Working full-time as a data scientist in Atlanta, Chandler Massey appears intermittently as Will Horton on “Days of our Lives” and is excited to be back in the Hallmark fold following the success of Hallmark Channel’s “Next Stop, Christmas,” which ranked in the top 10 of 2021’s most-watched Christmas movies, averaging 2.79 million viewers. This time he’s starring in “Heart of the Matter” for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries,” which premieres tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT on the cable network. So, what’s it been like for the three-time Daytime Emmy award winner now that he’s officially become a Hallmark star?
“Both of the [Hallmark] projects that I was fortunate enough to work on I’ve really had the time of my life,” Massey shares. “Obviously, ‘Next Stop, Christmas’ was so much fun and I thought it was really charming, and [‘Heart of the Matter’] was probably the biggest acting challenge for me of my career. And one of the most touching scripts I think I’ve ever read.”
In “Heart of the Matter,” we meet a cardiologist named Andie Hodges (Aimeé Teegarden) who has a great passion for the patients she treats and prides herself on giving them the best of care. Following the accidental death of Massey’s character, Henry, a young patient of Andie’s with an intellectual disability, the accomplished doctor is left shaken and doubting her ability as a medical provider. Things get even more chaotic when Henry’s mother, Gladys (Gail O’Grady), files a malpractice lawsuit against Andie which leads to potential sanctions from the medical review board.
“It’s really powerful. It’s about two women and their journey through grief and forgiveness, and love and acceptance,” Massey says before giving us some background about his neurodiverse character. “[Henry] experiences lower than average IQ but is relatively high functioning. He has a job. He’s just recently moved into his own place and he places a lot of importance on his independence and making a life for himself.” Unfortunately, as previously noted, Henry’s independence is short-lived.
Despite all the sadness surrounding his character’s death and where things go from there, Massey quite enjoyed working with and learning from his co-stars, Teegarden and O’Grady, both of whom he says he had an “amazing” time working with. “[They] were phenomenal actors and really, really great people. I think I learned a lot from watching them and they are obviously both powerhouses in their scenes so it was just a treat to be able to work with them.”
Massey also learned a lot from the time he spent researching for the role. In the movie, there is a speech made by Henry’s mother to a TV reporter in which she explains the background of where the term “handicapped” came from and why that word is not liked by people who are often labeled that way. “The history of words is important,” he says. “It was a huge learning experience for me. Definitely the biggest challenge I’ve had and I think the furthest I’ve gone away from just my natural self in playing a character.”
Meanwhile, the bond Henry shares with Andie and his mom will be on display throughout the movie, giving viewers the chance to see how Henry is able to connect with others. For instance, in one scene Henry and his mother plan to watch a movie together, “Spiderman,” which was named in the script as the one Henry wanted to watch most. However, O’Grady and Massey were able to put some emphasis on the why part. “We decided that ‘Spiderman’ was a movie that Henry always suggested watching,” Massey shares. “He’s a big Spiderman fan so we sort of took what was in the script and tried to build on that a little bit.”
As for Henry’s friendship with Andie, Gladys, in grieving over her son, isn’t aware that the two were friends and blames the doctor for not being there when Henry needed her most. So, if Henry could speak to his mother about the lawsuit, he would probably try to talk her out of going that route, Massey thinks. “What will become very apparent for anyone who watches the movie is that Henry and Andie really have a special relationship. He trusts her a lot. I think they respect each other and so I think Henry would understand his mother’s pain, for sure, but try to convince her that there are better ways to heal and Andie is not the target.”
With tonight’s premiere, Massey will be tuning in from home like everyone else. In fact, it’ll be the first time he’ll have seen the movie in its entirety. “I read the script so I know what happens [but] I haven’t actually seen any footage yet except for a few minutes when I did some ADR stuff. But yeah, I’ll be watching it with everyone else.” He’ll especially be tuning in to see what character traits were kept in. “I do like to keep a piece of me in every role that I play, sort of like a cornerstone from which to build outwards,” he says, adding, “I doubt you’ll be shocked by this [laughs], but I do stray… I think my time on ‘DAYS’ ingrained in me this tendency to go off script a little bit in the moment if it feels right, so it’s hard to know what made it… and I won’t know what made it into the final cut until I watch it but I think there are mannerisms and phrases I inserted that weren’t necessarily in the script but I thought that it helped me kind of ground Henry and sort of find that cadence of how he speaks, how he moves, and things like that.”
Speaking happily on his being able to work full time while still being able to secure acting gigs here and there, Massey says, “I think it’s nice that I have a stable day job because opportunities like this one kind of came out of nowhere. It’s hard to predict what I’ll be doing six months from now.” Of course, considering “DAYS” is filmed about six months out, can he provide a prediction on that front? “Yes, I guess I can predict that,” he says. “I’ll be on ‘DAYS’ until they kick me off.”
Speaking of which, even though he’s currently appearing sparingly as he’s on recurring status with the daytime drama series, since returning to the set last fall with scenes airing in March, Massey reveals that he has been back a few times since then. “I think I’m averaging about once every six weeks or something like that,” Massey notes, noting that his most recent stint was taped just over a month ago.
As for fans complaining about Sonny (Zach Tinker) appearing without Will, Massey points out, “Believe it or not they are two separate people, so they can be on their own.” He adds, “I definitely get it. Obviously, Will and Sonny are the main partners for each other but I’m also sure that Zach is appreciating getting to explore Sonny on his own for a little bit outside of the coupling.”
Meanwhile, playing Henry in “Heart of the Matter,” Massey hopes fans will take a journey as we meet his latest character. “[With Henry] I think I took some risks. I went big. I told myself, ‘This is either going to be one of the best things I’ve ever done or the worst things I’ve ever done,’ so I’m kind of terrified. So, I think I’ll just be watching it alone in a dark room with a blanket over my head, probably.”
“Heart of the Matter” airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and also stars Andrew Zachar as Patrick, Andie’s loving and supportive boyfriend. James Wilberger is the executive producer. Alexandre Coscas, Ben C. Silverman, Michael R. Goldstein and Simon Richardson are producers. Mark Jean directed from a script by Karen Struck.
Watch a preview of the movie below.