Katie Lee Biegel will admit that her novel Groundwell getting the Hallmark movie treatment is a “welcome surprise” since she published the book all the way back in 2011. The movie, premiering August 21 at 9 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, stars Lacey Chabert and Ektor Rivera.
“When I first heard that Hallmark wanted to start production on the movie, Lacey was the first person that I thought of,” Katie told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY. “I really wanted her for the part because I’m such a fan of hers. I think she’s so fantastic in Hallmark movies. I think this is like her 32nd Hallmark movie. She’s just so good and so believable, and I think she’s a great actress. Ektor really embodies Ben, and the two of them when you see them on screen together they have great chemistry.”
The film follows a chef named Emma who travels to Hawaii after a personal and professional setback. During her stay, she meets Ben, a handsome, reclusive surf instructor whose lessons help her to regain her footing.
The cooking show host serves as an executive producer and also makes a cameo in the film. “It was an unexpected surprise,” Katie admitted. “I was so excited when they asked me to do a cameo. I play myself so it wasn’t a real acting stretch. I was a little nervous that I couldn’t remember my lines, but our director was great. She made me feel comfortable. I was probably my most nervous when I had to film a scene with Lacey and just talk to her one-on-one because most of it was me judging a culinary competition so I felt like, hey, I can do this. But when I had to give a little bit that wasn’t just criticizing food I got a little nervous.”
In the journey of taking Groundswell to the TV screen, changes have been made. “It is quite different in the movie version than the book version, but I kind of liked that,” Katie noted. “I felt like my characters have taken on a new light and a new dimension. It’s fun seeing how the screenwriter shapes my original story to make it appropriate for a TV movie. I just love it. When I went to Hawaii, it was all pinch-me moments all day long of feeling like I can’t believe this is happening and watching it at all.”
When The Kitchen co-host watched the movie for the first time, it brought her to tears in the best way. “I cried. I was sobbing. I just felt like I couldn’t believe it really happened,” Katie told HollywoodLife. “It was honestly a dream come true, and when they do the last line of the movie — I won’t say what it is to ruin it for anybody — but it just made me burst into tears. I’m just blown away by the whole thing.”
The film features a number of gorgeous food dishes. Katie got the chance to reunite with a Top Chef alum in Groundwell. “I talked with the writers about different dishes to feature and then my co-judge in the scenes of the culinary competition Lee Anne Wong from Top Chef,” Katie revealed. “I know Lee Anne from years ago when we were on the first season of Top Chef together. So when it was time to cast my judge, I immediately thought of Lee Anne since she lives in Hawaii. So we put her in that role and Lee Anne actually stepped in and did a lot of the food styling for the movie. She’s such a talented stylist, so she stepped in and styled the dishes that were Lacey’s and made them look phenomenal.”
When watching her book come to life on TV, Katie hopes that viewers take away that “you always have the power within you. You just have to find it. It’s always there. Surfing is really a metaphor for that and learning to get up on your own to see you’ve got that leash that attaches your ankles to the board, so if you fall off, you can pull yourself back up. I think it’s really about how sometimes losing everything that you thought you wanted is how you find exactly what you need.”
Katie has published several cookbooks over the years, but Groundswell remains her only fiction novel. She told HollywoodLife that she “would love to write another novel or a screenplay. That’s something that I really hope that I do down the line. I feel like my brain cells aren’t quite all there after having the toddler running around. I haven’t been able to come up with another story but maybe once she starts school, I can write a novel again.”