When’s the last time you got a handwritten letter– like a stamped with love arrive in your mailbox kind of letter? Let’s face it, in the digital age this type of handwritten correspondence is almost non-existent. Refreshingly, Hallmark and “Touched by An Angel’s” Martha Williamson have a series that celebrates letters and the stories behind them.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” follows the lives of four postal workers turned detectives, who track down the intended recipients of unclaimed mail. These mail orphans take the team down unique paths where lives can be saved, long lost lovers reunited and crimes can be solved, with each case being more intriguing than the last.
Zap2it got to chat with Eric Mabius, who plays postal worker Oliver O’Toole in the series, about working with Hollywood legends, letter writing in the digital age and if he will ever reprise his fan favorite TV role as Daniel Meade in an “Ugly Betty” movie.
Zap2it: What appealed to you most about this project and the character of Oliver?
Eric Mabius: Initially I couldn’t turn Oliver down, because I felt all of the potential. In a pilot it is kind of hard to tell, its almost impossible to encapsulate the whole of what the creator’s aiming for. There was just something about it. I saw it right away. I read it on an airplane over to China and by the time I landed I asked them to set up a conference call, because I just really wanted to get Martha on the phone and pick her brain. She’s just such a delightful, formidable, kind, collaborate, talented person. She’s been around the block and yet her outlook is so open and young minded. She’s more collaborative I think than any writer I’ve ever worked with.
We get to live tweet during the shows so I see the audience building every week and new people signing on to Twitter and chiming in about the episodes. Martha finds a new way to sort of communicate what she is attempting to through the characters in such a complex way rather than rehashing the dynamic every week, we really take on something new.
Handwritten letters and mail are a central part of this show. What do you think about that type of correspondence falling to the wayside in this digital age?
Having children has sort of woken me up again to the magic that exists with a mailbox and sitting down and writing a letter. There’s something magical about writing something down, taking time to create a beginning, middle and an end to your thoughts. There’s something permanent about it and something very magical about you write this, you put it in an envelope, you stick a stamp on it and you put it in a box at the end of your driveway. Then through the process of magic it arrives in someone’s mailbox and they open it. There’s an interaction that’s never really going to go out of style. It’s a wonderful thing to get back in touch with as the result of this show.
This upcoming episode (“The Treasure Box”) is really one of my favorites. It is all about a lost cache of love letters and we’re trying to locate the author of the letters because they’ve recently been discovered. It’s really good.
What can you tell us about the evolution of Shane (Kristin Booth) and Oliver’s relationship throughout the remainder of the season?
There’s always a contingent that wants to see them together right away and that’s great that people feel that strongly, but I think in any lasting relationship these things take time. I think there’s a growing level of respect and adoration between the two that is complex. It’s as complex as the two are different. The biggest obstacle to that deepening is Shane is a manifestation of the technical age and the internet and Oliver is all about loyalty and covenant and belief in one’s own word and conviction. I tend to think the two of them are bringing things out in one another they had never anticipated, things they never even knew they had in them I think.
The show has had some amazing guest stars this season like Valerie Harper, Valerie Bertinelli and Carol Burnett. Tell us about working with them and what you learned.
I learned that funny things take a lot of labor. I learned that no matter how experienced you are in the world, a positive outlook is the only thing that is required to make it that long. I am so in awe of our guest stars. None of Carol’s comic timing or physical comic ability has been diminished. She had her 82nd birthday on set the last day. None of it is diminished. She is the woman I remember being in awe of as a child watching.
There’s also such positivity. Valerie Harper, she walks into a room, she wants to see everyone succeed. It’s so infectious and everyone feels so excited and vibrant in her presence. She has cause to be a little bit miserable in her life, but she’s the most positive actress I think I’ve ever worked with in my entire life.
Every day on set, whoever that guest star happened to be we would
look at each other and say, ‘Are we really here doing this right now?’ In
some of the musical numbers we would just be sitting back in the scene
watching Valerie Harper and say, ‘This is Rhoda. This is the
woman we grew up watching in reruns,’ and Carol Burnett the same thing.
It’s a strange thing when you build someone up in your head and meet
them in person sometimes you are disappointed but its also a big trip to
have someone exceed your expectations. That doesn’t happen very often.
What are your thoughts on “Ugly Betty” continuing to be beloved and marathoned after nearly four years of being off the air?
When we did Betty we knew early on it was that kind of television that was going to make a difference in people’s life’s and they were going to sit around with their families and watch when they are growing up. We knew these were episodes that people would watch over and over again while we were making them. Not because we thought we were so clever and great, but because of the universality in the struggles and the parallels like between Betty and her family struggling in Queens and Daniel and his screwed up family in the city.
It was important to be a part of that for me. I sent an email to Martha (Williamson) halfway through this season saying most actors go through their whole lives never having that one thing that really defines them and makes them feel like this is it, I’m fulfilled, everything else is gravy, this was incredible. Some actors have it multiple times, but more often than not there’s always a searching going on. I felt like Betty filled me out. I had a great experience and I thought well, maybe that’s my one and then this show came along. In its own way I’m having that all over again. There’s such a kindness and love and respect and desire to be really great at what we do. There’s something magical about this show.
Do you think there will ever be an “Ugly Betty” movie?
I have no idea. People want an “Ugly Betty” movie, but everyone is scattered at the four corners of the earth. It would be so much fun and that’s what everyone keeps saying.
Where do you think your character of Daniel Meade would be today?
One part of me thinks that Daniel and Betty might have tried to co-edit that magazine in England and maybe they have little kids running around. That’s one possible outcome.
What are you binge watching right now?
“Game of Thrones” is definitely our guilty pleasure. As much as I’m frustrated by it, I still keep watching it and I think this season is one of the best.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark