On Saturday (Oct. 12), Hallmark Channel premieres the movie-length pilot “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” which has received a 10-episode series order, probably to air in 2014.
Created by Martha Williamson (“Touched by an Angel”), it focuses on Oliver (Eric Mabius, “Ugly Betty“), the head of a team at the U.S. Post Office’s Dead Letter Office, who has taken on the task of being a lost-mail detective to make sure that undeliverable letters and packages make it their rightful recipients.
Along the way, the team saves lives, solves crimes, reunites old loves and changes futures. Helping the handsome, idiosyncratic Oliver — who believes a snail-mail letter is the gold standard of human communication — is free-spirited Rita (Crystal Lowe), intuitive Norman (Geoff Gustafson), and no-nonsense technophile Shane (Kristin Booth, “The Kennedys”).
Under Shane’s inspiration, the team goes in a risky and unorthodox direction, beginning with the chance to clear the name of a wrongfully accused man and reunite him with his lost love.
Zuniga recalls first speaking to Williamson — who took a long break after “Touched by an Angel” to be with her husband and children — about the role: “She was telling me, this show is about this quirky little group of people in the Post Office, with this weird Dead Letter office, but through that context, it’s going to touch on difficult issues for the families. It’s not just about feel-good and for everybody to watch.
“It’s the dedication of the lead character, Oliver, to do things without computers, to do things the old-fashioned way. He does detective work and has this intuitive way, ‘We’re going to pick this letter this week.’ He’ll only read as much as will give him information for the next clue of where this letter goes. He won’t read any more.
“Of course, Shane is like, ‘Why don’t you read the whole damn letter, so we can just get it over with, OK?’ He’s like, ‘No, it’s private.'”
As for Andrea and her less-than-lovely surname, Zuniga says, “Andrea Shmeckle loves her job. The name was a huge clue for me, actually, if Martha named her Andrea Shmeckle for a reason. I don’t think Martha Williamson does things haphazardly.
“It informed me. There I am, standing in my official U.S. Post Office uniform and my orthotics and my black belt. I put on my name tag, and it said Schmeckle. Obviously there’s comedy in the show; it’s meant to be funny. So that’s what I love about her. It’s not that she wants to wreck anybody’s day — unless they deserve it — it’s that, ‘This is the way things are. That’s how we have to get things done.’
“I don’t think she’s one of those annoying people, when you get to the Post Office, and they’re like, ‘I don’t make the rules,lady.’ She’ll take you on, and she’ll explain to you why the rules are this way. She really stands behind her stance and loves her job.
“So Oliver is annoying in his little, not really caring, ‘We’re going to do this. Stay out of my precious Dead Letter Office here.’ And I’m like, ‘This place stinks of old, musty letters.'”
Zuniga is also enjoying the freedom of not having to look glamorous.
“There’s no makeup involved,” she says. “There’s reading glasses, and the hair’s pulled back. I just love the idea of not worrying about what I was wearing that day, how I’m going to look. Vanity goes out the window when you play Andrea Shmeckle with your hair pulled back in a ponytail and no makeup.”