Easter Sunday is also premiere day for Hallmark Channel's newest original series, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, created by Touched By An Angel executive producer Martha Williamson and focusing on a foursome of postal detectives changing lives through mail thought undeliverable. The leader of the group is Oliver O'Toole, played by Eric Mabius, who joined BFTV on Friday to chat about his new role.
"When I first read the script and I got on the phone with Martha, there wasn't a doubt in my mind," he told us. "That was part of the reason I wanted to be a part of this. Martha left the business to raise [her] girls, and I knew if something was worth her coming out of retirement for, I wanted to be a part of it."
"Oliver has created his own version of the world," he explained. "He's constructed this universe where he tries to deliver undeliverable mail. The idea being that whether it's a week late or 20 years late, they always arrive just on time for when these people need these letters. It's that hint of magic that we had in Touched By An Angel, but I feel like it's much more evolved because of the life experience that Martha has had."
In addition to the pedigree of the show, something else that drew him to the project was the strength of the material. There are many different aspects to the series, and many layers to the character of Oliver. "There's everything for me to play as an actor," Eric said. "The thing about Oliver is he's a very morally upright guy and he wants to see the people around him do well. But he also has faith. He doesn't try to hide the fact that he's a man who believes in a higher power, and that sort of powers him as he goes through his day."
The character begins to unfold as Oliver's beliefs - as well as his heart - are challenged by new team member Shane McInerney, played by Kristin Booth, who "really shakes him up" upon her arrival. "Shane is a person who doubts everything all the time," Eric continued. "The tension between these two is wonderful. A lot of the scenes where that conflict comes into play are really strong scenes, because they're more complex."
"Over the course of the show, Oliver is trying to figure out whether his wife is coming back or not. She left him to go to Paris, and he is still holding out hope...It's very hard for him to face the dissolution of his marriage," he explained. "There are scenes where he's starting to feel things for Shane and he's very upset with that, because he doesn't know what to do with that or where to put it."
Aside from the developing relationship between Oliver and Shane, also keep an eye out for an upcoming episode where Oliver has to give a eulogy, after the team helps reunite someone with the remains of their parents. "The scenes that I don't expect to hit me like a ton of bricks do," Eric told us.
Best known from his starring role as Daniel Meade on ABC's critically acclaimed Ugly Betty, Eric is a versatile and charismatic actor who's become a familiar face to TV viewers. After that show ended, he was one of the stars of the BBC's sci-fi drama Outcasts, alongside Game of Thrones' Liam Cunningham and Spooks' Hermione Norris. "It was a totally different thing from Betty," he said of the project. "Outcasts, I'm very proud of. Liam Cunningham, I just think he's just one of the most formidable actors out there."
He also played Peter Caldwell in the second-season Scandal episode "Boom Goes The Dynamite," which he also enjoyed. "I'm proud of my turn on Scandal," he continued. "I think Shonda [Rhimes] is a brilliant writer and I think Kerry [Washington] is a brilliant actress, and I think that show is really good."
Although he's accomplished a lot on the small screen, there's nothing Eric is more proud of than the work he's doing right now with Signed, Sealed, Delivered. "This is the first time I've ever had a job where talking about it doesn't feel like work. I've never been more proud of anything I've done," he said. "This show is not preachy. It's got something, really, for every age. The comedy is broad, but the drama is present."
And don't let the channel the series happens to be on deter you from tuning in. "We keep saying it's not your mother's Hallmark anymore. This show is really rebranding the network, and it's a really exciting time to be a part of what's going on," Eric told us. "I challenge someone to watch the show and not come away with something useful."
Signed, Sealed, Delivered premieres tonight at 8 PM ET/PT on Hallmark Channel (check your local listings for specific channel). For more on Eric, you can follow him on Twitter (@Eric_Mabius).