Jewel’s guilty-pleasure secret is out.
“I am a closet Jessica Fletcher fan,” the recording artist, author and actress says. “Angela Lansbury is my spirit animal. I grew up watching Murder, She Wrote. I’ve always loved that show.”
Now the former North Texan, who lived many years on a ranch in Stephenville with then-husband Ty Murray, is channeling her inner Jessica Fletcher, TV’s celebrated small-town busybody sleuth.
In a new series of films for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel, Jewel stars as Shannon Hughes, an expert at restoring Victorian homes and a talented amateur when it comes to solving murders.
Her introductory “Fixer-Upper Mysteries” case, titled Framed for Murder, premieres at 8 p.m. Sunday.
Jewel is best known for her music career. She has sold more than 30 million albums since her Pieces of You debut was a platinum-selling hit in 1995. But she also knows her way around a movie set.
“When I started doing movies — the first time was in 1999, playing the female lead in a movie called Ride With the Devil — I really enjoyed it,” she says. “But I also quickly realized how demanding having a double career would be, so I decided at that time just to focus on music.”
She was lured back by the acting role of a Lifetime: She played June Carter Cash in the 2013 Lifetime biopic Ring of Fire.
“That was my first time doing a TV movie, and I really enjoyed the experience,” Jewel says. “It also went well with being a new mom (son Kase is now 5), so I decided to do it again with Hallmark.”
She’ll do three “Fixer-Upper” movies this year. “Then we’ll see what happens,” she says.
The character comes from a series of cozy mystery novels written by Kate Carlisle. The premise is a perfect fit for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, already home to several Murder, She Wrote-like series.
Instead of a mystery writer-amateur sleuth like Fletcher, the network has a baker sleuth (the “Murder She Baked” movies, starring Alison Sweeney), a florist sleuth (the “Flower Shop Mysteries” movies, Brooke Shields), a librarian sleuth (the “Aurora Teagarden Mysteries” movies, Candace Cameron Bure), a garage-sale expert sleuth (the “Garage Sale Mysteries” movies, Lori Loughlin) and a chef sleuth (the “Gourmet Detective” movies, Dylan Neal and Brooke Burns).
In the “Fixer-Upper Mysteries,” Shannon will demonstrate an uncanny knack for finding dead bodies, as well as skeletons, in everyone’s closets.
Her Framed for Murder case involves the death of a neighbor. Shannon suspects foul play even though local police have ruled it an accident. She then investigates with a new resident to Lighthouse Cove (played by Colin Ferguson) who just happens to be a famous crime reporter and bestselling author.
“I love my character because she is a very self-sufficient woman, and she is learning how to trust her instincts and her intuition,” Jewel says. “She always fights for that voice inside of her.
“She’s very capable, very bright. You don’t see enough female characters like that on television.”
In recent years, Jewel has jumped from project to project with great gusto.
In September 2015, she released her 12th album (Picking Up the Pieces) and published her autobiography (Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story). Then she threw her efforts into launching a website (jewelneverbroken.com) designed to help people strengthen their “emotional fitness.”
Now it’s acting on the front burner again.
One of the knocks against the old Murder, She Wrote premise was that death followed Lansbury’s character like a shadow. It quickly became obvious to viewers that it didn’t pay to be J.B. Fletcher’s friend, neighbor or colleague — because anywhere she went, someone was certain to die.
Maybe viewers will come to the same conclusion one day about Shannon Hughes and the “Fixer-Upper Mysteries” series.
“If that happens,” Jewel says, “I could live with that.”
Framed for Murder: A Fixer-Upper Mystery
- 8 p.m. Sunday
- Hallmark Movies & Mysteries