When Jay Hindle learned his next movie was going to be shot in Prince George, he didn’t need a roadmap to find it.
The 44-year-old Vancouver actor grew up in Kamloops as a soccer player and P.G. was a regular stop on the tournament calendar for Hindle when he was a young teenager. But those trips were always in the summertime and he’d never seen the city in its late-winter glory until he arrived last week to begin filming the holiday romance A Great North Christmas.
After a week of filming at locations around the city, which featured lead character Caroline North (actress Laura Mitchell) getting her feet wet in cross-country skiing, dog sledding and snowmobiling, Hindle was impressed with the natural beauty of the city.
He likes the fact it’s an entirely local team – Barker Street Cinema – that’s behind the production, making a movie that doesn’t hide the fact it’s being filmed in Prince George, breaking free of the longstanding tradition of using Canadian locations to portray an American setting. Movie viewers around the world are going to see the adventurous side of a British Columbia winter when they sit down in their TV rooms to watch A Great North Christmas later this year.
“My co-star is the location and the fact is we’re not hiding the location, we’re actually boosting it, rather than making it look like Idaho,” said Hindle. “I love P.G., it reminds me of home. You’ve got the meeting of the rivers, the Nechako and Fraser, and we’ve got the Thompson and South Thompson (in Kamloops).”
Hindle teaches acting in Vancouver and he’s been putting his teaching skills to work educating an inexperienced but enthusiastic film crew that’s hoping to build off what they learned in two weeks of filming in Prince George so they’ll have a better understanding of their jobs if and when another film production comes to the city.
“Quite often, working for Hallmark productions it’s an American company that comes up and I’m a hired gun, but this is a local B.C., grass-fed production and it seems very mom-and-pop - everyone that’s working on this project is hungry to learn,” said Hindle.
“I’ve been treated so well here and there’s an excitement surrounding this and a support you quite often don’t get in L.A. or Vancouver, where the crews have been doing it so long, it doesn’t have that novelty. This feels more like a family.”
The plot of A Great North Christmas centres on the female lead character, Caroline, whose friends in Los Angeles arrange for her to take a December trip to snowy Canada to serve as a distraction from a tragic Christmast accident that took the lives of her parents. She meets Jonathan (Hindle) an investment banker from Toronto, who has returned to his family farm near Prince George while he deals with the pain of having lost his father to cancer a month earlier.
“Both of these people, Jonathan and Caroline, are working through grief,” said Hindle. “It’s really a journey of how bumpy and ugly and scattered you get through grief and finding the other side. Her parents died four years ago around Christmas and she’s withdrawn and it’s still near the surface. Jonathan’s father died a month ago, so it’s a lot fresher, and he sees in her the grief and tries to help.
“Of course, they fall in love but it’s not smooth because these people are trying to figure out how to love again, and how to open up. I think it’s quite a beautiful story.”
Hindle said the friendly smalltown setting is perfect for the story about two grieving characters who find each other because it exposes the lead characters to familiar traditions and people who genuinely care about them. They feed off that intimacy which would get lost in the hustle and bustle of a big city and it helps them heal their troubled emotions.
Hindle says taking on the role of Jonathan and the relationship he has with his family on their farm, where they operate a sled dog business (filmed northwest of the city off Chief Lake Road at Dog Power Adventures) has prompted some soul-searching. It made him think about his real-life relationship with his own parents. His dad lives in Kamloops, while his mom divides her time between Kamloops and Cornwall, England.
“As an actor working through losing a parent, both my parents are alive, and it just reminds me to take advantage of the time we have left, and I didn’t expect that,” he said. “In this, it’s really a guy struggling to try to find himself through loss, and before that happens in my life, Jay’s life, I really want to take advantage of the time we have now.”
Hindle has been in several Christmas movies that appear on TV screens during the holiday season. He starred in A December Bride (2016) and had supporting roles in Write Before Christmas (2019) and A Christmas Duet (2019). The Hallmark Channel has become hugely popular, especially with women, for its devotion to the Christmas romance genre, but it’s not just women who are watching.
“Hallmark movies take a few different directions but generally it’s a nice feelgood kind of movie,” said Hindle. “I have some friends and it’s funny but they say it’s their guilty pleasures, it’s like making confessions. They say, ‘I have to confess my wife watches these and I sit there and I actually love it.’”
Hindle has a long list of movie credits, including a major part in the science fiction drama, The Silencer & The Sky (2007) and appeared in Dragged Across Concrete (2018) with Vince Vaughn and Mel Gibson, and A Time To Dance (2016), sharing the screen with Corbin Bernsen and Jennie Garth.
On the field, his skills as a soccer defender led to a semipro career playing in California, Mexico and England and he played into his early-30s until he blew his ACL. He has two kids in Vancouver, a five-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter.
Hindle and his connection to James Douglas, the director of A Great North Christmas, dates back to 2003 when Douglas saw Hindle as a University of Victoria fine arts student performing the Shakespeare play The Taming of the Shrew. He was part of Phoenix Theatres in Victoria and booked his first professional gig while he was still in school.
Hindle lived in Los Angeles for five years and also worked as an actor in England, where he did touring shows. He’s been based in Vancouver since 2011. His talents as a singer led to a Western Canada Theatre tour playing Captain George von Trapp in the Sound of Music, and he’s also exercised his vocal chords on stage as Harry (The Head Banger) in Mamma Mia.
“It’s been in my blood since Grade 5,” he said.