Nikki DeLoach and Andrew Walker have the kind of natural chemistry and charming rapport that has turned into a great long-term friendship and several memorable TV movies.
The actors, both 41, are starring in their third Hallmark movie together, Sweet Autumn, which premieres Saturday. They've been friends since meeting in 2016 and making their first movie together for the Channel, A Dream of Christmas.
"What was really cool is we immediately connected over kids, because we were just being new parents," Walker tells PEOPLE.
"My son Hudson was over a year," adds DeLoach. "So I was still in the, 'How do I do this phase?' for sure. You were a brand, brand spanking new dad."
"I was just like shocked, in the numb kind of phase," jokes Walker. "But I think just immediately, we were two peas in a pod. We're very similar in a lot of ways."
DeLoach agrees, saying that she felt an "instant connection" with Walker, which they sealed toward the start of filming that year with a long, get-to-know-you hang over beers and wings.
"I felt like I had known him my entire life," says DeLoach. "There's just such an ease with Andrew. I do think that there is something that happens, and it doesn't happen for everyone."
Four years later, the actors have expanded their friendship and their families — DeLoach has two sons, Hudson, 6, and Bennet, 3, with husband Ryan Goodell, and Walker and his wife Cassandra have two sons, West, 5, and Wolf, 10 months.
Read on for much more about the two Hallmark fan favorites, including how they have each befriended the other's spouse (a story which includes a wild night of bonding out in Winnipeg that ended at 4 a.m.), making Hallmark movies in the time of COVID-19, and check out the exclusive clip from Sweet Autumn above.
Andrew Walker: We met on our first movie A Dream for Christmas and obviously, it takes time to get to know somebody that much more, and feel, ultimately, your most comfortable self in front of them. But Nikki was, I can speak for how I felt. It was almost immediate. We went and we had some chicken wings and beer, and just talked and talked about being new parents, and talked about being in Winnipeg, and talked about all the things that you go through as a parent, leaving your kids as well. And balancing work and life.
And then I think what really did it for us, she asked me one weekend, she's like, "Andrew, I hate to ask this, but my husband's coming into town. We're supposed to be in Hawaii right now. He took two weeks off work and I got him to come to Winnipeg. And he's kind of not the happiest about this location. And so are you doing anything fun this weekend, because I've got to work." And I'm like, "Well, I actually got extra tickets to the football game. It's Canadian football, but it's still pretty good. And I've never been to the stadium before, but why don't we meet for a beer before? And we'll just start getting to know each other a little bit." Cut to the second half of the game, I have [her husband, Goodell] in a headlock, we're screaming at the game. It was an immediate connection, We had this great night. We ended up going to watch some more football, and the night, it never ended. We just kept on wanting more. And the next morning Nikki called me, she's like, "What did you do to my husband?"
Nikki DeLoach: I think you guys got home at like four in the morning or something ridiculous. I was like, I kept looking at the clock and thinking, "It's 1:00 a.m., okay. They're having fun. It's 2:00 a.m.. Okay. 3:00 a.m.. Where are they?" And I didn't want to text, I didn't want to be that girl, so I think somewhere along the way, I just texted and was like, "I don't care what's happening. I just want to make sure that you guys are safe. That's it." And [my husband] texted back, "Super safe. Having a blast. Love you. Go back to sleep." Sometime, at like 4:00 a.m. he crawled into bed. And I was like, "Epic. Epic."
Walker: Now her husband is my entertainment attorney and we're neighbors, in that we live in the same neighborhood. But anyways, Nikki and I now, we're such dear friends, and I think it was apparent the first meeting that we had on A Dream for Christmas. And that movie was amazing. We had such a great cast dynamic. Winnipeg has these local actors that are so generous, and kind, and humble and good.
DeLoach: And for me, literally, it's the same story. Instantly felt like I had known him my entire life. Sometimes you have to find that connective tissue in the moment, and in the scene, and yes, you have to utilize all of your skillset in which to do that. And then other times you just meet people like Andrew and I, who just instantly connected. Because [working on these movies] you do have to connect really fast. And we played a husband and wife in that movie, so especially when you're playing a relationship like in that, it's really good when that already exists. If you just have an instant connection, it makes it even more believable.
Third Movie’s the Charm — Even During a Pandemic
DeLoach: So we are very fortunate and have just adored each other and each other's families for many years. When this movie happened and Hallmark was like, "Hey, you want to go to Winnipeg to do a movie for Fall Harvest?" And I was thought, "Yeah." And we were looking for our guy, and I texted the producer, Stan Spry. And I said, "What about Andrew?" And he was like, "Oh, I love Andrew, one second." And he called Hallmark, and literally 10 minutes later he said, "They love Andrew for this. Let's see if we can get him." And I had been wanting to work with Andrew again for a really long time. So I can't believe it came together. It was so meant to be.
And I'm so grateful too, because I am so crazy, and a maniac inside of COVID. Anybody who has worked with me, or knows me, knows the lengths to which I've gone to, to protect my family. So having a costar that knows my family and understands how compromised my youngest is meant a lot, because I could text Andrew and say, "Hey, are you cool with testing?" And he's like, "Whatever you need." "Hey, are you cool with this?" "Whatever you need." That was always the response. He was like, "How I can make you feel safe and comfortable and support you?" And so that was huge for me. I knew that, yes, we have great chemistry, and yes, he's a great actor, and yes, we're going to do a good movie, but also how is this experience going to be for me outside of all of that? And so it really was perfect.
Walker: Even though I've worked with Nikki twice before, the movie we just did right now, it has a way different dynamic than the other two. And I'm really proud of our work that we did on this. And I think a lot of it stemmed from the fact that we were really hands-on with the creative side. And Nikki always is, I think, but I try to bring that to the table.
DeLoach: This specific production specifically, shout out to Stan Spry, and Cartel in Winnipeg. They only have offices in Winnipeg, and also here in LA. And I do just want to shout them out, because they were so on top of it, down to not being able to blow dry our hair in the hair and makeup trailer, because the virus gets in the hair. And so I would blow dry my bangs before I would get to set, or whatever I needed to dry so that it was done. They did such a good job. Even someone like me who is really extremely safe inside of this, felt very comfortable. So crew had to not just wear a mask, but also a face shield. They could not get within 12 feet of an actor without both of those things. And in the hair and makeup trailer specifically, there's no talking unless you are masked, because usually there's all this talking that happens in hair and makeup trailers.
Walker: All the background performers that are in your vicinity, they had to be tested. You keep your own props, as well. So if I had a watch, for example, they disinfect it, but I take care of that watch for the rest of the production. Or if I had a coffee mug in the scene, or Nikki had a briefcase, or something, you're responsible for your props. So you'd have to be aware of resetting yourself.
DeLoach: And you'd get temperature checks every day when you get to set. Andrew and I are tested several times a week. They really did do [everything], and I'm so grateful. I wouldn't have been able to work without all of that. And I'm not saying that all productions are doing that.
Their Next Collaborations
DeLoach: Andrew and I are both doing the Walk to End Alzheimer's on November 7th. It's a cause that is near and dear to both of our hearts because we've been touched deeply by it by our families. And so Andrew and Cassandra, his kiddos, and then my family, we're all walking on November 7th. The cool thing about the Walks that are happening this year is like, usually if it's in L.A., it's everybody that's in L.A., they get together and you all walk together. But because we're not all getting together to walk, you can walk from anywhere, it's all basically virtual and you can do it from wherever. More people can join and be a part of it. But Andrew also has a juice company that is delicious. Andrew, where can they find their juice?
Walker: It's called Little West and you can get our juice mainly in locations around LA and Southern California. They're up in Northern California as well. Groundworks Coffee, a lot of hotels, the Fairmont, the Four Seasons. You can get our juice at all the grocery stores here [in Los Angeles], at Gelson's, Bristol Farms. And we just signed on with Whole Foods, when Nikki and I were together in Winnipeg. We're rolling out in all of Nevada, Arizona, and all of Southern California stores second week of October.
Walker: And we definitely owe ourselves and our family a [in-person] gathering at some point. We see each other, but we don't. We'll FaceTime, or Nikki will be talking to my wife for two weeks when I don't even know.
DeLoach: I literally talk to [Walker's wife] Cassandra almost every day. I text her about something.
Walker: And I talked to her husband every once in a while too, because if I'm doing a deal or whatever, but Nikki and I don't.
DeLoach: We need to do a trip, actually. We owe ourselves a vacation together because we there's so much time that we need to catch up on. Maybe we'll go to Hawaii, since Ryan was robbed. Rent a big house. We all just go to Hawaii. We give Ryan his trip back.
Walker: Yeah! I like that.
Sweet Autumn premieres Saturday on the Hallmark Channel.
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