What happens after the protagonists fall in love? That’s what of Hallmark newest movie, The wedding contract (premiering June 17) asks.
In the movie, he plays Becca Tobin and Jake Epstein, Rebecca and Adam are a recently engaged Jewish couple who must struggle with their different values and beliefs. She is about home and family, while he is focused on his work and is not as connected or familiar with Jewish tradition as she is. And his work becomes a problem when it interferes with their wedding planning – and could be the reason for a possible move to LA.
Epstein presents the new love story.
What attracted you to the script and the character of Adam?
Jake Epstein: Most Hallmark movies are about a yard, right? Very few films answer the question, what happens after that? And I think what initially attracted me to this movie is that at the point where the movie starts, they’ve already fallen in love. What happens next? What is the next step? In their case, plan a Jewish wedding. All the challenges of life and loving but sometimes complicated families and kind of negotiating values and all the things that go into a real wedding, this movie explores with humor, love and joy.
I love how the movie is doing. Next up is the cute meeting, then a very quick look at the yard…
It’s unique. Every other Hallmark movie I’ve ever seen is about the love story. In this case it is the love story, but in a way, it is more human. Yes, romances can happen, but what happens next? What is the reality of meeting families? Will they get along? Work stuff, is that getting in the way of the relationship? It’s kind of a really loving portrayal of a real love story.
Also, this way you don’t have to deal with the misunderstanding that keeps them apart initially.
(laugh) Exactly. And I’ll be honest, the fact that this is a Jewish story is important to me as a Jewish person. I come from a family of Holocaust survivors on my mother’s side. Culture is so important to me. And I feel like the older I’ve gotten, the more interested I’ve been in being able to tell stories that relate to who I am. I think the Jewish element of it felt really personal to me and pretty special to be a part of.
And you can tell how important that is to each of the characters, but in different ways.
Yes, completely. Religion is a cultural thing. I always believe that the more specific a story is, the more universal it is to people. In this case, it’s a Jewish story, but it’s quite realistic in that not everyone is religious. Some people don’t even know anything about it. Some people are very interested in it. It means something to some characters, not to others. I feel like other cultures, other people can relate to that, especially how family gets involved in a culture in that way. I had a wedding, and certainly a lot of things in this movie, I thought, were right in some ways in terms of how the family gets involved and even the negotiations – in my case, my wife is not Jewish and where we negotiated. the Jewishness of the wedding and these kinds of negotiations are so essential to a marriage.
What will Adam and Rebecca learn about each other during the wedding planning?
The story puts them to the test. In this movie, Adam gets this really exciting promotion where on the one hand it would allow them to buy their dream house and start this family right away. On the other hand, it would mean moving to another city away from Rebecca’s family. This really puts their relationship to the test. And then, to be honest, their families meet and especially their two mothers, very strong, wonderful female characters. You’re kind of thrust into this intimate relationship with strangers when you do a wedding. Before you get that natural time to really get to know each other, to spend time with each other, it’s like you’re a family now and you have to collaborate and figure out what works. And so I feel like all of that is dealt with in this movie in a way that feels really, really fun and really funny.
Speaking of mothers who have an easier time dealing with them and their differing opinions, Adam or Rebecca?
I mean maybe it’s easier for Adam just because he’s gone. He’s so stressed out with his job, so even though he does his best to participate in the wedding planning, I feel like Rebecca really takes the brunt of it. She is the one who really judges these two very powerful mothers who are helping to plan their first child’s wedding. So he’s probably having a harder time, for sure.
Speaking of his career, I love how much a treadmill in the office says about him. It makes complete sense with everything we see.
God, the treadmill. (laugh) Yes.
How does marriage change the way you view your career as a whole?
I will speak from personal experience. When you are alone all your life, you think about yourself, you think about your own interests, you think about what you want. When you’re in a relationship, even if it’s not a marriage, even if it’s just a really serious relationship, whether you like it or not, you share those values and that time. Adam’s dream is to become this advertising executive and run an agency, and for the first time, he can’t just say yes, he has this other person (whose life) he would really affect as well. This is one of the things they learn to deal with.
I think both characters are, because Rebecca is a teacher and she loves her students and she runs this amazing after-school program, so for her to leave, that would be standing in the way of her dreams. I always tell my wife, Vanessa, that it’s like there are two sides to marriage: of course the love has to be there, but you’re also building a life together. So I feel like for (Adam and Rebecca), we see right away that there’s romance from the beginning and then it’s kind of like, how can they build a life together?
My favorite part of the movie is the marriage contract. What does this mean for each of them?
I feel like because of what we talked about, because it’s this negotiation of values, of life, of romance, of everything, it’s a great way to look at it, this Jewish tradition, which is a wedding contract called a ketubah, where you sign literally this document that basically says, I want to put the other person’s happiness first. It’s a real tradition that happens before the Jewish wedding, but it’s also a great metaphor for what everyone is trying to figure out in this movie to get to the place where they can actually sign this contract.
Now you’ve done a Christmas movie, a Hanukkah movie, and a wedding movie for Hallmark. What else is on your Hallmark list?
What should come next? Throw other holidays too. A child? Throw in the next generation. Being a young parent and navigating everything. I didn’t go out looking for these opportunities to make a Hallmark movie. They came to me and I think they are very sweet. The world can be super stressful and these movies are cute, right? They are soothing and fun and kind of escapist. And so it’s fun to do it. But yes, if you have any advice on what the next step should be… Maybe the kids movie. I think I succeeded. I think this is probably next on the list.
Are you thinking of a sequel to this or just a whole new story?
Gosh, 100% a sequel to this one. I’m trying to think of a clever name for what it should be called. I’m not going to come up with that right now. … In the same way that this movie shows what happens next after the typical Hallmark love story, I feel like it would make total sense to show, OK, well, they got married, what happens next ?
The wedding contractThe movie premieres Saturday, June 17, 8/7c, Hallmark Channel