Natasha Henstridge in YOU LUCKY DOG – Hallmark Profile

Natasha Henstridge in You Lucky Dog

In anticipation of Hallmark’s new original movie, YOU LUCKY DOG, which premieres on Saturday, June 26 (9p.m. ET/PT, 8C), I thought I would share a nice profile of Natasha Henstridge, who stars in the movie. So enjoy!

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It’s one of those basic truths of Hollywood that Natasha Henstridge always had heard: Never work in a project with children or dogs. The reason, of course, is that they will steal your thunder and make you effectively disappear.

“And so what do I do?” Henstridge observes with a laugh. “I do a movie where I work with both! Great career move, eh?”

Well, maybe it is. The film of which Henstridge speaks is the Hallmark Channel Original Movie “You Lucky Dog,” which premieres Saturday, June 26 (9p.m. ET/PT, 8c). And in it, not only does she have to compete for camera attention with canines and kids, but also sheep.

In “You Lucky Dog,” the statuesque Henstridge – who burst on the scene with her sexy, mesmerizing role as a genetically engineered alien/human hybrid in the 1995 sci-fi thriller “Species” – portrays a New York City fashion designer who returns home following the death of her mother to help restore her family’s struggling cattle farm to function and profitability.

Henstridge’s character, Lisa Rayborn, adopts a Border Collie named Lucky that was recently dumped by a competing rancher, who works with the dog tirelessly to turn him into a sheep herding stud and save the farm. Harry Hamlin of “L.A. Law” fame plays her brother, Jim.

“What inspired me to want to do this movie is that I have two sons of my own now, and it seemed like a great opportunity to have a role in a family movie my kids could watch,” Henstridge explains. “Plus, the storyline wasn’t such a great leap for me, about a small-town girl going to the big city and all of that.”

It wasn’t exactly a snap being around all of those kids and animals, either. They had to shoot around a fire and winds so heavy Henstridge says she often couldn’t hear her own dialogue.

“But working with the animals and the kids was the easy part,” she reasons. “They were just amazing and professional.”

Henstridge cites as an example one time during the shoot when she was trying to convince her father to keep the sheep they had imported for the farm. In the story, her character, Lisa, is supposed to have a heck of a time rounding up the sheep and moving them from one side of the farm to the other.

“Instead, it’s the opposite!” she recalls incredulously. “As soon as I told the sheep to ‘Go west,’ they went. On the first take. They listened to me completely, and they weren’t supposed to. We wound up having to perform more takes to show me screwing it up. I was too good for my own good!”

In some ways, that incident mirrors Henstridge’s own experience as a young phenom. Born in Springdale, Newfoundland in Easternmost Canada and raised in a small town in Alberta, she became legally emancipated from her parents at age 14 so that she could move to Paris and become a model.

Having the right height, the right blonde hair, the right blue eyes and an exceptionally beautiful face, Henstridge landed on the cover of the French edition of Cosmopolitan at 15 and followed it up with several other covers along, with a slew of TV commercials for perfumes and cosmetics.

“It was a big life change, for sure, and a massive culture shock,” Henstridge admits. “Then my first movie (“Species”) turns into this major sleeper hit when I was 21.

“All of that success so fast definitely spoiled me and did a number on my head. There was a too much, too soon aspect to it, for sure. I got pulled into this world where everyone wanted to meet me and see what I was about, and I wasn’t ready for it skill-wise or mentally. It’s easy for me to see that now.”

Some struggles followed for Henstridge as she worked to become a real actress rather than simply a former model with a splashy acting debut and a killer body.

“I heard a lot that I didn’t look everyday enough to play certain roles,” Henstridge recalls. “They’d tell me, ‘We can’t believe you, because you’re just too pretty,’ which is both a compliment and a curse at the same time. But I was determined to go beyond being the girl from ‘Species’ with the body.”

That she has. At 35, Henstridge has played Donald Sutherland’s right-hand woman on the political drama series “Commander in Chief” (2005-06). She was cast as an astrophysicist in last year’s miniseries “Impact.” And she most famously depicted a lawyer on the offbeat legal drama “Eli Stone” (2008-09). She also had plum roles in both the 2000 comedy “The Whole Nine Yards” and its 2004 sequel “The Whole Ten Yards” with Bruce Willis and Matthew Perry.

“I’m really proud to have been able to make that switch to intelligent roles,” she says, “which with my looks wasn’t easy at all.” She calls her time on “Eli Stone” “just phenomenal. The scripts were terrific. We had an amazing chemistry. It was a brilliant undertaking. But the show went away far too soon.

“It was a special experience, one that’s spoiled me. Once you’re done something you adore as much as I did that, everything else you try out for seems secondary.”

Henstridge also has certainly found that being an actress means having to learn patience. The past two years – or since learning that “Eli Stone” was canceled – she has worked to get back onto a series during the hectic time known as pilot season, when studios cast performers and shoot pilots for possible inclusion on the future prime time schedule.

“I turned down a film to be here this year for pilot season,” she admits, “but I didn’t get what I went for. It’s tough. The year before, I held out for a show I really wanted while passing on something else. Both years, I came up empty. So now, I’m completely jobless. I’ve learned a lesson that you can’t always be as picky as you want to be.”

Henstridge still has her physical being standing in the way of roles sometimes, as well. “Lately I’ve had a lot of hearing, ‘She’s too tall.’ I’m 5-foot-9 1/2, which is like 6-foot-5 in acting height. But what am I going to do? I can’t shrink.”

While shooting “You Lucky Dog” just outside of Toronto, Henstridge received words of encouragement from Hamlin, a performer who has done pretty well for himself in Hollywood over a career stretching more than 30 years.

“What an amazing, misunderstood man Harry Hamlin is,” she observes. “You think of him as just this good-looking ‘L.A. Law’ guy, this laid-back guy from UC Berkeley. But what he is, is this incredibly intelligent, kind, giving, funny human being who has led an amazing life, who tells terrific stories and adores his family. Harry is a lovely man. He made my time working on this film just a total joy.”

When she looks at what Hamlin has managed to accomplish, it gives Henstridge hope for her own future.

“I know something great is going to come along,” she says. “I just need to keep that understanding close by. And in the meantime, it’s pretty great that I get to star in something for Hallmark that makes my boys proud of their mom.”