Silverstone Lights 'Candles'
Actress shows off her dramatic side for CBS' holiday story
A generational icon for her hit 1995 comedy movie, the 30-year-old actress wanted a chance to show her dramatic side. She found it in "Candles on Bay Street," a new Hallmark Hall of Fame drama CBS airs Sunday, Nov. 26. Based on a K.C. McKinnon novel, the movie isn't literally a holiday story, but its theme of community and self-sacrifice makes it an appropriate and moving bookend to the Thanksgiving weekend.
Silverstone plays candle maker Dee Dee, whose return to her quaint hometown with her young son (Matthew Knight) startles Sam (Eion Bailey, "Band of Brothers"), the childhood friend who always has loved her.
His wife (Annabeth Gish, "The X-Files"), also his veterinary partner, understandably feels jealous -- until the reason behind Dee Dee's reappearance becomes clear, prompting other feelings to come to the fore.
Also featuring veteran actress Polly Bergen ("Commander in Chief") and one of television's most emotional parent-child scenes this year, the film was directed by John Erman, an Emmy winner for the 1983 TV movie "Who Will Love My Children?" Michael Bortman, who wrote that drama, co-authored the new film's teleplay with former "Cagney & Lacey" writer-producer Jonathan Estrin.
"The story was just so lovely," Silverstone says. "It really captured my heart, and I just knew I wanted to tell it. I knew I could make the character what they needed her to be. For this kind of story, it's really important that you like the girl; I thought she needed to be this really great spirit who comes into other people's lives."
"Candles on Bay Street" also attracted Silverstone through the reputations of director Erman, who also made the landmark 1985 AIDS drama "An Early Frost," and the Hallmark organization. "All these actors I admire so much have done Hallmark Hall of Fame films," she says. "I think Hallmark does such quality pictures, it seems like a venue where you can do something really different. This is something no one has ever seen me do before, for sure."
For Silverstone, part of that is playing a mother for the first time. "I just love this little boy," she says of co-star Knight. "He's 12 years old, and he's such a good actor. I think he's going to do really well. I'm not a mommy in real life yet, but I loved being one [in the movie]. It was also really important to me, because of the story, to play a kid-friendly mom; she's firm with him, but also a kid with him, too. She's so young herself, she literally grew up with him."
Lots of Silverstone's fans grew up with her as amateur matchmaker Cher in "Clueless," and she claims amazement at the impact of the update of Jane Austen's classic "Emma" -- reconfirmed by the recent release of a new DVD edition.
"I'm always surprised when kids know the movie; because they're so little, they couldn't have been there when it came out. I guess it's just one of those things that's going to be around forever, in a way. It's going to keep getting passed on. It touched teenagers, but it touched adults, too, which is really cool."
Though she hoped for a longer run than she had with another matchmaking saga, the 2003-04 series "Miss Match," Silverstone hasn't soured on doing weekly television. She's now filming the NBC midseason show "The Singles Table," casting her as one member of a group of unmarried friends.
"I still work really hard," she says, "but it's not the same as on 'Miss Match,' when it was all me. It's just so much fun; I really get excited to go to work. The writing is really sharp, better than most film scripts I've read."
Better still, the series keeps Silverstone close to the home she shares with her spouse of 17 months, rock musician Christopher Jarecki. "When I took the job, I was deciding between that and two films," she reports. "Both films were really interesting, but they'd take me away, and I'm in a place in my life where I want to be at home with my husband and my dogs. I've been away for so long."
That travel has encompassed filming "Candles on Bay Street" in Nova Scotia and the theatrical adventure movie "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker" in England.
"I just pick my jobs as they come, based on whatever is going on with me at the time," says Silverstone, who remains a strong advocate of animal rights and the vegan lifestyle. "I did a play with David Mamet in Los Angeles this year, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Only so many people saw it, but in my world, it was huge.
"Some people might tell me it's not very smart, but I've never sat down and thought about what's good for my career. I just look at what inspires me, what gets me excited."