Gail O’Grady returns to a crime-themed caper in TV movie

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Gail O’Grady stars in “The Mystery Cruise” on the Hallmark Movie Channel Saturday.

Gail O’Grady, though born in Detroit, grew up in Wheaton and still considers the Chicago-area her real hometown. The actress and three-time Emmy nominee is starring in “The Mystery Cruise,” a Hallmark Movie Channel film, premiering at 8 p.m. Saturday on the cable network.

O’Grady recently chatted about this new project — which possibly could be turned into a Hallmark series. She also touched on how crime stories have often been featured in her TV and movie roles, plus what she misses most about Chicago.

Q: Wouldn’t you agree the world of crime or crime fighting seems to have been a big theme in the work you’ve done?

A: With the exclusion of “Hellcats,” “American Dreams” and “Hot Properties,” there is a bit of a thread of crime-related stories that have often been featured in things that I’ve done. With what you start with, you kind of see that happen a lot in Hollywood. From ‘Matock,’ one of my first jobs, to ‘NYPD Blue’ to ‘Boston Legal,’ there’s been a legal or crime thing connected to a lot of my work.

Q: Do you think you could possibly be a pretty good detective or lawyer for real?

A: It’s so funny, actors, when they give their opinion on something will say, ‘I’m not a veterinarian, but I played one on TV,’ so they think that they’ve got it down.

But seriously, I do find that world of the law very interesting.

Q: Since she was so popular — and even though it’s been many years—  do people still come up and talk to you about Donna Abandando from ‘NYPD Blue’?

A: That character connected with a lot of people. They felt an affinity to her. I think there was a strength and earthiness that people loved about her. I sure did!

Q: How do you look at acting jobs — and decide to take them?

A: I always look at a project as a whole, but I am character-driven, so I really think about roles I’m offered — hoping to find something that I can do with it that might be a bit different. I need to feel a connection, as I did with this character of Alvirah Meehan in this Hallmark project. It’s different for Hallmark. It’s a farcical, kind of madcap French comedy, with everyone running around — a movie in a movie.

Q: How do you mean?

A: Well, we’re a bunch of people on a mystery cruise — running around trying to solve a fictional murder — and then a real one takes place. I play a woman who was a housekeeper — a woman who cleaned people’s homes. Then she won the lottery, but nothing about her really changed. However, she fancied herself a detective She thinks she could be a detective because she knows people so well. But, she’s also a character who leaps before she thinks — and that can lead to a lot of tangled messes.

Q: What do you miss most about Chicago?

A: I spent about a month in Chicago with Mom and Dad this year which was great. I do have to start with the people. This sounds like a tour magazine. But it’s the people and the food and the landmarks. I miss the food most of the time.

My dad for years used to send me Giordano’s on dry ice. When I was home I got on him a bit, because he hasn’t done it in awhile. My friends in L.A. would come over and ask, ‘Do you have any pizza in your freezer?’ I’d also bring it to set — and that was always a big hit!

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