Margaret Colin has hit the Hallmark jackpot with her first movie for the network, Three Wise Men and a Baby.
If you’re a fan, you know she starred as Tom Selleck’s girlfriend in Three Men and a Baby, so it’s a super fun callback, and her Three Wise Men and a Baby role as the mother to three of Hallmark’s top actors, is really fun, too.
Most people will be familiar with Margaret from her many other roles in TV and film. She started in soap operas at 19, starring opposite Oscar-winner Kim Hunter on Edge of Night, starred opposite Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman in the blockbuster Independence Day, and more recently had a role on Chicago Med as Carol Conte.
While we connected over Three Wise men and a Baby, I would have been remiss not to get her thoughts on her other work, and Margaret shared her memories freely.
Of her first job on Edge of Night, Margaret said she was dazzled by Kim Hunter and the “very hefty paycheck” she got for the work, nearly matching the salary her dad made as a New York City cop feeding a family of seven.
Margaret laughed, remembering her “silly” storylines. “I was a rich person who was kidnapped, and then that storyline dissolved pretty quickly, and then a movie company came to town shooting a period horror film.
“And Kim Hunter would put on plastic prosthetics on her face to look like a witch, and she tried to kill me 13 times,” Margaret laughed.
“She told great Brando stories. Back in those days, you could smoke cigarettes on sets; you could smoke inside. So on her break, she had these prosthetics on her face to make her look witchy because she was a stunning woman.
“She’d just come off of Planet of the Apes, which was a huge blockbuster film, as well. And she would smoke, but she would hold it with gold tweezers. And I was like, ‘What is that?’ She goes, ‘Oh, my roach clip?’ And I didn’t know what a roach clip was. And I went, ‘Yeah.’ She goes, ‘Marlon gave it to me.’
“It was a gold roach clip, and she smoked cigarettes with it to protect her, keep it from setting her face on fire, and to hold it away. That was her cigarette holder. And I said, ‘Oh my..’ She goes, ‘Everybody always said, How did you resist him? And I always say I didn’t.’
“So it was pretty stunning working with her. She is a consummate actress. I think my youthful enthusiasm to keep my energy up drove her a little crazy. But, oh, it was wonderful working with her. She treated me like an equal right from the get-go, and we had a lot of fun.”
Starring in Independence Day changed the fabric of her family forever. Before the movie’s release, her father would religiously watch Yankee Doodle Dandy every 4th of July.
“But what switched was that he stayed in and watched Independence Day because, well, Margaret Mary’s on it. The rest of us had our fill, but Independence Day switched out Yankee Doodle Dandy in our family lore.”
She said her son thinks that was switched in all of America. “If you were going to stay home and watch regular TV, there was Independence Day. I think it’s a great character-driven sci-fi, and people can relate to the characters and the storylines.”
Margaret also enjoyed the “empowered” roles for women and said that when she’s explaining her role in the film to children who don’t already have it memorized, she says, “I don’t strip, and I don’t die.”
She recalls working with a young Mae Whitman, who teased her on set. “I had to turn away from the camera because I would just say, ‘I am not the nanny; I’m the press secretary; I’m not the nanny.’
“And she would just come up, and sneak into different scenes and hold my hands, and she goes under her breath, she’d go, ‘Hi nanny.’ I thought she was way ahead of her time in terms of how to have fun on a movie set.”
Margaret’s Independence Day memories included Judd Hirsch, “Just put the camera on him, he made everybody laugh,” and Vivica Fox, as the two bonded, sharing their first big budget film.”
Of Goldblum, she said, “he could be a little tricky” with his experience in front of the camera and with sci-fi elements (his previous sci-fi hit was The Fly a decade earlier).
Mostly, she was just happy to get such a great part. Constance Spano harkened back to the television she’d grown up watching, such as Bewitched and That Girl, “where they were the story, they loved the stories, they told the stories, the stories were about them, but they also had a lot of dimension,” she said, calling them the Katharine Hepburn roles.
“I mean, I was certainly not the lead in the movie, but a lot of those qualities of standing your ground and still being feminine. I think it was a really good opportunity for that.”
Constance was one of the movies that defined her career, but she also counts playing Jacqueline Kennedy on Broadway amongst those roles, Lifetime movies because they were driven by women, and a CBS Movie of the Week she starred in with Time Matheson, Warm Hearts, Cold Feet.
Margaret’s recurring role as Jane McCabe also ranks pretty high, “Veep was pretty hysterical to come on and swear with the big kids, wear the tight clothes, and be terrible. So I guess it depends on what decade you catch me.”
And this Saturday, Margaret shares the screen with Andrew Walker, Tyler Hynes, and Paul Campbell (who co-wrote with Kimberley Sustad) for Three Wise Men and a Baby.
She was enticed to do the movie after reading the script. “What rarely happens is when you read the stage directions and the setting up of each scene, what they’re singing and how they’re dancing is not written in dialogue. It’s what I call the Samuel French. So it’s the stage directions and the descriptive passages.
“When I read the script for Three Wise Men and a Baby, it was funny. I mean, I burst out laughing at how the writers were describing what people wore, where the location was, what they maybe could or could not afford, and in asking the reader to be patient.
“I mean, it was very funny, and that never happens. So that made me intrigued. And then I liked the tenderness and openness of these guys towards a vulnerable newborn baby that they just opened their heart to.”
Margaret also appreciated that her character, Barbara, had a healthy relationship with a contemporary. Generally, she didn’t know what to expect because she didn’t have a broad familiarity with Hallmark, but once she landed in Vancouver, “it was kind of dreamy.”
She sure didn’t expect working with Andrew, Tyler, and Paul to be such a pleasure. As she shared news of her latest adventure, she was asked if she’d be working with a Hallmark hunk. So I said, ‘Oh wait a minute. Let me ask him to put his shirt back on, and I’ll ask him if he’s a Hallmark hunk,’ she laughed.
She’s interested to see if it’s as funny on screen as she thought it was on paper and during filming (it is!), especially after we chatted about the honor she had working with three of Hallmark’s best, a first for the network.
“We had a great director that the guys actually chose and asked for. Terry [Ingram] was wonderful and moved things along. They had a full plate, though. They had to shoot an awful lot of stuff in one day. It’s a very fast schedule, which, again, I didn’t have to worry about because the part isn’t gigantic.
“So I would come in and shoot my one or two scenes and then go tour Vancouver, which was heaven. And the crew was lovely and had a lot of laughs, and Vancouver’s really easy to travel around.
“I had been there with my husband years before but hadn’t been in a long time. So I really kind of fell in love with how beautiful it was. And, of course, the Canadians are so nice.”
Margaret found the people lovely, and she learned a lot from her experience traveling around a bit.
“It was wonderful to learn as much as I did about indigenous people in Canada because there were at least three people that I got to know, women who did my makeup, the woman who drove me; they were both from different tribes in Canada.”
Having a baby on set was like icing on the cake. “Oh my goodness. Oh, they could barely pry them out of my hands. I was like, ‘I’ll see you later, fellas.’ Oh boy, such adorable babies and forever, forever in strangers’ arms, forever. Take after take, swaddled within an inch of their lives.
“And one day, one of them was teething, the other time, they were all giggling and smiling and now happily going from stranger to stranger, which just doesn’t happen, so it was lovely.”
In one scene from the movie, Margaret’s character and her three grown sons are all in the same hilarious scene. I’ve seen all three of them together in one space, and they enjoy every minute of it, so I wondered how they were together on set.
“So, as you mentioned, they’re part of the Hallmark family, and several of them have worked together, but never all three of them. But they’re all three buddies, and their level of clowning was full of repartee, really fast, and usually not at anybody’s expense.
“And also they worked their butts off to make the comedy and the film work.
“So they were really committed, very, very much into it. There was no aspect of phoning it in. It was like, well, what’s the funniest thing we can come up with? What’s the roof we should play on? And yeah, the dinner table takes, that they just went on.”
Margaret said the longer the scene continued, the more she got into it, taking them to task, and everyone was laughing at what the Hallmark executives might think. “I enjoyed them. I have three brothers in my life, and I have two stunning sons in my life.
“So the witty banter and the repartee between males is something I kind of treasure. I just call it, ‘Are you going to do that guy stuff,’ because I adore it. So I really admired their work ethic. I thought they were very funny.
“They also did something really sweet; they were like, ‘Okay Margaret, so tell us about Harrison Ford. What was Brad Pitt like? “And Like Father, Like Son, ‘How was Dudley Moore?’ So I was looking at him, going, ‘What did you just Google me?’ He goes, ‘I googled you a long time ago, but I really want to know these stories.’
“And they were fascinated by the stories. So it felt like an old-school 1940s movie where we were, in between takes, learning about each other’s lives, and they wanted to know my movie stories. And they were very receptive, and they were very funny.
“But when they were working on the boys picking on each other, it was really good. It was really good. And it was all character driven. It wasn’t ego-driven. ‘I’m going to get the last line. I’m going to get the best take. I’m going to…’
“Nope, nope, nope. It was character driven. It was on the page, and they went from what was on the page to as best as they could heighten it. And I admired it. They got something really cool going on.”
Despite her pleasure in filming the movie, Margaret said she wants to see how Three Wise Men and a Baby goes over before she begins considering if she’d ever do it again.
“But I think I would have no reason not to because the level of the script that I was asked to play with, and it just depends on how it all comes out if everybody’s work is reflected as well as my experience was on the set.
“And the themes of the movie are pretty positive, and they’re not schmaltzy. I mean, they’re adorable. It’s a flashback to Three Men and a Baby. But those guys were, I mean, Tom Selleck was adorable. I mean, they were really, really cute. Ted Danson was. They were just so freaking sweet.
“So the passionate equivalent of [Selleck and Danza] singing Goodnight Sweetheart and the guys doing their silly dance. I mean, I think that’s how they transformed it.
“I watched them make up that dance, and it was like it was hard work and clever, but they weren’t trying to split the atom. It wasn’t the most serious thing in the history of television. But they worked. One would create a move, and they created the choreography and practiced and did it themselves. And I admired that they really cared.
“So yeah, I’ll be honest, where everybody cares that much and works that hard, when it’s all character-driven, yes, please. Yes, please.”
Margaret will be hosting a viewing party in her apartment to celebrate the occasion, and you can get your first look at her Hallmark debut when Three Wise Men and a Baby premieres on Hallmark on Saturday, November 19, at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.