You Had Me at Aloha premieres tonight, starring frequent on-screen couple Kavan Smith and Pascale Hutton.
Their chemistry is undeniable, whether you’re watching them as Lee and Rosemary Coulter on When Calls the Heart or in any of their past movie collaborations.
Hopefully, you’ve already read our interview with Pascale because now Kavan is going to weigh in on the special experience they shared making You Had Me at Aloha.
The movie is about a travel show producer named Paige, who finds herself a part of the attraction when she is unexpectedly paired in front of the camera with a streaming adventure show host named Ben (Kavan)
Kavan and Pascale worked on this movie from its inception. “She said she wanted to play an introvert, agoraphobic, kind of a vacation-planner, travel blogger. So I said, ‘Great, I’ll play the exact opposite,” Kavan shared.
“So I played this more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-his pants guy that doesn’t like to plan and just likes to improvise as he goes. And interestingly enough, Ben is certainly a lot more like me and Pascale than her character was. We’re both a little bit more spontaneous that way.”
When I revealed that of the two of them, Pascale said Ben was more like Paige, Kavan laughed it off. “She likes to say that because she likes to make age jokes at me. She’s an agist,” he laughed.
“But the truth is we’re both fairly spontaneous, and certainly on set, we’re spontaneous. We love to play around. Like they gave us the UTVs, and we went zip lining and all of these things. These are all things that we both love to do. No one had to twist our arm. I think she just loves to throw that in every once in a while to remind everybody that I’m older.”
When you first meet Ben in the movie, he’s standing on the edge of a cliff, preparing to dive off as part of his program. If you guessed that Kavan has experience with that sport, you’d be right!
“I used to do that. When I was a kid, there was a little place about an hour’s drive out of town called CD Cliffs. And I think the higher one was about 50 or 60 feet. And we started jumping and then hit a few dives. And then, one day, it just dawned on me how stupid it was to do something like that with zero training.”
The mention of that youthful stupidity reminded Kavan of a shocking moment he witnessed on set.
“While we were shooting the scenes up there, there’s actual cliff diving in and around that spot. And there were a bunch of tourists there. So we had all these really high-end stunt guys, actually very famous stuntmen that are big in the surfing community.
“And they were making sure I didn’t fall off a cliff, which was great. But a tourist did fall off the cliff! Literally, while we were looking at him, he fell down the cliff. And he would have fallen to his death, which sounds really bleak, but he hit a tree. He hit one. There was one little branch sticking out of the rock on the way down. And he hit it, and it stopped his momentum, but it broke his leg.”
Kavan said that their stuntmen sprung into action, assisting in the rescue. “And the guy who was our main stunt coordinator, it was his son that came and showed up in the helicopter and took this kid to safety. And the irony is the first thing I have to say into the camera as soon as we finish this rescue is, ‘Who’s ready to jump off a cliff?'”
Kavan couldn’t believe the irony or the surreal real-life drama that unfolded before their eyes. The stunt guys knew the dangers and how slippery the rocks were close to the cliff, as well as the importance of diving far enough from the cliff itself to make it past the rocks and the crashing waves.
“But it was really something else. I mean, we watched a full-on rescue.”
It was like a cartoon rescue, with the ACME branch saving a life, and Pascale wasn’t even there to see it! “As soon as I saw her, I said, ‘Oh, my God. I’ve got a story for you today!'”
While that dangerous moment put his lines in perspective, Kavan said they were very safe during the various adventures Paige and Ben had in the movie. “Everything to do with the show and to do with the crew that we had was all very, very safe. It was just really the tourists beside us they got into trouble.
“But everything else we did, from the zip lining to the swimming and the snorkeling and stuff, was all very, very, very safe. And the UTV was a little fun. I drove, and I think maybe my other career would have been a race car driver, but I loved burning around in that thing!”
He’s referring to a very entertaining scene in which Ben and Paige hit the Hawaiian landscape in UTVs. Wearing GoPro cameras, they caught all of their escapades on camera for the film.
That wasn’t all, though. Kavan knows that he isn’t the greatest with his social media posts, and he made sure he created content to share.
“I purposely went and did some photos and some videos. And I took a video of me driving it, and I showed the vehicle and myself and then Pascale. And then I watched it, and I was going about two miles an hour. I’m like, ‘Okay, this is just going to look so lame. So I’m just going to let the movie speak for itself. We really got going at one point.”
Kavan loves the GoPro and how it captures everything that they did, but not everything worked out to their satisfaction.
“One of the things about the water stuff and the snorkeling that was a little bit of a disappointment was that the weather in March can be pretty wild in Hawaii. And we got everything. We got sun. We got heat. We got wind. We got rain. We got storms.
“And it churned up the water a fair bit. So there was quite a bit of sediment in the water. So you couldn’t see as clearly as you would normally there. So when we did all the snorkeling stuff, it wasn’t as clear as we wanted it to be.
“There was some really cool stuff to explore where we were. There were sea turtles out there. There were some little rock caves that we wanted to go into, but you just couldn’t see anything because the water was so churned up.
“So Pascale and I asked if we could go on the weekend; we didn’t need a cameraman or anything. Just give us some GoPros, and we’ll go shoot ourselves out in one of these bays. But the powers that be said, ‘Absolutely not. This is the place that you’re allowed to swim and nowhere else.’ So we were turned down.”
They did a lot of fun stuff while visiting the islands, and a lot of it doesn’t make it to the final cut. Kavan hopes that the gag reel for the film eventually sees the light of day, though.
“All she and I do is try and make each other laugh. That’s really what it boils down to. We have so much fun because it’s just trying to make the other person crack up,” he said.
Kavan said they were hoping that the gag reel might play across the credits like you find in major motion pictures. “We really wanted them to do that. And I don’t think that’s happening, but we wanted them to. And I think that there’s enough stuff there to warrant a new, like another show. I think there’s somewhere for these two to go.”
Aha! He’s talking sequel material, which we also discovered that Pascale was on board to do.
“The show within the show was initially called Next Destination, which was the working title of this movie as well before they went with You Had Me at Aloha.
“And we were hoping that it would be these two that kind of clash in their styles. And we could tour around the world and go see some neat locations and have a lot of fun, so that was always the pitch.”
But the length of time it took to get this movie made in light of the pandemic leaves them unsure of a possible franchise in the future.
“Hopefully, the movie does really well. Hopefully, people like it and mention and tweet about it, and get some buzz for us. And we’ll go back to them, and we have a few ideas for a sequel. And we’ll see what they say.”
Kavan and Pascale had hoped that filming the movie would have reunited their two families for an awesome family adventure interconnected with the production, but COVID had other plans. The enormity of making a film together after such a stressful time wasn’t lost on them, though.
“When we landed in Hawaii and got to the hotel, it was pretty late at night, but we were checking in, and she looked at me, and she said, ‘Oh, my God, we’re actually here. After all the hoops we jumped through, we’re actually here. We’re doing this movie in Hawaii. This is actually happening.’ So it was an exciting moment. And yeah, I mean, the world was just starting to open up again.
You Had Me at Aloha is a perfect movie for the world in its present state, even if it wasn’t timed this way. Paige’s tendency to hole up and miss out on life means Ben helps her discover the joy of relaxation again. Kavan thinks his relaxation muscles, on a scale of chill to atrophied, are a moving target.
Life the rest of us, Kavan felt the pressure of the COVID lockdown. “We have a family cabin that’s fairly close by. And so, for the beginning part of this, I felt pretty chill because we could go to the cabin. And they shut that down about four or five months ago.
“So I do feel a little more contained now, but then I got to go to Hawaii with a friend. And I definitely think my muscles were atrophied a little bit. You get nose blind a little bit. You kind of just every morning you wake up. ‘Okay, what’s different today? What am I doing today that’s different? Oh yeah. Nothing.’
“So I got to spend a lot of time writing and doing things. I mean, the kids were going to school, and my wife works hard, so there’s stuff to do.
“But as an actor. And I mean, we have our show, When Calls the Heart, which should be starting up pretty soon. And we had this thing in Hawaii, which was nice, but there’s a lot of downtime as an actor. And when the whole world is in downtime, it can be kind of compounded.
Kavan rediscovered his passion for reading and writing, which he’d lost touch with while his children were young. When quarantining for two weeks after flying home from the movie, he started something new.
“I started working on some novel stuff. I’ve always toyed with writing novels. I’m not good enough yet to actually get a novel published, so I just write for me. I write almost cathartically.”
He’s also working on some more scripts which may or may not come to fruition, depending on the WCTH production schedule and he and Pascale’s tenure at Hallmark.
“I’ve got one plan for being an old guy. So when I’m ready to be an old guy, I’ve got a script I’d been working on for a while.”
When asked exactly how old he’d need to be to star in a movie of his “old-guy” script, he said, “I don’t know. Really, a couple more years. But it needs some time tweaking, and I’m trying to shop it around a little bit.”
With a writing and acting partner like Pascale, Kavan knows how great they have it. They work well together, and their families are great friends. It’s a dream. It all started with their awareness of one another after they both had roles in The 4400.
“I had just started on When Calls, and I just thought, ‘Oh yeah, she seems nice. It’ll be fine.’ And the first episode or two was okay, but then we did this one scene where Rosemary is trying to force-feed Lee some broth or soup. I can’t remember what it was.
“She just kept poking the spoon into the side of my face. And then the first couple of times that I go, ‘Okay, that’s kind of funny. All right, enough is enough.’ And then she just wouldn’t let it go.
“She just kept poking me in the face with the spoon for about 10 minutes. And everybody else was over it and like, ‘All right, Pascale, would you please stop that so we can continue with the scene?’ But she wouldn’t quit. And after a while, I was like, ‘This is actually now really funny. This is my kind of humor, completely obnoxious irreverent humor.’
“The very next scene we had together, I went back at her about her hair in this one particular scene. And she took it. Usually, in my line of work, some people are great at giving it but terrible when you turn it around on them. And she was not. She is not precious and not sensitive about that kind of stuff. She can take it as good as she can give it.
“And right away, that was the sort of start. There was mutual respect for what kind of humor we had and the fact that I didn’t have to handle her with kid gloves or she with me.
“We’re just not sensitive about that kind of stuff. And it’s made everything else easier. So it’s just become a situation now where all we want to do when we’re on set is try and make each other laugh. And if it’s not working, we just try and make ourselves laugh, so it’s been a really good fit.”
Socially, it’s been seamless. “I mean, similar types of people where we are in life, we both have two boys. We both have great marriages. We both like what we do very much. We’re both committed to the shows that we’re on. And it’s just been a really fortuitous union, I think for both of us. And we’ve talked about it many times.
“And we’re just like, ‘We want this ride to go on for as long as humanly possible.’ So if we can parlay this into something else, we certainly intend to.”
Their approaches to the work are slightly different, with Kavan a little more A-type to Pascale’s more on-the-fly approach, but that doesn’t inhibit them. “Our styles are set, but when the camera’s rolling, we love bouncing stuff off each other. There’s nothing she could do that I… Like we don’t break character. We just keep going and going and going.
“It’s part of the reason you get in this business. You want to create. You want to improvise. You want to commit to a character. You want to become something else.
“And when the person beside you is on board with all those things and is really good at doing all those things, then you’re doing it as a team. And I never got into this business to be a team or to be in a team. It’s a very individualistic kind of job.
“But we sort of turned into a team. And it works for us. And we like it.” Kavan sums up their working relationship. “I’ve had lots of good experiences. I’ve had some bad experiences, but this one was the one that jumped from the beginning. It just kind of sparked.
“We’re lucky that our show has been picked up. And we’re lucky that this network has allowed us to do a few little passion projects on the side. And we’ve been able to strengthen that bond. Sometimes, even if you get a great team partner, you do a movie, it’s over, and you never see that person again.
“So we had a spark, and then we were lucky enough to be able to sort of stoke it. And all these years later, we’re really good friends, and we still really love doing the work.”
When you watch You Had Me at Aloha, you’ll be reminded just how great they are on screen together.
We’ll have more from our conversations with Kavan and Pascale at a later date to round up everything they shared about the When Calls the Heart Finale and what might come in the future.
You Had Me at Ahola airs on Hallmark Channel, Saturday, June 5 at 9/8c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She’s a member of the Critic’s Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.