This weekend Hallmark Movies & Mysteries shifts gears a little with the premiere of Color My World with Love. While there's still a little mystery, at its core the film is a beautiful story of a protective single mother named Emma (Erica Durance, pictured top right) faced with becoming an empty nester after her 22-year-old daughter Kendall, who was born with Down syndrome, finds love and decides to get married. Kendall is played by Lily D. Moore (Never Have I Ever), who also was born with Down syndrome.
The film marks another step in Hallmark's expansion of diverse and inclusive storytelling, and that made Durance excited to sign on. "I jumped on board as fast as I could with this," she beamed in an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "It's nice to tell a story from a different perspective, and to tell a different kind of love story.
"I do see Hallmark doing that more and more, expanding our idea of what love is, and how it helps that everybody feels they're seen, represented and can relate," she continued. "During filming, Lily's mom Natalie would come up to me crying. She'd be watching from another room, and say, 'This is my life. I've had this exact conversation. I have these feelings.' My character has a lot of conversations with her own mother; Natalie related to those, too, and at times needed a break. She gave me the best compliment when she said, 'A lot of parents are going to watch this and finally feel they're being represented, seen and they can be part of something in a different way.' We all cried a lot on this set because it was so special."
Emma has spent Kendall's entire life protecting her, and while she's more than capable of navigating her own life, letting her do it is something with which Emma grapples. As a mother, Durance related to the protective side of parenting and to the bigger picture of letting a child go. No matter the challenges, children need to experience a full and happy life. "Even if you don't have a child [with] Down syndrome, with parenthood there are always questions," she said. "When do we let go? When do we let independence happen? When do we let go of our views, and our scars from love and loss, and not project [those] onto our children, and let them have that experience of a first love? We know there may be a time [for] heartbreak, but you can't take away having that full life experience.
"With first love, there's so much hope, and so much beauty, and those are things [a child] needs to experience," she added. "You want your child to love in full color. That's one of the things I think is so relatable to viewers, regardless of where you're at in your life. Let somebody experience their experience, and then learn from each other. The theme throughout this whole movie is the idea of trying to see something from someone else's perspective, then let it change your vision of the world."
Working with the film's leads, that in addition to Moore features David DeSanctis (who also has Down syndrome) as Lily's fiancé Brad, did change her world view. "I had so many interactions with them both," she explained. "But with Lily in particular, she'd be completely present and open with her emotions. So many times, I'd look over and see she was starting to cry. I'd go, 'Lily, do you want to talk about what's going on? Are you, okay?' She'd say, 'Erica, I'm just emotional. I'm so happy as it was always my dream to be the lead of a Hallmark movie and now I am.' The fact that she can have that emotion and be so comfortable in it is such a lesson. [People] get used to repressing things, or not valuing them, so Lily helped remind me as I navigate my life, to be centered in my emotions. If you need to have a cry, have it, move past it, and go to the next thing. Lily would do that, and then went back in and did her next thing. That's something really beautiful I took from [her]."
According to Durance, she was immediately captivated by Moore's energy. "I just thought this girl is so special and so open about her life," she said. "That's the tone she brought to the set as the lead."
One thing the film doesn't shy from is exploring society's assumption that being a little different makes you less capable than anyone else. "We do see that in the film," Durance noted. "I spoke with Natalie about it, and one important thing we wanted to embrace is that people often just say the first thing that comes into their head and aren't coming from a place of meanness or judgment. Natalie explained how she doesn't face every situation as a massive insult, and Lily was open about those situations happening in her life. But she doesn't live in all the worries and things that can distract you. She lives in the joy of right now, and our set had joy, so I think that is a big take-away."
With Durance's world colored by Hallmark's expansion in telling diverse love stories, she's continuing to do that with a new Christmas movie she just wrapped. "All I can say is it's [another] look at love from a different perspective," she laughed in closing. "I picked it for that reason, as it's fresh, beautiful and inspiring, and I think people are going to love it, too!"
Color My World with Love will be telecast Sunday, June 12, at 9 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
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