael Landon. I'm very blessed. Really ultimately it has nothing to do with the business at all, but the legacy that I really want to leave behind are my four sons. That's really my legacy.
Bruce Boxleitner: I just want to be remembered by directors. (Laughing) No, I don't know. I think hopefully I was able to entertain some people at some time when they needed it. And I think we've all had people walk up and say, you know, for whatever project it was, I enjoyed it so much, and you were an inspiration to me. Every once in a while one of those people shows up in your life and says that, and you realize what we are really doing all this for. And I think that's it - that I had something to do with making someone happy, or sad, or compelled to watch what I was in, and took them away from their world for a while.
Your remarks, Melissa, were interesting about doing a love scene with your husband. And it made me think about the question that people often talk about: Chemistry. What is chemistry? How do you know when you have it, and what do you do if you don't?
Melissa Gilbert: God, chemistry. It comes in so many different forms. There's the chemistry that I'll have with a leading man, and that's just that comfortable spark. I mean, I guess there has to be sort of an attraction there. There's the chemistry with supporting players. There's the chemistry with -- when you're playing family. I know what it is. When you are acting with someone it's kind of like a tennis match. And you can't really get a good workout if you are playing against a wall, but if someone hits the ball back you play even better. And that's what chemistry is in acting. I think when someone throws it back at you and you can work together, they make you better. That's chemistry.
Sacrifices of the Heart airs on the Hallmark Channel March 3.
Pandemic premieres in May on the Hallmark Channel.