Actress and animal-rescue advocate returns to Hallmark Channel
Maggie Lawson’s heart lies in acting, but a significant portion of it also rests with children and animals – and an organization she co-founded to benefit both.
As the television staple continues her role as police detective Cole’s (Seann William Scott) ex-flame Natalie on Fox’s Tuesday series “Lethal Weapon,” she also returns to Hallmark Channel in Saturday’s (Feb. 9) new movie “The Story of Us.” She plays an Oregon bookstore owner wary of a former beau’s (“The Bold Type’s” Sam Page) property development plans. Just as they start to get involved again – spoiler alert, if you’ve never seen a Hallmark Channel movie – a more recent boyfriend of hers reappears.
For any and all of her acting jobs, Lawson always has the Tiger Frances Foundation (www.tigerfrances.org) in mind. She and fellow animal-rescue advocate Jude McVay created the nonprofit organization, which takes its name from two kittens McVay saved, that focuses on matching abused and/or homeless animals with (in large part through school programs) youngsters who also may need extra love and/or attention.
“We have a lot of fun stuff coming up that we’ve been working on,” the friendly Lawson says. “We have these great partnerships with School on Wheels and Good Shepherd K9 Rescue and Big Brothers Big Sisters, and we also work with Communities in Schools. And it has been really wonderful to watch our Love on Paws program grow.
“It’s just so powerful to witness the connection between the animals and the kids, to see how healing that can be,” notes Lawson, “and also to help some of these kids. A lot of them are in high-stress situations, and as we all know, people can sometimes be brutal or judgmental.”
Lawson recalls that when she and McVay started Tiger Frances, “We started out very slowly, because we didn’t want to overwhelm ourselves and have any negative backlash, like by adopting too many animals. When Jude initially got a call from the Girl Scouts to stage a day to help the girls earn their service badges, that day was such a success and so much – and (someone else involved) happened to be with School on Wheels and said, ‘Hey, I feel like there could be something really special here.’
“So, we were like, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ School on Wheels created an assignment around it, and we really didn’t know what to expect. About 15 kids were coming over from a shelter, and we were told that one had had a really bad week and might need some time alone. And within five minutes, he was down on the ground with the dogs holding them, completely softened. Once we explained who we were and what we were doing, he started to connect. And he told every kid who came in and he completely opened up, and was emotional and loving.”
Lawson admits to “tears in my eyes” as she tells that story, adding that at the time, she and McVay (who now have a third partner, Elizabeth Jett) “looked at each other and realized, ‘Well, this is it. This is what we’ve gotta do. This is what Tiger Frances is. This is what we’re about.’ And it’s just beautiful to watch.”
With another TV-movie sequel to the series “Psych” in the works (“It’s gonna be very cool,” she promises), Lawson says she’s also happy to work for Hallmark when such occasions arise, as they have previously with “My Favorite Wedding” and “Christmas Encore.” She forecasts, “If there’s room in the future, we’ll hopefully be doing something again at some point.”