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A Conversation With ‘Sweet Magnolias’ Star Chris Medlin

Sweet Magnolias is a heartwarming show about family and friends who offer advice and support one another to overcome various life obstacles. Played by Chris Medlin Isaac Downey is a lovable caring character who has travelled to the town of Serenity in search of his birth mother. He works as a chef for a local restaurant and he learns a lot throughout the show from his friends that are more like family. With Season 2 of Sweet Magnolias having released in February with season 3 in the works we had the pleasure of speaking with Chris about his experience of bringing Isaac to life on screen.

What do you love about Sweet Magnolias?
I love that it is the type of show that has something for everyone who is watching it. The team wanted to be sure that at its core that this show would be something that families could watch together. There are no open heart surgeries on the screen where people have to cover their eyes. There is romance there is drama there are high stakes theres the teen element the twenty something year old characters they made sure everyone is covered. Theres enough there that people are easily interested in whats occurring on screen. The whole process has been very special for me. The person I would be closest with in my family is my grandmother. Shes in her late seventies and she eats this show up. She loves it to her she thinks it is high stakes high drama. She is nailbiting just watching it on her couch. For me I get a different aspect from it like it is a heartwarming calm enough show that is a great bingewatch. I can put it on in the background and its not going to be super loud or anything. But I love that we can share this from a distance and she will call and say I watched this episode again today. I am actually from a little town in Tennessee and like Serenity there are few staple businesses everyone knows everybody. It has been really enriching to get phone calls and text messages from people from my hometown who love watching this show.

You have an emotional role in the show are there any challenges in bringing Isaacs story on screen?
With season one I did not have a challenge more of a welcome project because Isaac doesnt exist in the book series by Sherryl Woods that the first season is loosely based on. My homework was to decide what his backstory was. Besides this quest to find his birth parents like who is Isaac? I had to formulate what his journey has been that brought him to Serenity. I had to decide his motivations what he has been through that made him leave everything he knows and go to this town where he may not even find the answers hes looking for. This part is where the work lies in Isaac. I think Isaacs story is unfortunately very common and a relatable story. Not the specifics of it but there are so many variations of his story as a lot of people come from nontraditional homes and families. It is a relatable story to myself also. Ive gotten texts from different people saying that Isaacs story has sparked conversations which is amazing.

What do you love about Isaac Downey?
I love his caring nature. He is a very devoted young man hes very loyal to his people. Even with building his backstory things needed to be intense enough for him to leave his home life to go to Serenity and I think he finds his community through his workplace. We meet Isaac already working at Sullivans. It is all he knows and as a result he is unimaginably loyal to these people and he will do anything for them. It is an admirable quality of his. He also gives people a lot of grace which is what the show is about. Looking at the lives of others through those peoples eyes. Being kind and understanding and knowing everyone is going through their own things. This show is about the acceptance of what is going on behind everyones closed doors. We get to see what is bothering Isaac and how it affects him at work even when nobody knows. He is also a little bit sneakyJ

The show is full of southern sayings have you got a favourite quote from Isaac or from the show itself?
The show is a treasure trove of them. There are so many quotes but probably my favourite is Do the storms ever stop? No but neither do the rainbows. I just feel like this quote encompasses the entire show. My friends and I had a watch party for the premiere of season two because of the pandemic and their favourite quote from this season so far is You are busier than a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. The meaning of these quotes can be found in the imagery that they create which is cool.

How did you react to the identity of Isaacs birth parents?
The team made sure through our filming process that we didnt know much more than the characters knew at the time. This is really helpful so you dont have to forget knowing the answer. Throughout filming until we got to the episode where it was revealed I was never sure who Isaacs birth mother was. When Peggy was revealed I was like yes okay this makes sense they lined this one up. I have been amazed seeing fans of the show on the internet who quickly guessed it was Peggy because she left Serenity for about a year. I didnt know who the dad was until the week we were filming episode nine. Its the only scene I have in that episode where I walk up and say Dr Townsend. With Isaacs dad I didnt think it was Bill. I thought it was Ryan because they were hinting that Ryan and Peggy needed to talk. Also Peggy needed to talk to the Mayor about something and that would have been cool drama because Trent is Mary Vaughns husband who is Peggys best friend. The team was great at casting as anyone could have been my parents. Myself and Ryan have a similar bone structure Ronnie and I have that light scruff on the jawline so it could have been him either. The only one I didnt think of was Bill. In hindsight I have a picture of myself Brittany Peggy and Chris Bill and its not in this picture but it made me realise that myself and Chris have the same little smirk/half smile thing that we do. It is very much an Isaacism. I think the drama that is going to ensue by uniting all these groups together will be huge. Bill now has five children living in the same town and Isaac is living with his technically ex stepmother and he is helping to raise his little halfsister.

Did you always love acting?
No I didnt. I am a singer and have been singing since I was probably six years old. My grandmother sang when she was younger. I have always been in choir. I am the first singer dancer and actor in my family. I started in this industry in the commercial dance world doing music videos with different artists. I made my Broadway debut in Mean Girls in 2018. Then I got Sweet Magnolias. This job has opened up a world that I am fully enjoying stepping into – the love and support for season two has made it so exciting. After season one I stepped back into theatre and I did Diana. It gave me my own solo song which was very special. Ive found this world of tv through Sweet Magnolias and its opening up a lot of doors for me that I never saw happening which is very exciting!

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