When a person introduces herself and says, “I love football,” I’m intrigued. When she starts an email with, “I love football so much I just made a movie about it,” she’s really got my attention.
Beth Grossbard is an executive producer and her latest film, “Love on the Sidelines,” premieres tonight on the Hallmark channel. The movie is a romantic comedy about a quarterback who is sidelined with an injury and hires a female personal assistant who knows nothing about football. It starts Emily Kinney (of “The Walking Dead” fame), John Reardon, and Joe Theismann.
“I read the script and I loved it,” says Beth, a self-described die hard football fan since the age of six. With an impressive list of made-for-TV movies, including “The Christmas Shoes,” Beth was ecstatic to become involved in a project that combined two of her loves – football and storytelling through film.
Growing up in Miami during the height of Dolphins mania, Beth remains a Dolphins fan to this day and partially credits her love of the game to a neighbor she had during the early part of her life. The neighbor was George Young, a former NFL executive who was the GM of the Giants and won the NFL Executive of the Year five times.
“George instilled in me a great knowledge of the game,” says Beth. “When we watched games together, we would mute the TV and listen to the play-by-play on the radio since he thought it was better.”
Fast forward several years, and Beth was thrilled to have the “Love on the Sidelines” script, written by Judith Berg and Sandra Berg, the nieces of ex-NFL coach Sid Gillman, land in her lap. Getting the movie to the screen proved to be a challenge, however, as there wasn’t much interest in a film with professional football providing a backdrop to the story line. Finally, after seven years, and the support of Hallmark executives who shared Beth’s appreciation for football, the film was given the green light.
One of the highlights for Beth was getting to work with Joe Theismann, the former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl Champion. Finding someone to play the role of Owen Holland, the father of the injured quarterback, was a challenge, as Beth knew she wanted to bring in a big NFL name and scheduling could be a problem.
“Joe read the script, loved it, and said he was in,” says Beth. “He was the most incredible human being, an amazing motivational speaker, and better than any therapist.”
Getting Emily Kinney to play the female lead was also a win for Beth.
“When you tell me I can’t do something, I will do it,” says Beth, who was originally told the odds of getting the actress for the project were slim. Kinney plays the role of Laurel Welk, an aspiring fashion designer who doesn’t know anything about football. When Laurel takes on the role of personal assistant to QB Danny Holland, the “fish out of water” situation allows Kinney to exercise her comedic chops.
“Emily has impeccable comedic timing,” says Beth. “She also has this really great vulnerability about her as an actress.”
Laurel’s love interest, Danny Holland, is played by John Reardon, who worked with Beth and Hallmark before and was quick to sign onto the project. John was a quarterback in college and considered going into the CFL before pursuing a career in acting. According to Beth, it was great to see him enjoying himself so much with the opportunity to be back on the field and in the huddle.
John wasn’t the only one thrilled to be on the field, as some of Beth’s favorite days for filming were when they were filming the football scenes. Most of the extras in the film were real football players from the UBC Thunderbirds, who went on to win the Canadian college championship.
“It was a thrill to have a real quarterback, real receivers,” says Beth. “Just wonderful to be on the field.”
Although she’s found a lot of her success with Christmas-themed movies in the past, Beth hopes that more football movies are in her future.
“I’m a passionate football fan,” she says. “Football is in my blood.”
“Love on the Sidelines” premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 9/8 Central. Photos courtesy of Beth Grossbard / Hallmark.