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the way home

Time travel and family drama combine in Hallmark Channel’s “cry-fi” series The Way Home

Describing The Way Home for the uninitiated is a laborious task. In the Hallmark show that debuted last spring, big-city journalist Katherine “Kat” Landry (Grey’s Anatomy’s Chyler Leigh) decides to move back home to Canadian farm town Port Haven after her marriage fails and she is laid off from her job. Her 15-year-old daughter Alice (Sadie Laflamme-Snow) is none too pleased with the relocation, putting her even further at odds with her mother, and Kat’s own mom Del (Andie MacDowell) is having an equally hard time finding her footing with her until-now estranged daughter, who has never gotten over the death of her father Cole (Jefferson Brown) or the disappearance of her younger brother Jacob (Remy Smith).

The Way Home on W Network. Pictured: Kat Landry (Chyler Leigh) with former high-school frenemy Monica Hill (Samora Smallwood), who runs a diner in Port Haven.
W Network

To centre a show around three generations grappling with the trauma that comes from tragic loss of family would be enough in itself, but that is not the sole premise of this series. Once Alice discovers that a pond on the property allows her to travel back in time, bringing her back to her mother’s youth, she forms a friendship with her mother as a peer (played by Alex Hook) and attempts to stop her family’s tragedies from taking place — butterfly effect be damned!

The Way Home on W Network. Pictured: Three generations of Landry women come together with friends for a summertime soirée.
W Network

Between the coming-of-age narrative, generational trauma and time travel, even those that star on the show admit the logline for the sentimental sci-fi series requires more than a few sentences. “You need a log pamphlet,” jokes Evan Williams, who plays physics teacher Elliot Augustine, the only person who, for most of the first season, is aware of Alice’s time travel — and has harboured romantic feelings for Kat since the two were teenagers. “A tri-fold pamphlet,” Williams adds with a laugh.

The Way Home on W Network. Pictured: Three generations of Landry women come together with friends for a summertime soirée.
W Network

Although the Hallmark Channel show has been a success for the network best known for 100 ways to save Christmas, the fact that executives are taking a chance on this somewhat weighty concept is not lost on the cast. “When the Christmas movies come on, I mean, who doesn’t sit there and watch with their family? It’s comfortable, it’s cozy and you know that there’s going to be a nice bow at the end,” says Leigh. “We are not that. There’s no bow. There’s no Christmas. And it’s because Hallmark saw something really unique and special about this project that it gave the opportunity to do something that hasn’t been done before.”

The Way Home on W Network. Pictured: Hallmark Channel favourite Andie MacDowell is Del Landry, grandmother of Alice (Sadie Laflamme-Snow).
W Network

Unfamiliar does, however, not mean unrelatable. For Leigh, a mother of three who once was estranged from her own father, the storylines have been hitting close to home. “Her story and her history are very similar to my own in real life,” says the actress. “There were so many similarities, it was actually quite eerie. So much of this has been such a cathartic process. I know these feelings really, really well. What surprised me is that Kat has taught me so much about Chyler that I have come to love and appreciate, and I can see my own growth as a person, just as I have seen Kat grow. It’s been this wonderful gift that I’ve been given.”

The Way Home on W Network. Pictured: Grey’s Anatomy alum Chyler Leigh stars as Kat Landry, who’s starting a new life while reconnecting with her estranged mother.
W Network

For Williams, co-portraying the sounding board for questionable decisions in both the past and present alongside teen-Elliot actor David Webster has been a joyful challenge. “I was excited when I first signed onto this project about getting to play a character with pathos and comedy at the same time. I always loved that about Elliot, getting to play the guy who is not the hero, but aspires to be the hero,” he says. “And I love being able to do the storytelling both from the historical angle and the present-day angle. The performance by David and my performance are both entwined because he, having watched a whole season, is starting to pick up on the things that I’m doing and I’m picking up on the things that he’s doing. We’re pollinating each other, sort of like covalent bees.”

Dodgy biology aside, with Kat discovering the pond’s time-travel capabilities at the end of the first season, and somehow ending up in 1814, the second season promises to expand the canvas considerably. “We up the stakes. It becomes more life and death, especially with the introduction of the 1800s timeline,” says Williams. “We also get to see new sides of the characters that audiences already know and love. We get to see them in completely different lights and maybe challenge our expectations, and then we also get to see them grow through that.” In fact, as the show leans deeper into the science fiction, Williams believes he has found a way to narrow down that tough description. “We’re trying to coin the phrase — and by we, I mean me,” he says, pausing for effect. “Cry-fi. It’s like sci-fi, but more heartfelt.”

The Way Home airs Sunday, January 28, at 9 p.m., W Network

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