Lindsay Hartley spent fourteen years on soap operas between her roles as All My Children's Cara Castillo and Passions' Theresa Lopez-Fitzgerald, and now she's getting the chance to shine behind the camera, as well. She and her real-life boyfriend, Jason-Shane Scott (ex-Will Rappaport, One Life to Live), have written several movies together, the first of which will be premiering on Lifetime on Wednesday, December 27.
Titled Deadly Exchange, the nail-biting drama stars both Hartley and Scott and tells the story of a foreign exchange student who moves into the home of a single mother, Samantha Winters (Hartley), and her daughter, Blake. The girls become fast friends until their world is turned upside down when Blake's boyfriend's dead body is found floating in their family pool and Blake becomes a possible suspect. It's up to Samantha to prove her daughter's innocence and find the true identity of the mysterious foreigner living under their roof.
soapcentral.com: So, congratulations on getting your first movie, Deadly Exchange, made. But I hear we should be celebrating more than this: You and Jason actually have three films in the works with Lifetime right now. How long have you guys been working on these?
Lindsay Hartley: Well we started working Reel One Entertainment last year, toward the third quarter of last year, and since then, we've been busting our buns writing. They've green-lit three scripts so far. For the third one, we're waiting for the location of where they want to shoot it, because it's a film that needs to be on a lake in the summer or springtime, so we're waiting to find out where it's going to go. And then we have our fourth one that we've submitted. But it's a process. We have to get notes, and we work from the log line. We submit the log line, and then it's from bare bones. But we have a great point person and we're just really blessed to be a part of that company who gave us our shot at writing.
soapcentral.com: That is super impressive that you did three within one year! How did you do that?
Hartley: Yeah! I like working. I'm a workaholic, and I like putting my energy into things. And we were filming in between! But we've been really lucky, the both of us, between the writing and the acting. We've had a really wonderful 2017. In fact, I just got back from Canada, filming a movie where I played twins, which was extraordinary.
soapcentral.com: What is your guy's writing process like? Do you sit down together? Or do you write separately?
Hartley: That's so funny that you ask that, because everyone wants to know how we work together, and I never think that would even be a question! But I guess it makes sense that it would be a normal question, how we do it. It's kind of a tricky thing, because I do about 98% of all the typing and being in front of the computer. And I say 98% because if I'm stuck on something, or if we decide to go separate for scenes, he jumps in. We usually discuss the actual story and the scenes before we sit down to write the actual scenes and the dialogue so we're both really clear about what we want to happen and why, and then if we're excited by it, we just go with it. One person will take it and grab it, more like in the zone. Or if I know a scene is coming up, I might say, "Oh, I call dibs on that scene!" And then we just do it, because the other person is like, "Great! Take it away." But it really depends. I feel like writing for me, and I can't speak for Jason, but my process is, I never ever thought I'd be a writer -- it was never something that was in my mind, and I didn't even know how! I didn't know how to use Final Draft. But I think you sort of realize, seeing so many scripts in front of you, that you've actually sort of learned it. And being an actor, I think that has helped us created good characters with backstory, because as an actor, you're always trying to figure out how to make things make sense for you. But I feel very blessed in this process, and I feel like it's very much like acting, where you're very creative. But instead of being in front of the camera and having these feelings, it's just you in front of a computer screen, having these feelings. It's really magical. You can hear the people's voices in your head as they hash out their scenarios, and I feel like it's just gotten way fast and way better as every script progresses -- and more exciting! This forth script that we're working on, I'm super excited about. I love our introduction and our teaser, and I feel like it's a good opening. You just get better as you go.
soapcentral.com: And you had no experience? You hadn't kept a journal or anything like that?
Hartley: No, but I feel like, doing these Lifetime movies, you sort of realize they're very similar to the soap opera genre. Everything is high stakes and very dramatic. And soaps are all high stakes. And I really believe that being on Passions for so long, having to recreate the same dialogue every day made me creative. Like, how do I say I love Ethan Crane for nine years? I literally said I love Ethan and I'm going to marry him the first day, and I said it the entire show. That was my first thing, and I said it all the way to the last day, over 2,000 or however many episodes it was. It was the exact same dialogue, and as an actor, it was, "How do I make this mean something so that when people are watching it, they believe it?" And I really believe that's how I'm able to write. I come up with ideas, because I was forced to be creative, and I wanted to. I love the soap opera genre. That gave me my child, my first long-term television job. I met so many amazing people, and I think soaps are incredible. You get along with your castmates, it's just a very family-oriented experience, I think the fans are super loyal, and it reminds me a lot of the Lifetime movies, that same kind of vibe.
soapcentral.com: Where did you get your inspiration for Deadly Exchange? Do you remember?
Hartley: Hhmmm, how did we come up with that? [Laughs] God, that seems like forever ago! It was just a log line, a foreign exchange student who moves into town, and the log line said something like, "Everything is going great until the daughter's boyfriend ends up floating in the pool." Because we thought, "Oh, that would be fun to have." That's how the ideas come. There's no story when you come up with log lines. Then they just said, "Okay, this sounds interesting. Can you expand?" So then we do that and we grow it a little more and they said, "Okay, that sounds interesting. Can you go further with it?" It's quite the process, but that's one that was chosen. They really liked that one, and then it grew into a story, and then we watched it come to life. And we're very lucky. We had a great cast, and everyone was super supportive. It felt kind of weird, because we didn't want anyone to be uncomfortable acting in it when we had written it. You don't really perform with writers very often. But everyone was really awesome. In fact, the girl who played Chloe, the exchange student, would ask us questions because she really wanted to do a good job with it. She was so sweet. They were all lovely people. And we were very happy to get to see the dailies, and I hope that people are affected by the story. Because that's what we want. We want people to be sucked in and be like, "Oh, snap!" So hopefully people will like it.
soapcentral.com: Is the finished product anything like you imagined while you were writing it?
Hartley: That's a good question. We had to adjust the ending for a few reasons, with production and locations and you actually have to take into consideration the logistics of everything. So we did have to adjust the ending, but I think it ended up working out okay, and we still got where we wanted to go. And more than that, we are just grateful that we got to do the death in the pool, because with the younger demographic, and I could be totally wrong, but I don't think I've seen too many instances where the younger teens get killed, so we were grateful that they were comfortable with us filming that scene. Because you know, they have guidelines and rules, so we were happy they let us push the envelope a little bit on that one, because that's kind of what makes it a little more heartfelt, like, "Oh, man, that really sucks for that family!" So everything turned really well. We're really grateful and happy that they gave us the opportunity. They're just amazing over there.
soapcentral.com: Do you have any plans to deviate from the Lifetime mold and try something new?
Hartley: It's definitely a thought in our minds, but right now, we're busy with these, and I never like to look too far ahead of what I'm currently doing. And this is so surreal. I'm super appreciative of this opportunity and that they continue to care. We submitted five ideas yesterday, new concepts for our fifth script, because we think, let's just keep moving them along. And they came back with some really nice comments. Of course you get comments, and you have to incorporate those in. It's quite the process, because the way this company works, it's automatically international, the distribution, so there are parameters and guidelines to get these stories approved. But I just am happy to be working with them and be at this place. I'm very grateful. I'm okay right now.
soapcentral.com: Is it easier to play a character you wrote yourself?
Hartley: No! You know what was crazy? I think we're going to be acting in our third movie, as well, so I'll be able to say for sure then, as they're talking about it, so I can't completely give a great answer to this question yet. But on the first one, I could not remember my dialogue! I have never had a problem memorizing before. It was our first one, and there were so many characters that we created, and it was a new experience, and it was SO hard for me to remember my character's dialogue! It was a really weird experience. I kind of feel like I won't have that problem next time, but I don't know. I thought I'd have it like the back of my hand, because I wrote it. I thought I would have it inside and out, but it didn't work like that at all. I had them all in my head, so it was a bunch of words. It was kind of funny -- and so weird! I'd like to have that experience one more time to see if it was a fluke or if that's just how it's always going to be. I don't know. I just finished this film called A Sister's Obsession, which I mentioned before, where I play twins, and it kind of happened super last minute, and I was in every scene except the opening scene, and that was a flashback scene of when the twins were young. And I was like, "I don't know how I'm going to do this!" I only had a few days [to prepare and memorize everything], and I had read the script a few times and was leaving the next day. It was insane! But I was able to memorize everything, and I'm really excited about this one, because I get to be good and bad. I get to play a good girl and a bad girl at the same time, which was cool. I think it's going to be a fun one to watch, but we can talk about that one later in life! I just filmed it, so it will be awhile before it's released.
soapcentral.com: Well, you're no stranger to playing lots of crazy roles, and I think twins sounds great! That being said, do you miss being on the soaps?
Hartley: Oh, of course! Like I was saying before, I will always be dedicated to the soap genre, and I'll always support it. It's such a part of my life. I have only love for it, and I'd love to go back, 100%.
soapcentral.com: Do you ever wonder what Passions' Theresa or AMC's Cara are up to?
Hartley: I hope that Theresa has a thousand children and she's happily living with Ethan and everyone is in this glorious, passionate life. All the families are in pure bliss. It's fake, so everyone needs to live happily ever after, right? Everyone is happy and in love. She's still casting spells, but of course true love is out winning those evil spells. And for Cara, hopefully she has settled down and found some guy in her life, because she kept kind of flip-flopping from man to man to man! Gosh! It's like, "Well, who do you love, girlfriend? Because I'm confused, as well" She was a super talented doctor, and hopefully she is back with Doctors Without Borders and taking care of a ton of people, and somewhere on the road, she met the man of her dreams and is also living happily ever after.
Be sure to catch the premiere of Hartley's Deadly Exchange on Lifetime on Wednesday, December 27, at 8PM ET/PT.
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