Torrance Coombs is starring in a romantic summer movie on Hallmark this Sunday called Romance In the Air, and we had a chance to chat with him.
Torrance has been a TV Fanatic favorite for years. His resume included spots on The Tudors and Still Star-Crossed, and The Originals, and starred for years as one of King Henry's sons, Bash, on Reign.
All of that keeps him pretty busy, even in 2020. Just the other day, he was online with his male castmates from Reign courtesy of Wizard World on Twitch.
He's so fun to watch because he seems like he's only half-serious. He's got a great sense of humor, which you can read on his face. When we jumped on the phone, I said I wanted to keep the conversation as light as Romance In the Air, and he good-naturedly responded, "Lovely. All right, sounds good. I'll be sure to drag it down into the gutter."
In 2020, it's good to laugh. Other than participating in online panels, Torrance admits he's been playing a lot of video games. "I've reverted back to my teenage self, and I've been playing Animal Crossing," he laughed.
"I'll tell you, the neat thing about it, I suppose, is it's this world in which the economy is such that through hard work and just kind of chopping down trees and catching fish and things, I can make enough money to build an empire.
"So it's been a weirdly creative outlet, building up an island from the ground up and also living in a world in which the economy still functions. Not that I've been avoiding dealing with the real world, but it's been a lovely escape."
Torrance enjoys the therapeutic nature of his gaming but admits he's sometimes guilty of spending too much time with it. "So now what I'm trying to do is emerge and find a better balance, with some varying success. But the dishes get done and the groceries get bought, and I'm still alive, so there are worse things in the world."
And he's pretty optimistic about our future, too. "I don't know, humanity has survived worse. In our lifetimes, this is one of the stranger events, but most of my friends and family have their health. And it's been a good time to simplify life, as well. And I think there's reason to think that maybe when we come out of it, we'll have rearranged our priorities in a positive way."
With pleasantries out of the way, Torrance shared a bit about his character in Romance In the Air. "Riley is just a really kind of easygoing, good dude, and he operates ... At some point, he sort of quit whatever path he was on and decided to pursue his dream of opening a hot air balloon place.
"But his talents don't really lie in the business and marketing realm. So it's a bit of a fledgling business, but it's a passion project. But he's dreading the possibility of maybe having to shutter it or put it aside to quote-unquote, get a real job."
The movie reconnects him with Cindy Busby, who he worked with when they both had roles on a TV series called Heartland. "We didn't always have a ton of scenes together, but we were always in town, hanging out on set, and she's just a really wonderful human being.
"Anybody who's had the chance to meet her or work with her or talk to her knows she's just a real and genuine person, really straight up. So, very easy to get to know her.
"There are no walls there, so it makes ... When you arrive on set and start shooting within a couple of days, and you have to pretend to be people who have a history together who are old friends maybe, it really helps. It helps that she's that kind of person."
Torrance has been in so many period pieces, that it's sometimes jarring to see him in casual clothes, let alone shorts and flip-flops. But he has a soft spot for the more formal attire.
"There is an aspect to dressing up in period garb that I enjoy, which is I'm very aware that I'm in costume. It kind of creates this artificial barrier between me and a character, where I kind of ... It's like stepping out on stage. I step into the light, and I'm in costume.
[Romance In the Air] blurs that line a little bit, and I feel a little like I'm working in my pajamas or something, for lack of a better way to put it. It's an interesting question because it does feel different. You forget you're in a costume."
"Having said that, way quicker to get into and out of. Probably, way easier to launder, so I'm sure wardrobe enjoys that. And yeah, it's funny. At some point, you become known as the period drama guy, but that's not really what I set out to do.
"And I've done modern and sci-fi and everything in-between. So it's good to get back to it. And sometimes it's fun not to be ye old British man for a day."
Interestingly, if he could choose an ideal role for himself, it would take him in a direction that we don't normally associate with him on screen, even if his down-to-earth and witty off-screen personality would suit it.
"I suppose at this point, it would be really fun to get back to doing some kind of straight-up comedy, which I haven't been able to do in a long time, really play the ridiculous comedy, be on a show like The Office or something like that, or Arrested Development, something that's really screwball and kooky.
"And I think that'd be fun. I could maybe be a straight man in there. I mean, I think it would be fun to be the kooky guy too."
It turns out that Torrance has had quite a bit of comedy experience. "The very first series I did was a comedy series called JPod. But honestly, that's the last opportunity I really had. I've done short films, comedy. I did comedy onstage, but it's been a long time since I've been able to do comedy onscreen.
"And it is interesting the way that you get pigeonholed, and not because you can't do something, but just because people learn to love seeing you do a particular thing. So, we want to see Keira Knightley in a period film, and we're a bit more suspicious of her in something modern day. You know?
"And actors don't necessarily set out to fill those niches. They don't mean to be doing that, but they discover they're good at something. And then suddenly ... Call it a lack of imagination, or just maybe more generously, people just want to see you do more of the thing that you did well.
But you end up getting cast in more of those types of projects. And then before know it, 10 years have gone by and you haven't done a comedy. And it's not that you can't do it. It's that, at some point, you would have had to turn down a great opportunity and a bunch of money just on hold out in the hopes you can do a different type of project.
"And sometimes it doesn't make sense to turn down going to Ireland or turn down going to Spain. It would be sort of mad to turn that down. Even though you're like, 'I really was hoping to do a different kind of show this time.'
"But honestly, no regrets. It's all really fun to do. But thankfully, [Romance In the Air director] Brian [Brough] and the team decided that they could insert me into a modern-day story."
And what a story it is! If you've ever imagined reconnecting with a childhood crush or missed-opportunity at love, then you'll enjoy Romance In the Air. Riley and Cindy's character, Eden, discover that many years apart hadn't dulled their admiration for each other. Torrance didn't have someone he loved and lost, though.
"I will say that there are those people who come into your life and, a couple of things. Sometimes something never happens with them, but you have the sense that, well, maybe it could in another timeline, or maybe it now is just not the right time for this.
"Or I'm moving cities and it was a thing that was never quite allowed to happen, but you always get the sense that, oh, maybe it would in another life.
"And then sometimes, I suppose, that other life presents itself, and maybe you didn't expect it ever would, and then you're confronted with an opportunity, and you have to figure out what to do with that. I mean, certainly, that's what the movie is about.
And for me, I guess, I've had those. I've had those things like somebody I've known years ago, and then you reconnect down the road. And you realize, 'Oh, there is a little something there.' Or you realize, '"Oh, there isn't anything there, but I still really like you, and we still just kind of have that easy rapport.'
"Yeah. And you know what? I love having those people in my life. I love having those people that ... You know what? We never tried it, and we never will. But just sort of knowing maybe we could have in another life, there's something kind of nice and fuzzy about that. I don't know. I think that people can relate to that. I think we probably all have a couple of those."
Because of those "what ifs," Romance In the Air is very relatable. "But it is interesting too because suddenly that thing that you had put on the shelf and said, 'Well, that's not a thing that can ever happen.' Suddenly it can. And the only barrier to it happening is you, and what do you want to do with your life?
And that's a really paralyzing thing for people. And there's no correct decision in that case. You can say, 'Follow your heart.' But sometimes your heart is pulling in two different directions.
"And there is a version of this film, where Cindy's character makes the other decision, and it would be totally understandable and forgivable. But yeah. There's just all those different paths. And do you dare take the plunge?"
Riley and Eden come together again while working on Riley's fledgling hot air balloon business, and if you read my interview with Cindy, then you know she was impressed that Torrance had some experience with balloons.
"I think they're so much fun. I've been up recreationally in balloons. I went through the Italian countryside some years ago. And then a couple of years ago, I went up in Napa Valley, which is beautiful as well. And they were different experiences.
"The guys in Italy, I guess, they had deals with all the local farmers and things, and kind of knew the winds, or maybe the winds through that particular valley were very consistent. But we went up in the balloon, and the thing just ... you just tear along in it.
"So we were swooping over treetops and soaring through the air and flying in a very deliberate direction, and then landing in a field. And there was a truck following us along the winding roads on the grounds to meet us in the field, obviously, and store the balloons and bring a picnic lunch and all that stuff.
And then in Napa Valley, the air was completely still. And their whole thing seemed to be, 'We can't drift. We can't be landing in somebody's vineyard.'
"So we went straight up, like literally just straight up in the air, barely shifting from the spot we took off from. But we went high, high, high. You can see so far. It was a super clear day. But there was something a little bit unnerving about just dangling there, like absolutely just hanging in the air.
"Whereas when you were like lower to the ground and really [skirting] through the trees, there wasn't time to worry about height. You were just kind of on a ride. So they were very different experiences and examples of two different kinds of experiences you can have in them."
With Romance In the Air, though, Torrance got to take the controls.
"The movie was my first chance to actually operate one. We were tethered to the ground and we had a licensed pilot in the basket with us, hiding, but I actually got to operate the burners and control the height of the thing. And it was really fun."
With so many fans of The Originals in the world and reading TV Fanatic through the years, we asked Torrance to share his thoughts on what he thinks Declan might be up to now.
"Oh, man. That's so tough to say because I don't ... What are any of them up to now? Right?
"In the aftermath of all that went down, who's picking up the pieces? I'd like to think he's part of a new order of peaceful negotiations and operations.
"Personally, I'd love to see him show up in Legacies at some point. I mean, not just for my own employment, which would be lovely, but also just because he wasn't a part of Hope's life.
"And it'd be cool if there were ever an opportunity, and I understand that there isn't, but it would be cool if there was an opportunity for him to make a little cameo and come say, 'Hey.'
But yeah, I couldn't possibly imagine the specifics of what he's up to. He always seems like a really straight-up dude to me, a really good guy. So I think he's doing his best."
As full as Torrance's life is, he has still had some time to watch television, and he has some recommendations.
"I watched all of Mad Men, which I'd been meaning to watch forever and never did. And I just found that such an inspiration as an actor and just a great show besides. But I love all the performances and the characters on the show and the writing and, yeah, I was hugely inspired by that. Yeah. It’s one of those canonical shows for a reason."
While binge-watching, he's spent a good deal on Netflix, where he also caught up with Dead to Me, among other things. "I think that show's really kind of a clever little take on crime and punishment, I guess. I don't know if you've seen it, but it's great.The first season was better. The second season is pretty silly, but I loved it anyhow.
He admitted to watching Floor Lava but didn't go so far as to recommend it. The Big Flower Fight, though, earns praise from Torrance. "It's insane. I didn't expect to like this.
"So on the surface, you're like, 'Okay, big whoop.' But they're not making bouquets. I think it must be British. So it's a reality show, but they've got all these couples who come in from all over Europe and North America.
"And they're tasked with basically making gigantic floral creations. And some of them are with dried flowers. Some of them are topiary. Some of them were evergreen. But they make these huge, like, animal sculptures and the houses out of plants and flowers.
"As somebody who had no particular interest in florals or flowers, this show is absolutely fascinating. These things are works of art. You forget they're even made of flowers.
"And just as an artist, it's tremendously inspiring. So these guys are sculptors, though. They're visual artists. It's really incredible. So I was really taken in by that show and ended up binging it a day. So I'd recommend that one."
We also spent some time chatting about confections since ice cream plays an important role in Riley reconnecting with Eden in Romance In the Air. But Torrence took the conversation in a different direction when I wondered what foods from his native Canada that he might miss by living in the US. He didn't disappoint.
"One of my favorite treats is a Canadian dessert called Nanaimo bars. Anybody who's ever had these things knows what I’m talking about. I've introduced them to all my friends down in L.A., and now they just have me make them for them all the time," he laughed.
"But essentially, it's a layer of chocolate and graham Cracker crust; It's a three-layered bar.
"So the bottom layer is graham crackers, chocolate, blah, blah, blah. The middle layer is kind of a vanilla cream custard layer. Oh, coconut as well in the bottom layer. And then the top is just a layer of melted chocolate. And they don't require any baking. You just stick them in the freezer, and they're out-of-this-world good."
That's not the only thing that he misses from Canada. The second is of a more adult nature.
"I guess another thing would be in Canada, we have Caesars, which are like Bloody Marys but using Clamato juice instead of a tomato juice. So they end up just, just ass-kicking-ly salty and delicious. And it's really hard to drink a Bloody Mary once you've got used to Caesars.
"And there are places who started doing Caesars, especially as people's interest in craft cocktails and different sorts of drinks has risen. And obviously now, Clamato juice itself is widespread down here, so I can make the Caesars here, but I still don't see them out at too many bars or anything.
"Whereas in Canada, it would be a very normal thing to go for brunch and get a Caesar to cure your hangover," he laughed.
So this Saturday night, maybe you can whip up some Nanaimo bars while you watch Romance In the Air on Hallmark, and then later, wash it all down with a Ceasar. There are certainly worse things you could be doing during your weekend!
Romance In the Air airs Saturday, August 1 on Hallmark 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, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.