I had the opportunity to preview the latest Walmart and P&G family movie night entry with a couple dozen folks from the press and Catherine Hicks (“7th Heaven” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home”). Game Time: Tackling the Past will air Saturday, September 3 on NBC (8-10 p.m. ET).
The story is about football pro Jake Walker (Ryan McPartlin, “Chuck”) living his dream until he gets a glimpse into the past he ran from. Drawn back to his ole stomping grounds when his dad (Beau Bridges, “The Fabulous Baker Boys”) has a heart attack, he gains insights into the reality of his past from his mother (Catherine Hicks). The unexpected family reunion brings him face to face with his brother, the local high school football coach (Josh Braaten, “Semi-Pro”). The pressures mount as Jake’s contract goes into the open market and his brother’s team faces their greatest battle, forcing Jake to decide if looking out for himself and a guaranteed contract, or supporting his family in a small town is the most rewarding decision a person can make.
The film was well made considering its short four-week production cycle. Although some of the camera work was too shaky for my taste. However, the wonderful layers of multiple messages about integrity and selfless behavior quickly made me forget about the lower budget production values. Not to mention that the stars really kept the show alive and moving.
Our group conversation with Catherine was salted throughout the evening, so I’ve taken certain liberties to edit it down and tweaked the questions to simplify the conversation for an easier read.
CJ: Hello Catherine.
CH (Catherine Hicks): Hello.
CJ: Before we start, I have to compliment you again for your work on 7th Heaven.
CH: Thank you so much! It was a special show, I am glad it lasted so long. I hope you enjoy this as much!
CJ: What attracted you to this role?
CH: The tenderness and concern of the character, the comfort of this role and the fact that Beau Bridges was already cast!
CJ: It sounds like a good character and Beau helped to tip the scale in you signing on.
CH: I choose roles by the character, but I love Beau Bridges, so I was super excited to accept this role!
CJ: The film has a real family feel to it. As the mom in the film, did the cast ever feel like a real family, drama and all?
CH: It was fun to have the whole cast together at the dinner scene. I like family drama because we all deal with drama in our families every day!
CJ: You did a great job making your character seem like a good mom in your first main scene.
CH: Thank you for the kind words. I hope that I am as good of a mom in real life!
CJ: Some actors draw from real life. How did you prepare for this role?
CH: As an actor, I went back to class last year, as I felt that I had kind of gone empty… so my new technique is to be more real and to go to places in my own personal life that correspond to the characters.
CJ: What could you draw from in life for the hospital scene?
CH: When my daughter was little, we were in the hospital with her and I remember the times waiting to see if she was ok. Gratefully she was, so the hospital scenes in the film helped me relive what it really feels like rather than just pretending.
CJ: And what did you draw from life for the football scenes?
CH: I love football. I went to Notre Dame and chased the QB… I loved games and wanted to be a cheerleader… I loved to watch.
CJ: What was it like for you and other actors in the football scenes?
CH: I love the lights on the football field and the feeling you get. There is nothing like it! I am excited because Ryan in this movie is a real football player and was a star in high school, so he personally understands the life, and ups and downs of athletes!
CJ: What did you think about Ryan’s performance?
CH: Ryan is a really great actor… sometimes a big jock does not come across as a good actor, but I was very impressed with Ryan’s acting. He was very still, very real, like a good actor!
CJ: The shooting schedule was very quick and shot on location, as I understand it.
CH: It took 4 weeks to make this film in North Carolina. I fell in love with Wilmington.
CJ: The film is loaded with some great messages. Is there one particular take away you hope the audience catches?
CH: I hope that audiences come away with families going through things being able to listen to them and feel where their pain is… that parents are not afraid to give their opinion. Today, parents often try not to assert their opinion to be cool.
CJ: Great messages aimed at families are desperately needed.
CH: Networks should know that they would have a huge family audience if they would put another show on like 7th Heaven… Hollywood doesn’t always realize how much people want these. Every decade audiences want another family show, but the industry doesn’t always see this.
CJ: You’re very right, and sounding like a mom.
CH: In real life, I was a very nervous mom who didn’t have my first child until I was 40! To this day, my daughter intimidates me!
CJ: With you drawing your mom role from real life and your daughter living a successful life at USC, you seem to have achieved being a good parent.
CH: Being a good parent is a talent… not everyone possesses that gene/talent. Hopefully one in each married couple does! My husband is the good parent in our family – I am the one who is very lovey and fun. I am just not good at the discipline part!
CJ: Speaking of parents that don’t have the gift, who played Dr. Tate?
CH: Dr. Tate is my new best friend! Gary Grubbs is a very funny man and his wife is too… We just laughed a lot and walked around Wilmington!
CJ: I’m sure the humor helped you stay fresh for the dramatic role you played, especially toward the end.
CH: In that last scene, I know how hard it is for my son, and think that my husband should go easier on him… I think parenting is a constant adjustment of the “sail” and the wind, in whatever is coming… sometimes you go the other way of the parent to see it from a different angle. I am definitely on Ryan’s “side,” opening up to me in ways that he can’t to his father.
CJ: Your dialog in that precise moment was right on the money.
CH: Yeah, I loved that line as well. We have to go to the “root…” Many of our problems often go back to the parent/child relationship – there is always a cause to the pain. Sometimes a psychiatrist can help in that journey.
CJ: It definitely hit home, which must have been a challenge.
CH: The most challenging in this role was to have the emotional scenes be credible and not melodramatic… Just real.
CJ: I thought you did great.
CH: Oohhhh, thank you! You made my night!
CJ: This film seems to be more of a male-based story.
CH: I agree about these films focusing on the male journey… women are often relegated to “wife” roles, but on 7th Heaven, the women were always strong. I am able to be strong in this role as well. I am sure we’ll see some future family night films where the focus will be more on the women.
CJ: Your character was indeed strong, bringing balance to this great family focused story.
CH: Great you feel that this film is a winner! Are you going to watch it when it airs on Sept. 3rd?
CJ: Aren’t I supposed to be the one asking the questions?
CH: I like interacting with journalists during the screening, it feels very comfortable.
CJ: Okay then, I hope my entire family watches it.
CH: Yeah! Mine will watch too!
CJ: And, what about your fans?
CH: I know my fans very well and it seems like a big family that just hasn’t talked in a while!
CJ: What do you hope your fans will take away from watching this film?
CH: My takeaway on this, is that this story is about “going home” and it can relate to any profession or race. We all just need to forgive, that is the basis of this story… to dig deep and forgive.
CJ: Your character seemed to be the glue that keeps things together long enough for the other characters to catch on to what’s important.
CH: Women are good at being the “glue” in a family and seeing the fine print. We are more emotionally based and grow up “analyzing” problems and feelings… I think we can help in that way… Men can also help us lighten up. What is the main lesson that you are going to take away from the messages in this movie?
CJ: That integrity is more powerful today than ever before and doing what’s right brings joy that overflows to others.
CH: Great comments!
CJ: This is a powerful scene.
CH: This scene shows a good “Hollywood” story… its not about money, fame and fortune corrupts, and it affects the family and especially the children. I believe that you need to be anchored in a strong faith tradition, so that you know that the meaning of life is about more than material things. We are here for a purpose and it’s a spiritual one.
CJ: Without giving a way the story, how did you approach this other scene?
CH: This was the first scene I shot, coming out of the football stadium… I wanted to be “terrified” like the kid was lost in Los Angeles, but the director assured me that in their town it wouldn’t be that dangerous.
CJ: What a cute kid with the perfect line and Katie Carr playing his mom is great.
CH: She is so refreshing…. I loved this girl in this film! I like the way they cast the role of Sarah… its not a stereotypical love interest…. Not just the sex symbol, etc… I love that they cast a British actress.
CJ: I can tell you enjoyed being a part of this football story?
CH: The thing about sports… it brings cities together and unites people, which I think is really good…. Sports bring people out together to root for their teams… together!!!
CJ: You did a great job in this film. Thank you for taking the time to chat with us.
CH: Thank you!
Here is a little behind the scenes sampling.