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

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!