What do fans of Hallmark movies and fans of soap operas have in common?
A lot, it turns out. They're very loyal. And they feel a personal connection with their favorite actors, so strong they'll run up and hug perfect strangers in the street.
"There were a few people who were like, 'Are you Dr. Jonas on Days of Our Lives?' said Shawn Christian. "I'm actually alive!"
Indeed, Christian spent 8 years as (now dead) surgeon Dr. Daniel Jonas on Days of Our Lives. And now, he's starring in Love in the Sun, a movie filmed in the Tampa Bay area that premieres Monday on the Hallmark Channel. Oh, and he wrote the movie, too.
Christian, 53, joined the Times' Life of the Party podcast this week to talk about the movie, the fast-paced world of soap operas and what he loved about filming in St. Petersburg, Safety Harbor and other parts of town. Listen to the whole interview here.
"It's the first movie I've sold," he said. "It's a huge, huge blessing, and the community in and around St. Pete and Florida have been unbelievable. They've been showing up on set and we got some of the community in front of the camera and behind the camera and I got to explore a new place that I've never been to."
Love in the Sun tells the story of a dating app creator who returns to her Florida hometown to tell her father — that would be Christian — that she's engaged.
"She believes wholeheartedly that you can find love in an algorithm," he said.
Christian's character, Micah, owns a struggling seaside lodge. Alana, played by Emeraude Toubia, reconnects with her dad and — wait for it — encounters an old boyfriend.
Love in the Sun is the second Hallmark film shot in the Tampa Bay area in recent months. True Love Blooms premiered in April, and producers have said more films could be coming here. The local government filming incentives are fitting for a project of this scale. Hillsborough and Pinellas have programs that provide a production up to 10 percent of what it spends.
And the atmosphere doesn't hurt.
"I dropped my bags in my room and I walked to St. Pete's harbor right there and saw all the boats. ... Fort De Soto was unbelievable. It was like Tahitian water. It's so gorgeous."
Christian hung out at some St. Petersburg rooftop bars, where he met those loyal fans.
"They have an intimate relationship with you because you're in their living room with you almost every day," he said. "And they're in their comfy clothes, they're in their pajamas watching, so there's this level of intimacy and comfort they have with you and they can approach you. And I'm also pretty approachable."
Love in the Sun premieres on the Hallmark Channel at 8 p.m. Monday. There will be a free screening of the movie at that time at Safety Harbor's Waterfront Park. Meet Shawn Christian for champagne and appetizers before the screening at the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. $29 from 5-7 p.m. 105 N Bayshore Drive. eventbrite.com.
LIFE OF THE PARTY
Life of the Party is the podcast that teaches you just enough to get by. Get party tips, ice breakers and cultural conversation from Stephanie Hayes, Brittany Volk, celebrities, Times writers and more. tampabay.com/podcasts.