Previewing The Love Club with Brittany Bristow, Lily Gao, Chantel Riley, and Camille Stopps

[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]

Girlfriends. Besties. BFFs. Squad. Whatever you call the women who get you, who come through, and sometimes come in swinging when it’s called for, that’s a very special and particular kind of friendship. This week on W Network, we’re getting a quartet of romcoms about four women who reunite around matters of the heart, a bond that dates back a decade to a fateful New Year’s Eve party when they were all down on love and decided that would not define them. Instead, they coined themselves “The Love Club.”

And The Love Club is the title for all the films, with the subtitle dedicated to each woman’s individual story. Last month, I caught up with the four leads to talk about the project, which they spent three months filming back to back in  and around Hamilton, Ontario last year. The whole set of films was directed by Jill Carter and written by Barbara Kymlicka.

The Love Club

Brittany Bristow, Lily Gao, Chantel Riley, and Camille Stopps play Nicole, Sydney, Lauren, and Tara. Ten years after their inaugural Love Club meeting, Nicole and Lauren are in relationships that aren’t quite as secure as they seem while Sydney and Tara are single, with variable degrees of contentment about that.

When I spoke with the cast, they were each drawn to the friendship they’d get to portray over the course of the films.

“I love that it’s four movies, about four best friends and how they all are just connected into one. And I love the idea that they gave every friend their own lead in a film. I thought that was very beautiful. Cause it could be very easy to just be the little side character, but they decided to give everyone their time to shine. I thought that was a really interesting idea. And who doesn’t love a good story about girlfriends or friendship,” says Riley.

“I was attracted to this because I have so many beautiful friendships in my life, and in the last few years I’ve been really nurturing a lot of the female and the women in my life. And it’s been such a rewarding, deepening experience. So to get to see these stories unfold and the women support each other on their journeys of deepening in truth, like what more can you ask for,” shares Stopps. “That’s such a beautiful thing.”

The Love Club

“In everybody’s life, we all have groups of friends, we have friends that exist individually in our circles. And I think what’s really cool about this project specifically is that it pays attention to how you don’t have to be the same as your friends. Everybody can be a little bit different. Everybody has their own individual paths and their own individual thoughts on each and every aspect of their life,” adds Bristow.

“When it comes down to it, those perspectives and those differences are what allow friendships to blossom in really beautiful ways. And that’s really inherently what allows each of these friendships in these movies to impact how we grow within ourselves, too. It’s not just about the love, but it’s about how we see ourselves, how we look at the situation that we’re in.”

“Because you get to spend so much time with these women, you get an opportunity to really learn how they all feel about each and every situation based on their own personal perspective. And you get to live with that for four films, which is really beautiful.”

Gao appreciated that the films gave each of the women a full life beyond the romance. “There are two things I loved reading the scripts for the first time. One of them was the time jump. I love the perspective from everybody’s story at the beginning,” she recalls.

“And I also really like that it’s focused on love, but equally, if not more so, everybody’s story focuses on their job and their career. as well. So the struggle isn’t, ‘Oh no, what am I gonna do about this boy?’ It’s also, [about] ‘my job, this is the struggle, this is what I’m dealing with, and I need my friends to help me do what I love to do for a living. And that’s nice to see in a romantic comedy.”

In each film, we find out something that the other friends didn’t know until we all find out together, which is true of all friendships. You can never know everything about everybody. And finding out that unsaid thing just strengthens the friendships and it helps them solve the dilemma. It’s the key to the love club.

The Love Club

“In each of those moments, and I think they’re equally beautiful in each film, they speak to the vulnerability of each of the characters. There’s something about how true love is unconditional love, and you don’t need that from a partner. You can get that from yourself and you can get it from your friends,” says Bristow.

“Each of these films had that moment in them in such a beautiful and unique way that they all stood out. And they gave us as actors, but also as friends, an opportunity to sit there and see each other.”

“Inherently we all connected to our characters. And I think there was a small piece of all of us in those characters we were playing. For me, in that moment, that unveiling for my character was the very first day of filming. And I felt like I had this opportunity to be really vulnerable and bare in front of these incredible women that were going to stand beside me for the next three months. And we were going to attack friendship and love and challenges together. And it was a really fun way to start.”

Riley loved the camaraderie she shared with her castmates. “Anytime we all had a scene together with the four of us is my favorite. I really had a great time working with these ladies. Just so beautiful, so talented. And even if we all had our little off days, we were there for each other to lift them up in the best way that we could,” she explains. “I truly honored that in those moments, both onscreen and off. We were just having a good time and just being ourselves and just loving what we’re doing and being blessed to do so.”

Stopps appreciated that the women had each other’s backs, and came to her rescue on a day when she welcomed their support. “I also really love the scenes that we got to shoot together, but in particular, the climax moments when the thing was coming to fruition because you have got to feel all those things for each other on this journey,” she says.

The Love Club

“And it’s a lot of hard work shooting these movies, so it felt like we got to embrace the reward of all of the work that was put into those moments for all of us, but especially for whoever was featured in that particular story. In my movie, there was one scene towards the end and I was having a really hard day. I was really tired and I was emotionally a little all over the place, and I was struggling.”

“And you can just feel at one point Chantel, Brittany, and Lily came up and Brittany had a water she’d hidden in her purse so she could offer it to me in between takes. That was really beautiful and really represented all of the best parts of the experience.” Bristow adds that was the day she learned the life skill of how to squish a water bottle into her purse. [It’s a good lesson!]

Each of the films follows a singular love story for one of the characters, and they’re all at different points in their respective relationships. The actresses enjoyed those unique arcs.

“Lauren is the only one who is married and has a child. So she was the maternal one of the group, which I found really interesting because I felt like I was that on set for real. I just wanted to make sure everybody was taken care of, whatever they needed. If I needed to fight somebody for them, I could, like a mama bear. I was ready to go,” Riley laughs.

Bristow liked the full range of questions the characters are navigating. “I think what’s really cool about these films is that they focus on, not just the love, but, ‘Do I love myself? Am I happy within myself? Is my career fulfilling me? Are the things I’m doing fulfilling me? Am I going after my dreams? Am I happy for me?’ And I think each of these women have to face that as well,” she points out.

The Love Club

“And it’s really intrinsic to how they navigate the future. Are they avoiding love because they’re scared of it? Are they clinging to love because they’re scared of losing it? You know, what is it about love that makes them face themselves? For my character, she’s so obsessed with the idea of a happily ever after that she’s trying to force things to fit.”

“And her friends are the people who tell her, ‘Whether or not this is right for you, you have the right to know if you want to be happier and you have the right to be happier, whatever that looks like — alone, with somebody else, with the person you’re with.’”

“These stories are representative of women who are experiencing love and heartbreak and life and their own challenges in every sort of different way. So it was really cool to get an opportunity to be a part of sharing all of those different stories and what they look like for everyone.”

Gao’s character, Sydney, is hanging onto the idea of an old love, and Gao says that’s a multilayered memory that her new romantic interest, Theo, helps her see clearly. “Theo’s character is very, very important in creating [new] memories, but also making Sydney realize that you need to continue on and create a new life for yourself,” she shares.

“I think a lot of what she holds onto with the first love is also a period where her mom was alive and in her life, so those years in her life are one bubble and then letting go of it is very, very difficult. So it’s not so much about the guy, but it’s about a period in her life. [And she realizes] it’s time to overcome the fear, with the help of her friends.”

Stopps says her character, the perpetually single Tara, takes her strength from the friendships in ways that romance could never provide. “I think my character needs these women. We all need each other for different reasons, but it’s so clear how much I need these women to be able to have the confidence to dig down deep and look at what the real truth is for Tara,” she says.

The Love Club

“She is operating from fear and from a place of protection and constantly having to wear a mask. And it’s reflected in her career and her life, the hustle life and the constant change of gig to gig and always dealing with new people.”

“And then she has these three women who are consistent and stable. And I think through them being so truthful to themselves and bringing their honest perspective and not shying away from being who they are and believing in what they believe in love, it allows her to dig down and find her voice and her truth. Paralleling with finding her voice in music and the artist’s journey, as well.”

The Love Club airs every Friday from February 10th through March 3rd at 8 pm e/p on W Network and stream on StackTV in Canada. In the US, the first film dropped last Thursday on the Hallmark Movies Now streaming network and each of the remaining films will be released over the next three Thursdays. Here’s a sneak peek of the films.

The Love Club – Nicole

Freshly engaged, interior designer Nicole still wonders if the one she is meant to be with is her mystery school pen-pal whose letters she has kept all these years. At a loss of what to do, she seeks out the help of The Love Club. Their sleuthing leads them to a quaint lodge where Nicole poses as the lodge’s hired decorator and meets the man (Marcus Rosner) she thinks is the one she’s been looking for all these years.

The Love Club – Sydney

Former star track athlete, Sydney is now a successful food blogger who still holds a flame for her college boyfriend. After bumping into him, she discovers he’s entered the Valentine Half Marathon. Despite being out of marathon shape, she quickly signs up for the run, and the Love Club, knowing Sydney has never let go of her toxic ex, hires a trainer to distract her, a plan that backfires when Sydney is paired with his running buddy Theo (Jesse Hutch), chef and owner of a struggling restaurant which Sydney poorly reviewed.

The Love Club – Lauren

For years Lauren put her dreams of opening an art gallery on hold while her husband, Peter (Andrew Bushell), moved up in his career. Her resentments eventually overshadowed the love they once shared bringing them to the brink of divorce. Faced with divorce papers, Lauren recruits The Love Club to help her move on, but sensing that things may not officially be over, they recruit the couple’s young daughter to help them remind them why they fell in love in the first place.

The Love Club – Tara

A free spirit with a beautiful singing voice, Tara has always professed she doesn’t need a partner or “so-called commitment.” Days before New Year’s, Tara declares she will have the year of Tara, focused solely on her singing career. The Love Club shows up to help plan her commitment-to-herself party, but their job turns into matchmaking when they see the connection between Tara and Noah (Brett Donahue), a jaded musician hired to perform at the party — a party that also brings Tara’s mom to town.




Photos and video courtesy of Corus Entertainment.

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