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‘Virgin River’ offers nice break from 2020, series’ co-stars say

What is love?

In a town called “Virgin River,” it’s not a man who wines and dines Melinda “Mel” Monroe, a nurse practitioner who has relocated to a remote California town. Instead, he remodels her rundown cabin.

“You got a guy who is not only smoking hot,” says 38-year-old star Alexandra Breckenridge (“This Is Us”), “but he is happy to resurface her floors. If that ain’t love, I don’t know what is these days!”

Martin Henderson (“Grey’s Anatomy”), 46, who plays sexy barkeep and home improvement expert Jack, retorts: “I have told several guys, ‘Look, Jack isn’t fair to any of us. He presents regular men as lesser beings.’ Even I’m asking myself, ‘How can I live up to my screen self with my real-life girlfriend.’ She’s bound to be disappointed.”

Based on a best-selling book series by Henderson author Robyn Carr, “Virgin River” turns up the heat during a second season of 10 episodes debuting Nov. 27 on Netflix.

Set in a town where everybody knows your name, the plot revolves around unrequited lust, an unplanned pregnancy and a side order of murder. Then there are Mel and Jack, two damaged people who find out love in the woods might just be an antidote to 2020.

Review-Journal: What kind of interaction have you had with Robyn Carr?

Martin Henderson: She came to the set at the end of Season 1 and we sat down and had a long chat about Jack. It was really cool. She was a smart, fun lady, and it was a great chance to talk about the show and meet the creator of this world. She had watched a few episodes and it felt great to hear that we had her approval.

Alexandra Breckenridge: I loved the books. Robyn did come to the set … but unfortunately, I had to fly home for a family emergency. I did meet her at a later time and she was very lovely.

What is the appeal of “Virgin River?”

Breckenridge: It’s an escape in 2020. You’re watching these beautiful people in this beautiful location. They’re falling in love as she’s overcoming her grief. My character moves to this small town to get away from it all and this is the ideal place to start again.

Henderson: It’s such a cozy fantasy, which is part of the appeal. We live in a time of so much uncertainty and divisiveness. Here is a show about coming together, simple values and a small town.

Mel has been through the ringer emotionally and Jack has PTSD.

Henderson: Mel and Jack are on islands emotionally when they first meet. He’s flawed and grappling with pain. … Both Mel and Jack have their own grief, which they subconsciously recognize within each other. They want to heal and bond, but there are a bunch of obstacles, including his ex-girlfriend in town is pregnant.

There is that pregnant ex-girlfriend.

Henderson: There are two options: She moves out of town or we keep her around to just play it out. I think the goal is to keep the audience loving to hate her. The best part is it’s nice and complicated.

Breckenridge: Audiences love to hate poor, pregnant Charmaine Roberts (Lauren Hammersley), which is a testament to Lauren’s acting.

How do you explain the chemistry between Mel and Jack?

Breckenridge: We got really lucky. You never know who you’re going to have chemistry with until you get there on set. With us, it just works.

What is your idea of an ideal Sunday? And how have you spent the pandemic?

Henderson: I feel guilty saying it, but I took off on my sailboat — my ideal Sunday — in Mexico last spring before the pandemic began. I was planning on spending a few months on the water. Then COVID hit and I began to closely monitor the news as things went from bad to worse. … It turned into a seven-month vacation just sailing around, but I was safe. I even met a girl when I hit land. Life became really good. Obviously, the death tolls and terrible economic times weigh heavily on me. But it has also brought people together.

Breckenridge: I’ve been trying to be happy. I spend weekends making sourdough like everyone else who has picked up a bread baking habit. A lot of cooking and reorganizing. I have two little kids and it has kept me really busy. They’re 3 and 4. … And then right before the pandemic, my husband went to Australia because he plays for Katy Perry. He got home in March right before the lockdown happened. He literally got home the day before the lockdown. It was just terrifying wondering if he’d get home.

For Alex: Kevin on “This Is Us” vs. Jack from “Virgin River.” Who is the better man?

Breckenridge: I think Jack might have one up on Kevin from “This Is Us.” … As for the women, Sophie has emotional complexities, but she’s much lighter as a person. Mel carries a lot more weight. When I’m able to go back to “This Is Us,” it’s a relief. It’s not a lot of heavy lifting.

There is so much “This Is Us” buzz about who Kevin Pearson will eventually marry. Are you rooting for Sophie among the few contenders? The nation seems to be #TeamSophie.

Breckenridge: The nation is rooting for Sophie. The other day, I saw an Instagram post where Justin asked fans if they’re into the relationship Kevin is currently having with Madison (Caitlin Thompson). I’m biased, so I voted “no.” I wrote, “He belongs with Sophie.”

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