nicolette-sheridan-honeymoon-one-hallmarkFor legions of fans, the name Nicollette Sheridan conjures vixenish visions of irresistible bad girls — conniving seductress Paige Matheson of “Knots Landing,” or man-eating neighborhood bombshell Edie Britt of “Desperate Housewives.”  But actors love a good change-up, and the blonde beauty shows how well she can play sympathetic, warm and winning in the Hallmark Channel Original Movie World Premiere “Honeymoon For One,” Saturday, August 13 (9pm ET/PT, 8C).

“When I read the script I loved it — it was a sweet, old-fashioned romantic comedy and my character was just a kind, sweet, trying-to-find-her-way character.  That was very appealing to me,” says Nicollette during an afternoon’s conversation.  Her character, Eve Parker, is a successful L.A. advertising executive who discovers her fiancé (Patrick Baladi) is cheating on her — in business and in romance — just prior to their wedding.  The nuptials are called off, but with the urging of gal pals and a set of nonrefundable tickets, she decides to go on their planned trip to Ireland by herself.

Handsome English actor Greg Wise, known for his work in such productions as “Cranford” and “Sense and Sensibility” — in addition to being married to Emma Thompson — plays the manager and tour guide of the castle estate where Eve is staying.  The mishap-prone city girl seems to have nothing but trouble at the outset, from losing her luggage to drowning her matrimonial mortification in complimentary champagne in the hotel’s bridal suite.  She breaks a spike heel while crunching through the woods in the wrong shoes.  Nicollette’s striking blue eyes light up when she talks about the physical comedy involved.  “That was a lot of fun,” she says with a smile.

The prospect of horseback riding at their idyllic location was a great lure for Nicollette, an expert equestrienne who began riding at around age three and who owns four horses.  Ironically, she had to play Eve Parker as a brand-new, nervous rider.  Knowing horses as well as she does “was quite useful, because then you can do anything.  You can feel safe doing something that looks very unsafe.  I did all my own stunts on the horse,” she reports.

According to Nicollette, that included everything from bouncing around in the saddle like a marionette to hanging on for dear life when the steed takes off unexpectedly at a full gallop.

In another bit of movie irony, Nicollette adds with a laugh, “Greg Wise’s character is supposed to be the horseman, and he didn’t know how to ride.  So we went off and I sort of helped him a little bit, and then we choreographed him chasing me down.”

It’s an intense sequence, but for Nicollette, “It was heavenly.  I grew up riding, galloping across the English downs, so being in Ireland in that rough wild Irish countryside on this beautiful white horse — ”  She stops, sighs.  “I fell madly in love with him.  I wanted to bring him home with me.  His name was Star and he’d never done a movie before.  It’s always a bit daunting for a horse when they’re around a camera and a boom for the sound and all of a sudden things are coming at them.  He was a bit skittish but I think he trusted me and I think he finally warmed up to the movie set quite well.”

Nicollette met the four-legged object of her infatuation when she and Wise ventured out to the stables where Star is kept.  “Greg and I went riding and trying out other horses to see what horse he’d be most comfortable on — but as soon as I saw that white beauty, he was for me.”

According to her, Wise was quick to catch on as a rider.  “He’s a wonderful actor.  He was a pleasure to work with — ‘a good crack’ as they say in Ireland.  And he had a perfect Irish brogue for an Englishman, I must say.”

Despite growing up in England, the West Sussex-born actress — daughter of actress Sally Sheridan, and granddaughter of actress Dinah Sheridan — had never been to Ireland before.  During the weeks of “Honeymoon For One” production, “We were based in Dublin and that was sort of our hub, and we’d go out to this beautiful countryside.  The people were so friendly, and I’m dying to go back when I have time to explore the country, and visit the castles and the seaside towns.  And of course, the Irish pubs,” she adds, her voice rising and gaining an Irish lilt, “where they sing and they dance and they drink a lot.  The people seem very happy there, it was very nice being in that environment.”

These days, her own environment includes a house in horse country outside Los Angeles that Nicollette has been remodeling for the past three years.

“I am just about finished,” she says of the English/French style hilltop chateau she’s surrounded with fragrant rose gardens and lavender.  “It’s very warm and inviting, and I’ve sort of mixed country with more of a streamlined, cleaner feel, because my other house is very country.  It’s very important to me to have good energy and a nice flow throughout a house, to make it a place you want to be, not that you walk in and have the feeling you don’t want to touch anything.

“I did the drawings and I was the designer, the architect and the landscaper,” adds Nicollette, who has been happily linked to wealthy financier Steve Pate for the past couple of years.  “It’s really rewarding to have a vision, put it on paper and bring it to life.  I feel very blessed.”

Her love of horses has recently led to her involvement with Ride On, “This wonderful charity for emotionally and physically disabled children and adults.  It’s all about them bonding with the horses and riding.  There’s so much for them to learn and to feel that love,” she enthuses.  “There’s a very different kind of communication that occurs between man and horse that is very powerful and extraordinarily healing.  It’s a wonderful place where people truly care and have devoted their lives to making such a difference.”

Clearly, Nicollette Sheridan continues to make a difference in her craft and in life.

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