When Benjamin Hollingsworth talks about his bad-boy role on Virgin River, his latest Hallmark movie, Romance in Style, and the new crime drama Joe Pickett, one could consider him to be quite the chameleon.
Netflix audiences around the world have spent four seasons being smitten by Dan Brady, the former Marine who was wrongfully accused of shooting Jack (Martin Henderson). Jack is his former boss and current boyfriend of Dan’s sister, Brie (Zibby Allen), an attorney who keeps coming to his rescue.
In addition to Virgin River, Hollingsworth starred in not one, but two original Hallmark movies, A Splash of Love and Romance in Style, a twist on the Cinderella story.
The latter is an original movie is about Derek, nicknamed “The Prince of Publishing,” who calls on a budding clothing designer to teach him the ropes so he can take over the high-profile fashion magazine from his father.
Ella, played by Jaicy Elliot, is a confident and passionate plus-size fashion designer who is working as a freelance seamstress at the magazine and meets Derek and is enlisted to help him learn the ropes very quickly.
Hollingsworth says that as an extremely involved father there are many life lessons that he feels strongly about imparting to his three young children.
“I always try to teach my children to be thankful, grateful, and most of all to never give up,” Hollingsworth exclusively tells Parade.com. “If you give up on something, you’ve conceded to failure. I try to teach them to try new things, learn new things, and never quit. The best part of life is the moments in between the successes.”
Keep reading to find out what Hollingsworth loves about Virgin River, Hallmark, fatherhood and being able to take on a myriad of roles.
How did Hallmark’s Romance in Style come your way?
Benjamin Hollingsworth: They sent along the script, and I received an offer for it. I had just done Splash of Love, which I really liked because of the Orcas and the idea of preserving wildlife. Then this movie came along, and I was a little unsure about doing another one so close to finishing the last one. But I saw the messaging in the movie about body inclusivity and positivity and encouraging everyone to be themselves and love themselves.
These are very important messages for all of us.
I agree. Also, I have three children and I had a daughter a year and a half ago, my first baby girl, and I want her to live in a world where she can grow up and love herself and feel valued regardless of what she sees in the mirror. If I can help exact that or influence that change in the world, sign me up.
This movie was extremely empowering.
It’s meant to be that. We hadn’t known each other before, but we became really a tight-knit group very quickly. We had a discussion over dinner the first night about what we were doing was an opportunity to not just make a movie but make a really good movie and to make it one that will hopefully resonate with people anywhere, male or female, having any kind of body confidence issues or self-love issues. This might help speak to them, to know that they are also valued and worthy and beautiful regardless of what kind of society has dictated to us that it should be. That was definitely part of the attraction of jumping on board.
What is it like working with Jaicy Elliot?
Oh my gosh, she’s such a sweetheart. Honestly, I can’t say enough great things about her. You never know who you’re going to get as a co-star. A lot of the time you don’t get to chat before signing on for the project. That was the case with this. From the first night we met, it was an easy conversation and I just fell in love with her.
She embodied the character of Ella so perfectly because she’s so confident and wonderful in believing in herself. Watching her transform into this role was a pleasure because it was kind of what Derek was watching with Ella come into her own as a designer was kind of what I was watching Jaicy come into her own as a leading woman in a film. That was pretty special to watch.
Derek seems to be getting a crash course in fashion. How about you?
I had a crash course in fashion in 2009 I did a series for the CW called The Beautiful Life. Ashton Kutcher produced it. I essentially played a young version of him, coming from a small town in Iowa to being a model in New York.
Ashton showed me how to take a photo and how to model in front of a camera and how to wear clothes and all of this stuff. I was a small-town kid growing up, all the stuff was new to me as well. That was kind of my crash course in fashion.
Your education did not stop there.
Right. I had an amazing opportunity. I went to the Met Gala in 2010. I was invited to the Met Gala by Marc Jacobs and sat at his table. That was not a crash course in fashion, it was a master class in fashion as it was a once-in-a-lifetime event just packed with the most influential, wonderful people, idols who I looked up to most of my life.
It was really cool. All the best designers designing. It was one of those nights I’ll never forget. That was maybe the master class. So, I did know a little bit of fashion going up into this but, it was fun to rekindle all of that.
Do you prefer the bad boy like Brady? Or someone who’s a little bit more like the prince charming type in this movie?
I truly love playing different kinds of characters. That’s one of the reasons that I got into doing this. When I was young, I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be a lawyer, a cop, a firefighter, a hockey player, a detective; I wanted to be so many things.
My mom was like, “Sweetie, you can’t do all those. Focus on one thing.” I got into acting and I was like, “Look, my mom always wanted me to become a doctor, and sure enough, I’ve been a doctor on TV.” And a number of other really great things to embody.
How much did you learn about orcas and other whales from A Splash of Love?
Talk about a crash course! We did research on the migration patterns, what they look like, and how they act. I have always been a big fan of whales. When I was really young, I went on a whale-watching tour and I actually got to see a humpback whale really up close. They had turned off the engine on this boat because there were whales nearby and this humpback surfaced right next to the boat.
The water displaced the boat back and just kind of floated there. I remember him looking up at me with this big eye and there seemed to be so much wisdom and knowledge behind it. They are just such magical creatures. It was really fun to do a movie about them.
Why do you want Parade readers to watch Romance in Style?
It’s a great little film. It’s a timeless tale that is like a Cinderella story about an outcast, someone who’s a princess but disguised and not really allowed to be at the party essentially because of society’s beliefs on what beauty should look like. I think everyone has a bit of insecurity inside of them, I do. But I think that often we put that on ourselves.
You are heading in a different direction for your next project.
I am playing a character in Joe Pickett, which is the new series on Paramount+ that’s kind of like Yellowstone meets Fargo as far as tone goes. I play a hillbilly who has a four-inch goatee, yellow teeth and a thick southern accent.
For me, going from character to character I try and make them as far apart as possible and try to make them unique so then their own individual thing is possible. Not just because it’s more interesting to people that are my fans to watch, but also because it’s more interesting for me, I have more fun playing these characters when they’re more diverse and when I get to switch it up every time.
One thing that keeps coming up in terms of Virgin River, which is also true for Hallmark movies, is that both are comforting to watch, especially during difficult times that many of us are going through.
One hundred percent agree. I often refer to it as an apple pie style of entertainment. It’s not like we’re creating something new, but it doesn’t mean it’s not really good and comforting. Sometimes all you want is at the end of the night – there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel warm and fuzzy inside. In fact, we all need it.
With Virgin River, there’s a genuine sense of community in the show that is very attractive. In the divided world we live in if we can escape somewhere, even for an hour out at the end of the day, that’s valuable.
How beautiful is it in and around Vancouver, where you film Virgin River? Are there things that you enjoy doing when you’re there but you’re not on the set?
Gosh, it’s maybe one of the prettiest places in the world. Honestly, it never ceases to amaze me—all the small little spots that they find to film in. The air is crisp and clear, and the water is that beautiful turquoise color that you see in the drone shots of Virgin River. I love just to get outside, to go running and do trails. I love to go hang out at the oceanfront or on the river with my family. There was a logging festival that we went to on the weekend here, it was up in Squamish. It’s basically a lumberjack competition where people climb trees with axes and cut down trees. It was so fun, my kids loved it.
Just the spirit out here really does have the sense of a Virgin River kind of atmosphere. People are extremely kind and generous. Our crew is a great example—[they’re] all locals to the area. I often say we have the best crew because they’re so professional but also friendly and caring. Our whole set sort of feels like a mini-Virgin River. We look after one another.
Do Virgin River fans recognize you when you are out with your family? Do they ever scold you for Brady’s actions like hurting Brie or Jack?
Well, I’m just glad it turned out that Brady didn’t shoot Jack because I’m sure that wouldn’t have gone over well! But honestly, I can’t go out in public without someone asking if I’m in Virgin River. Even when I was wearing a mask out and about some people would still recognize me.
I’m always so thankful. I know how hard it is to become successful in this business and when you have a show that’s doing as well as Virgin River, I’m very grateful for all of that. Anyone who comes up to me is usually a fan and so I’m always happy to make time for a fan and to be grateful for them for tuning in and watching and loving the show and happy that I can be a fun part of their life. All of that’s great. It’s just kind of shocking how much it’s happening.
Is there anything special you want to happen for Brady?
Yes. I want him to become a little bit more of a part of the community. He’s always kind of lived on the fringes of Virgin River separate from a lot of characters like Hope and Mel. I love and look up to both Annette [O’Toole] and Alex [Breckenridge] and think they’re terrific actresses and would love to have more scenes with them, as well as Tim [Matheson], who plays Doc.
I think Brady would have really interesting energy opposite those two, just to see him be a little bit more part of the town of Virgin River this upcoming season, and also kind of patch things up with Jack. I would love for him, now that he’s been exonerated, to have that time and hopefully find some bit of reconciliation with Jack and put things in the past, because they’ve gone through so much with the war and being in the Marines together. It’d be really nice to see them become friends again.
Romance in Style will premiere on Hallmark Channel on Saturday, August 13. A Splash of Love is on Hallmark Channel.
Seasons 1-4 of Virgin River are available for streaming on Netflix.
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