Will Kemp 'Paging Mr. Darcy' interview
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Hallmark Star Will Kemp Says He Shares This Quirk with His 'Paging Mr. Darcy' Character

Never say no to breeches and a hat.

Fresh off his portrayal of a fake Count in 2023's "A Not So Royal Christmas," Will Kemp puts on Regency-era dress as a fake Mr. Darcy in Hallmark's new rom-com "Paging Mr. Darcy." His character, Sam, is a cosplayer at a Jane Austen fan convention, donning breeches and a hat and feeling all the more powerful for it. The irony is not lost on Kemp: "It's not very far from what I do," he jokes.

Wide Open Country sat down with the 46-year-old British actor to talk the many delights of "Paging Mr. Darcy," premiering Saturday, February 3 at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel, as well as his go-to Austen adaptations, the secret ingredient to any great Hallmark rom-com and his plan for more "Dancing Detective" movies. 

"Paging Mr. Darcy" kicks off Hallmark's Jane Austen-themed Loveuary 2024 programming. While the movie marathon will include a sumptuous period adaptation of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," as well as a fantastical journey into the world of "Pride and Prejudice" ("An American in Austen," Feb. 17), "Paging Mr. Darcy" is not a straight adaptation of P&P.

The film follows Professor Eloise Canvendish (played by Mallory Jansen, "Francesca Quinn, PI"), who's asked to give the keynote speech at the Jane Austen League of America's (JALA, hilariously) annual convention for scholars and fervent Janeites alike. She's dismissive of all the bonnet-making and ballroom dancing. But when she strikes a mutually beneficial deal with the convention's official Mr. Darcy cosplayer, Sam Lee (Kemp), she comes to rethink her prejudices.

"Paging Mr. Darcy"



"I think it's a beautiful story of two people coming from different places in their lives, different perspectives, and actually finding that they can learn a great deal from one another in a very short amount of time," says Kemp, who plays Sam with a mixture of hidden insecurity and absolute self-confidence. 

"What's so clever about 'Paging Mr. Darcy' is that we're not doing a reincarnation of a Jane Austen story. That's what attracted me — apart from the opportunity to dress up in breeches and a hat," he jokes. "It could be the closest I may get to playing Mr. Darcy, so I seized the opportunity."

The film was directed by TV veteran Peter Wellington, best known for helming every episode of the acclaimed early-aughts series "Slings and Arrows." Playwright Reina Hardy wrote the script, which really sings. Lines like "I don't want her to get warmed up by some wannabe Willoughby cad!" are a great match for Kemp's jaunty sensibilities. 

"Sam really enjoys dressing up as Mr. Darcy. When he's in the breeches and the hat and the tailcoat, he has a lot more confidence. He has a sort of swagger and an air and enjoys the attention," he smiles. "It's not very far from what I do. People who know me very well would say, 'Well, that's basically you!'"

"Paging Mr. Darcy"


Beyond the Darcy cosplaying (which he does as a favor to his beloved aunt, an Austen scholar), Sam is a loaded tech entrepreneur and philanthropist with an admirable self-possession. He's open, warm and (almost) completely unashamed. Very unlike the broody, neurotic Darcy, Sam Lee is a great hang. 

"Mallory brilliantly plays Eloise's intellect and disdain for silliness. Sam basically pulls her pigtails the whole movie and has fun sometimes at her expense, but while genuinely inviting her to find that, actually, you can be a scholar and still have fun."

Over the course of the JALA convention weekend, Sam and Eloise grow closer through period-accurate lawn games like pall-mall and, of course, English country dance (Kemp is a classically trained dancer who's demonstrated his skills across a few Hallmark movies now). While Sam is certainly not a retread of Darcy, Kemp rewatched some favorite P&P adaptations before filming. 

"I went back and watched the classic BBC retelling with Colin Firth, and Matthew Macfadyen [in Joe Wright's 2005 "Pride & Prejudice."] A friend of mine, Matthew Rhys, played Darcy [in "Death Comes to Pemberley"]; it was sort of what happens after [the events of the novel]. There are definitely little easter-egg things I picked up that I sort of gently use as a reference to character."

"Paging Mr. Darcy"


The secret ingredient to "Paging Mr. Darcy" is not the clever way in which it uses and subverts Austen's text, though. It's the delightfully combative relationship between Sam and Eloise. Kemp seems to enjoy enemies-to-lovers plots for the simple fact that they center conflict. It's the most fun to play, and the most rewarding to watch:

"The push-pull of characters is key. I feel that I've done enough films in this genre and been very lucky to be part of the Hallmark family for a good few years now. And I feel that the challenge is still always to find that conflict. Without that push-pull, that conflict, you don't get as much comedy and you don't get as much drama."

It's something he's focusing on while developing another "The Dancing Detective" movie. The first, dubbed "A Deadly Tango," debuted last year and co-starred Lacey Chabert, whom Kemp calls "just fearless and such a joy." He's now developing a sequel alongside his friend Aubrey Day, a film critic-turned screenwriter. 

"We're currently working on a brilliant script, and I genuinely love the process. The more I've been able to do this as an actor, the more I've been able to look around me and learn about other people's work on set. I love having a strong creative input, and I'm lucky with 'The Dancing Detective' because I get to develop it from the ground up."

"The trick will be trying to weave dance into these mystery adventure stories going forward. But without spoiling it, if we do hopefully get to do the next one, I think it's going to be a real treat for everybody."

"Paging Mr. Darcy" premieres Saturday, February 3 at 8/7c on Hallmark Channel. 

READ MORE: Ranking Every Jane Austen-Inspired Hallmark Movie