Since 2016, Hallmark favorites Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker have shared the screen in four different movies across Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. And on Sunday, they're about to add a fifth to their mini filmography together: the second installment of their HM&M mystery franchise, Curious Caterer: Grilling Season.
In the Curious Caterer sequel, professional caterer Goldy Berry (DeLoach) throws a lavish barbeque event for her childhood friend, acclaimed realtor Susie Craig. Later that night, she's shocked to discover that after the event, Susie's grill exploded and killed her. Goldy's professional reputation is put under fire when it comes out that she was the last one to use the grill. On a mission to clear her name, Goldy teams up with detective Tom Schultz (Walker) to figure out who was behind the mysterious explosion. As they go through party guests, heated gossip and dark secrets, the suspect list grows with familiar names, ranging from business partners to ex-spouses. The duo realizes that the murderer might be closer to them than they imagined.
For DeLoach and Walker, Curious Caterer: Grilling Season follows their previous Hallmark team-ups: 2016's A Dream of Christmas, 2017's The Perfect Catch, 2020's Sweet Autumn and 2022's Curious Caterer: Dying for Chocolate.
"It always feels like, 'I can't believe we get to do this again. I don't know, Andrew, if you feel the same way, but I never take one for granted. So every single time we get to do another movie together, it just feels like we were handed this incredible gift yet again," DeLoach told ET over Zoom recently.
"The beautiful thing about working with Nikki is that we could work together 20, 30 times, but I feel like we both come into it with fresh eyes constantly," Walker said. "I think that's what's so cool about working with Nikki is that we're always trying to elevate each other and the story and our characters. This project, we worked with Nikki's acting coach, which we didn't do for the first one, and we scratched the surface on how the relationship could eventually evolve. That's the really neat thing about working with Nikki is that I could do it a hundred times with her and it's still fresh because she has this work ethic and this excitement and this passion for what she does that we both are very similar."
Ahead of Sunday's premiere of the movie (watch ET's exclusive clip above), the duo previewed their latest project together, why they're inspired by Hallmark's direction and what else they have in store for fans.
ET: This is another movie with the two of you sharing the screen again. Does it feel like old hat at this point?
Nikki DeLoach: We both like challenges. We always love to challenge ourselves, whether it's health and working out or our mindset or our work or parenting, whatever it is. We are so similar; from the first movie, it was like, "You, me, this is it."
Andrew Walker: We're doing this.
DeLoach: Because when yo meet that person that reflects your work ethic and how you like to move through the world and your work and also how you like to treat people, that was a big thing. It's so important to me to be kind and professional and to be a team player and to come in and appreciate your crew and your director and everybody involved. And Andrew, that's how he comes onto a set too. So I think we also have that in common. We both care very much about making sure that people are treated with the respect and kindness that they deserve. I will say on this last one, I had even more fun than the first one. Did you, Andrew?
Walker: Oh yeah. It's hard to believe because the first one was just so surreal to be working with you again and to be doing this type of project as well because I really love Tom Schultz. He's different than any character I've played on Hallmark, and Goldy and Tom together and the contrast of who they are. I also think we had a lot of fun because we, again, put a lot of work into it on the front end. So we just were able to play every day that we showed up to set.
You're revisiting a world that you both are familiar with with Curious Caterer. On Hallmark, that can be seen as a bit of a rare opportunity to get to deepen your characters' backstories and journeys in a second movie.
Walker: I want to give credit to the reason why we had so much fun on this project is that is our supporting cast. They were just so good and so talented. And everybody, again, because the familiarity of the characters and the relationships that we've all formed now off- and on-camera, we're just able to play a lot more. And so you really see that in a lot of the supporting characters.
You mentioned it being more fun making this movie versus the first one. Can you elaborate on that?
DeLoach: Sometimes when you write something, especially the first time you begin to write characters, an actor picks up your writing off the page and then they do something with it that is unique to them. So then when you get a chance to bring those characters back to life, you've watched the movie, you've seen what they've done with the material, how they play together. I think what the writer did, which was so smart, is he picked up on the fact that Andrew and I naturally banter. We naturally ping-pong back and forth and we like to find comedic moments wherever we can. So coming into the next one, all of that chemistry was elevated. In the second one, we had really honed in on a lot of the stuff that already worked. So, like Andrew said, we were coming to set just really ready to play because a lot of that work that you do, that heavy lifting that you do in the beginning was set and it was done.
Walker: Along the lines of what Nikki was saying too, "How would Goldy react to this? How would Tom react to this?" I think so much of that also is those questions are answered, not so much for the viewers, but also for us playing the characters with the introduction of new characters in the story. So I learned more about my backstory through the introduction of my ex. And hearing about her, why we broke up and seeing the way the actress played Jessamin, she was amazing. And then I was starting, I'm like, I'm thinking in my head, I can't believe Tom Schultz was with a girl like this. So there's like, there's a backstory to Tom now that I've identified and I start to play with.
And also just now my relationship with Riley's character, with Mason, the things that irk me about him, potentially I have a little bit more fun with now. Now I know him a little bit more and I can jump on him faster. I can get on. I think the introduction of new characters along with the deepening of the relationships that we've now created on set. That alone is just like ... It's so much more fun to be able to play with that. So yeah.
I feel like every time there's an announcement of a movie with you two, I'm immediately circling it. How has your partnership evolved over the years? Because you have been working together off and on at the network.
Walker: I have to say the one beautiful thing about working with Nikki is that it's grown on-camera for sure. But Nikki, the information she accumulates and the wealth of knowledge that she has when it comes to acting and health and wellness and being a parent and just life in general, politics and basically everything. I think it's just life accumulating different experiences that you go through. Look, Nikki and I are both parents. We were early parents on A Dream for Christmas and we were going through that time in our life where we were like, "Oh my gosh, does your kid do this? My kid does that. And where are you at? How are you?" And we're going through changing the diapers and the teething and we've gone through all these stages together as parents and as friends and actors. So we're able to have those conversations on set.
And then Nikki has this unbelievable backstory of her being a mother and what she's gone through as a mom and which has made her this beacon of light and somebody that is somebody that we all look up to, but a lot of people look up to. So I feel really fortunate to know her and continue to just build this relationship with her on- and off-camera. And she's not too hard on the eyes either. So it's pretty easy to be on set with her and build a relationship with her in that way. I think it's just the evolution in being a person and a parent and you bring that to set and then you go deeper in your work.
DeLoach: So nice, Andrew. Thank you so much for saying that. That means so much to me. There's some people that you just meet and... it's like this, theoretically say we all come from stardust. And there's some people that you meet where you just came from the same star, if that makes any sense. You instantly meet them and this instant connection. Also like you've known them your whole life. For me, that's what it was with Andrew when we worked together the first time. I was like, "I've known you my whole life and the life before that and the life before that." It was kind of that feeling and that can't be forced.
I've been in this business since I was a kid. This doesn't happen all the time. Of course, you work with people that you adore and it's fun and it's great and you have a great experience, but to work with someone who you love and you love his family, and his wife and kids, and the way that he conducts himself in the world and in his life and in his job and in his work and all the things, that just doesn't happen often. So that's why I said in the beginning that every time we get to come together and do another movie, I'm literally like, "I can't believe we get to do this again. This is so amazing." How lucky are we? We're so lucky.
Walker: We're so lucky. Yeah.
Clearly, it's working because they keep bringing you guys back together.
DeLoach: That's the fans. And I have to say, the first Christmas convention that we did, I probably met 4,000 people, and 3,950 of them told me that Andrew and I were their favorites, us together specifically. And that has not stopped. It's like every time we do a Christmas convention, "You and Andrew together are my favorite. When are you doing another movie?."
Walker: Yeah, same deal. People coming over and saying, "Andrew, oh my gosh, great to meet you. But Nikki and you, you guys, you two are just..." It's amazing. Look, it's awesome to work with Nikki, but should I be surprised that all the fans always want us to come back? Because it's too good to be true. But to double down on what Nikki said before, it's funny, I get some witchy women that come over to my booth sometimes and they're like, "I've done your reading and Nikki and you were brother and sister in a previous life."
DeLoach: 100 percent.
Walker: And I've heard this from multiple people that don't even know each other that have done readings on us. It makes so much sense.
What do you want fans to know about Curious Caterer: Grilling Season? What should they expect when they tune in?
Walker: I think Hallmark has their cozy mysteries and then they have Curious Caterer. And Curious Caterer is not a cozy mystery. This is an action-packed thrill ride that fans might be a little surprised about some things that happen in this movie, but we have the ability here to bring something a little different to Hallmark and we're towing that line of a dramatic, thrilling, suspense movie that still has the good feels. But it's edgy.
DeLoach: People just have to pop their popcorn or pour their glass of wine or whatever it is when they like to just kick back and get ready to escape for 90 minutes. But I think be ready to have fun. Let yourself go along for the ride. You're going to laugh. There are some very dramatic moments. As Andrew said, there's some surprising moments, but it's just fun. So that's what I would say. Just get ready to turn off the monkey mind for a second and go for a little bit of a ride and have fun with us.
There's a quick joke about Andrew's pecs in this movie and in Three Wise Men and a Baby, it opened with you being shirtless. Is that now in your contract?
Walker: Well, not after my week at Sundance that I was just at!
DeLoach: Well, actually, I can't say anything. I'm just going to say contractually moving forward, all of my contracts for Curious Cater, one section in the contract says he has to take off his shirt in every movie.
Walker: Thanks, Nik. Thank you.
DeLoach: Or else I'm not going to sign on to do it: "There's just this one little sticking point that is a little odd. It's not a normal [ask], but..." And I'm like, "Listen, it's the fans. I'm speaking on behalf of the fans."
Walker: For the fans. Keep me honest.
Before I let you both go, is there anything that you would like to tease in terms of what's coming up for you? You are both staples in the Hallmark family, so I'm sure a lot of people are going to be wondering what you have in the works.
DeLoach: I don't know if we can...
Walker: Yeah, I know.
DeLoach: I'll speak on behalf of not just me and Andrew but what the network in terms of what this network is going to do in 2023. I don't know about you, Andrew, but I was just blown away with the movies that were made last year in 2022. I think our network executives leveled-up on every single level, not just in the depth of storytelling, the breadth of storytelling, the humor in the storytelling, diversity in our storytelling, the inclusion in our storytelling. I mean, like Andrew, Three Wise Men and a Baby broke a record. It was like the top-rated movie in 2022. That's huge for this network. And it was three male leads, which is so incredible. And then Jonathan Bennett's movie [The Holiday Sitter]. That broke barriers at our network. There's just so much good that's happening here, and I am so excited to see what we do in 2023 as a collective, as a team because the most beautiful thing about this network and what makes it different from any network I have ever been on in my life is it is truly a family. I hope our fans are excited for all that is to come in this year and I'm just so grateful that I get to be a part of it.
Walker: To echo Nikki's sentiments, it's the culture that Hallmark has created and the people that they've hired to put in these positions, they have just excelled in every way. And it doesn't feel like work. I don't think anybody really feels like they're going to work. I get paid to wait. When I'm working, I don't even need to get paid to work. It's like it's my in-between jobs. But, look, I'll leave you with... I know Nikki's doing more movies this year, and I'm doing more movies this year. I am trying my hand at producing a couple movies this year, which I'm really, really excited about. And Nikki's writing movies. So, there's three movies. There's a lot that is happening and I'm sure it's not the end of Nikki and me together in a movie. Who knows? It's all about, "Hey, everybody rally together and watch Grilling Season." And then, we'll be sure to be doing more movies.
Curious Caterer: Grilling Season premieres Sunday, Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.