Cedar Cove tells the story of Olivia Lockhart, a judge in an idyllic coastal town of Washington. It’s Hallmark Channel’s first-ever original, scripted series and was an instant hit when it premiered this summer. It has just been picked up for a second season. No doubt the show owes much of its success to its star, Andie MacDowell. With two episodes to go in the first season, we thought it was time we caught up with the acclaimed actress to find out what it was like to play Olivia.

What is the reaction to the show and what do you think people like about it?

Andie MacDowell: Everywhere I go people are stopping and talking to me and telling me how much they love the show, and telling me how happy they are that there is a show like this. And yeah it seems like people are really happy with it. And it feels good. It feels good to meet these people who just tell you they love your show.

When they tell you they like a show “like this,” what do they mean?

AM: Well, I just think there are a lot of dark and edgy things on TV. And Hallmark is a trademark for wholesomeness. There are a lot of people out there who want that and there’s just not that much of it.

There is a lot of darker programming out these days. It’s nice to see something different.

AM: Well, dark, edgy things–people seem to think they’re cooler. But it’s okay not to be cool.

Speaking of non-dark things. What was it like shooting in Vancouver?

AM: Oh it’s beautiful. It’s salubrious. It’s just very healthy and people are happy. They have that West-Coast, laid-back kind of attitude. Very sports oriented. You can see it. People look healthy. It’s nice. And the locations are gorgeous. They’re so pretty.

What was it like as an actor to work in that environment?

AM: It was interesting because sometimes after a while you’d have to stop and remind yourself just to look at it. You know those scenes at the lake. I mean you just have to stop. I find water very calming too. It wasn’t a lot, but there was a scene that I did with Stan [Olivia’s husband] where we go and we put the boat in the water. It was in memory of our son. And we sail it for the first time since he’s died. And years have passed since we’ve done this. You know there didn’t need to be a lot of emotion. The lake was the emotion. And simple was better in that sense. Cedar Cove is like a character in itself. That’s been a lot of fun.

What do you like about playing Olivia?

AM: I like that she’s a woman and that she’s the strong person of the community. I think it’s good for women to see other women in this position. And young girls to see women in this position – that she’s the one that people rely on and turn to and talk to and that she has a good head on her shoulders. And that she cares about people.

You know I think there is so much potential for where the character can go, but I really like that she has the opportunity to help other people. The story line revolves around other people. But I like how she can influence them to make good choices. Like in the pilot the young couple who were getting their divorce because they had lost their child, like Olivia and her husband had. In Olivia’s experience they were losing the opportunity to see what was still there. And she was able to influence them not to rush. They ended up getting back together. Those kinds of storylines are good for Olivia where she can influence other people and use her skills as a judge to help people think about what they’re doing. I like that.

Do you think Olivia feels the same way about herself and Stan? Do you think there’s any chance that she would take him back?

AM: I think what it is for Olivia is that Stan’s reaction to the death of their son was to disappear. And that was extremely painful not to have a resolution with the father of her child. Not to be able to mourn the loss of their child and she has a lot of empathy for Stan because she sees that he’s finally able to deal with it. I think there’s a kind of love that’s there for Stan. We’ll just really have to see what kind of love it is. And I think what’s happening with Jack is something different. But also Olivia doesn’t know how Stan really feels. I think she’s in denial of what Stan may be feeling. That’s what I think, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

What do you think was the hardest thing about playing this role?

AM: Not knowing really is a different shift for me. Coming from movies where you have a script and you know choices that you’re going to be making because there they are there in black in white. I didn’t have the scripts. I would get scripts as we went so I would be working on something this week, making choices and deciding something about a story line, and I would not know what the writers were going to write for the next week. Yet I knew in my heart in certain situations that perhaps they were pulling me into something that I didn’t feel was exactly the right direction. So I would have to fight to bend it emotionally, how to make it work for my character – what they were writing. So that was the hard part for me because I’ve never been in a situation like that. I’ve always known a script way in advance. Been prepared way in advance as to who I was and where I was going to go. For TV we’re just getting the scripts as we go. That’s been an adjustment.

Do you think that it benefits you as an actor to think of Olivia as a real human who can’t anticipate events that are going to happen in her life?

AM: You could definitely think about it that way. And I think you have to be more laid back about it and just know who you are and move through whatever storylines. And if I hate something I can call them up and fight about it, I guess. I haven’t had to do that. I had one scene and I was like, “This is just wrong.” And we just changed it that night very subtly, but it was important. Some really subtle changes.

How do you feel about this role in relation to other roles you’ve done?

AM: It’s completely different in that we keep going. I’ve never had the TV experience to evolve with the character and I think that’s exciting. It’s interesting to see where they go. I’m hoping that we have more opportunity for humor. I enjoy doing comedy. It would be light comedy, it wouldn’t be slapstick, but just lightness. I think the best part is the evolution of the character. Having the opportunity to spend more time with her. That’s been interesting.

What do you think attracts Olivia and Jack to each other?

AM: Well I think that’s going to be interesting to find out. For me I think the fire between them is apparent. The fans are relating to that. And I think the fire is wonderful, but in real life the fire doesn‘t last long. It can last a couple of years, and then you have to have something more. There has to be substance. I would like to see the substance of their relationship. I think there’s opportunity in the storylines to build substance. Where everything is not always just because you love to kiss each other and you like looking at each other.

You guys pull that off very well.

AM: Oh yeah, we got that down! But they need to build some substance, some real stuff. And I think it can still be fiery and good because I think those two characters can create that. I’d like to see some conflict and them really getting to know each other. When you first meet someone there’s no problem. It’s so easy to fall in love. To stay in love, now that’s different.

What was it like to work with Dylan Neal? You had great chemistry on screen.

AM: We work really well together. We’re great working partners. He really cares about his job, about his work, and so do I. We’re not just walking through it not caring about what we do. We’re both there to fight to make it right. We both care about what we’re doing. So that’s good, I’m glad. I’m glad he cares about what he’s doing. So I think we have a really great working relationship.

Olivia chose to stay in Cedar Cove instead of taking a federal judge position in Seattle. Do you think that choice reflected her belief about work-life balance and her role in her community?

Definitely. So much of her life was already created there. It’s not like she’s twenty. She had children, she lives in a community where people depend on her. She knows everybody. I think it was a great life choice just because what are you going to do? Go off and recreate something somewhere else when you’ve already created something so beautiful? I don’t think it was a hard choice in the long run. Tempting. It was something she dreamed of, but I think it would have been too much of a sacrifice.

It’s an admirable choice. Especially considering how obsessed people are with their careers these days.

I think it depends on the person. For instance with my son he thought about acting and he didn’t want to do it because he wanted a normal life. There is nothing normal about what I do. You have to leave and travel and all that. It’s just not something he was equipped or prepared to do, to make that sacrifice. It is a sacrifice. He wants to be a teacher. It’s a big difference. I told him the difference is you’ll get exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll get stability and you’ll get to be with your kids at dinner. I told him I think you’ve made a wise choice.

It seems like you are still able to spend time with your family.

I have. I’m not saying it hasn’t been hard. There are times when I didn’t want to leave. I suffered, I cried when I had to be away from my kids. It’s hard. It was not easy, that’s why I didn’t work more. I didn’t take as many jobs as I could have. I took a lot of time off. It was still hard for me to go to Vancouver and be away from my kids. It was painful. And they’ve promised me this time that they’re going to come visit me more. I’m very much attached to my family.

You live in Montana. What is it like to be an actress living outside of Hollywood?

I had a house in L.A. for this year. Because my daughter did her senior year in California. You know I travel so much for my work. I never know when I’m going to get a movie. They aren’t always shot in California, they’re shot all over. I’ve worked more out of California than in California. So it used to be that this was the place to live because they did everything here. Unfortunately, they don’t anymore. They leave. Like I’m in Canada working. So you don’t have to live here.

I’m traveling all over for things right now. I’m going to New York, I’m going to Berlin, then going back to Berlin. I was offered a movie, but it wasn’t even going to be shot here. It was going to be shot in New Orleans. So you’re more apt not to work in California. It’s fun to come here and see everybody and see other actors. I went to dinner with Barbara [Niven] and Bruce [Boxleitner] from the show the other night and it was fun.  There were a bunch of other actors there. I really enjoyed that. But I can come visit—my daughter, Rainey, has an apt here. So I can come stay with her anytime I want and visit people. So I can just live in Montana when I’m not working.

What should we expect in the final episodes of the first season? I hear these two are Christmas episodes.  

It’s very character driven. It’s not the classic Hallmark Christmas show. There’s a lot of stuff going on. Emotionally there are difficulties. There is gonna be friction. People are going to want to see it resolved. There are a lot of things that will be resolved that have been stirred up. So people will be satisfied, but there’s still some unanswered questions leaving it open for Season Two.

Don’t miss the final two episodes of the first season of Cedar Cove Saturday, October 5 and 12, at 8/7c on The Hallmark Channel (Ch. 312).