One of Hallmark Channel’s more successful original movie franchises gets a third installment this month in Notes From the Heart Healer. Genie Francis returns as advice columnist Peyton MacGruder, who, while on a visit to a harbor town as part of a tour for her just-published book, has a baby left on her doorstep by a teen, Violet (Laci Mailey), who can no longer afford to take care of him. Obviously concerned for this abandoned young life, Peyton is forced to confront her own emotions, having been pressured to give up her own child under similar circumstances. Thrilled on one hand to have a sudden chance at motherhood and family with her husband, King (Ted McGinley), she fears for Violet’s anxiety and begins an earnest search to find her.
It’s actually a pretty emotionally layered plot as Hallmark Channel’s original films go, and even though the baby-on-the-doorstep convention is one of the oldest in storytelling, Francis was happy with the way it played out, because the emotional reaction that her character, Peyton, has in the film is a little unusual. “When she finds the baby at the door, she’s shocked and surprised, and all the things that one would be,” Francis explains. “But what’s different about Peyton is that she starts to think about the mother more than the baby, because she’s sort of stuck in that part of her own life where she gave up her own baby. Her journey through this particular movie is how she begins to see that she likes having a baby around, that she can do it, that she’s not as terrible at being a mother as she thinks she would be. And that’s sort of her journey, but in the bigger picture, she has a need to help the young woman who left the baby.”
Playing this role obviously tugged at the maternal heartstrings of Francis, who’s a mother of two and starting the process of letting go of her children — she’s spending much of her time scouting out college campuses. “A lot of what I’m doing is trying to wade through getting my son through this moment in his life, and making sure that he gets what he wants out of it,” she says. “Very, very high-pressure year for the kids, I have to say. Very high-pressure.”
And of course, in spite of the stress of preparing her kids for moving into real life, a film like Notes From the Heart Healer can’t help but stir those feelings for early motherhood all over again. “I still really want another baby,” she admits, “but I’m far too old to do it. Really, in the past five years, I’ve been yearning to have another baby, but I also knew that I was too old to do it. It would change our family around so drastically, because I’ve got these grown teenagers. So I’ve sort of accepted the fact that I am now looking forward to grandchildren, and that’s the way it is. I’ve heard from everybody that that’s the best of all. That’s what I’ve heard — that it’s the easiest, because you don’t really have to be the disciplinarian, you don’t have all the huge responsibility or the sleep deprivation, so you can just enjoy the baby, which is kind of cool.”
Francis also concedes that the energy drain of a newborn would be way too overwhelming, particularly since she’s so busy on The Young and the Restless these days. “They’ve been using me quite a bit. I went from being in one or two shows a week in the beginning to now, doing four and five a week. … I used to be able to do that really easily when I was a teenager. It’s harder, now. It is definitely harder. I feel it. I definitely get more tired. So between those two things, my dance card is quite full.”
Notes From the Heart Healer debuts on Hallmark Channel Saturday, May 12 at 8pm with Mother’s Day encore presentations Sunday, May 13 at 12pm and 8pm ET/PT.
By the way, if your mom is a “heart healer,” Hallmark Channel wants to know about it. As part of its Countdown to Mother’s Day, the network is looking for inspirational, poignant or funny stories about moms, so feel free to post your tributes: Facebook.com/hallmarkchannel #HeartHealer #HallmarkChannelCountdown
Photo: ©2011 Crown Media United States Credit: Chris Helcermanas-Benge