Hallmark Movies and Mysteries is introducing a new signature mystery with Redemption in Cherry Springs.
Rochelle Aytes stars as Melanie, a lauded journalist who returns to her hometown, and Keith Robinson stars as a new detective in Cherry Springs named Jake.
As is often the case with mysteries like these, when tragedy strikes someone near to her, Melanie cannot sit idly by, and soon, she and Jake are trading information on a case very close to her heart.
Both actors have worked with Hallmark before, so getting them interested in joining Redemption in Cherry Springs wasn’t hard.
Rochelle said, “When they offered me this, and I read the script, it was just a character that I hadn’t played before. And I got to just kind of be a bad-ass, and it was a lot of fun.”
Keith, too, was intrigued by the idea. “I thought it was kind of different for a Hallmark movie, which was exciting for me as far as I’ve never done a mystery,” he said.
Melanie felt compelled to leave Boston, and her destination of Cherry Springs allowed her to tie up some loose ends after her mother’s death.
“Melanie Abrams is very brave,” Rochelle said. “Braver than me. I mean, putting myself in harm’s way is not my thing. But she cares so much, and she’s so passionate.”
Keith said that Jake is at a turning point in his life after being on the beat in New York City and losing his wife, a fellow officer, who was killed in the line of duty.
“I think we meet Jake when he’s trying to find a new lease on life and try to change his environment for him and his son. I mean, at the core, he’s a great dude. He’s a good cop, family man, and he’s just kind of really trying to find his footing and survive without his partner now, without his life partner,” Keith said.
Rochelle enjoyed so much about Melanie, especially since Melanie was into boxing, which meant that Rochelle could get into boxing, too.
And it turned out to be a family affair. “As a matter of fact, my husband plays a trainer in the movie. And there’s a scene where I go, and I end up kind of boxing with him for a brief minute. “
Rochelle said that although she’s a physical person, boxing at first felt “weird” to her because she didn’t know what to expect.
“Before I put the gloves on and I was just like doing the punches, I felt like such a wimp,” Rochelle laughed. “I really felt like, what am I doing? And then I put the gloves on and started boxing. And I swear, it was like night and day.”
Although this is a one-off movie, Melanie and Luke have full character arcs which are surprisingly open-ended.
Rochelle said that Melanie came home to tie up loose ends, but her plans changed when her best friend’s husband went missing.
“[Melanie] had no intentions of getting involved in this missing person’s case. So what I enjoyed was the journey she took from feeling quite guilty about something that happened in her past and not wanting it to affect this case and then deciding to, kind of hesitantly, but deciding just to go 100% and help the detective, Jake Collins, help find her good friend,” Rochelle explained.
“And that journey and coming out on the other side in the end and feeling like, ‘you know what, it wasn’t my fault what happened.’ And that’s a whole other thing. Yes, she has a beautiful arc, which is not completed, by the way, but I enjoyed that arc.”
As for Luke, Keith said, “[Luke] starts off thinking that he’s going to get away from the pace of the city, and he finds itself immersed right back into a case. But this time, I think he’s taken a new approach to it.
“He’s taking time to smell the roses and raise his son. And I think he kind of develops a real sense of caring. And this is the first time that he’s met someone who reminds him of his wife. So I think we kind of see the softer side of him opening up as the story progresses.”
Keith and Rochelle have shared the same career orbits, although they had never worked together. Seeing each other out and about allowed them to play well against each other, which was a benefit to their characters and their new friendship, as well.
“[Jake] becomes the lead detective on this missing person’s case,” Rochelle said. But when she sticks her nose into the case, “he’s a little annoyed with me but begins to appreciate my knowledge and my intuition. And so, we began to actually work together and follow this path, which there are twists and turns until we uncover the truth.”
However, Keith recognizes something deeper in their relationship as he believes that Jake can’t shake thinking about his wife while working with Melanie.
Keith said, “I think she does and says certain things that have the like-minded energy of his wife, which I think makes him even more zealous in protecting her and his new environment.”
Redemption in Cherry Springs also reunites Rochelle with Frankie Faison, and she couldn’t be happier. “We did White Chicks together. He was a detective. I don’t even think I ever met him.”
Rochelle continued, “But more recently, last year during the pandemic, I shot a pilot called The Lost Boys, and he played my father. And I got to meet him, and he was just so sweet and funny … and so talented. So yeah, I mean, we just picked up right where we left off. And now he’s my uncle, not my dad.”
Redemption in Cherry Springs is begging for the series treatment, and it would be great if the ratings determined a future was in the cards for follow-up films.
Rochelle and Keith are up for that challenge, but they aren’t just hanging around waiting for a phone call with good news.
Rochelle returns to SWAT as Shemar Moore’s love interest, so we can look forward to seeing her frequently on that CBS drama.
Keith, who always seems busy, has several irons in the fire, including his music. “I actually have a song featured in Redemption on Cherry Hill,” he said. “It’s called, Don’t Be a Stranger. It’ll be in the opening scene, I believe, at the carnival.”
Keith also has a single out right now that’s getting radio play and an album to release in 2022.
He’s also done a recurring role on a new show on Peacock called Bust Down. “It is a comedy, [so you’ll] see me in a totally, totally different light.” He’s very excited for people to see it. “I love it because it allows me to exercise my muscles and kind of show people different sides.
“I have a lot of different sides of me. So this comedy is something that I’ve never done before. And I had probably the most fun I’ve ever had, just really being someone that people wouldn’t expect me to be.”
But that’s not all, folks!
On the Hallmark front, he’ll be in two Christmas movies this season, as he’s starring with Ashely Williams and her sister, Kimberley Paisley-Williams, in their double-feature titled Christmas at the Madison Parts 1 and 2.
“It’s based on a true story. So I think that’s a really heartwarming story concerning the two sisters. They’re great people, and it’s a real testament to them giving back and paying it forward.”
In the meantime, you can catch Rochelle and Keith on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Sunday, September 12 at 9/8c on Redemption in Cherry Springs.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.