The actress takes over the role in the new Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, 'Something New.'
Meet the new Aurora Teagarden. Hallmark reimagines the beloved amateur sleuth with the upcoming prequel movie, Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Something New, which sees Skyler Samuels stepping into the shoes of the titular heroine previously played by former star Candace Cameron Bure.
In the film, which premieres Friday on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, a fresh-out-of-college Aurora finds herself back home in Lawrenceton. Her mother, Aida (Marilu Henner), struggles to keep her newfound real estate business, while Aurora supports herself by working as a teacher’s assistant in a crime fiction class and waitresses at the local diner in the evenings, where she shares her love of true crime with her friend, Sally (Kayla Heller), and police officer, Arthur (Evan Roderick).
Of course, something arises that puts Aurora's sleuthing skills to use: When Sally’s fiancé doesn’t show up at their wedding rehearsal, Aurora recruits Arthur to help her search for him. When they discover a body, everyone assumes it is Sally’s tardy groom, but when it turns out to be someone else, Sally’s fiancé becomes the prime suspect. The original franchise, which consisted of 18 movies from 2015 to early 2022, garnered a loyal following.
When the opportunity arose for Samuels, who starred in The Gabby Petito Story and next appears in The Meg 2, to bring her own spin to an established character like Aurora, the chance to bring a slightly "messier" version of the character was appealing. (Watch ET's exclusive clip from the movie featuring Samuels as Aurora and Roderick as Arthur in a flirtatious moment at the diner.)
"The most important thing to me was to make sure that I really studied the original Aurora movies, honed in on what were her key characteristics and traits that made her who she is. And then from there, I sort of reverse-engineered who I imagined she might be in her early to mid-20s," Samuels tells ET. "A less polished version of the Aurora the audience knows and loves, but the girl who's maybe a little messier and rough around the edges and still trying to figure it out. But seeing the little seeds of who she becomes in these early days."
Ahead of the movie's premiere, ET spoke with the actress about stepping into Aurora's shoes, exploring Aurora and Arthur's romantic past and if this is the start of a new series of films.
ET: How did this come to you?
Skyler Samuels: To be honest, it was sort of a surprise when it came my way. I've never worked for Hallmark before. I've watched their holiday movies of course, but had never worked for them professionally. And at the beginning of this year, I was contacted about the opportunity to play the young Aurora. And I thought it was just such a fun and exciting challenge to kind of reinvent a character that already existed, just meeting them at an earlier point in their life. I'm just so thrilled and grateful that they chose me to do it because it's been so much fun and I absolutely loved the team who worked on the movie and it's been an absolute pleasure.
Was it a challenge for you stepping into a character that has existed for 18 movies?
I think the most important thing to me was to make sure that I really studied the original Aurora movies, honed in on what were her key characteristics and traits that just made her who she is. And then from there, I sort of reverse-engineered who I imagined she might be in her early to mid-20s -- a less polished version of the Aurora the audience knows and loves, but the girl who's maybe a little messier and rough around the edges and still trying to figure it out, but seeing the little seeds of who she becomes in these early days. There are a lot of familiar aspects to Aurora in this movie that they know and love from the originals, but I think it will also feel new and exciting and interesting because we really reimagined the character in the world. So hopefully it feels just as new and exciting as it does familiar.
What were those traits that you felt were important to bring into your interpretation?
A lot of the things that were important to thread between the original movies and this new one are some of the dynamics of her relationships: Aurora's relationship with her mother, Aida. They've got kind of a funny banter and way that they interact and love each other and really making sure that dynamic was still there and very strong in our reinterpretation of Aurora and this new story. Same with my relationship with Arthur and with my best friend, Sally, two people who are central to Aurora's life as an adult and really understanding why they're so important to her in her early to mid-20s, kind of seeing those relationships forged in fire and how they become so strong. There are components of Aurora where she's very analytical. She can be very matter-of-fact about certain things, but she's also got a cheeky sense of humor sometimes. That's something I wanted to lean into and embrace more of in this movie -- seeing a little goofier version of herself, maybe a little more outgoing and a little less polished, but definitely still feeling like the gumshoe mystery-solving girl we all know and love.
You're working with Marilu Henner, who was a huge part in the original franchise. What was it like to create that mother-daughter relationship with her?
It was really fun working with Marilu and incredibly helpful because of that incredible memory of hers, being able to use her as a resource for any questions that I had about characters or different relationships in the movies or different stories that they might have told. She was a great resource in bridging the gap between the old movies and the new one. And we had a very fun time creating the younger dynamic between Aurora and Aida. Because when we meet Aurora in this movie, she's running out of money paying for grad school, so she's moved back in with her mom. She's working two jobs. So you're seeing this dynamic where she's an adult, but also kind of a teenager again because she's living with her mother. The funny things that come with that was fun for us, to play around with that dynamic.
What can you share about working with Evan Roderick, who plays young Arthur, who obviously has a very complex history with Aurora?
I adore Evan. He is so lovely to work with and so much fun and he has a natural disposition to play Arthur -- that goofy, endearing, yet very sincere and serious all at the same time. Something that was really fun was trying to find a way to really get into the Arthur-Aurora relationship that's only ever alluded to in the original movies. There were passing comments about how they had a thing when they were younger, but now they're just friends, but we never really see that in full fruition in the original movies. Now we get to really give the audience the full juicy, deep-dive into the will they-won't they burgeoning romantic relationship, how that came to be and watching them work together solving crimes, but also just maybe looking for an excuse to spend time together and neither knows how to tell the other they like them. All the fun, awkward, juicy stuff that comes with that. It'll be a new dimension to Arthur and Aurora that the original audience will really enjoy.
Are there other questions that fans of the original movies will have answers to with this movie?
It's centered around Aurora's best friend, Sally, getting married and all of the chaotic events that unfold within hours of the wedding happening. You really see in this movie why Sally has a very precarious relationship with men as an older adult and why she and Aurora are ride-or-die best friends because they really go through a crazy experience together in this movie. Any questions that the original audience had will all kind of come together in these new Aurora stories. Hopefully all those little Easter eggs will come together and be very satisfying for the audience.
You mentioned earlier that this is your first Hallmark project. What was the experience like for you as a newcomer into the Hallmark family?
We shot the movie in Canada on Victoria Island, which is just off the coast of Vancouver, and we worked with a crew who's made literally hundreds of Hallmark movies all together. It was like being on tour with a band who's been together for decades because they all know each other so well and are in perfect sync. It was a really collaborative, laid-back, fun environment and everyone was very excited to play and think outside the box. Sometimes people have a very particular idea of what a Hallmark movie looks like or sounds like or what it might be and for us, mostly to credit our wonderful director, Jessica Harmon, really trying to reinvent that Hallmark stereotype, if you will. Really trying to approach the new Aurora with some aesthetic choices and tone choices that just feel a little different than what you're used to seeing.
Something New seems like it could be the start of another series of Aurora Teagarden movies. Have you had that conversation yet?
I want to say the original movies began in like 2015, 2016. And our movie is set in 2008. We have basically eight years of Aurora's life that we haven't seen. And so ideally, we'll get to tell many more Aurora adventure stories, watching her grow into the original Aurora that we know and love.
Was that a possibility when you signed on?
That is definitely the hope. You never know what will happen, but in an ideal world, we will definitely go back for more. It's very strategic, especially when they've got these beloved canon franchises, really thinking about the big picture, not just one movie, but where would this story fit in a line of other Aurora movies that would play together really nicely with the original series. So it's definitely been talked about and we're hoping it can happen.
Did you reach out to Candace at all or did she reach out to you?
No, I've had no contact with Candace and I watched the old movies for inspiration. But the truth is, Candace has her interpretation of Aurora as an adult, and I definitely have my own interpretation of Aurora as a young adult. So it's not so much a reboot as it is a reimagining of Aurora and her world. The aesthetic and the tone is very different than the original movies. There are definitely components of Aurora that will feel familiar to the original version, but we're really seeing a different side of her. She's less polished, she's not very good at solving mysteries yet. We're watching her come into her own. This is definitely a new Aurora in many ways.
Now that you're firmly in the Hallmark family, do you have a bucket list of projects you'd like to do? "I want to be in a Christmas movie, I want to be in that..."?
You can't not have a bucket list [that doesn't include being] in a Hallmark holiday movie. I think my girlfriends would be so excited. That's a kind of guilty pleasure. That would be so much fun to do, just for the experience. Hopefully something fun that is in my future.
Aurora Teagarden Mysteries: Something New premieres Friday, June 9 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.