JoAnna Garcia Swisher on Joining the Hallmark Family and 'Sweet Magnolias' Season 2 (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Steffan Hill/Crown Media
JoAnna Garcia Swisher makes her Hallmark debut this weekend with a romantic tale that takes her to the magical wonders of Ireland.
In Hallmark Channel's As Luck Would Have It, Garcia Swisher plays Lindsey, a successful manager at a hotel development company who travels to Ireland to acquire land that is perfect for a luxury resort. To gain favor among the townspeople, she decides to enter the town's world-renowned matchmaking festival to prove her investment in the community and win over a handsome local, Brennan (Downton Abbey's Allen Leech), who's less than willing to help. Of course, in classic Hallmark fashion, Lindsey and Brennan somehow find a way to work together -- and maybe fall in love along the way.
"During COVID, my grandmother had spent a lot of time watching Hallmark movies and I was visiting her right before I had gotten sent the script. I had been asked to do some over the years but I just hadn't been able to with timing and work," Garcia Swisher told ET over the phone. "She said, 'Why don't you ever do one of these?' I was like, 'You know, Grandma, I'm going to do one for you so you can watch one and it'll make you happy.'" The 41-year-old actress received the script for As Luck Would Have It less than two weeks later and included in the story was a sweet thread involving the main character's grandmother. The stars aligned. "I thought, 'OK, I'm listening to the signs. This is the one.'"
Ahead of Saturday's premiere, the actress discusses her personal highlights filming in Ireland, working with her good friend, Leech, and a preview of season 2 of Netflix's Sweet Magnolias, which officially began filming in Atlanta this week.
ET: This is your first Hallmark movie. I always love when they welcome new actors into the family because once you're in, it's like a really nice warm hug. What was it like getting this opportunity to make your Hallmark debut?
JoAnna Garcia Swisher: During COVID, my grandmother had spent a lot of time watching Hallmark movies and I was visiting her right before I had gotten sent the script. I had been asked to do some over the years but I just hadn't been able to with timing and work and stuff. And she said, "Why don't you ever do one of these?" I was like, "You know, Grandma, I'm going to do one for you so you can watch one and it'll make you happy." She loves these movies so much and all of my friends love these movies, and I have so many friends who do these movies. I watch these movies. And it wasn't two weeks later that I got the script for this and it was in Ireland and there was a tasteful storyline about my character's grandmother, and I thought, "OK, I'm listening to the signs. This is the one. If I'm going to do it, let's do it." Right before I go back to work in Atlanta [on Sweet Magnolias], it's a great opportunity to work opposite some amazing people and off I went. It's been such a great experience. I am an absolute fan of all of these incredible, heartwarming movies and I'm so happy to be a part of one. I'm really proud of this one. It's really beautiful and it's a beautiful love story to Ireland and I got to work with a dear friend of mine, Allen Leech.
Can you give us a taste of what the story is about and what enticed you about it?
Very early on when they asked me to do it, I asked, "Is there anyone you're hoping for to play Brennan?" They had mentioned Allen and Allen happens to be a great friend of mine. It was all of it that excited me and enticed me. There are a lot of layers to Lindsey's journey and at the end of the day, it's a beautiful love story but there are a lot of love stories. There's a love story with the castle. There's a love story to her grandmother. A love story to finding what makes her happy, and she's very successful with what she does but I don't know that it checks every box. Sometimes you hit that crossroad in life and sometimes it's meeting an incredible human or having a wonderful experience that makes you realize you need a change. There's a lot of love stories in this movie and I was taken by that. I thought that was different and interesting. At the end of the day, if you're a fan of Hallmark movies, this will check all of those boxes. But there's an incredible backdrop of this magical country that is Ireland. It was made with a lot of love and the desire to show off the culture there and the people, the sights and there are so much there that we worked really hard to lean into and make the most of.
Did you have a favorite place in Ireland that you were able to go to?
Yes! The Cliffs [of Moher] were humbling. I actually felt really grateful. I felt really sad that there were no tourists there because it's obviously a very difficult time, especially for places and cities that thrive on tourism. But I did feel very grateful that I got to see it with nobody around. It was the coldest I've ever been in my entire life and at one point, when I was walking to where we were shooting, a gust of wind hit me and Allen just put his hand out and pushed me back up. I was like, "Thanks, buddy!" But when I got to the top, it is breathtaking. I thought this has to be a wonder of the world -- I know it's technically not -- but if there's a reserve list, it has to be on there. It's pretty incredible.
What I love about Hallmark movies is you get to see the characters engaging in a myriad of activities. In this movie, we see Lindsey making soda bread, taking part in the matchmaking festival, playing cricket, whisky tasting, even knitting. Did you have a favorite you got to do?
The matchmaking festival is a real thing. It happens and there's a history to it. It's pretty cool. My favorite was the kaylee, which is a dance and a celebration. We worked with an awesome Irish band and incredible Irish dancers and an amazing choreographer who's super well-known in Ireland, and bless his heart, he was so kind and patient with me. It was really fun. And that day, we spent a lot of time shooting that scene and at the end, we had done with music, no music, pre-recorded music, and at the end of the day, Allen was like, "Should we have one crack at it where we just have the band really play full-on and all of the dancers really dancing? It's the last take." And they said, "Yeah, let's do it!" We did it and you could feel the energy. At the end, everyone was like, "It's been so long since we've had a moment to do this together," and it's such a part of the culture. It's one of my favorite things that I learned about Irish culture.
As Luck Would Have It combines a few signature Hallmark tropes, like the fish-out-of-water story with Lindsey and enemies-to-lovers with Lindsey and Brennan's romance. What was your experience sharing this ride with your friend, Allen?
I adore him personally. We've been friends for years. His mom cooked me dinner a couple of nights because she's just amazing, and I met his parents at his wedding. It was a nice taste of home and it was awesome.
What did you like about Lindsey and Brennan's love story?
They're both very much immersed in their own worlds and in their own journeys, and I think initially the focus isn't about that. Their story and their journey is equally individual as it is coming together. I feel like they're in their own heads and in their own worlds. Meeting each other is the bomb that gets set off in their lives to make a change and know that that's what they need to do, but that it's not for each other. It's because of their experience. In the perfect Hallmark way, it's nice to see them come back together, spoiler alert!
If you're taking a lesson from the film, it's said in the movie that change sometimes is necessary and that it's not always a bad thing. Especially right now, it's a mindset that we could all take stock of and adopt in different aspects of our lives perhaps.
I love that. It's so amazing that you felt that way. It resonates with me so much and it really is so true, especially right now. Change can be all of those things but it can also be the thing that you need the most. The idea that nothing is changing all of the time is crazy, so we convince ourselves that things just stay the same. But actually, that's not true. The more we can lean into it, the happier we'll be and the more we'll be open to learning new life lessons and be more fulfilled. I love that you saw that.
Is this the start of a long relationship with Hallmark?
Oh my gosh! I absolutely love working with Hallmark and all of the creatives. It was a wonderful experience. So, if there was another really special story that we all wanted to do together, I would jump at the chance of course. They're so good at creating movies that people need to see and want to see, and I'm so happy they wanted me to be a part of one.
Shifting gears briefly to Netflix's Sweet Magnolias, which you've just begun filming season 2 on. That car crash cliffhanger still sticks with me. What can you tell us about the new season?
I actually can't say anything! And for good reason. There are so many storylines that Sheryl [J. Anderson], our showrunner, and our writing staff laid out and so many things that you might not even be thinking about right now that we will address that become interesting plot points. But I think who's in the car and the stories that are launched because of this are so interesting too. Now that we're here and I'm starting to see it all unfold... Last year, you really got to know the characters and laid out the stories and we really dug into the meat and the potatoes of the three [women], where we are in our lives. Well, this year it's like, "Honey, we're juggling. All of us are juggling." There's a few more storylines happening to each of us.
It's not looking good for Kyle, who's in pretty bad shape after the accident. But whoever the second person is, I'm worried it'll fracture Maddie, Helen and Dana Sue's friendship.
My god, are you a television intuitive? You lock onto so many things! And by the way, it's all so human and there's all of that there. It's very real. You see the depths of our commitment to each other this season. I think you see the depths of the realness of our friendship and the history and that we are all raising our children side by side, but we all are on our own journeys just naturally as life. You will see all of that. It's super human and super special and super real.
There's also a lot of complications with regards to Maddie's love life, following her breakup with Cal and Bill still in her life. Basically, I have a lot of feelings about what's going on in the romance department.
By the way, so do I. (Laughs.) Maddie's got some stuff happening to her.