Sleuthers are very familiar with the work of writer John Christian Plummer. Moreover, many are excited that the Mystery 101 writer is behind the upcoming new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Francesca Quinn, PI.
He was very gracious to take time out to answer a few questions about Francesca Quinn, PI. John shares some very intriguing reasons why you need to watch this new Hallmark mystery.
Sleuthers may also be curious to know about some of the DNA behind his mysteries. That is because John Christian Plummer’s movies always have a lot of layers. What classic playwright has influenced him?
Lastly, Sleuthers may be interested to know he also discusses Mystery 101, and how Francesca Quinn, PI blossomed from that series. If you are a Travis and Amy fan you will really enjoy what he has to say.
In addition, Plummer wrote the Dying For Chocolate: A Curious Caterer Mystery teleplay that was a fan favorite earlier this year. Finally, Plummer shared a morsel that should make fans of Andrew W. Walker and Nikki DeLoach very happy.
Please enjoy this exclusive interview with John Christian Plummer.
John Christian Plummer On Breaking The Lead Female Mold
Based on the previews, Francesca Quinn seems like a complex character. She has the appearance of a no-nonsense cop, along with a nurturing, sensitive side. She seems very confident. How did you come up with Frankie? And, why will Sleuthers relate to her?
I hope people will relate to her. I certainly do! As you say, she’s got tremendous conviction, and I think conviction is an attractive quality. And yes, she’s empathic, which is a terrific asset to have as an investigator: you have to be able to put yourself in the mind and heart of anyone, including a killer. And Frankie is smart, which I know our really smart audience will relate to! (This sounds like shameless pandering, but it’s the truth!)
I don’t really ‘come up with’ characters. They come to me, and I try to listen. Frankie showed up, not called Frankie at first, and I was actually a little confused by her at the outset. But once it became clear who she was and what she did, I started to get excited.
When I brought her to Hallmark, I knew I was pushing the familiar mold of the amateur female detective. Frankie is someone who actually solves mysteries for a living, an ex-cop and licensed P.I. Imagine my delight when the pitch was met with enthusiasm from the network.
How Much Input Did Writer Have On Mallory Jensen’s Portrayal?
Did Mallory Jensen speak to you about Frankie before playing this role? How is she different from the previous Hallmark mystery leads who have quirky jobs and secret snooping skills?
Mallory and I didn’t actually get to talk before she started shooting, but that’s not unusual. It’s really best for actors to have the voice of the director when they’re on set; everything I need to tell the actors is hopefully there in the script. But I was excited when I heard she’d been cast, and she totally owns Frankie.
While I love the quirky jobs (I also wrote The Curious Caterer for Hallmark earlier this year, and I’m currently writing the sequel), I think it’s refreshing to have a detective who can actually say, ‘I’m a detective.’
That said, even though Frankie is a licensed P.I., she still doesn’t have carte blanche to do whatever she wants with crime scenes, etc, so there’s plenty of creativity being employed on her part. So there’s plenty of fun stuff happening as the story unspools.
John Christian Plummer On Reconfiguring Formula
Dylan Bruce portrays Wyn. Frankie and Wyn seem to be on equal footing on a professional scale. Do you have any insights to share about this dynamic when solving this case?
This is another example of us reconfiguring the formula. In Hallmark mysteries, the male and female leads are usually brought together by the case, with no history between them.
Wyn and Frankie have a great deal of history, which makes their dynamic complex. I don’t want to say much more for fear of spoiling the story.
I will say that Dylan is terrific, and he and Mallory brought these two complex people and their layered relationship to life.
Shakespeare In Hallmark Mysteries?
You have previously mentioned the influence of Shakespeare in your storytelling. Care to share which, if any, of the Bard’s plays–or characters–you may have used as inspiration?
Oh, thank you for asking that! I founded a Shakespeare company right out of college which I ran for seven years, and I’m currently teaching Shakespeare to my son, James, in homeschool.
One of the big themes we see over and over in Shakespeare is the divided self, and that’s definitely something I apply in a lot of my writing, including this story.
Shakespeare also writes a lot about writers and the power of language and stories. Obviously Mystery 101 had a writer character (Graham) and a scholar of writing (Amy), and this film has a couple of writer characters, but also a deeper vein about the power of narrative to impact others — which can be horribly misused for sinister ends.
It’s critical that I mention that “Shake-speare” (originally printed with a hyphen, which was Elizabethan code for pseudonym) was the pen name for Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. There are scores of books that have been written about this, and I would happily recommend some great ones to your readers, but I will say that having this truth made clear to me has helped me immeasurably in understanding Shakespeare’s plays, and also how important it is to be truthful as a fiction writer. de Vere means ‘of truth,’ and it’s no accident that Shakespeare is obsessed with disguise and truth in his writing.
If you want to get lost down a glorious rabbit hole of secret code around the Shakespeare authorship question, check out Alexander Waugh’s tremendously entertaining and scholarly presentations on his YouTube channel.
Why Does Francesca Quinn, PI Take Place In Minnesota?
This case takes place in (my hometown), Minneapolis. How did you choose this particular place, and will there be some fun Minnesota-isms in the movie?
Yeah, it’s set in Minneapolis and a fictional smaller city, St. Benedict, Minnesota. I used to live in Minneapolis and worked for a bit in St. Joseph, so I know and love the area, which is so rich in history and character. I also love the heartland setting, and thought it would be great to have a story set there. But we pointedly did not want to do Fargo, which we all adore far too much to ape.
John Christian Plummer Discusses Possible Second Francesca Quinn, PI Movie
Is there a Hallmark plan to make more than one Francesca Quinn, PI?
In my experience, this is a decision driven by the ratings and fan reaction online. It’s certainly set up in such a way that we could make many, many more. I hope the fans will concur.
Is Mystery 101 Script Safe?
I would be remiss if I did not ask about Mystery 101. Do you have the script locked up in a safe place? There are a lot of fans who want to see this eighth movie happen! Unfortunately, both Kristoffer Polaha and Jill Wagner are very busy these days. Do you think Sleuthers will get their wish and get a resolution?
Ha! I live in a small village and we never lock the door to our house, so I guess the answer is no.
I very much want to continue Amy and Travis’ story, as you might imagine, and Hallmark knows that I’m ready to go as soon as they give me the green light.
I so appreciate how much fans are lobbying for this to happen.
The Connection Between Mystery 101 And Francesca Quinn, PI
Lastly, one person on Reddit posted that they saw the Casting Workbook page and noted some similarities with how Travis and Amy left off at the cliffhanger, and now Frankie and Wyn who had a previous relationship. Both had a past romantic history and fast-forward, to a murdered fiancé. Was this just coincidence, or was this one of your alternative endings to your eighth Mystery 101 movie?
Yes, I saw that! Remember what I said about not pandering when I complimented the intelligence of the audience? I could be especially cheeky and say I just really like murdering fiancés.
First, to put the Mystery 101 fans’ minds at ease, there is a story for #8 which is complex, wildly fun, touching, and fully resolves the cliffhanger at the end of #7. Before I wrote that story, I had some ideas about where to go with #8 that, after some effort, I realized didn’t actually work for Amy and Travis for lots of reasons. So I put all that aside and came up with the story that I have in my unlocked house for #8.
Then, as often happens, I had the realization: the reason that story didn’t work for Amy and Travis is because it’s not their story at all. I then started listening to who it was, and Frankie and Wyn started talking to me, and they took things in even more interesting directions. I pitched this to Hallmark, and they fortunately gave me the green light to write it.
But as people will see on Sunday night, Frankie and Wyn are quite different from Amy and Travis. Not just their jobs, not just where they live, but their personal histories, their shared history, and the current state of their relationship.
To go back to your first question, this movie probably wouldn’t have been made when I started writing for Hallmark. But the network has grown, they’ve heard the desire from the audience to play with formulas, and I think this is the happy result of that.
Don’t miss the premiere of Francesca Quinn, PI on Sunday, September 25, at 9 p.m., Eastern, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.
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