Viewers won the lottery when Paul Campbell took his first role in a Hallmark movie.
His particular brand of charm and wit ensures his starring roles become instant classics.
Having never met him before and with great expectations, I’m happy to report that he deserves his time in the spotlight.
As our conversation began, we exchanged pleasantries. As Paul had never been to Pittsburgh, where I reside, I discussed what I thought might appeal to him — that many TV and movie productions now film here.
Paul’s from Vancouver, so he’s no stranger to film production. “I like anywhere that there’s filming,” he said. “Still, I see the movie trucks; I drive around, it doesn’t matter where I am, I just get excited. I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s a movie. I like movies.’ That’s my life.”
He’s certainly a busy guy, so he’s chosen the right profession. He’s also a humorous guy, and our conversation began with laughter, which is always a perfect way to begin.
“I just really like what I do,” Paul said after I complimented him on his work and engaging personality. “I really like what I do. And I try to bring a sense of fun. That’s kind of my thing. I just want to bring a sense of fun.
“Sort of the sense of fun that I have making movies, I try to bring that to the characters. Just show it on camera. That’s my whole thing, just have fun.”
Paul didn’t set out to be an actor. From a very young age, he wanted to be a carpenter and even did that for a few years after he graduated from high school, never thinking beyond his chosen profession.
“I was building houses in Vancouver, and I just got tired of working in the rain. So one day I spoke to a friend of mine who was doing some background work on a big feature film here. And he said, ‘Oh, I’m having so much fun,” and he was making more money than I was.
“And he’s like, ‘You should come and do some background work.’ So I took an acting class, thinking that you needed to have an acting class to do some background work. And I just fell in love with it. And I went to theater school and then just out of the gate just started working.”
It may have been an unconventional route to the entertainment business, but Paul’s general outlook on life is “I can do anything I want to do until somebody says, ‘Hey, you shouldn’t be doing that anymore.'”
And since nobody has stopped him, he just keeps doing it. “It’s working for me. Maybe not for everybody, but it’s working for me.”
When Paul got his first Hallmark role, he was living in Los Angeles but had returned to Vancouver for work when the audition for Winter Wonderland came through.
“I was going to do a series in Toronto that started shooting at the end of April. And I had this audition come up for a Hallmark movie. And I had never really auditioned for them before, and I read the script, and I was like, ‘Oh, this is really great. This is really fun. I would love to do this if I can sneak it in before I go.’
“The timing just worked out, and I got the job, and I was hooked. I had three of the most enjoyable weeks on set that I think I’d ever had. And I was like, ‘Can I just do all of these now?’ And that was it.”
Paul’s second movie, Surprised by Love, came from the Window Wonderland writers Tippi and Neal Dobrofsky. They are prolific Hallmark writers and have such wonderful dialogue. Who, really, I’ve modeled a lot of my own writing after. Just being so inspired by what they did with character and dialogue.
“And I was hooked. I did two, and I was like, “Sign me up for everything. I just want to do all of them.” Window Wonderland remains one of my favorite holiday Hallmark movies almost a decade after its release. It’s one of Paul’s favorites and his mom’s too. “I think it was really unique for the time, the tone of it, everything.
“It was just a lovely story, and it was fun, and it was romantic, and it was heartfelt. It had all the pieces, and it just worked. It was one of those projects that just absolutely worked on every level.”
Paul has also been producing and writing movies for Hallmark. As a producer on Sun, Sand & Romance, he got his first taste of writing, too.
“When I sold the idea to Hallmark since I hadn’t written anything for them, they weren’t interested in hiring me on as a writer. But because I had sold the idea, they gave me a producing credit,” he said.
“But then, as we got closer and closer to shooting, the writers had done a great job, but they just hadn’t found the voice. I had a very specific idea in mind of the voice that I wanted for that character. And I said, ‘Hey, can I just take the script and do dialogue? Can I write dialogue?’
“And they said, ‘Sure.’ So I just wrote dialogue, and it worked out really well. I think that gave me a little credibility internally at the network. And then I sold Moriah’s Lighthouse a couple years later.”
Moriah’s Lighthouse was finally produced this year, but in the meantime, he’d also written another movie with Kimberley Sustad when they worked together on A Godwink Christmas.
“She had an idea for Christmas by Starlight. She’s like, ‘I have this idea for a movie. And I said, ‘That’s really cool. Let’s write it.’ And so we did. We just wrote it and showed Hallmark the script. And they said, ‘This is really good. We want to make this.’ And that was how it launched everything, really.”
Paul and Kimberley wrote and starred in Christmas by Starlight, but he’s not always acting in movies he creates. “I have not acted in my own movie since Starlight. That was a really interesting experience because it’s hard to take off your hat as a writer.
“You’ve spent six months, or a year, envisioning this world and hearing these lines, and nothing ever plays out in real life, in front of the camera, exactly as the way the writers envisioned it.
“And it was an interesting process to sort of go, ‘Oh, I just have to be an actor here. I can’t overanalyze. I can’t overthink these lines.’ Of course, I still did. But there was a real joy in it; I knew all the lines. I knew when I got to set on that movie I didn’t have to study my lines once, I just knew them.”
That movie was written specifically for Paul and Kimberley in their voices, but Paul can also see the benefit of another actor bringing his work to life.
[Sometimes], you write a script [like Unexpected Christmas], and Tyler Hynes takes it, and you go, ‘Oh, that’s a completely different take than I had in my head, but it’s wonderful.’ I love watching other actors take the words and do something totally unexpected, no pun intended.
“So I guess I love to perform in my own movies. I love to hand them off to other people. I just love the process in general. So I’m pretty happy to do it however it ends up on screen.”
As Moriah’s Lighthouse was still fresh in my mind, I noted that I would have imagined an entirely different movie if Luke Macfarlane, who can get good and goofy when necessary, hadn’t played the role. It turns out that Paul had written the role for himself, but the timing didn’t work out for him to act in it.
Paul said, “I don’t know how he does it; this incredibly handsome, put-together guy throws on a goofy smile, and you go, ‘Oh, you’re a goof.’ He’s a goof.
“And it’s so funny to see him just fall into that role. I don’t know how he does it, but he really, and it’s so disarming to see him smile that big goofy grin. And you go, ‘Oh yeah, it’s perfect. This is exactly what we needed.'”
When I shared my favorite scene of the movie, which found Macfarlane’s character seemingly going on a scenic island bicycle tour only to be teamed with racers, Paul laughed. “I can’t believe they let that line stay where, I think it’s the German or the other guy who goes, ‘This man is going to die.’
“I just like the, ‘Hey, out for a fun ride. Hey guys, could be fun.’ ‘What is he wearing?’ ‘This man is going to die.’ I can’t believe they never cut it. Yeah, ‘This man is going to die.’ Really funny. I mean the scenery in that movie, every day just turned out beautifully.”
Dating the Delaneys is more traditional fare for Paul, who jumped at the chance to work with his previous co-star, Rachel Boston. “I read the script, and I loved it. And I thought it was really charming. And I just immediately saw why they had chosen me for that role.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t have to do anything to bring this guy to life. I know exactly who this guy is.” And that was it. It couldn’t have been easier to get involved in that one or to say yes.”
In the case of Dating the Delaneys, Paul said that working with Rachel before worked well since the characters share a history, giving them a familiar, easy-going relationship. “They’re friends, and they’re so relaxed around each other.
“And one of the great things about this particular story is all of that sort of angsty [stuff], the confidence issues, am I ever going to find love? Do I choose my career? Do I have space in my life to love?
“All of those things that cause inner turmoil, that we see in a lot of these love stories, that just didn’t exist in this script because these characters are coming together later in life.
“They’re already settled. They have everything figured out. Now they’re just looking for that missing piece, and they’re really comfortable in their skin, and they know each other.
“So, yeah, having worked together in the past is hugely advantageous because you already have a shorthand, and we already know how each other works. And you are just comfortable. You have that sort of friendly relationship right off the bat.”
Hallmark has been expanding their content to include people who have had love and lost it, whether through death or divorce. There are often kids involved. It’s a completely different dynamic than what was once Hallmark’s norm.
“All of those questions and the things that typically present themselves as conflict just don’t exist. It’s not like the job or the girl. It’s just like, ‘Hey, how well do we work together? Are we compatible? I’m looking for love. You’re looking for love.’
“The conflict in this one is of trying to get over being a little bit rusty, but there’s no internal battle about should I or shouldn’t? Or she’s seeing somebody else. We’re both just at these really great, confident, comfortable places in our lives where we’re ready to include somebody else.
“And it totally changes the dynamics. So you don’t have the same conflict, really. You’re relaxed, and you enjoy each other, and you see if this is a good fit and if your families are a good fit, and that’s the whole story. It’s really charming. And I think it’s incredibly relatable.”
With the long-term relationship the characters share, there is some trepidation involved as to whether or not taking it to the next level will change their friendship, but not to the levels we normally see.
“There’s a bit of risk in taking the leap. You risk wrecking something that’s already great. But it’s not like they work side by side. When they reconnect in the beginning of the movie, it’s like, ‘Oh, good to see you. It’s been a while.’ So it wasn’t quite as risky. It’s not like, ‘Well, she’s my best friend. And if I blow this, I have no best friend.’
“It’s more like, ‘oh yeah, we know each other. Of course, we’ve known each for a long time, but never really intimately as friends.’ And I think there are some questions about, you’re not 25 anymore, and you’ve got a few wrinkles, and you’ve got a few gray hairs.
“You have things that maybe make you slightly less appealing in the marketplace, despite having a good job and a house. So you go, ‘How do I fit in this dating marketplace? What’s my value here? And am I appealing?’ Those are the questions that present themselves, but they don’t dictate how we approach each other.”
The different approach to the two characters coming together affected the production, as well. “It was a really comfortable, relaxed set. All those scenes were just really sort of fun and easy. And it was really joyful,” Paul said.
It comes across in the final product, which even features Rachel’s character frequently dancing alone in her house and enjoying her own company. You know she doesn’t need love but would like to explore it again. “They just let her live,” Paul said.
“We really had a lot of leeway on this one to just play, to get into the scenes and play. And just really bring our own thing creatively to this. And we took that note to the fullest extent and just had as much fun as possible.”
While Paul and Rachel get to know each other again and lean on their past relationship to show the sparks between their Dating the Delaney characters, there are others who Paul hasn’t worked with who he’d be eager to get the opportunity.
“Yeah, there’s a lot. Well, I really liked Unexpected Christmas. I think both [Bethany] Joy [Lenz] and Tyler [Hines] are phenomenal. I would love to work with those two.
“I’d love to do a movie with Lacey [Chabert]. I think we’d have a lot of fun. I think I would bring a really different energy to a movie with her. And I’d love to do a movie with Jonathan Bennett. I think he seems like an absolute riot of a person to work with.
“I’ve been really blessed with co-stars in the past. I always seem to be really well matched with my co-stars. Hallmark is good about pairing people that work really well together. Anybody that can be funny. I like people that have real comedy skills and can just be really playful. So I don’t know. I’m open to whatever.”
In the meantime, Paul is working on other projects, trying to figure out how the next year will unfold for him.
“There are always ideas floating in the ether, and there’s stuff that I’m picking away at here and there. I have a lot of ideas, and I think we’re going to see a lot of those come to the screen. They’re all very top secret. So I’d have to have you sign a waiver to talk about them,” Paul laughed.
Paul is the kind of person who allows you to totally derail a conversation just so we can laugh, and I greedily took the bait before we turned it around to where you can expect to find him tonight as Dating the Delaneys airs across the country.
You can find him on his Twitter page during the West Coast showing, tweeting with his fans and no doubt entertaining them with his charm and wit. From page to screen and beyond, Paul is worth every minute of your time.
Be sure to tune into Dating the Delaney’s tonight on Hallmark Channel at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.