Ashley Williams is very excited about her new Hallmark Channel movie Two Tickets to Paradise. Not only does the movie serve as the grand finale of the Summer Nights programming for the network as it prepares for Christmas in July, but there will also be a special screening of the movie for fans attending the RomaDrama Live fan convention.
Williams has appeared in several Hallmark Channel movies, predominantly Christmas movies, so the chance to film a romantic comedy in Hawaii with fellow Hallmark star Ryan Paevey was a very special treat. Outside of Hallmark movies, Williams is known for her role as Victoria on How I Met Your Mother and as Jeannie Gaffigan on The Jim Gaffigan Show.
What to Watch had a chance to catch up with Williams about what it was like bringing Two Tickets to Paradise to life.
First of all, based on the previews alone it looks like you had a blast making Two Tickets to Paradise.
Ashley Williams: "We had such a good time making this movie! Um, you know, I've always been a fan of Ryan’s and getting to work with him was amazing. But then to do it in Hawaii, come on. It was incredible."
I’ve talked with so many Hallmark stars who say that Hawaii is their dream filming location.
"Holy cow, it’s the jackpot! Listen, when Hallmark calls I drop everything. I just love working for the network. I love making Hallmark movies, but most of the time we are in Canada, you know, and it's pouring down rain or, you know, maybe we're in Calgary or North Bay, Ontario, and I'm so happy to do that, but getting to be in Hawaii, you know, of all places, it was such a dream come true."
So many Hallmark movies are filmed outside of the seasons they’re set in; Christmas movies shoot in the summer and summer movies are usually shot in the winter and early spring when it’s cold, so being able to film a summer movie in a sunny destination is the sweet spot.
"It might be hard to pull off snow in Hawaii. I do Christmas movies, you know, so it's usually me in the summertime in a wool red coat and a hat, which I'm happy to do, but it was fun to be wearing shorts and a t-shirt for a Hallmark movie. It was such a fun little break.
"And I also have to say just tonally, you know, the feel of this [movie], it was so much fun to play within the romantic comedy space. So much of the time in Christmas movies we focus on the family and the heartfelt and the meaning and the love. This was about adventure and summer fun. It had such a different tone and even more than all of that, it's a straight-up romantic comedy. It just makes you laugh, makes you feel good and is a really good time that gets you out of your living room and into the Hawaii sun."
Hallmark Summer Nights movies seem to hit a little harder these days. Last year I’d talked with several Hallmark actors about how we’ve all been cooped up for so long and we were just starting to go out. Being able to escape by turning on the television and watching movies like this one helps people who need that escape, or who might not be able to get away right now.
"I love that you said that. It's funny, I don't know about you, but I've had a little bit of trouble adjusting back into a highly social, adventurous life. I used to be a big-time social butterfly. And when COVID hit, we all sort of burrowed in and I have to say, it took me a second to get back out there, you know, or I get back out there, but then 20 minutes later I'm exhausted. I'm like, I’ve got to go home. I have to get to bed. Like, what am I doing? So watching this movie and experiencing the adventure that these two go on is a really nice way to dip your toe in while still being on your couch as you're easing your way back out of the COVID haze, you know?"
Tell me about your character, Hannah, and how her story unfolds.
"So Hannah is an actuary, which essentially means she constantly calculates risk, which obviously leads to a very exciting eventful, fearless life. Not! She is living within her safe boundaries and that has basically affected every choice in her life from — obviously — her job, but also her relationships.
"She has planned this wedding. She's basically been planning the wedding since she was a child. She gets stood up at the altar and she gets her heart broken. And it is not according to her plan. It is a high risk that she had not calculated. Hannah decides to go on her honeymoon alone and kind of veer from her plan, her rigid plan. There's a handsome surfer dude (Paevey) who also happens to have been stood up at the same time.
"And so they both agree to go on their honeymoons together and then they end up having some adventures together and some feelings develop. I’ve got to say just the inciting incident of this movie really kicks off a tonally light, fun, feminist perspective where you've got a woman going, 'Screw it, I don't need love in order to go on a fun trip. I'm just gonna go on my fun trip.' And then of course she falls in love because, duh, have you seen Ryan Paevey without a shirt on?
"It's just such a fun movie. You know, the writers did such a good job. It's fun when you're working on material and you can tell that the writers had a really good time while they were working on it. That's just my favorite."
There’s so much to be said about how a lot of people feel uncomfortable going to restaurants or movies by themselves, particularly women. I love that Hannah decides that this is probably the worst thing that’s ever happened to her but she’s going to make it into something positive.
"Yeah. I love that. You said it. I mean, I don't know about you, but I remember in my early twenties when I first graduated from college, feeling that fear. Like, "I can’t go to dinner by myself!" I remember talking to my mom about it and she said all you need is a book. You can show up to a bar, a restaurant, anything, just bring a book and, worst case, pretend you're reading , you know?
"She's totally right. And it's fun to go out by yourself and who knows who you'll meet or what the bartender will be like, or who will sit down next to you, you know? So who knows, maybe this movie will kick off a whole bunch of women who decide to go take vacations by themselves. I think it's awesome. I'm all for it."
Like you said, we’re all navigating the re-entry into society, and this is like getting training wheels on before you make the full leap. Maybe going out by yourself is part of that.
Absolutely! Why not?
What was it like filming in Hawaii?
"Even in the most gorgeous place in the world, there's always hard moments when you're working long days. These movies are shot very fast and everybody has to work together as a team to get it going and mistakes happen. And there's always stressful moments. What was awesome was back on day one, I had this water bottle that my husband got me at Christmas. It was like a special water bottle. And the electrical department crashed a table into my water bottle and it splintered into a million pieces. And I started crying.
"This is day one of shooting. And I kind of had to shake it out. And I was like, it's fine. It's fine. But it was almost like the first day of summer camp when you're like should I just go home? Like, what am I even doing here?
"Ryan was there and he goes, "Look," and he pointed his finger at the ocean that was like right there [in front of us]. And I was like, oh yeah, it's beautiful. You know, like it was such a great moment. He would do that throughout filming.
"Ryan's really into nature and like critters and bugs. And he knows all these different birds, like he knows the name of every bird. So it was really helpful sometimes in moments of stress, he would be like, 'But look at this caterpillar I found, you know, or, 'Look at the moon right now.' It was such a great way to sort of center myself in the midst of stress."
What are some of your favorite memories from filming?
"Oh my gosh. So many, so many. There was this one moment…. If you talk to Ryan, he's gonna die! You have to bring this up with him. You know, in every Hallmark movie, there's the moment — spoiler alert—when the two leads kiss towards the end of the movie. So we were shooting that scene, that moment. And the very first kiss is always awkward. You know, I've been hanging out with Ryan for a couple weeks and now I have to kiss him on the lips. Like it's weird, you know? So we are like, all right, well, we're just gonna do this. We both have a mint and take a sip of water and they call action.
"And so I go and I kiss him on the lips and I didn't realize it, but my left hand reached around to what I thought was his back but it was his ass! I touched the top of his butt and he stopped the kiss. He pulls out of the kiss and he goes, 'Did you just touch my ass?' And I was like, did I? And I stopped and backed up like six feet and was like, 'Well, your ass is very high.' The whole crew was dying, laughing, because everyone heard him say it. And we laughed, the whole crew laughed for like 15 straight minutes. We just could not stop laughing. It was hysterical. I was so embarrassed. He basically just made fun of me nonstop about that for, well, he's still making fun of me about it.
"One time Ryan found this little frog as they started rolling. He was like, 'Uh oh,' and I asked what he was going to do. He said he was going to hold it in his hand with his hand closed around it. So for one whole take he has a frog in his hand. I would love to reach out to the audience to see if anyone could spot which scene it’s in. He’s just holding it in his hand the whole time."
You’ve done a lot of Christmas movies and now you’ve filmed in Hawaii. If Hallmark called and offered you a chance to pick any filming location for your next movie, do you have a dream filming location in mind?
"I keep seeing girlfriends of mine go to Ireland. Ooh. I would love to shoot a movie in Ireland. You know, like I loved Presence of Love, which was filmed in Cornwall, I think. I would love to do something like that, that’s sort of romantic, like Earl Gray tea and a cardigan kind of feel.
"You know, it's so cool as actors, there's this Hallmark 'cast' now, you know, there's this core group of performers and it's fun to see all of us in all these different situations. Like one day Nikki DeLoach is riding on a horse and the next she's solving a mystery with Andrew Walker. And it's kind of like we're all in [repertory theater], you know, we're doing Shakespeare's canon and it's fun to see us all in all these different genres. This summer I'm in Hawaii in a tank top and maybe next fall I'm in Cornwall in a cardigan I just love it. It's just the greatest job in the whole world. I feel so lucky."
You’re so right about there being a core group of Hallmark actors. It’s always fun seeing everyone step outside the kinds of roles they’re usually associated with. Like in Ryan’s last movie he played a father for the first time. And now we get to see him in a romantic comedy, which is another change.
"Yeah. And he's done a lot of period stuff. Like he's done more period movies. I've never done a period Hallmark movie, you know? So it's cool. He's really super versatile that way. It's fun to see all these different colors, you know?"
Oh absolutely. It’s like Aaron Tveit played a prince in one of my favorite Hallmark Christmas movies, One Royal Holiday, but then he played a serial killer in the last season of American Horror Story and that kind of twisted my brain a bit.
It shows range, I think.
"Yes, I love that! I can’t wait for Ryan to play a serial killer in a Hallmark movie."
Well, there’s always Hallmark Movies and Mysteries! Even if it’s just a cameo.
"Just showing all of our colors. I love it!"
I was so excited to see that Two Tickets to Paradise is screening at RomaDrama Live It’s such a great thing to be able to screen the movie with your fellow actors and all of the fans at the convention.
"It's honestly a really good movie for that, too. It's a very fun movie. It will be a very fun movie to watch with the group, you know? It's lively. And I can't imagine a better group than our fan base, which is so supportive, so vocal, so fun. They like to laugh at us. They like to watch us cry. They like to cry with us. Our fans are just the greatest. So I'm really excited. Erin Cahill said she’d sit next to me. I'm excited to just sit and watch it with everybody. It's going to be so cool. I can't wait."
What do you look forward to the most when you’re at fan conventions?
"Our fans are so awesome. I interact to some degree on social media, but getting to put names to faces… I remember the names in my social media and then somebody will be like, 'Hi, I'm Caroline'. And I'm like, 'You're Caroline, Caroline. Hi!'
"These are real human beings, you know, as opposed to just a name. So it's cool to be able to actually look in people's eyes and find out what makes them tick a little bit. It's sort of these universal things, and getting to have those direct relationships with the fans is really, really cool. And it’s something that I've never really gotten to do before, except for when people come up to me, like at the zoo when I'm with my kids, you know, so it's a great opportunity to really get to know people."
It also speaks to the power of the Hallmark community that there are so many people who want to get together and celebrate these movies and the friendships that have been defined by sharing this common fandom. It’s very powerful.
"Yeah. I totally agree. I totally agree. And also they fans are just some of the nicest people I've ever met in my whole life, just across the board. I did a convention in December and each person was kinder than the last. Everybody was so genuine and just really loving and kind. I like kind people."
Now that Two Tickets to Paradise has arrived, where can we see you next?
"Well, after Two Tickets to Paradise I have a TV show coming to Apple TV [on July 29] called Amber Brown. It's a wonderful story. It's based on the Paula Danziger series of YA novels. I play the aunt of a young girl who is dealing with a split family and the early days of junior high school and stuff like that. I get to play her, her funny aunt Pam. And it was the greatest honor for me. It's A show created by Bonnie Hunt, who wrote and directed each episode. Getting to do that job was so much fun. I'm really looking forward to that."
Two Tickets to Paradise premieres Saturday, June 25 at 8 pm ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.
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Sarabeth joined the What to Watch team in May 2022. An avid TV and movie fan, her perennial favorites are The Walking Dead, American Horror Story, true crime documentaries on Netflix and anything from Passionflix. You’ve Got Mail, Ocean's Eleven and Signs are movies that she can watch all day long. She's also a huge baseball fan, and hockey is a new favorite.
When she's not working, Sarabeth hosts the My Nights Are Booked Podcast and a blog dedicated to books and interviews with authors and actors. She also published her first novel, Once Upon an Interview, in 2022.