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Exclusive Interview: Sandra Brown and John Schneider Talk “White Hot”

“It’s a lot harder than you think to run away from your past.”

Sometimes, a series of events arise and bring you face to face with a life you thought you’d left behind.  In this moment, an age old question presents itself – can you really ever escape your past?

That’s a journey that Sayre Hoyle discovers herself on in Sandra Brown’s thrilling novel, “White Hot”, as she navigates not only her emotions following the death of her brother, but a town and a family she walked away from years ago – hoping never to return to again.

White Hot was incredible on paper, so much so that it’s been turned into a film premiering on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries this Sunday, April 17th! From romance to deceit and deeply woven family secrets – “White Hot” has it all and Sandra and John Schneider (from Dukes of Hazard, Smallville, and The Haves and Have Nots) did everything right to make sure you’ll be affected by the story long after the movie ends.

We got lucky enough to chat with Sandra herself alongside lead actor John about “White Hot” and what to expect when we tune in this weekend.

“What about [the novel] White Hot made you think this would also make a perfect film?”
Well there are two elements to this story, which either one or the other would have made a good film, but putting them together I think made a very good film.  Especially one suited for Hallmark Movies and Mysteries.  It combines a kind of crime novel – trying to solve a murder mystery – with a strong antagonistic family feud that has caused a 10-year estrangement between members of this family.  When they’re brought together for a funeral of one of the family members they’re forced to confront all of the things that caused the hostility in the first place.

“There’s a quote in the trailer – ‘It’s a lot harder than you think to run away from your past’ – is this something you want people to take away from both the novel and the film?”
It truly is because it addresses the heroine, who’s name is Sayre and she had left home because of an argument with her father 10 years earlier.  She has stayed away on purpose and she wants nothing to do with her family.  The only other family member she loves dies at the beginning of the movie and she’s forced to go home.  It does bring home the question, can you ever really go home again?  She goes back a completely different person than she was when she left.  All the problems remain the same – all of the issues she has with her father are still there so they must address them.”

“John, you are playing a ‘ruthless’ father in “White Hot.” You previously played Jonathan Kent, Superman’s father in the series “Smallville” – which you described as being “the best Dad depicted on television.” What is the difference and how did you feel playing both ends of that spectrum?”
“I really enjoyed this a lot.  There’s an assumption that when people are good that they’re just born that way.  You don’t really have a tendency to want to dive into their character or past and figure out why they’re good.  However, when someone plays a ruthless sort of guy, a scoundrel, a powerful man who throws his power around like Lionel Luther in Smallville there’s a tendency to want to say ‘Gee what makes him tick? He’s so complicated and complex’. So the assumption is that the character is more complex and as an actor it’s a lot of fun to sort of find all those pieces and what makes Huff Hoyle tick.  He doesn’t think he’s a bad father, he thinks he was a great provider.  It’s hard to be a great provider and a great parent at the same time because being a great parent takes time away from building an empire, and building an empire takes time away from being a great parent. So it’s far more interesting to play this kind of a character – and hopefully, when people watch this movie Sunday night they’ll go woah I didn’t know Schneider was that complicated.”

Sandra and John agreed that while Huff was trying to build a family, he just went about it the wrong way.  John says that Huff’s family liked their cars and address, however, saying, quite frankly, there is a price for everything.

“John do you bring anything of yourself into these characters, specifically Huff?”
I do, I’ve raised children and there’s great joy in raising children and also great frustration.  The first time someone tells you no and you’re the parent and you think wait a minute I couldn’t tell my parents no.  I bring that, whenever I play a parent – be it The Haves and Have Nots, Smallville or White Hot on Sunday night I bring that – trying to figure out where the conversation went south.  We have that element in White Hot. I bring the frustration of parenting and I also bring – I’m 6 foot 3 – and there’s a certain power that comes out of Huff that I think I bring as a parent.  There’s a great joy in bringing life to a character, especially one that’s so well fleshed out – you read the novel so you understand how fleshed out he was – all I had to do was try to put what was on the page on the screen.”

“Leading into our next question; some actors – if a movie is based on a book – won’t read the novel first.  Did you read White Hot before filming?”
“I did, I read most of it because I only got it the day before we started.  I read most of it in the hotel and loved it.  There was a lot of information there that I was able to glean and use once we started filming the next day.  Then we [John and Sandra] met a couple of days after that started and I was excited about that because I’m a fan [of Sandra].”

Sandra states that she is also a fan of John and was so excited when she got the text that they obtained John to play Huff – he got the nuisances of the character and didn’t play him in just one dimension, you could sense the excitement in her voice as she described John transforming into Huff for this role.

“So did you think as you were writing that you’d like John, did it come up during casting or do you think that way at all when you’re writing your novels?”
“When I’m writing a novel I really don’t cast it, I try to avoid that because when I set out to write a novel, a character walks in and sort of introduces him or herself to me.  They’re their own person, I don’t impose someone else’s face onto them and I live with these people for a long time.  I wrote White Hot about 12 years ago so I was presented with a list of actors that were being approached or that they thought might play the role well and John was my number one pick.  When I heard we got him I was very excited.  When I sit down to write the book I really don’t cast it as a director would cast a movie because I see the character as they are themselves.”

“You sort of spoke on it just then, but do you ever use traits of friends or family members when writing your characters?”
“I have to say I never do, most of the people that I know are fairly boring.  

John pinned in with a “present company excluded” statement in which Sandra laughed and said she’s got a wealth of material know that she knows John.

I try to write about characters that are larger than life or very ordinary people that are suddenly thrust into extraordinary situations and watch how they behave.  I think the worst advice you can give anybody is to write what you know because most of the time what they know is not very exciting.  I want to write about things I wish I knew and people I wish I knew because wow wouldn’t it be interesting to know this person.  To me, I’m my first reader, I have to entertain myself first.  So you know, I look at my neighbor on this side and my neighbor on this side and they’re not doing anything particularly riveting [laughter] and so it’s much more exciting for me to make them up.”

“The lead actress in this film, Shenae Grimes-Beech, will be recognized by viewers for her roles in “90210” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” As will Sean Faris, for his roles in “The Vampire Diaries” and most recently, “Pretty Little Liars.” John, you’ve created your own studio and film mentorship program – how are the opportunities for television actors in this day and age important for the future of film and television?”
“Young folks today have a great opportunity because there’s so much need for content and television shows, movies, web series, webisodes – all sorts of things that didn’t exist 20 years ago.  What we do at this studio is have people shadow different jobs; boom operator, sound mixer, gaffer, cinematographer – we have them watching what’s going on so they can learn more and more about this particular part of the industry that they’re interested in.  When I wad doing Dukes of Hazard I was a sponge soaking up as much information as I could possibly get from the actors and all the technicians on set.  I’m trying to pass some of that on to young folks out there. I hope they recognize that opportunity.  Check out JohnScheniderStudios online and see what you think!”

“Now you mentioned Dukes of Hazard, So – looking at Bo – do you think he would have been able to see through the deceit in this film or would he have been a sheep with the wool over his eyes?”
“Oh no, Bo Duke was far smarter than anyone gave him credit for.  He was raised well by uncle Jesse, I think Bo would take Huff aside and say ‘Dude what are you thinking, what are you thinking here? Lighten up.’  I think Bo could see through it, I really do.  Bo had a great line at the beginning of the first episode of Dukes and he said ‘I choose this life, not because I don’t know any better but because I believe it is better’.  That’s where Bo came from, so which way did they go is what he turned into, but that’s not what he started.”

So What’s coming up in the future for both of you?
John: “Well Sunday night is certainly the most important – Hallmark Movies and Mysteries at 8 o’clock central and then I go back to do the next season of the Haves and Have Nots”
Sandra: “I just turned in my book, called Sting and it will be out on August 17th – so yeah, new book! Always working”

It’s clear from the dynamic between Sandra and John – and both of their excitement and passion for “White Hot” that the film is a must see!  Check out White Hot on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries this Sunday at 8 o’clock central for what’s sure to be a talked about film!

Written by Ashley

Writer, coffee drinker, mother.