Benjamin Hollingsworth may be “bad boy” Brady on Virgin River, but in the August 13 Hallmark premiere, Romance in Style, he’s Derek, who’s gearing up to take over a magazine business from his father. Little does he know, it’s also where he’ll fall in love.
It’s at the high-profile fashion magazine that the “Prince of Publishing” meets confident and passionate aspiring plus-size fashion designer Ella (Grey’s Anatomy‘s Jaicy Elliot). He enlists her help to learn the ropes of the fashion business — and little do they know, they’ll also find love.
Below, Hollingsworth discusses the film’s important message and why you, too, will fall for Ella and Derek.
What appealed to you about the movie and the role of Derek?
Benjamin Hollingsworth: When the project came to me, I didn’t really hesitate to say yes because of the message of body positivity. I had my third child, my first daughter, about a year and a half ago, and if I can help her grow up in a world where she can look in the mirror and feel beauty and love regardless of her shape and size, then sign me up for that because I think especially with society and social media, we’ve put women, and men as well, on this pedestal of needing to look a certain way. That creates an unrealistic goal for a lot of people and the outcome is self-doubt, negativity, and the lack of self-love. I think it can also cause mental health issues that stay with people for a long time.
This movie departs from that. You have a leading lady that doesn’t have the same shape and size as most of the leading ladies you see on television. And Jaicy Elliot — who plays the lead, is a phenomenal actress from Grey’s Anatomy, and is a wonderful person — brings so much to this role. And in the movie we learn that size 16 is the most common size for the American woman, and yet they’re just not depicted on camera and specifically within the fashion world. This movie addresses that in a very positive way. It’s not necessarily scolding or trying to diminish the world that exists, but simply bring light to the world that doesn’t, which is inclusivity within fashion in regards to body positivity, and creating a healthier image out there.
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We have Candice Huffine, who’s a plus-size model, she does a cameo in the movie. I personally hope that this movie resonates with women and men out there who might be self-conscious or have body image issues to help them look in the mirror and know that they’re valued and they’re beautiful, regardless of whatever shape and size they are. I think that goes a long way for mental health and it goes a long way for making the world a better place. So it was an easy decision for me to do.
The movie is so straightforward with the messages.
Yeah, it is. We’re not trying to skirt around anything. We’re getting right to the point. And I applaud Hallmark for taking this step to do this because it’s new for Hallmark. This is a departure for them and I think Hallmark has really wonderful lead actresses of all different ethnicities and they come from all different walks of life. But to specifically address having the leading lady not having to fit into a certain figure is really, really important. To have that represented on screen is also really important. Up until now we’ve only really seen larger women and men as comedic roles and they don’t get the roles that are drama or they don’t get the roles that are romance, and if they are, they usually are secondary characters. And I think it’s about time that that changes.
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I think it’s time that we don’t need to also have one person be a certain size and the other person be the exact same size. I think that that doesn’t exist in life. I think that you can have people, again, of all ships and sizes. Love has no rules. And I think that’s one of the great things about this. When you watch the movie, the character of Ella, she kind of sells herself short in that respect, being like, “Well, the seventh most eligible bachelor in New York is not really my type of guy,” and thinking that he’s out of her league, which really, in fact he’s not. And he’s got a big crush on her, not just because of the way she looks, but also because of her confidence and her ability to stand up for what she believes in and her honesty and all the things that really he hasn’t found in women in his life so far. That’s really cool.
Talk about working with Jaicy and Derek and Ella’s relationship. I loved it.
Thank you. Jaicy and I got along right away. One of the best things about this movie was the cast was so tight immediately. We all went out for dinner on night one and we went out pretty much — because we were shooting on location — just about every night after work, running lines together over dinner. It was really nice just to connect with each other at the end of a long day and we all sat down and had the discussion at the start about that there’s a bit of an obligation here to not just make a good movie, but a great one because of the messaging, because of the ability to really affect a lot of people’s lives in a positive way. And so we all worked really, really hard on this movie to try and make it the best we could and in the sincerest way possible and something that hopefully can stand the test of time of as being a bit of a classical Hallmark movie.
What do you think will make viewers fall in love with their relationship?
I think it really comes down to a relationship that’s outside the box that we’re used to. It’s a relationship that starts out with conflict in a very honest way and then sort of blossoms into admiration because of that honesty. That same unfiltered, unadulterated honesty turns out to be the thing that draws them to each other. And the idea that if we are our own unfiltered self, if we can just all be OK with being who we are and exposing that to, opening that up to the people we love, that we’ll find more love, that they’ll be more available to us because of that. That’s the overall message of the film: Be yourself and love will find you. You don’t necessarily need to seek it out.
Romance in Style, Movie Premiere, Saturday, August 13, 8/7c, Hallmark Channel