Women and the NFL: Beth Grossbard

Beth Grossbard - Women and the NFL

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.

Beth Grossbard - Women and the NFL

“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.

Love on the Sidelines - Hallmark

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.”

 Judith Berg and Sandra Berg, the nieces of ex-NFL coach Sid Gillman

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.

Love on the Sidelines John Reardon

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.

– Michelle

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Snap Chat: Joe Theismann

Snap Chat Interview - Joe Theismann

To say Joe Theismann is a busy man would probably be an understatement. As a retired NFL quarterback, he spends his time as a football analyst, restaurant owner, motivational speaker, and most recently, as an actor. His performance in “Love on the Sidelines,” a Hallmark Channel romantic comedy, is what we are discussing, but I can’t suppress my inner football geek.

“So…do you have any playoff predictions?” I ask.

Now, I’m sure that Joe gets asked football questions all the time and he probably wouldn’t mind continuing our conversation about his recent acting experience, but he humors me. Not only that, Joe seems more than happy to talk about the upcoming games.

“My picks for the Super Bowl are the Cardinals and the Patriots. The Cardinals are the most complete team in the NFL right now, and when New England is healthy, they are hard to beat,” says the man who hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in 1983.

As our conversation continues, we discuss the Redskins, recent coaching changes, and RG3. Not only is he extremely well-spoken, but he’s very friendly, insightful, and patient as I jump around from topic to topic.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me, as both Beth Grossbard (the executive producer of “Love on the Sidelines”) and Joe’s assistant, who helped me with scheduling, both praised him for his easy-going nature and genuine interest in connecting with people. Grossbard described Joe as better than any therapist and I totally get it after having the opportunity to chat with him.

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If you’ve seen “The Blind Side,” you may recall that the movie opens with footage of a Redskins-Giants football game with a Sandra Bullock voice-over explaining why the left tackle, the guy who protects the blindside of the quarterback, is often the second highest paid player on a team. The footage shows a quarterback succumbing to a gruesome leg injury. That quarterback is Joe Theismann and sadly, that injury ended his career in the NFL.

More often than not, Joe’s name is synonymous with that injury. While it would be understandable if he tried to distance himself from that terrible moment, he doesn’t. In fact, he was recently quoted in The Washington Post describing it as “a blessing.”

The experience is actually one of the reasons Joe was drawn to his role in “Love on the Sidelines.” In the movie, Joe plays Owen Holland, the father of a quarterback who is in the process of rehabbing a serious injury.

“There was an emotional connection there,” says Joe, explaining that he understood the process that the injured character was going through. Having the opportunity to play the father, and one who showed pride in what his son had accomplished, was also appealing to Joe.

This wasn’t Joe’s first foray into acting, as he made appearances on “Necessary Roughness” in 2013 and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” in 2014. When I questioned him about the experience of acting, he described the challenge of transitioning from a public speaker. (Joe travels the country as a motivational speaker. You can check out a snippet here.)

“Speeches are about projecting, there’s more force to it. Acting is about capturing the moment. It’s about taking the written words and making them a part of who you are,” says Joe.

A highlight of the experience was the cast and crew. Joe had nothing but good things to say about the director and described Emily Kinney (pictured below with Joe at the Hallmark press party) and John Reardon, who play the lead roles, as “consummate professionals and fun to be around.”

Emily Kinney and Joe Theismann Love on the Sidelines Hallmark

From speaking with executive producer Beth Grossbard, it was apparent the feelings were reciprocated by the cast and crew. She appreciated the attention that he showed to everyone on set and fondly recalled how “he would make a touchdown signal any time he had a good take.”

Even though he was only on-set for one day, he signed autographs for everyone and he showed genuine appreciation for being part of the romantic comedy.

“I’m very excited about having [this] opportunity,” says Joe. “It’s a terrific movie. I think it will be enjoyed by a lot of people.”

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It was an absolute thrill to talk to Joe, who was extremely generous with his time and left me the nicest voicemail, which I will probably never delete because I’m weird like that. Thank you so much to Joe Theismann for talking to me about acting and football, and to Beth Grossbard for arranging the interview.

(Oh and for those of you who are wondering, here are some of the interesting NFL tidbits I got from Joe: He thinks that despite the Redskins’ recent playoff loss, they were able to accomplish a lot in in the face of change and injuries, especially to the tight ends and corners. He thinks that the team’s priorities for 2016 should be corners and receivers (“You can always use more receivers”) and now they can start drafting for depth to fortify the team. As far as head coaches go, Joe thinks that Cleveland is walking away a winner with Hue Jackson and he was surprised that San Fransisco went with Chip Kelly.)

“Love on the Sidelines” premieres on the Hallmark Channel on Saturday, January 16, 2016 at 9/8 Central. Photo courtesy of Beth Grossbard / Hallmark.

– Michelle