To call Eric Mabius an actor would be a gross understatement. Anyone who has ever watched Signed, Sealed, Delivered knows that Eric doesn't just play Oliver. Whether series episode or film, from the moment he appears on screen, Eric becomes Oliver. It's that ability to become his character, and the deep responsibility he feels towards how he brings that character to life, that place him among some of the greatest storytellers on television right now.
Talking to him, it's immediately clear why Martha Williamson chose him to play her lead. Eric and Oliver lead by example, they both possess a deep responsibility not only towards their work and those with whom they work, but also to participate in "something greater than oneself," consequently "putting [their] heart and soul into doing [their] job well."
"[Katrina is] not hot topic news anymore, what happened to all those people---and the numbers have been slowly building up in New Orleans---but what happened to those people who were displaced and can’t afford to go back, or don’t want to go back, or don’t have anything to go back to. So it’s a particularly personal story line to me because of how much New Orleans means to me. I owned a home there for quite a number of years. I got married there. I actually used to go see Keb’ mo’ perform. It’s so funny that Martha had a pre-existing relationship with Kevin Moore (Keb' Mo'). I used to go see him in concert in New Orleans and he’s such an amazing performer. I know he had such an amazing time [on set] because we had such a mutual respect, and he really jumped in with both feet and committed to the process...it was really a joy to work with him and share what we know, and learn what he knows. It was pretty remarkable."
Eric's passion for the kind of storytelling Signed, Sealed, Delivered allows him to do was evident as he spoke at length about the showing continuing in 2017.
"It’s so exciting the fact that Hallmark expressed their faith in what we’re doing by picking us up for another season. It’s really exciting because I would like to think it’s a logical decision because these characters---their stories---haven’t been told completely by any stretch. But I’m really excited to continue doing this. It’s our small way of trying to evolve the network because people tune into for certain things, and get those certain things through the course of our show. And there’s a special place in Hallmark in recognizing that there’s a need that’s not being met by so many networks nowadays.
My respect for [Hallmark] continues to grow...they just want to tell good stories, and real stories, and Martha is just so good at that."
Indeed, Martha is a master at her craft---so much so Eric "has kind of been ruined for all other TV experiences...because [Martha] finds a way of intertwining real life in everything that we do, and there really aren’t a lot of writers out there that do that to such an extent. So much of what she writes resonates because so much of what she writes is based in real life. I know a lot of people who watch the show don’t really get that. It adds weight not only to the story line...it makes our jobs easier, but also there is a lot of responsibility."
"It sounds kind of cheesy and old-fashioned but the whole idea I can hold my head high and be apart of this show knowing I am trying to at least put something good into the world with all the pain that everyone is in, and all the suffering that we see. In a little way I know that Martha is trying to combat that and we go to work with that attitude. We’re not solving cancer, but we are trying to solve a kind of cancer of the heart and psyche that seems to be spreading everywhere. And it’s not sappy and it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, because what makes its way into our show is completely based in real life."
And in case you were wondering, it won't be long until they begin tackling this very important task. In fact, they have already started. "We sat, actually after the TCAs at brunch the next day...and started knocking around ideas for the next season. It’s really exciting. I can’t wait to get to work. We start in a couple months but that’s not soon enough for me." POstables can completely relate!
"It’s so funny now because we get to these places where when you don’t know a character so much or you’re stumbling through their journey as an actor playing that character---it’s a different process. But now we bring so much to the table and we even have the table read not so much as us playing the characters...the job that Martha does makes the scenes act themselves. There's so much weight and at that same time there’s so much buoyancy and lightness and excitement and we’ve been playing these characters for years now."
"So much of that whole process felt like theater for us because [the vault] was a real space...and it was sort of infectious and transformative in a way what [Shane and Oliver] were going through---the potential of them losing one another and losing their lives brought about a type of clarity. I would just sit and write what was in my guts, and [what I wrote] was along the lines of thanking [Holly] for the time that [he and Holly] had...it was a letting go that I think I liked. I think Oliver liked the idea of who Holly was and what she represented, but he really had nothing in common with her and he really has the guts to put that to rest and put that aside and move forward in an unencumbered way, embracing who Shane was and who he would like her to be in his life. But, again, I only got a certain number of minutes to write and only got a few paragraphs in, I think…" Those paragraphs led to at least two pages, and now an answer that can put our questions to rest while proving just how dedicated Eric is to authenticity, even if the letter did return a little less definitive in From Paris With Love.
And for those of you wondering about why it's "taking so long" for ShOliver to get together, Eric has a great answer that will have you thinking twice about how quickly it happens. "I know everyone wants Shane and Oliver to get together but it's really the process---like in life---the things that keep us apart or keep us from being honest with ourselves and the people that we pine for in the workplace or have had a crush on for years and not going about this in a real specific way can leave the audience feeling cheated. So I don't think it’s an intentional keeping the two apart, but it is an intentional exploration of how difficult life can be." That's a journey I'm willing to continue taking, and can't wait to see where that journey takes them in Higher Ground and throughout 2017.
My sincerest thanks to Eric, whose thoughtfulness, insight and global perspective were not only refreshing, but inspiring. Fortunately, it won't be long til we chat again, as Eric has agreed to what I'm calling a Post-Delivery interview. Can't wait to see the film and chat again once I've emotionally recovered!
All In For Eric,