Two Hallmark favorites join together again for You Had Me at Aloha.
Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith were kind enough to take time from their schedules to promote the movie they created, and it’s always a pleasure catching up with them.
Part of one of the most beloved couples on television, Pascale admitted that she so enjoys live-tweeting and interacting with fans that she feels a bit empty when When Calls the Heart goes on hiatus.
Thankfully, she’s got a new movie to promote, and you are in for a real treat when it airs.
Pascale had wonderful things to say about filming You Had Me at Aloha, “It was like a pinch-me moment. I couldn’t believe that this idea that Kavan and I had come up with together, I want to say after two years, was finally happening.
“And there we were in Hawaii and with this amazing crew and in this amazing location, and the two of us. It felt surreal in the best possible way. I couldn’t believe it was happening. And we had so much fun.”
She and Kavan work so well together, but it was so much more than that for the two of them. “Obviously, the two of us love working together, but we loved everybody who was brought on board to this project.
“And I think especially coming on the heels of such as strict quarantine and lockdown around the world, but certainly for ourselves personally, it felt even that much more exciting and adventurous and just wonderful to be outside of our bubble.”
There was a very short turnaround for the movie, which was filmed in March 2021. The movie itself has been germinating for much longer, but between COVID, filming When Calls the Heart, Christmas, and rescheduling time where the movie was filmed in Oahu, the timing had to be just right for it to all come together.
The concept is direct from the minds of Pascale and Kavan. “Kavan and I were brainstorming as we often do. What would be a project that we would love to work on? What would we like to tackle together?
“And Kavan said, ‘What kind of character do you want to play?’ And I said, ‘I’d love to play a travel blogger or a travel producer who doesn’t actually like to travel at all.
“I thought that was a really funny concept for a character, and inherently very different than the character I play on When Calls the Heart, Rosemary, how adventure averse this character would be. And of course, Rosemary is all about adventure and excitement.”
Much to her delight, Kavan chose to play the opposite of Pascale’s character, Paige, with Ben, a risk-taking adventure lover.
“And so, that was the birth of the idea right there. And then, from that, we came up with the foundation and bones of the movie. And we were working on it with Samantha Depickle at Hallmark.
And then we brought on Rick Garmin, who writes for Hallmark and wrote both of the Perfect Bride movies. Kavan and I love Rick so much, and he writes for the two of us really well. He’s a very, very funny writer and writes banter really well. And so we brought him on board, and he then worked on the script with us.”
Pascale laid out the nuts and bolts of the movie for us. “Paige is a travel producer who loves to do research from the comfort of her own home and her own quiet and controlled life in New York. She is a bit of a recluse. She doesn’t like adventure. She likes to have everything planned to the T.
“She ends up by circumstances, being forced to host the travel show that she produces and go on the road to Hawaii, to host the show with her cohost, a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, spontaneous travel YouTuber, basically, who is played by Kavan.
The two of them have to find a way to work together: Paige, who wants to plan everything, and Ben, who’s Kavan’s character, who wants not to plan anything, just to jump in the Jeep and drive into the jungle and see what happens.
“And so, how do the two of them figure out how to work together? And also hopefully, ultimately, do they learn to value what the other person’s approach is? And what did that add to the travel experience?”
We can guess what’s going to happen. Opposites will attract, and Pascale and Kavan will showcase their on-screen chemistry when Paige and Ben fall in love. Right?
Pascale laughed, ” Well, that’s definitely what we’re hoping with these two.”
Setting the course for love, though, allows for many opportunities to see the lush, tropical beauty of Oahu and for Pascale and Kavan to dig deep into their talented arsenals for our enjoyment.
At some point during You Had Me at Aloha, Paige decides to take Ben’s advice, learning to “chill” by the pool, and it leads to one of the funniest scenes in the movie that includes a bit Pascale worked hard to perfect.
“I had this whole thing. I was fiddling around with the lounge chair, and Kavan and the director were like, ‘What are you doing? The chairs are set. Just leave it.’ And I said, ‘No, no, hang on, hang on. I’m working on a bit right here.’ And Kavan rolled his eyes like, ‘Oh, of course, you are.’
“Because he knows I like adding in little physical comedy where I can. So he was like, ‘Oh, here she goes again.’ And then the director, John Putch, he said, “Oh, you fly on. This is great. Go for it!'”
It’s a crucial scene for the movie and viewers because Ben reminds Paige of the importance of relaxation and how like any other muscle, it can atrophy without use.
Coming off of the pandemic year, as we all struggle for normalcy, remembering that all aspects of our lives are equally important can be a challenge.
“I hope they feel that because it is true,” Pascale said of the sentiment. “It’s something you’ve got to train yourself to turn off the phone, set the other things aside, and actually make space for yourself just to relax and clear your mind. That doesn’t just happen on its own.”
For her part, Pascale is far more of a Ben than a Paige, admitting that even if she had her reservations, her inquisitive side would get the better of her if she found herself in Paige’s position.
“My curiosity would just go, ‘You got to take this opportunity.’ You got to see what it’s like. Even if it’s disastrous, even if you hate every second of it, you need to see that for yourself.
“And the opportunities to travel for work, I always just think that those are gifts that you get to be paid to do your job that I love, like a job that I love, and have an adventure at the same time. I mean, it just feels like such a rare gift that’s just presented to you. You’ve always got to take that opportunity.”
When it comes to fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants or planning, Pascale has a little of both.
“I would say I like to plan and do some research because I think that enhances the travel experience. You learn more about the culture, and you don’t want to miss out on the sights, but I think I would do that all ahead of time. And then, once I’m there, let things unfold organically.
“Ironically, Kavan is definitely much more of a, make a plan, stick to the plan kind of traveler than I am. He really likes to be in control of the situation.”
Although they had written the script and planned the movie carefully, there was still room for fine-tuning and maneuvering once on the ground in Oahu.
One such revision is a life-defining situation resulting from Paige’s encounter with some goats, which came from Jennifer Aspen, who produces as well as costars in the movie. Samantha Depickle told Pascale and Kavan that Jennifer had some great ideas that were incorporated into the script.
“When I read it, it was the goats. The goats were Jen’s idea. And it was so funny. I was just so pleased. I just thought that was so perfect. I thought it was just the perfect motivation for Paige’s fear and trying to hide.
“And so, then when we got to filming the scene with these goats, Jen and I insisted. I said, ‘Paige has to look completely out of her element. We need her to be in a dress and high heels so that she looks not right.’ Just right out of the gate, she looks not right with these goats.”
Pascale laughed, thinking about the scene. “First off, when I read the script, I had envisioned baby goats. I’d envisioned kids. Those were full-blown, I don’t even know. One had horns that I think were from tip to tip over a meter long. I was horrified when I saw them.
“They had these crazy names, like the devil. One of them was like El Diablo or something. I was like, ‘What kind of goats have you found? These are crazy!'”
Although the scene is ultimately a blink-and-you-miss-it moment in the movie, it defines Paige and showcases how far Pascale is willing to go to ensure that the right amount of humor and pathos are on display for her character.
You’re really going to enjoy You Had Me at Aloha because of the sense of adventure Pascale and Kavan had filming it. You can sense their excitement through their characters. It’s no wonder, as their daring capers were right up Pascale’s alley.
“All the things that Paige and Ben did, I would want to do myself. We were at Kualoa Ranch in those UTVs, and the scenery there was spectacular. It just feels very adventurous, driving around in these like sturdy little UTVs. It was totally beautiful.
“We then did the zip-lining, which I’ve only done once before. Super fun. I love hiking. So any of the hiking stuff is right up my alley. I love the beach. I do love to lay on the beach and just relax, so that’s perfect for me as well.
“And then the food! I always love checking out different local foods and traditional foods wherever you’re traveling. I always love to have that experience; whether you love it or you hate it, it’s a learning experience, and it’s so fun. It’s an adventure in and of itself. So I love it all, the whole package. I love it.”
Although Paige and Ben do quite a lot in the movie, there were some things that Pascale wishes they had been able to do that they were not.
“In an original draft of [the script], we were going to go spelunking. And we just couldn’t find any caves that you could film in easily. We weren’t able to do that. And so, that would have been really fun.”
Pascale was also a little bit disappointed in the snorkeling, which found them filming close to shore instead of in the middle of the ocean as they had hoped.
Knowing that Pascale and Kavan work together so well, I had to ask if shrugging off their When Calls the Heart characters was challenging when they’re inhabiting entirely new characters in another work.
“The good thing is we created these characters ourselves, so it felt very natural, because had been with these characters since conception and helping to develop them and create them right from the get-go. So they felt comfortable. The characters felt comfortable.
“What was interesting was we started filming the movie, doing all the fun stuff. Basically, once Ben and Paige start clicking and jibing as co-hosts, we did that all at the top.
“And then the last week, we were doing all the stuff at the top of the movie when Ben and Paige are experiencing all that friction, and they don’t get along. It’s really more like oil and water. That was an interesting transition because we had already filmed so much.
We’d been together for three weeks already in Hawaii, where we’d been filming all day, getting along stuff and having fun together stuff. And then the last week, we were bickering all the time on screen.
“So I feel like the two of us were like, ‘This isn’t the way we wanted to end our Hawaiian adventure.’ There’s that tension prickliness in the air between the two of us, but I mean, it was fine.”
The good news is that they had a bit of a palate cleanser to shirk that somewhat prickly feeling before they jumped back on the plane to head home.
“We decided to do have a really nice dinner out. On our last night in Hawaii, we had a dinner out, actually, with Jennifer Aspen. It was kind of like a toast to the experience.
“It really did feel like a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Kavan and I will make more movies together, and we may even make more movies in a cool destination, but this really was a special, unique experience.
“And I think both of us wanted to have a toast to that and honor that experience because it was so special for both of us.
After that year and waiting so long and the stops and the starts and getting out there and being human again, that would be really special.
“It felt so good. The only thing that was lacking was both of us had originally envisioned and hoped that this movie was going to film in Hawaii and that we would have brought our families. That was the plan. We were supposed to bring our families with us, and we would have loved that.
“Obviously, we would have loved to have brought our families and had the experience of filming it with them there and having the adventure alongside them. But that just wasn’t possible at this point because Canada was advising no nonessential travel. And there’s quarantine in effect once you come back.
“There were a lot of hurdles that just made it feel like that wasn’t the right choice anymore. But still, at this point, after having been delayed for a whole year, Kavan and I were just happy to get it done, even if it wasn’t exactly as we envisioned.
“The good thing is, Kavan and I have such a tight relationship, and we’ve been working together for so long that we can just communicate anything very easily and no hard feelings.
“We just say, ‘This works, this doesn’t work. Can you change this? I need to change this. Does that work for you?’ It’s a shorthand. We can communicate very efficiently.”
She and Kavan are totally on board if you’re in the mood for a sequel, so I urge you to watch live and tweet your enthusiasm for You Had Me at Aloha when it premieres on Saturday, April 5 at 9/8c.
Keep an eye on TV Fanatic for our chat with Kavan Smith and later next week for their thoughts on how When Calls the Heart Season 8 ended.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.