Interview: Rachael Leigh Cook stars in Hallmark movie 'Summer Love' August 20

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A sign that Atlanta is becoming more established as Hollywood South as we enter year eight of the sweetened tax credits to movie and TV production companies: actors are starting to buy homes here.

Actress Rachael Leigh Cook nowadays spends much of her non-work time in Atlanta raising her two young children. Why? Her husband Daniel Gilles has been working in town the past three years shooting "The Originals," which is entering its fourth season on the CW.

They have been renting in Atlanta in places like Candler Park and North Druid Hills and are considering purchasing a place. She had her daughter Charlotte at Northside Hospital in 2013. They are about to sell their home in West Hollywood.

Cook and I met this morning at one of her favorite coffee places Inman Perk. "I love it here," she said, noting this was her second cup of joe in less than 12 hours there.

She came to see me on behest of the Hallmark Channel, home to weekly, low-budget Saturday night films that are meant to make you smile and feel warm and fuzzy. (The opposite of Lifetime's weekly Saturday night films, which often involve stalkers and 'Single White Female' types.).

After years of doing darker, indie films and a three-year stint as an FBI agent on TNT's "Perception," Cook wanted to indulge in her cheesier romantic side. So after years of being approached by Hallmark, she finally said yes to star in one of their films. Originally dubbed "Summer Intern," it's now dubbed the less specific "Summer Love."

Cook plays a widowed single mom with a 12-year-old daughter. Working on her accounting degree, she lands an internship at a high-tech company where she struggles to fit in. But of course, she falls for one of the tech dudes.

"I liked the writing," she said. "I responded to her humor and optimism."

In a way, she's going back to what made her a star: that delightfully sweet high school comedy "She's All That" from 1999 starring Cook, Paul Walker and Freddie Prinze Jr. (Whenever she hears the movie's signature song "Kiss Me" in a Rite Aid, she half wonders if she's being punk'd.)

"It's my first foot back into romantic comedy," she said. "I really wanted to put something positive out there. I know it's a cliche to say that's what you want to do after you have kids. The more the world has fallen apart, I wanted to go in a different direction. A lot of indie scripts I've been sent are about the most dark, horrible, awful things."

In summary, "my desire to be cool is constantly pitted against my actual taste. I tend toward the sunnier side although I desperately want to do no budget edgy things. But those are almost the last things I want to watch."

Cook is also executive producing and starring in another Hallmark movie currently titled "Autumn in the Vineyard." Her character in this case "is a stubborn, headstrong, inspiring vintner" who wants to take over her family vineyard but her dad resists. So she goes off and buys another vineyard and ends up working with a rival vintner. And guess what happens? This is a Hallmark movie. No need to guess. Something romantic and sweet.

She is leaving later this month to shoot the film in British Columbia. She's bringing the kids, hoping to enjoy her time up there.

Unlike a lot of actors, Cook actually thinks reality shows have been good for scripted TV. "It changed the way actors do their jobs," she said. "It's become more naturalistic. It has inspired writers to create content that's more voyeuristic. And the introduction of lower budget TV means riskier content."