What is sweeter than chocolate? Love! And Dan Jeannotte.
Jeannotte stars with Eloise Mumford in Hallmark Channel’s Valentine’s Day movie, Sweeter than Chocolate, which mixes the title ingredient, love, and some other unexpected delights into a perfect celebration of the holiday.
We had the chance to chat with Jeannotte about the movie and to get his take on Valentine’s Day’s celebration of love.
The logline reads: A local bakery is rumored to have the secret recipe to finding true love on February 14th, drawing in a TV reporter to investigate. Sounds delicious, right?
Mumford is the chocolatier, and Jeannotte is the reporter sent to investigate. Will a chocolatier’s signature chocolate bring them together as it’s done with many others?
You have had many series roles over the last decade, including Reign and Good Witch, Bold Type, and Star Trek, but you always find time for Hallmark movies. What attracts you to these romantic movies?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I think that audiences have discovered the secret of Hallmark. They get to indulge in these lovely stories that are kind of the equivalent of a cinematic warm hug. It’s just so pleasant to get to spend some time as a viewer in a world where things are a little bit softer than in the real world, maybe a little bit easier.
There are still some conflicts and some uncertainty, but in the big picture, you can kind of rest assured that this is going to be a movie about people who are kind to each other and where things work out one way or another in the end. I think audiences have just been really flocking to that, maybe, especially lately.
Maybe especially as the world gets more complicated, it’s nice to be able to watch something that you can feel safe with but still surprised by and charmed by. Yeah, I think that the end result really speaks for itself.
People love these movies. They’re really fun. They’re sweet, and they’re putting a kind of good energy out into the world. I love being a part of that.
Do you feel that? Do you feel that same kind of energy when you’re making it? Is it like a warm hug of production as well?
Yeah, I mean, like any job, it depends on the people you’re working with. I have been fortunate, I feel, to have done these Hallmark movies with great teams. They’ve been different teams each time, but I’ve really lucked out, I think.
There’s a feeling on set that we know we’re lucky to get to work, and we’re very lucky to work on something that will be loved and cherished by so many people.
There is a kind of lightness on set and a sort of bubbliness a little bit, even if they are long days because they are. There is a kind of levity there that I really appreciate.
It’s funny that you mentioned long days. I don’t think I’ve ever asked anybody this. What keeps you going on those long days? In a traditional job, I get angry if I’m there for 10 hours. I know that with TV productions, they can sometimes go 16 hours. How do you function in that kind of environment?
Yeah. Well, it’s a good question. But I think it’s important to underline that the actors, in a lot of ways, have it a lot easier than most of the people working on a movie because most of the crew, they’re constantly working for those 12 or 14 or 16 hours, whereas actors, just because of the way that a film set is run, there’s a lot of setup time where the actors aren’t needed.
We get downtime is what I mean. We can get breaks, and I think that helps. When you’re playing a character, immersing yourself in a world that is not your own, it’s a game.
It’s really enjoyable, hopefully, if you’re an actor and you enjoy doing this. I find those moments when we’re actually filming, we’re actually in the world, very energizing. It’s very exciting. You don’t feel the same kind of fatigue or hunger or whatever that you might have felt a minute before.
Once the camera starts rolling, you’re transported a little bit, and those moments of work and diving into the world refresh me and keep me going for the next one. It’s the waiting around that’s really tiring.
Then, once you’re in it, it’s a bit electrifying. You’re taken away, and that’s an exciting feeling.
Speaking of electric, your onscreen chemistry with Eloise fits that bill. What is your approach to creating onscreen chemistry, and how do you know when you’re just getting it right?
It’s tricky because these movies, obviously, are leaning heavily on the connection between the two leads, the two romantic leads. Most of the time, the actors don’t know each other. In many cases, we don’t know each other until the first scene we film together.
Maybe sometimes, if we’re lucky, we get to grab a coffee together the day before we start filming. It was the same thing here where Eloise and I had not worked together and did not know each other. The first day we met was on set, walking into the makeup trailer, and there she was. “Hi, I’m going to be the guy you fall in love with.”
What I think you need to try to do is you’ve got to jumpstart an authentic connection, not a romantic one, but you need to connect with the other person.
You got to get there a little bit quicker than you do with regular friends that you make, and so I try to find something that we have in common or find some way that a rapport can come a little bit more easily, whether it’s through sharing stories about our lives or whether it’s through a sense of humor.
I think you have to try more friendship-making tactics more quickly. I remember sitting down when we had the first break in our first scene. We were shooting at a restaurant and sat down, and I just said to Eloise, “So tell me something.” She’s like, “What do you mean?”
I’m like, “Tell me something about yourself,” because we have to get to know each other and get to a place where not necessarily that we know everything about each other, but where we feel comfortable together, where we feel like we can be vulnerable together and we’re safe with one another.
Because it’s essentially what you’re doing when you’re telling a story about two people falling in love is that you’re telling a story about two people who are opening up to each other and being vulnerable.
That’s a big thing. It’s a scary thing to do with people, in general. I guess I try to find a way where we can open up more quickly to each other than we normally would.
Eloise was open to this, and usually, the people working on these all understand what we need to do here. It’s a kind of funny relationship where you just dive in, and it’s like, okay, let’s be best friends for three weeks.
But I feel very lucky that I got to work with her because she’s wonderful, such a good actor, grounded in her scenes, and committed.
Then when I now and then get the chance to actually watch a little take, watch something that we had just filmed, I see her on screen, and I think, “Oh, my gosh. Yeah, she’s fantastic for this. She’s going to carry the movie, and I just need to follow in her steps.”
Tell me a little bit about your character and his dilemma in the movie because everybody always starts with one.
My character, Dean Chase, is an investigative journalist who focuses on exposing people who are scamming consumers, scamming regular folks, whether it’s crooked business practices or lying about their credentials.
He’s one of those kinds of consumer protection reporters who goes out there and uncovers scammers and con artists. That gives him a little bit of a skeptical point of view because he’s used to ferreting out the people who are taking advantage of regular folks.
He’s skeptical, and his boss assigns him a job, a reporting gig, where he’s meant to go report on a local chocolate store that has a particular chocolate they make, and the legend is that anyone who has this chocolate will find their true love.
He had sent there not to do an investigative piece but just to do a sweet, happy Valentine’s Day piece. Red flags immediately go up for him, not just because he’s a skeptic but also because I think he’s sensitive to the idea of people manipulating others’ emotions. He has not had the best example in his life when it comes to love.
He comes from parents who separated, so where the love was not what it was all cracked up to be, he’s extra sensitive about that. Then he meets Lucy Sweet, the chocolatier, and I think many of his personal and professional issues come together all at once. Is she trying to scam people? He’s not sure at first.
Then, also, is what I’m feeling right now love? I’m not sure. He faces a couple of interesting challenges in this person of Lucy Sweet.
How would you say Sweeter Than Chocolate stands out from other movies that you’ve done so far?
When I read the script before signing on to the part, I was impressed with the script on its own as a piece of writing. I thought it was really sweet and different because it doesn’t just focus on the love story between the two main characters.
Actually, because of the chocolate store and their myth of the magic chocolate Cupids, a number of people have fallen in love around the chocolate shop, and we get to see snippets of their stories as well.
I think that that really opens the movie up and shows how a love story doesn’t always have to look the same.
Different people’s journeys towards love can be so different, depending on their circumstances. We see a wider representation of what falling in love can be like, at different ages and in different situations in life. It feels very truthful but also really warm and cute.
After reading the script, I realized it was based on a book I think has just come out from Hallmark Publishing by a great author named Lizzie Shane. We got to meet Lizzie, the author. She came to set for a day.
The fact that it comes from a book allows for a fuller world. It feels really well drawn, as shown by the fact that there are different storylines that we get to touch on, including the love story between Lucy’s mother, who runs a chocolate shop with her, and her late husband.
We get to see some of their stories, too. I think it makes it stand out from the other ones that I’ve done because where we’re just kind of getting to see a lot of different people’s love stories all at once.
Sure. When it comes to Hallmark theme movies, what’s your favorite? Do you have a favorite holiday you like to put on film?
Why aren’t there any Halloween movies on Hallmark?
There used to be. Good Witch. Hello, you were a part of that!
Well, Good Witch. I know. I know. But, then, since Good Witch ended. In between the seasons, there was the Halloween movie or the Special. It’s not the biggest holiday for Hallmark, but I think it would be really fun to have a cute rom-com centered around Halloween.
Until that one comes along, it’s definitely fun to do a Valentine’s Day one because Christmas dominates.
Definitely, it does.
I didn’t have to carry a Christmas tree in this one or wrap presents [laughs].
And you got to eat chocolate.
I did. I got to eat chocolate, exactly. But I love that it seems like Hallmark’s been stretching a little in the last couple of years. I mean, in a good way. They’re trying out different stories that aren’t always just focused on the romance, too.
There are more stories about female friendship, and I think that’s really lovely and different holidays, too. I’d love to be in a Hanukkah movie. That would be so cool. I think it’s really great. It’s great to see what they’re doing and just trying to cover more holidays.
It was a feature in the movie, so are you a milk chocolate or a dark chocolate guy?
I say something in the movie about how no one should prefer milk chocolate after 20 or something like that. But I feel like it depends on the situation. If I’m going to have a little bit of chocolate after dinner, let’s say, I would go for dark chocolate.
But if I’m going to watch a movie, then a little bit more of a snacky, milk chocolate kind of thing. I think there’s a chocolate for all moments.
What’s the best chocolate experience you’ve ever had?
Well, actually, just back in the fall, I was in Belgium with my family because we were filming the Royal Nanny there for Hallmark. Yes, we spent three weeks in Belgium, mostly in Brussels. But then we also went to a few other towns, including Ghent.
In Ghent, my son really wanted to go to the chocolate museum. Before we went, I thought it was going to be overkill. But it was a wonderful place to go for the history and learning about chocolate. Also, there was a place where you could have all-you-can-eat chocolate — four different kinds.
I love that!
There was a milk chocolate thing, like a dispenser that you’d turn, and these little chocolate coins fall out of it. There was milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and a kind of caramel chocolate. They were so good, and they were just free. We probably overdid it. That was delicious.
Well, you hear Belgian chocolate is the best. You experienced it.
It was great.
Do you think that there could be a chocolate that would move you to fall in love?
If filming Sweeter Than Chocolate has taught me anything, it’s all about circumstances, the right person, and having an open heart. The chocolate is really just an excuse to fall in love.
What’s your advice to all the single people looking for love this holiday season?
I would say be patient, but also honor yourself like you’re worth it. You are worth something great. You might have to wait for it. You might have to work your way through some duds, but you’re worth something great. Believe in that, and that great thing will come along.
That’s excellent advice. I like that a lot. Finally, what are you doing next? What else is coming up for you?
Well, the next thing I’m waiting to find out is whether we will be doing another season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.
I’m hoping it will happen, but it’s still to be determined.
Well, I think everybody’s keeping their fingers crossed.
And a Halloween movie for Hallmark, I think.
Yeah, I think you have to write something. This is on your plate now, Dan. This is your thing.
Yeah. Okay. No, absolutely.
Come up with an idea.
I got to write a Halloween movie.
Absolutely. I’m counting on you. I love Halloween.
Okay. You can interview me when I’m producing that one.
Wonderful. That’s perfect. Thanks so much for chatting with me today, Dan. I really appreciate it.
Yeah, thank you so much. That was fun. Take care.
Sweeter Than Chocolate premieres tonight at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel.
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.