For 10 years, Martha Williamson broke viewership records through stories of faith and inspiration with her award winning TV series, Touched By an Angel. She now returns to network television stronger, wiser and more resolute in her mission to bring her award winning brand of inspiration to the masses with her new original series, Signed, Sealed, Delivered on the Hallmark Channel. A combination of romance, comedy and drama, the new original series follows the lives of four postal workers who transform themselves into an untraditional team of detectives to track down recipients of undeliverable mail. Their missions, take them out of the office and into a world where letters from the past can change lives when they arrive late but somehow just in time. Here Williamson shares her journey back to the coveted 8:00 PM Sunday night TV spot.
Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the series?
I realized after 2 years of not producing anything that I was starting to wonder what I had done? And if it all really mattered? And of course Marcie (Marcie Gold is the Executive vice president of Moon Water productions Martha’s Production Company) would say yes! Of course it matters! You are in over 200 countries around the world! But the truth was that around that time I found a box of fan mail and I started reading it. And I thought, oh my goodness! Look at the lives that have been changed! The letters were addressed to the show and sometimes to Martha Williamson, and there were boxes and boxes of them… With people saying the message has touched me, and that was huge. I read about people who wanted to take their lives and decide not to. A woman who went out into the world
to find her brother who was homeless and bring him back into her home. Letters from prisoners who were not really our target demographic… but the lord knows who was suppose to watch the show… and while yes, it would be nice if we have 10 million people watching the new show – I want the one’s the Lord brings to be the one’s watching the show. And if as a result, there are 14 people who end up having their lives, hearts and spirits changed to do good things for the world then praise God!
At any rate I saw those letters and thought gosh! These letters arrived just in time for me and while they were late they arrived just when I need to read them… and I thought, what happens when letters like these arrive 10 years later or even 2 weeks late… A letter of forgiveness, a letter of renewal or a letter that says I’m looking for you and I want to see you again…these are things that happen all the time and are great sources of inspiration.
Could you elaborate on the main differences between Touched By An Angel, and Signed, Sealed, Delivered…
When I was writing about Touched By An Angel, I was writing about angels who are not required to do what’s right, because they already know what is true. But here I really had to be patient with the characters because they have a long way to go. They have to grow spiritually, intellectually, emotionally and relationally. So, this was harder to write in a way. On the other hand, it was easy to write because I have never been an angel, but I have been a human who has disappointed herself many times. I’m older now, and I think just some of the age has mellowed me in terms of thinking that I know exactly what I want to write… I rely more on the Lord now than ever to know what to say and how to say it because for example in this instance this was not overtly a show about God’s love.
In the end it is about having Oliver (the series’ main character) say, “God want’s you to have this,” but to have Oliver stand and say it as a member of the US Postal system was not allowed – so that was the challenge. For me (as a writer) it was more interesting to explore what it’s like to be a Christian in the work place or what its like to be a man and a woman in the 21st century who’s trying to do the right thing. When we have Christians
trying to do the right thing and you have our characters in the series trying to do the right thing…to watch them and see them grow together and see whom influences who and who lifts who up is quiet a dance to watch.
Her thoughts on would be critics…
I know that there will be someone way, way out there saying, Martha should be writing Christian characters who never have problems – but clearly that’s not true or realistic. God loves a sinner you know….
When asked what’s most exciting about coming back to TV, she affirms…
The ability to influence the crew and cast and show that there’s another way to do a TV show is exciting. To pray for the people on set, and to ask the Holy Spirit to fill the set, whether its full of believers or not, or I’m the only believer on set [for all I know], and as a result to have wonderful devoted loyal people working toward bringing the message of the show forth, really really excites me.
When asked about the scariest aspect of returning to TV she explains…
My husband (formerly a production head at CBS) had a massive stroke in July. He has been my partner, and my producer for Touched By An Angel. He was the guy who kept me on track, and going all through those years and when he had a stroke (clearly moved, she pauses)…It was a very difficult time. I was shooting the show’s pilot in Vancouver, and had my first day off in 3/12 weeks. I called him on a Sunday morning. He was at our cabin
in Colorado. He was alone there on 280 acres and said, “I think I’m having one of those…” and he couldn’t say it. And I said, “A stroke?” And he said, “Yeah.” I said, “I think you should go to the bathroom and take an aspirin right away!” And he said, “Where’s that?” And I knew he was in serious trouble alone in a mountain in Colorado. I couldn’t call anyone. I was in Vancouver, Canada. So I went to my computer and sent a blast to every-
one whom I could think of in Colorado saying, “This is where John is. He is having a stroke. Call 911.” He stayed on the line but then lost consciousness. Those were very long minutes… and then I heard somebody walk in and pick up the phone and say, “I’m here with John. Looks like he’s fallen but he is conscious now. We are going to take care
It was a scary time. It was scary for me to imagine (what if the show gets picked up?) how was I going to make the show, get my teenager into high school, help my little one through a very difficult year in 6th grade and help my husband learn how to read again. But the Lord provided for every single difficult step along the way. Every single step. And in the process, because he is so amazing, used all of that to bring others closer to him. [My husband] who has a caregiver now and probably hadn’t been to church in 30 years [now] goes to church with us every Sunday.
What would you like audiences to grasp from what you have created?
That it’s still a beautiful world. And God is still in charge. The last lines in the pilot are “God is in His Universe and all is right with the world.” I was so proud that I didn’t even have to fight to keep that line in. Hallmark got it. They understood it. In every episode there’s a scripture. You are not hit over the head with it, you may well hear Shakespeare, but I wanted to show a real person trying to live with real challenges and have real joy as
well. I really want the show to arm them for the week to come, the way we did with ‘Touch by an Angel.’ If they only walk out with one thing, I want them to know Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you. Plans not to harm you but to give you hope and a future.” If they hear that 3 times in a show maybe Monday morning when things get real and hard, that will come back to them. And it may not be spoken by an angel, but it might just have even more power spoken by a basic human being who clings to those truths and survives and blossoms and is nurtured by it.
by JC Manigault