Lisa Whelchel finds a home on Hallmark Channel

Posted Friday, Jul. 18, 2014  comments  Print Reprints

For Better or For Worse

• 8 p.m. Saturday

• Hallmark Channel

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When it comes to television, Lisa Whelchel is picky.

There are some things that the actress just isn’t willing to do.

“I want to work on material that is uplifting,” she says. “I think there’s something to be said for that, rather than just doing stuff that continues to pollute, which unfortunately most of television is these days.”

That’s why Whelchel — a Fort Worth native who gained ’80s sitcom fame as Blair Warner in The Facts of Life — is the leading lady in Hallmark Channel’s For Better or For Worse.

The romantic comedy, which premieres at 8 p.m. Saturday, was the perfect fit.

“I have been sent some nice, family-based scripts over the years, but sadly so many of them just seemed kind of cheesy or they were trying to hit you over the head with a moral lesson,” Whelchel says. “They didn’t put a priority on just wonderful entertainment.

“When this script came along, I thought it was a delightful story and it had a wonderful message, but they weren’t trying to force that message down your throat.”

Whelchel plays a widowed wedding planner who finds herself feuding with the handsome divorce attorney in the office next door. Ironically, given her job description, Whelchel’s character winds up siding with her enemy (Antonio Cupo) and scheming to break up a wedding.

It so happens that her son and his daughter have announced their engagement — and the parents are convinced that they’re making a mistake. While trying to sabotage the relationship, the wedding planner and divorce lawyer, a mismatched couple if ever there were one, start throwing off romantic sparks of their own.

Another reason For Better or For Worse appealed to Whelchel was a nostalgic stroke of stunt casting. Co-starring as Whelchel’s best friend and co-worker is none other than Kim Fields, a fellow Facts of Life alum.

Fans of the long-running sitcom (1979-88) are sure to enjoy watching Blair and Tootie together again.

“It was all Hallmark’s idea and I thought it was wonderful,” Whelchel says. “We’ve kept in touch over the years, and it was fun to be able to work together again. It was immediately comfortable for us — just like riding a bike.”

Whelchel, 51, made a major life change a couple of years ago and For Better or For Worse is a byproduct of that.

After competing on Survivor in 2012 (and placing in the final three), she ended a 24-year marriage. She moved from Flower Mound, her home for nearly a decade, back to Los Angeles to resume her acting career full-time.

“So far so good,” she says of the work opportunities. “I’m talking with Hallmark about working with them again, which I would love. I love the entertainment value and the excellence with which they produce things that families can enjoy. And there are some other things in the works.”

As the mother of three grown children, Whelchel is quick to admit she has made the same mistake that Wendy, her character in the movie, makes — although she never went to the extreme of trying to wreck a romance.

“I have been the mom that thinks it is best to protect her children from what she thinks is not a good choice for them,” she says. “But thankfully those moments have been few and far between, because I really do trust my children.

“I understand that we need to make mistakes in order to grow and to learn about ourselves and to learn what we want.”

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