EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Eric Mabius Previews 'SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED'

Eric Mabius as Oliver in SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED.
Photo Credit: Hallmark Channel
Eric Mabius brings a varied background to his work. He is the second of two sons of Craig and Elizabeth Mabius. Of Polish, Irish and Austrian ancestry, he was born in Pennsylvania, but spent much of his life in Massachusetts. He is best known for his role in the hit series UGLY BETTY, playing womanizing executive Daniel Meade.

A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, he first came to the attention of movie fans with his film debut in Welcome to the Dollhouse. Since then, Mabius has taken on a wide variety of roles, avoiding being typecast. He earned favorable notice for his performance as a high school gang leader in Black Circle Boys, but is known for his role as a blackmailed prep school athlete in the box office smash Cruel Intentions. In 2012, Mabius starred in the Hallmark Channel Original Movies How to Fall in Love and Reading, Writing & Romance.

Mabius also starred in The Crow: Salvation, a sequel to the Brandon Lee film and appeared in the science fiction action film Resident Evil, as well as the BBC's OUTCASTS.

In Martha Williamson's SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED, premiering October 12 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Mabius plays Oliver, the idiosyncratic leader of the small, but dedicated Dead Letters Office group. It's the story of a group of postal detectives whose mission is to deliver letters from the past and make sure they miraculously arrive just in the nick of time.

We Love Soaps recently caught up with Mabius to discuss his career and find out more about more SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED. Read our exclusive interview below.

WE LOVE SOAPS: You play Oliver in SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED and I really love this character. How would you describe him?
ERIC MABIUS: I feel like he's the kind of guy that all of us want to be, at least some parts of us. He tends to say the right thing at the right time. He's a bit of Cary Grant, like a nerdy Cary Grant. You get the sense that he's a guy who works because he wants to, and takes pride in what he does, but he doesn't have to. The character says when his superior tries to discipline him that he has "a pay grade higher than she could possibly imagine." I love that line. I think everyone would like to be in a position like that where they don't move up the corporate ladder because they choose not to, and are quite comfortable with where they are and passionate about what they do. It's something I really enjoyed exploring with Oliver. And it becomes infectious, certainly with his team of misfits that he runs.

One aspect I love is Shane's (Kristin Booth) character comes in and really shakes the tree, and really challenges the steady state and hermetically sealed universe that he's created. There's a lot of complexity and broad appeal as well, which you don't find terribly often these days. In an odd way, even though he's very specific and picky, he's still some type of everyman. He's third generation, at least, postal worker.

I think there's something lost nowadays in how quick everything is. There's something that really appealed to me about Oliver's focus, the lost art of letter writing, and them dedicating themselves to delivering things that may or may not be important. There's a long monologue Oliver has about having faith in the postal service, and if someone takes the time to think and it flows out through their hands, it's something that's lost by punching a key. There's great intent and a different kind of communication that occurs as opposed to quick text, no punctuation, no paragraphs, and so on. It's a type of discourse that's being lost and that's part of what I think Martha was trying to preserve. I'm really going to enjoy exploring the possibilities of that setup.

Photo Credit: Hallmark Channel
WE LOVE SOAPS: I loved the scene where Kristin Booth's Shane first arrives and they are looking for a company and she says she will "google" it, but Norman grabs the phone book and finds it faster. I wondered to myself when was the last time I actually used a phone book.
ERIC MABIUS: That's what cracks me up, there are people who have never touched a phone book. I was talking to a friend of mine, who is younger than I am, and his girlfriend even younger, and it doesn't even occur to some people in their teens or 20s that have never touched a phone book.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Oliver says at one point his job in the Dead Letter Office is a "high calling". Did you know much about dead letters before you read this script?
ERIC MABIUS: I knew of it but I didn't know much about it. I thought about that a lot when I was younger thinking about letters to Santa Claus and wonder where they all go. Since I've been involved with this show, everyone has come forward with some kind of story and knows of a story of a letter that was carried through the War or never delivered, or something that got lost, or someone unpacked an old box in the attic and there was a undelivered piece of mail that ends up in the system. You hear about these stories all the time on the news. Aside from being a record it's sort of a time capsule. I didn't know a lot about it but the more I learn the more I feel there's a real space for that. These are people who do forensic work. They are postal detectives. The show is meant to be a bit of escapism, it's a bit of fantasy world, but all these things are based in reality. We have a great technical adviser from the USPS and these are fueled by real-life stories as well. It's going to have broad appeal and massive potential. The pilot tested through the roof.

WE LOVE SOAPS: I think it's going to do well. I screened the pilot and it left me with a big smile on my face. There's a feel-good element to the show that is rare to find on TV these days.
ERIC MABIUS: What's wonderful about Martha's ability, and what was popular about UGLY BETTY, it has to do with what the audience can bring to the experience. What Hallmark is bravely doing is trying to age their audience down a little bit, not to exclude a very young or very old audience, but a more broad appeal with universal themes like a fish out of water. There's sort of every type of personality--the quirky and sort of handsome, and the feisty woman of a new generation with Shane bringing the tech aspect of that world. Through the stories there will be a catharsis from many different walks of life. Martha never condescends to the audience. I don't know how she does it because it's very subtle, but the appeal is broad and everyone feels spoken to.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Martha's writing can be family-friendly, and nice, and even uplifting at times, but it's also very smart.
ERIC MABIUS: It's based in some type of emotional reality. There's an emotional authenticity somehow and that's what I love. I can't stand to be overtly manipulated. I will turn things off.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Early on in the pilot someone mentions the fiscal cliff and it was very relevant with what's currently happening in Washington.
ERIC MABIUS: We went down to Washington, D.C. and sat down with some of the heads of the Postal Service and screened it for them. We wanted to make sure they knew where our priorities were and that we're exalting what they do. I remember seeing a bit Jon Stewart did on the Postal Service and it was right; it's kind of a miracle these people provide this service for as little money as they charge.

I think they thought maybe we were going to bad mouth the Postal Service, and it's quite the opposite. Martha told them story a story that sent chills down everyone's spine. There was a massive earthquake in Alaska and Martha's sister was up there with a newborn. The Red Cross couldn't get through, no food could get there, and they didn't hear from her for days. Martha was a little girl at the time and sat in her mother's closet fearing the worst. Five days later the mailman rang the doorbell and delivered a piece of mail from her sister in Alaska saying that she was okay. Even medical care couldn't get through but the Postal Service got through. This was her way of saying "thank you" to the post office. These people are taken for granted in some ways. It's a wonderful key to unlock this whole other world underlining the importance of the service they provide. It's not just the quick overnight packages, but the letters. I have two sons of my own and the computer is what it is, but the excitement they have when there's something physically in the mail for them is palpable. It doesn't lessen over time. It's magical to them.

Photo Credit: Hallmark Channel
WE LOVE SOAPS: You've played such a diverse group of characters in your career. Is there a certain type of character or type of role you still want to play that you haven't yet?
ERIC MABIUS: I don't think there's an actor out there that wouldn't want to play a spy. [Laughs] That's something I haven't done yet. Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass kind of raised the bar with the Bourne Identity films. I grew up on Sean Connery's James Bond and that's something I think most guys would like to secretly be. That's what is great about this project; there's a little bit of that. I didn't inject it with that but Martha did because she understands that appeal too. Oliver is a postal worker who drives a very cool James Bond-y car and dresses like Cary Grant, a little like Sean Connery did back in the day. Probably one of my favorite roles of George Clooney was The American. I just think the understated realistic spy is something that appeals to almost everyone.

WE LOVE SOAPS: Clooney is another actor Martha worked with, when she wrote for THE FACTS OF LIFE. She's done it all.
ERIC MABIUS: I've never worked with someone who is so accomplished and virtually ego-free, someone who is not precious about what they do or self-important about it. There is something unbelievably infectious about what Martha does without imposing a dominant will. And she really collaborates. I had so much fun working on the pilot and promoting it, and I'm so happy to know her. I don't get to say that very often. I feel like Martha makes programs for people from every walk of life, and there's some of her in Oliver's character. People watch the pilot and say they miss writing a proper letter.

WE LOVE SOAPS: I was watching THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP the other day and there was a segment about how cursive writing is only required to be taught in 12 of 50 states. Someday people may find letters and there won't be anyone who can read them.
ERIC MABIUS: We would get to set some days and we wanted to work on something so I talked to Martha. She would come back after lunch having rewritten the scene. Even her scribbled notes and rewrites were the most ramrod-straight, invisibly-lined perfect teacher's cursive I've ever seen in my life. It was remarkable. You need to get a writing sample, it's not to be believed. [Laughs]

WE LOVE SOAPS: If you could go back to the beginning of your carer and give yourself a piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what you tell young Eric Mabius.
ERIC MABIUS: Well, it's wasted on the youth anyway because if I was young I wouldn't listen to it or have the capacity to understand it, but I would say it's not a sprint you're running, it's a marathon.

RELATED:
- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Martha Williamson on Returning to TV with 'SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED'
- Martha Williamson's SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED Picked Up To Series By Hallmark Channel

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series such as EMPIRE, and has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals. He appeared in FRANCOPRHENIA in 2012 and the documentary SOAP LIFE, out on DVD in 2013.

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