Exclusive Video Interview: Sense and Sensibility Star Dan Jeannotte on Creating His Own Edward

Sense and Sensibility Adapted from the Jane Austen classic, following the loss of the patriarch of the family and the rules of inheritance, the Dashwood women’s new financial circumstances force them to leave their home and move to Devonshire. Elinor (Deborah Ayorinde), the practical and eldest of three daughters, falls for Edward Ferrars (Dan Jeannotte), while her younger sister (Bethany Antonia), the middle child, falls for the exciting John Willoughby (Victor Hugo) while spurning Colonel Brandon (Akil Largie). When things don’t go as they expect, each sister learns to accept the other’s approach when it comes to matters of the heart.

Star Jeannotte recently spoke with SciFi Vision about working on the film, including his wife’s love of Austen, whether he’s worried about being compared to Hugh Grant, costumes, who he would have liked more scenes with, and much more.

Watch the interview below, and be sure to check out the film, tonight on Hallmark Channel as part of their Loveuary with Jane Austen programming event.

SCIFI VISION:   To start out, how familiar were you with the story? 

DAN JEANNOTTE:   Yeah, I was familiar with the story, mostly from having watched the 1995 Emma Thompson, Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility. Also, actually, my wife’s a big anglophile. She loves Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, different people writing in the kind of Regency romance genre. So yeah, Austen was just sort of around in my house, I guess you could say, but I guess I mostly knew Sense and Sensibility from the ‘95 Ang Lee version, possibly also from listening to some audiobooks of it in the car with my wife and my kids. 

What was it that made you decide to take it on? Maybe that was a big part of it, I’m guessing. 

Sense and Sensibility It was actually, because, yeah, specifically, my wife loves Austen. She also loves Hugh Grant, and I was playing the same part. So, I was like, “Get out of here! When could I ever get the chance to do that really? Like when could a Canadian guy get to be in a Jane Austen adaptation?” So, it was a no brainer. I was so excited at the opportunity. 

So, I have to ask, did she give you any tips or tell you something you had to do, or anything like that? 

Yeah, she told me to write to Hugh Grant and ask him what to do. That's what she told me. [laughs]…She was just like, talking to me about posture and stuff and the way they held themselves back then. She was just also super excited for me to be able to get to set and get to dive into that world. And yeah, on her recommendation, once I got the job, I started listening to an audiobook version adaptation of it, and at the same time, I started reading the novel, and I rewatched, the movie from ‘95. So, I kind of had like three different versions, or three different adaptations, I guess, swirling in my head all at the same time. 

And now you have your own version. 

Yeah, exactly. 

You're on a horse at one point for at least a little bit of time…[were] you familiar with horses? Was that something you had learned to do? Or maybe you weren't really on a horse, and that it was all faked? 

I was on a horse a little bit in the movie for real. I had done a little bit of horseback riding for a show that I did a few years ago called Reign, which is about Mary, Queen of Scots. For that I had taken some horseback riding lessons. So, I had to call on that a little bit. And I had a little bit of time to practice with my horse co star, or one of them, I guess; there were two different horses. But yeah, it was one of those things like often happens as an actor; you need to very quickly look like you know how to do something that you really don't know how to do. So, I think they just edited it in such a way that I look competent, even though I'm, you know, just fine. I'm just hanging on. 

Is there anything else that you learned while you were there that you had to get used to or anything? 

Well, what was what was really cool about this production was that Hallmark was really interested in getting the details right, in terms of all the period decor and dress and manners and interactions. So, they had Vanessa Riley, who's an author and historian, she was the historical consultant on the movie, and she was there almost every day. So, we could ask her questions, like I [could] say to her, you know, “In this moment, what's the appropriate kind of bow that I would give for someone that I know or someone that I've just met?” And “What about holding hands here? Is that really unacceptable at that time?” You know, that kind of thing. So, it was really fun to get to actually talk to someone who knows their stuff, isn't just kind of, “Well, I guess this is what happened back then.” She's done the research; she knows. So, that was really fun to get to ask those sorts of questions. 

I was talking to somebody not that long ago from Belgravia [The Next Chapter]. Does wearing the costume make you feel stiffer and like you're kind of automatically I guess, in that posture, to some extent? 

Yeah, totally. The costumes do a lot of the work for us - for me, I won't speak for anyone else. I feel like I put the costume on, and I barely need to act now. It's just all there. You put it on, and you do stand differently, because in some cases of the snugness of what you're wearing, or the many layers, and then just just looking down and seeing yourself in this clothing, you kind of are automatically standing up straighter. This isn't a outfit to slouch in; this is something that you really present yourself in. And they just looked so great. I loved the costumes on this. They did such a great job, beautiful things they created just for this movie. I felt like [I] was stepping through a portal every time I got dressed. 

Can you talk about working with Deborah? 

Oh, she was wonderful. We didn't know each other ahead of time, and we had a great rapport on set. She's very, very good. She's got a great presence, very locked in and calm when we're working together. She was really interested in these little nuances of the relationship between Edward and Elinor and what's what's really going on in these moments. They have a bit of a bumpy relationship, and we wanted to make sure that we were both telling it like it's a believable love they have, despite their hardships. Also, I remember she was very interested in making sure that we weren't presenting it like Edward had done no wrong at all, because he keeps a secret from her, and that's not okay. I remember having some great conversations with her about, like, how you could forgive someone without necessarily glossing over what they've done. So, I think we actually might have altered some lines here and there - sorry, Jane Austen - to make sure that we were kind of putting across that right kind of attitude, I guess. So, yeah, I thought she was so great. She's so fun, professional, really great to be in scenes with, and very like conscious of…doing the best job possible. She was great. 

Obviously, this isn't like a series where you're coming back, but I'm going to ask you anyway. Who is somebody that you would have liked to have had more scenes with? 

Yeah, I would have loved to have had some scenes with Akil, who played Colonel Brandon. He and I got along really well in person. I also just thought his kind of somber, solemn Colonel Brandon would have been fun to kind of play up against as my slightly more, I don't know, nervous, Edward. Also, I mean, I did have a scene with her, but I think just one scene I had with my mother, with Mrs. Ferrars, and she was wonderful. She was so good, and I wish we had had more to do together. And Edward Bennett played John Middleton, and he was really fun. We only had one dinner scene together, I think, but I would have loved to have worked more with him. He's great fun. 

When you were talking…it made me think, when you talked about Hugh Grant and all that, obviously, there are lots of versions, I guess, of Sense and Sensibility, but that's kind of the one everybody knows. Do you worry at all about people thinking about that and comparing it? 

I mean, I think, initially, in the first moment of kind of accepting this job and thinking about doing it, it's hard not to think that there's all these wonderful versions that it'll be held up against, but once once you're really working on it, you have to let that kind of stuff go. We were aware that we were really doing our own version of it…I would say I definitely took some inspiration from Hugh Grant, because, how can you not? He's so good. But also, what's funny, is that in Sense and Sensibility, he's less the Hugh Grant that we know than from his rom-coms that kind of came after that. He's a lot more rigid and stiff and somber in Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility. So, I was maybe a little bit taking inspiration from kind of the Hugh Grant we know, the bumbling kind of awkward Brit. But at the same time, I knew I was just kind of - I'm gonna always lose if anyone's comparing me to Hugh Grant. Apologies to my wife. But you just have to kind of trust in what you're doing in your own adaptation, your own version of the script and your own version of the character. 

Has your wife seen any of it yet?… I was just curious. What did she say? 

She not an easy sell. She's a tough critic, and she really loved it. She actually really loved it. She thought it looked beautiful, and all the performances were lovely. She thought I did a good job, and I don't think she was just saying that to make me feel better. She might have been. But yeah, she did say she felt like it stood up as an Austen adaptation, because she has seen literally all of them, and she felt like it stood up; it held its own. 

It works as its own thing. Do you have a favorite scene from the film? 

Oh, that's a good question…There's a scene where it's just Deborah and I, Elinor and Edward, are sitting on a couch. It's after my secret has come out, and she's still kind of being good to me. She's kind of offering to help me out. I love that scene. I just thought it was really layered. There's a lot going on there. I kind of have this love for her that I can't quite express in the way I want to. It’s a simple scene in a way, but, yeah, I really enjoyed it when we were working on it. Then, when I saw the finished piece, I thought, “Yeah, that's a lovely little piece, kind of in the middle, before you know whether they're gonna have their happy ending or not.” 

So, other than your wife liking what you're doing,
 what do you look for…in particular, in a role in general? 

Well, to some extent, it's really enjoyable to get to go from one project to another, and I think a lot of actors feel this way. It's really nice to be able to kind of swing from one genre or mood to another. So, in some ways, what I look for is just something [different] than what I've been doing lately, and more specifically in a character. You look for some complexity, something that's not - It's always fun to be able to play someone who's not what they seem to be at first glance, and really, that's most of us. But that's not necessarily how all parts in TV and film are written. It's great to be able to play someone who's a bit complicated, who isn't just - you know, those shades of grey, not just good or bad. The shades of gray. That's always something that I appreciate. Yeah. 

Do you have anything else coming up that you can promote? 

Yeah, I'm allowed to talk about the fact that we're currently shooting season three of Star Trek: Strange New Worldsthat I have a supporting role on. So, I'm very excited to be back on that. We had to take a long break because of the strikes that happened this year. So, we're back now, and I don't know when people might be able to look forward to the episodes coming out. I have no idea; it won't be for a while still. [They have] got to put in a lot of cool special effects. But it's a great show. I'm very excited about it. I'm happy that we're back. 

Just quickly, is there any kind of role that you really would like to do still in your career that's kind of your goal, either a role or a type of role? 

Yeah, well, very broadly speaking, I want to do more comedy. I have a background in live comedy and sketch and improv and theater, but I haven't gotten to do a lot of comedy on screen, not straight comedy. So, I'd love to do some fast-paced, witty and silly comedy, and also some epic fantasy. You know, I just want to I want to have my own Game of Thrones.

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