Interview: Hallmark Channel’s Corbin Bleu talks Love, For Real

Hayley and her best friend Bree go on a reality dating show to publicize her fashion line, but nothing goes as planned when love, friendship, and careers are on the line. Photo: Corbin Bleu Credit: ©2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Zack Dougan
Hayley and her best friend Bree go on a reality dating show to publicize her fashion line, but nothing goes as planned when love, friendship, and careers are on the line. Photo: Corbin Bleu Credit: ©2021 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Zack Dougan /

Corbin Bleu knows a thing or two about true love. After all, the High School Musical star has been happily married since 2016. In the all-new Hallmark Channel  Summer Nights movie Love, For Real, Bleu’s character goes on a journey to find true love and ends up being surprised when “the one” finally shows up in the most unexpected way.

Love, For Real is the story of best friends, Hayley (Chloe Bridges) and Bree (Taiana Tully), who decide to join the cast of a popular reality dating show in hopes of fulfilling their personal goals. The show’s producer Luke (Scott Michael Foster) is looking to do something different so he casts the best friends together and uses their friendship as part of his new angle on the show. Meanwhile, Bleu’s Marco is looking for love as the King of Hearts, but he’s also trying to stay relevant after an injury puts an end to his professional sports career.

The four of them are each looking for different things but they end up finding so much more when they finally open up their hearts and minds to the possibility of true love.

Bleu, who appeared on Dancing with the Stars, has firsthand experience of what it’s like to be on a reality TV show but he says that the experience of filming Love, For Real was something very special.

Corbin Bleu says working on Love, For Real was “paradise”

(Sarabeth Pollock) It’s obviously never a bad thing to have to shoot a movie in Hawaii, so you’ve got the combination of great location and great cast. Everything in this movie comes together so well, it looks like you were all genuinely having fun together.

(Corbin Bleu) You hit the nail on the head. It was an experience where I have no complaints. The project first came about through Maclain Nelson, the director. We’d worked together on a project several years earlier and I loved working with him so we tried to find something else to do together. Just working with him was an easy no-brainer.

But then everything came together. We were going to film in Hawaii. And then the cast was assembled and I hadn’t worked with any of them prior and that’s a great experience on a project like this. It’s such a feel-good movie, but if you don’t necessarily assemble the right cast it can go cheesy very quickly.

I felt like it was such a talented group of people that found the spots to have it be grounded. But it was also a very comedic, funny cast, so we were able to play up the ridiculousness of this reality show. When we watch these reality shows the drama is ridiculous sometimes so [with Love, For Real] you get to see the final, polished and produced reality show and what’s going on behind the scenes with the real people.

So I was really happy with how everything came together.

It comes through so well. I wanted to ask what attracted you to the story, because as you say it depicts the other side of reality TV. After all these years everything is called “reality TV” but it’s kind of fake with so many typecast contestants and scripted drama. Your character, Marco, he’s hoping he finds love but he’s also looking for something else.

Right, Marco clearly has his ulterior motives for joining the cast and that’s what’s so interesting about these reality shows, too. A lot of times you do have people that are going on for their own gain, but you never know when you’re going to meet your person. My wife and I met in the grocery store.  So it was very random and it was fate.

The same thing can happen where you can have an ulterior motive and go on a television show. Marco doesn’t want to be forgotten. He doesn’t want to lose his time in the spotlight, but he actually finds the person that he wants to be with. So I think it’s a great story and great storytelling in that regard.

What’s interesting about Marco is that you’re actually playing two characters in the same role. He’s acting, he’s playing the role of the King of Hearts but he’s doing it so he won’t be forgotten. Then he meets Bree and everything starts shifting and he becomes another character. That’s got to be fun to be able to play different roles within the same character.

It is really fun. Any time you get a chance to play a person that’s also putting on a facade. It’s the same person. It’s how he is trying to be perceived [in that moment].

And we all do that, especially in the world we live in these days with social media and with Instagram. What people post on Instagram and what you see of their lives isn’t necessarily their day-in, day-out life. That’s not what’s happening in reality.

You get to see what is “real”. And talk even about the title, Love, For Real. It’s really great to get a chance to play a character where you get to see the facade and you also get to see the bare bones of who they actually are. And you get to see that with all of [the characters in the movie].

And even from the show’s production standpoint, you get to see that, too. That’s what I really, really loved about it, getting to see the reality show and The Bachelor-style television show and how it’s actually made. I did Dancing with the Stars and there’s a real part of it, what’s happening. And then there’s the produced stuff, the drama they’re trying to create for the sake of the show. And it’s easy to get lost in that blur because you start to become entrenched in the storyline that’s being created. The characters are being formed out of what is being produced so you have to stay true to yourself.

I loved the supporting  cast, who are so great at really playing up the caricatures. As Bree says, the one girl is out for the “clip game.” They all wanted their screen time and it’s exactly how you say, there’s a fine line between reality and the scripted part of what’s supposed to be unscripted TV. 

Yeah, it’s just a great insight into the world. My wife, Sasha, actually makes a cameo in the movie. She was only on set for one day but she came on and she killed it. When Marco offers her the heart and she storms off, that’s my wife!

I thought our supporting characters did such a wonderful job of playing up the drama that we see on these shows.

You’ve mentioned how much fun it was to make this movie. Were there moments when it was really hard to do a scene? It looks like there could be lots of moments when you’re on the verge of laughing because you’re all having so much fun.

I will say it was just a really fun group of people. Maclain Nelson, our director, is an actor himself. And not only an actor but an improv actor. So I mentioned earlier that we worked together several years earlier, he directed and produced it as well. It was an improv musical theater show where you had an entire musical ensemble that was improv from top to bottom. So he loves improv.

Even on this project we had a text chain with the cast titled “House Money.” He would get his tape that he was happy with, and then he’d come up to everybody and be like “All right, house money. That’s it, now we’re just playing with house money. We’ve got what we needed today.” He’s like, “So now we’ll just let it go.” And he would throw different things at us and want us to sort of improv different moments or he would throw extra lines at us. He really loved to play up little improv bits where he could, so that could be exactly what you’re seeing there.

You’re in Hawaii and you’re having so much fun. Was there one scene in particular that you really enjoyed working on? 

There really wasn’t a bad location. First of all, the house that serves as the King of Hearts mansion, that house was stunning, absolutely stunning. It was on the water so every day Maclain and several of the crew would throw on their swim trunks and go jump in the ocean. He would actually go sometimes on his lunch break. And those of us who were in hair and makeup, we couldn’t necessarily go do that because the hair and makeup team would kill us. But a lot of the crew did.

Any time that you did have downtime and you weren’t in the scene, you’re just sitting there looking out at this Hawaiian ocean and in this beautiful landscape, it was paradise.

We shot in Jurassic Valley, where they actually shot the original Jurassic Park movies. That’s where we shot a lot of those giant sweeping landscape shots of the green mountains. And all those amazing drone shots, as stunning as they look on camera, they can’t even begin to capture what it’s like in person, breathtaking as it is.

Another thing for me was my experience riding the horse. I’m such a city guy. I’m not an outdoorsy guy whatsoever. And I’ve ridden horses before and it’s never been my cup of tea, but this time it was different. My horse’s name was Auto, which was short for Autograph. She was so wonderful. I truly and finally understood what it meant when people talk about having a connection with a horse and I felt like we were really listening to each other.

Overall, there’s a scene where I’m riding Auto in the middle of Jurassic Valley in a suit. And I’m [thinking] this is not real, and this will never happen again. And to me, just moments like that, I’m very happy that we’re able to catch them on camera.

Every time I chat with a Hallmark actor and ask where they’d want to go if Hallmark called and offered a chance to do a movie in any location, almost everyone says Hawaii. You had the dream location. So if Hallmark called and said “Hey Corbin, we want you to do another movie and it can be set anywhere” where would you pick, or was this the pinnacle?

Let’s do this again! Let’s find the next story. As a matter of fact, my wife is actually in the middle of writing something. Because of our experience there, we need to find another project to bring us back out there again. She’s writing something with Hawaii as the backdrop.

Smart, very smart!

Yeah, yeah! There’s a reason why it’s one of the number one vacation spots. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I would go back in a heartbeat.

I love it! These Hallmark movies are so special  and mean so much to so many people. You’ve been in so many projects over the years. What is it about a Hallmark movie that grabs you?

I think it’s the same way of how we go through life. We go through ups and downs and there are times where you go through very difficult times and there’s so much that you learn about yourself. And then there are times where you need that reprieve and you just need a feel-good project. I feel like Hallmark always delivers on knowing that you’re going through this journey. You’re going to go through whatever drama you could go through, but at the end you’re going to walk away feeling good. I think it’s extremely important that we have those staples. I’ve worked in the depressing genres as well, and those serve their purpose.

As an actor, I don’t know if one necessarily beats the other. They both serve their purpose. And it’s interesting, because I know there are times when people say “Oh, well the drama stuff is really where you get to sink your teeth into it.” But I do think that with any project, you’ll find the places to sink your teeth in, you find the places to try to make it as real and grounded as you can, and make it about the discovery.

I feel like we got to do that with this one, and find those moments. And overall, the experience, I feel, is the same as the end result with the project, it was feel-good. The end result of this movie is that everyone will walk away enjoying it.

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We want to thank Corbin Bleu for taking the time to chat about Love, For Real. The movie premieres on Saturday, July 31 at 9pm ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel.