interview by JANA LETONJA

Actor and writer Chad Michael Murray starred in The WB/CW series ‘One Tree Hill’ and films like ‘A Cinderella Story’ and ‘Freaky Friday’. Chad currently stars in the hit CTV/The CW series ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’, which just returned for its second season in Canada. Next up, he will star in Netflix’s rom-com ‘Mother of the Bride’, which will be released tomorrow, on 9th May.

We’ll be able to watch you in Netflix’s ‘Mother of the Bride’. Tell us what can we expect from this rom-com.

It’s fun, it’s light, it’s a vacation. I think what’s so much fun about it is it’s just a departure from the everyday narrative. We filmed in beautiful, gorgeous Thailand with a bunch of great people and just had the best time with a great leader in Mark Waters. Get ready to have some fun, turn off mentally and enjoy a great comedy.

What was your favorite part of filming this rom-com?

It was the first time I’d ever been to Thailand, so it was nice to get the cultural kind of feeling. It was great, learning so very much. And the people just embraced us and that’s always huge for me. 

But I would say, it was a really good group. Everybody, from Benjamin, Brooke, Miranda, Sean and just the whole crew, was so warm and welcoming. Our hair and makeup department, they were so much fun. And every morning we’d start the day off with great vibes, great energy, great music and life was good.

How have rom-coms developed and changed since 20 years ago, when you starred in ‘A Cinderella Story’?

The honest answer, I just think that culture’s changed and the world’s changed. And so I think there’s a lot of storytelling that has been adapted due to culture shifts. With different narratives, technology, everything that’s going on, you have to shift to try to stay ahead of it all. Thus, I think they feel very different for us who grew up watching a different form of romantic comedy. For example, ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’ is such a classic, and all those for me, I believe that they’re going to come back, but I think that they’re going to come back in a similar fashion. 

And that’s a little bit more what this, ‘Mother of the Bride’, is. It’s trying to get back into that sweet spot of the rom-com, of what it really is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a departure, you’re supposed to be rooting for the two people that are kind of being pulled apart by different trials and tribulations. You’re supposed to be having fun going on this adventure with them. I don’t think a rom-com needs to be a course in education by any means. I think entertainment sometimes should just be there. 

You’re also currenty starring in ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’, the most-watched Canadian drama of 2022-2023, which just returned with its second season. What can the fans expect from the remaining episodes this season?

Oh, it’s jam packed. Roma Roth is the queen of drama. She’s our showrunner, creator and writer. This season’s faster paced, production’s through the roof. Season one had to set up a lot of these narratives and a lot of the storylines. You get to know the characters and now that everybody knows each other, you can really feel free to play and just kind of go off the beaten path. I just think that there’s a lot more pacing, a lot more action, a lot more drama and a lot more question marks for each one of these characters, so it really leaves you guessing throughout the entire season. And if you like season one, you’re gonna love season two.

How does starring on a long-running show compare to starring on a film for you, from the creative perspective?

For season two, before we go to camera, I’ve added in a bunch of things. I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Roma and saying we should do tone meetings, her and I just to discuss what we really want for Cal’s journey. And so I think the comfortability between writer, creator, actor and just human beings becomes stronger and the dialogue becomes more open, and you’re not so nervous to say the wrong thing because you know each other’s path. You’ve created that firsthand dialogue. 

When you’re in a film, you’re kind of a little ginger getting in there because you don’t know if you’re going to say something that will really ruffle feathers. There’s a lot more creation when you’re doing a film. You sit down and you have to read the script, and re-read the script and see it in mood A and mood B. You’re creating the character each and every time. Whereas in a series, this has already been established in season one, so if you go back onto a long running show, you know who they are. It’s just what and where do we want to go, what’s going to be fun for me, what’s going to be fun for the audience, what’s going to be fun for them to discover about Cal, how can we continue to mold and bring them through. 

And in a film, you’ve got the script and there’s a little bit of play to make sure that everything’s nice and tight and great, ready to go. But you’re starting from square one, so you’re going to walk on set and you’re like “Oh, I hope I made the right choice”. Whereas on a series, you’re like “Okay, we know who this guy is”. There’s a safe zone that you can go to and then there’s risks that you can always play with and you can give kind of alternate versions. You can’t do that so much on a film because you just really got to dial it in.

You’ve been in the industry for over 20 years now. How would you sum up your career so far and what do you think contributes to your longevity the most? 

A lot of luck. I moved out to Los Angeles at 18 years old, fresh faced, wide-eyed, ready to go. And I think I just had more courage than I thought. I was like “Cool, I got this”, but I don’t know if it was well thought out by any means. I was very lucky and very blessed. However, here you look almost 25 years later and I have a different appreciation for what we do. I have a different appreciation for craft for my fellow artists. I have a different appreciation every day getting up and getting to go to work, which I try to bestow on my children. When they see me go to work, I say “All right guys, I get to go to work today”. And I try to let them know that that’s a gift. I get to get up and go tell stories and do what I love to do. And I feel like I’m just getting started and I have so many more stories that I want to tell, and so many different relationships that I want to form with the audience and with my fellow creators. 

Speaking of longevity, you are excellent about keeping in touch with those fans who have been with you since the beginning. Tell us how important that is for you to stay engaged with fans? 

Well, to me, it’s really everything. Long time ago, I realized that every time you take a photograph and every time you sign an autograph, these are relationships that you’ve created for the rest of your life. Whether you ever run into this person or not, you’re putting out positivity and love and joy. And the fact that with a simple act you can bring someone a smile and potentially change the course of their day, what an unbelievable blessing to be able to give that on a daily basis. 

I remember back on ‘One Tree Hill’, season one, we would have 400 people sitting outside the river court when we were playing basketball. And they sit there all day long and watch us film. We’d have like a 16 hour day, but the one thing I would always do when we wrapped was go over and say hello and sign autographs and take photos with every person who stayed all day to be there for us. And that, along with our castmates, built the following that has stayed true to today. And as we age and we grow, there’s different things that appeal to us because we’ve had different experiences, but I feel like we grew together.

Keeping this relationship with fans is the thing that contributes to a show’s success and how long we are able to see it on air.

It’s the only reason we exist. The only reason that we’re making movies is because of the people who want to see them, the fans, friends I call them. These people are what keep content on the air and without them, there is nothing. And so the respect that we must pay to our audience, in my personal opinion, is paramount.

Has becoming a dad in any way changed your outlook on what roles and projects you take on?

So very much. I would say, a lot of material, especially over the past 5 to 8 years since my son was born, I choose because I think one of the last things you really want is for your kids to be berated in school for what their parents are doing. I don’t want my kids going to school, being freshman in high school, and dad’s butt posted all over their locker. That’s not fair to them, so making decisions for that has been great. 

I’m a family guy. We try to keep everything very grounded, very peaceful at home. And I love my job, but this is also my job. I’m making sure that I’m there every day, that we travel together as a pack, so we don’t break up the pack when we travel. When we are in Nova Scotia filming ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’, we’re all there. I get to work and I get to go home and play with the babies. Now, is this extra work for me to throw on top, so I can’t be solely focused on ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’? Yeah, but that just means I need to better place my time and figure out how do I manage this all. So I get done with work, I come home, say hello, hugs, kisses all around, we sit down, we play, we watch something together, put them to bed and then get back to the text, get back to the focus. And we do that for everything. We’re all heading to Chicago even if it’s just a two day weekend for autograph signing. But it’s important that they’re here, because I don’t believe in breaking up the pack to the point where they’re like “Oh, dad’s on another trip”. And for me, I wouldn’t trade this for anything, no matter the amount of success, it doesn’t matter. It trumps all of that. 

What example would you like to set for them for their future?

It would never be just one thing. I think it’s a conglomerate of so many ideas and loving your neighbor, loving your friends, being slow to anger and quick to forgiveness, it’s keeping your calm and patience. It’s giving it all you have, even if you’re in a job you don’t enjoy, but being prideful in your own work. We’re trying to instill in them to take pride in themselves, their work and their lives, and just plant those seeds at a young age. But I always want them to put their family first. I don’t want to get to a point where one of our kids is a workaholic and they’re just so worried about what’s going to happen to their business that their family falls on the side. That would crush me because you can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have that family and that love, that means nothing. That heart, that love, that feeling that you get when you lay your head to sleep at night and feel full, that’s special. 

We’ve got three beautiful babies that we love so much. My wife, she’s a soldier, she’s so fantastic, she’s just the best mom. And I know everyone says that and they have to say that, but I watch her and I’m just amazed how women have an extra gear that you don’t even know exists. Before our youngest came along, I was always like “My gosh, how can we squeeze any more into a day than it was already going on?” And then sure enough comes our daughter and extra gear. Where do you get this? Where does this energy come from? It’s astounding. Women have an extra gear that is really an amazing thing to see. And I’m blown away by it. 

Besides acting, you’ve also written two books. What creative avenue would you like to explore next in your career?

I think there’s so many ideas and pursuits of creativity that I have stored inside me, some that have felt too intimate to even release. I think that there’s definitely a part of me that wants to get into the children’s book business. And it’s not about the money, it’s about telling stories for kids and seeing little kids light up when they get a little giggle or you write something in there that’s really just humorous to them. That for me is something that I want to fulfill. 

There’s also screenplays that I’ve been working on that are left unfinished, so when I find the extra time, I want to take those and put them out there for the world to see, and get a sense of my own kind of barometer for what I find funny or what I find dramatic or what I find scary in any particular genre. I think there’s a vast amount of things I still have yet to accomplish and yet to do, and it’ll all be in due time.

After the second season of ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’ finishes airing and ‘Mother of the Bride’ comes out, what projects are coming up next for you? Do you have any special plans for the summer? 

I will be working. I can’t say on what, because we haven’t done one of those official press releases yet, but I’m getting ready to start filming a project with Netflix. And after that, I’m working on something else that I can’t really say anything about. And then, we should be heading back out for season three of ‘Sullivan’s Crossing’, so the rest of the year is pretty jam packed. Right now, it’s about getting mentally, spiritually and physically focused and ready to go. 

After all that, I want to take the family somewhere warm, like the tropics. We haven’t been somewhere tropical in years. We’ve been busy, so I think it was before the pandemic. I would love to take the family on a nice trip, maybe even just to New York City for Christmas, and we can pray for some snow and have a white Christmas in New York. That might be cool.

photographer FERNANDO SIPPEL
groomer MR SARAH
casting director JORGE ROSELL Jorge Rosell
photography assistant FRANCISCO ESCOBAR
styling assistant ALEXANDRIA JERDINE
editorial director & interview JANA LETONJA