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Bethany Joy Lenz Is On A Hallmark Hot Streak

After a string of successful holiday movies for the network, it’s time for summer on the Seine.

Hallmark’s Bethany Joy Lenz Talks ‘Savoring Paris’ & Her Next Project
Hallmark Media/Eric Caro

Filming a Hallmark movie sounds like it’d be as cozy and picture-perfect as the network’s consistently romantic aesthetic, but sometimes reality is a little more chaotic. Take, for example, Bethany Joy Lenz’s latest turn in Savoring Paris. The very fashionable film would sometimes call for as many as 13 different costumes in a day, prompting quick changes in a Seine-side tent the size of the porta-potty.

“Just changing my clothes in a tent, finagling a microphone, putting on high heels — then there’s a couple of grips standing guard, making sure no one’s looking over,” Lenz recalls with a laugh. “It was surreal.”

In the past decade, the One Tree Hill alum has become a Hallmark stalwart of sorts. She made her debut with the network in 2014’s The Christmas Secret, and she has since filmed eight additional projects, including the seasonal classics An Unexpected Christmas (2021) and Five Star Christmas (2020). Last year’s time-travel romance, A Biltmore Christmas, was one of the network’s most-watched premieres of 2023.

For this month’s Savoring Paris, she’s traded in winter sweaters for a summertime chic wardrobe that Emily Cooper would approve of.

The film — part of Hallmark’s Passport to Love, a four-movie event of love stories set in Europe — follows a fast-food company executive, Ella (Lenz), who seeks fulfillment and real French cuisine on an extended sojourn to Paris. It’s based on Victoria Brownlee’s 2018 novel, Fromage à Trois, so yes, there’s a love triangle, but that’s more of an hors d’oeuvre than main course.

Hallmark Media/Eric Caro

“This is a love story between Ella and herself,” says Lenz, who is also a singer-songwriter and author of the forthcoming memoir Dinner for Vampires. “She is learning how to fall in love with herself. ‘Who am I, and what do I love, and what do I want?’”

As for what Lenz wants: She’s currently brainstorming a project with several Hallmark leading ladies, and she also wouldn’t mind teaming up with a few male leads again. “I just want to work with Andrew Walker again,” she says of her Bottled With Love co-star. “I could do the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks thing with Andrew Walker, [since] he and I have such great fun together. And Kris Polaha is awesome.”

Below, she talks Savoring Paris, her Hallmark tenure, and how her latest rom-coms compare to making One Tree Hill.

There are lots of fun Hallmark films about life-changing trips abroad. The trips themselves often last a week or two, but Ella sticks around Paris for several months. How did that affect the story?

Most rom-coms take place over a weekend or a couple of weeks. By the end, it’s like, “Oh, we’ll be together forever.” But it takes time to fall in love, get to know people, build a business, and figure out who you are. It would have been a disservice to cram that into a couple of weeks.

Hallmark Media/Eric Caro

Did you find yourself resonating with Ella’s journey?

Ella has been existing as expected for so long. It’s almost like the Snow White moment of waking up and being like, “Oh, I’ve been asleep.” There are lots of ways in our real life that we [do that]. We build up defenses and habits from a very young age, and some people buck up against that earlier than others. I can relate to that in several areas in my personal life.

Between Ella’s extended trip and the time-travel element in A Biltmore Christmas, your films play with expectations in a fun way. Is that something you’re consciously seeking out?

I haven’t produced anything for Hallmark yet, so I’m not actively creating these things, but I’m very selective about what I choose. I count the cost, and I really have to love the project. I’m excited that Hallmark is making strides to bring in a new, younger crowd. I’m super proud and happy to be part of that.

Hallmark Media/Elena Nenkova

These movies run around 90 minutes, whereas One Tree Hill ran for nearly 200 episodes. How does that change how you approach a love story?

You have to feel the same amount of care for your characters, no matter where you are. I don’t think you can just get lazy and be like “I’ll figure it out next episode.” But with film, everything is truncated, and we shoot out of sequence, so you have to be on top of maintaining your character’s emotional arc.

Do you have a unified method for these roles? Your Hallmark heroines often share a certain charm and sense of humor.

I’m glad there’s a charisma to the characters that people seem to enjoy. The challenge is to continue to work in a space where people trust you, and they know that they can hand you material, and you’re going to do something great with it and not fall into the same old habits. That’s the fun juggling act.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.