What Only The Biggest Fans Know About Hallmark's Chesapeake Shores

The Hallmark Channel had experienced so much success with its movies — particularly the holiday-themed ones — that by the mid-2010s, the cable channel began venturing into producing its own series. That led to the 2015 announcement of a new series that had just been greenlit, "Chesapeake Shores."

Debuting the following year, the series focuses on Abby O'Brien (Meghan Ory), a divorced mom living in New York City who is juggling her demanding career while looking after her two young daughters. She decides to pay a visit to her family in her hometown of Chesapeake Shores, a bucolic oceanfront town on the Maryland coast. Returning home makes Abby realize what's been missing from her life as she reconnects with her father (Treat Williams), her grandmother (Diane Ladd), and her high-school sweetheart (Jesse Metcalfe), a musician who, like Abby, has recently returned to Chesapeake Shores. 

The show proved to be a Hallmark hit, running for six seasons until coming to an end in October 2022. As beloved as the show was — and continues to be — there's a lot that even the most diehard devotees may not know. Read on to discover what only the biggest fans know about Hallmark's "Chesapeake Shores."

Chesapeake Shores is based on a bestselling book series

The story of the Hallmark Channel's "Chesapeake Shores" began with the 2009 publication of "The Inn at Eagle Point" by author Sherryl Woods. The novel tells the story of Abby O'Brien-Winters, who returns to her hometown of Chesapeake Shores to help her sister renovate the titular inn. More books followed for a grand total of 14, concluding with 2017's "Lilac Lane." 

News first broke in 2014 that the Hallmark Channel was planning a TV adaptation. "We are looking forward to working with the multitalented Sherryl Woods to develop Hallmark Channel's fourth scripted series," Michelle Vicary, executive VP of programming at Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movie Channel, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. According to Vicary, the themes in the books were ideally suited to the network's core audience. "Woods' 'Chesapeake Shores' series of books truly embodies the emotions of life's lessons, family, and community that we know will captivate our viewers," she added.

"Chesapeake Shores" isn't the only TV series to originate from Woods' novels. The Netflix series "Sweet Magnolias" is based on her book series of the same name, which includes 11 novels and a "Sweet Magnolias" cookbook.

Reviews weren't great — but the ratings were

When the debut episode of "Chesapeake Shores" arrived in August 2016, it's fair to say it wasn't exactly a favorite of television critics. Writing for The New York Times, reviewer Neil Genzlinger managed to deride both the series and the books from which they sprang in his opening sentence: "Here in Cliché Shores, you can live a quiet, sanitized life surrounded by all those hackneyed themes and characters you expect from lightweight escapist paperbacks."

The AV Club's Gwen Ihnat offered a slightly less brutal assessment, but it wasn't exactly a rave. The review described the show as "light but still effective escapism," and pointed out its biggest flaw: the fact that it was beyond obvious that Abby and her former flame, Trace, were going to get together.

Of course, as any television exec will confirm, glowing reviews may be nice, but it's ratings that matter — and "Chesapeake Shores" definitely delivered in that department. According to a Hallmark Channel press release announcing the series' renewal for a second season, the first season landed as "Hallmark Channel's most-watched series in the network's history" among females ages 25-54 and overall viewers within the same age range. 

The theme song changed in the second season

Loyal viewers of the Hallmark Channel's "Chesapeake Shores" will certainly recall the opening credits in the first season, which were set to the song "Coming Home Soon" by the Vancouver-based Adam Woodall Band; the song also appeared in a promo for the show in advance of its premiere.

At the time, band frontman Adam Woodall thanked producers for choosing his song to open the show. "The song 'Coming Home Soon' sounds great!" he wrote on Facebook. "Thanks for choosing my song and thanks for the support! Love the show!"

As Distractify pointed out, when the show returned for its second season, the theme song did not. Instead, the entire opening had been reworked, ditching the gilt picture frames that characterized the credits and introducing a whole new song — albeit with a similar title and theme. The new opening credits song was "Home," written and performed by Daughtry, the band headed by one-time "American Idol" contestant Chris Daughtry.

The reason the show had to switch dogs

Among the various characters introduced in the two-hour "Chesapeake Shores" pilot was Axel, a golden retriever owned by Trace (Jesse Metcalfe). Within just a few episodes, however, Trace's four-legged friend was no longer a golden retriever — he had miraculously become a German shepherd.

Asked about the canine swap, "Chesapeake Shores" executive producer John Tinker (who uses the pseudonym "Nunnaya Beeswax" on social media), offered an explanation. "Sweet dog that it is, the golden was not very attentive and was easily distracted and so was replaced when it came time to do the series," he wrote. "Ace (Axel's real name) is a wonderful, alert, intelligent German shepherd. He'd have to be; when he's not acting on CS, he's a working, bomb-sniffing canine!" The official "Chesapeake Shores" Facebook account confirmed that latter nugget of info, revealing that Ace has indeed been specially trained to sniff out explosives. 

"From what I understand, the dog in the first couple episodes didn't pay attention," actor Brittany Willacy (who played country singer Leigh Corley in the show) said in an interview with Until the Meeting. "They needed a dog that was more obeying to commands, so they went with a German shepherd."

Jesse Metcalfe has written some of the songs he performs on the show

Prior to "Chesapeake Shores," Jesse Metcalfe was best known for his role as hunky gardener John Rowland on "Desperate Housewives." While watching him act in that show, fans may not have realized that he also had a side gig as a singer and songwriter. His musical talents, however, were no secret to viewers of "Chesapeake Shores," given that he portrayed Trace Riley, a singer and frontman of his eponymous Trace Riley Band. 

Metcalfe was not just a dilettante actor dabbling in music. "I've been playing guitar and singing and writing music for 10 years," Metcalfe told the PC Principle, revealing that he'd previously written a song that appeared in a 2008 indie film he'd starred in, "Loaded." Up until then, however, he hadn't been able to showcase his musical talent in any of his on-screen roles.

Playing Trace on "Chesapeake Shores," he explained, was "an opportunity to write some original material for a project that I was a part of." In fact, he added, two of his original songs wound up in the series' first season, while another was purchased by the Hallmark Channel. "These songs are in the first eight episodes and I am really proud of all three of them," he added.

Chesapeake Shores is set in Maryland, but was filmed in Canada's Vancouver Island

While "Chesapeake Shores" is set on the east coast of Maryland, the show is actually filmed on a whole other coast — and country. As Baltimore Fishbowl pointed out, the series is shot on Vancouver Island in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The exterior shots were filmed in the coastal island town of Qualicum and nearby Parksville, as well as the city of Nanaimo. As TV Over Mind noted, one location that should be familiar to viewers, the Chesapeake Shores Flower Shop, was in reality Smithford's, a Qualicum Beach retailer that closed its doors in 2021.  

The Hallmark Channel films much of its programming in British Columbia, particularly in the cities of Vancouver and Victoria. It's a win-win proposition for both the network and the communities where filming takes place. "It's been a really great economic generator for our region," said Vancouver Island North Film Commission's Joan Miller in an interview with Chek News

Hallmark is attracted by British Columbia's tax incentives, which have resulted in numerous films and movie productions being filmed there over the years. "There is no question tax credits are a big part of it, and also the dollar — the exchange on the dollar is a big factor," Allan Harmon, who's directed more than a dozen Hallmark movies, told CBC News.

Fans can visit the show's locations

Filming in towns situated on picturesque Vancouver Island, "Chesapeake Shores" has utilized many existing local landmarks on the show, a far less expensive option than building the set for an entire town on a Hollywood soundstage. Since the locations actually exist, fans of the show have the opportunity to visit the real places filmed in "Chesapeake Shores."

In fact, the local tourism bureau encourages fans to visit — a way for those communities to continue generating revenue from the show even though it's no longer on the air. Tourism Vancouver Island even offered a handy list of 12 "Chesapeake Shores" filming locations, including Bailey's In The Village, the real-life eatery that doubled for the Town Square Cafe on the show. Incidentally, Vancouver Island has filled in for locales far beyond coastal Maryland; as the Tourism Vancouver Island site noted, Commercial Street in downtown Nanaimo has doubled for both Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas.

Super Channel — which aired "Chesapeake Shores" in Canada — even pointed to a mural for the Chesapeake Shores Seafood Packing Co., featuring a distinctive Maryland blue crab. That mural still remains on the back of a building in Qualicum Beach.

The cancellation of Chesapeake Shores hit the cast hard

In the spring of 2022, the Hallmark Channel issued an announcement that held both good and bad news for fans of "Chesapeake Shores." Announcing that the show would be returning for a sixth season, the network also confirmed that it would be the show's last. "With a top-notch ensemble cast and creative team, 'Chesapeake Shores' has shared stories that are relatable, poignant, and unforgettable," said Hallmark Channel's Laurie Ferneau in a statement to Deadline. "We look forward to honoring the journey viewers have been on with the O'Briens with one final, special season."

Actor Mariesa Crouse — who played Margaret Keller, law partner and girlfriend of Connor O'Brien (Andrew Francis) — told Parade that filming the final episode was rough. "My heart is breaking slowly," Crouse admitted. "The last days of filming were so sad. When we got to the end, it felt like we needed a little more time together before it ended. It was extremely bittersweet filming the last little bit of 'Chesapeake.' We were all crying at the end of it."

A spinoff may be in the works

When the Hallmark Channel decided to cancel "Chesapeake Shores," there was hope that the story could continue in some fashion. Asked if she was thinking about a potential spinoff, executive producer Phoef Sutton told TV Insider, "I can't really share anything yet, but we are in discussion about something like that. I don't really know what it would entail yet, but I don't think you've seen the last of the O'Briens, let me put it that way."

Back in 2019, the Hallmark Channel announced that a standalone "Chesapeake Shores" spinoff movie was in the works, which would focus on the three O'Brien sisters: Abby (Meghan Ory), Bree (Emilie Ullerup), and Jess (Laci Mailey). According to the announcement, the story would have involved the sisters traveling to Rome to attend a wedding, only to arrive and discover the bride has gone AWOL. 

Speaking with Super Channel back in 2021, executive producer Dan Paulson revealed that the film had indeed been in the works, although somewhere along the line, the destination changed from Italy to an entirely different European country. Ultimately, he explained, the whole thing was kiboshed by the pandemic. "It was going to be a destination film where the three sisters would go somewhere, because they're great together," Paulson explained. "We talked about Ireland, since the family is from there, and actually wrote a script."

Jesse Metcalfe was open to returning after his Chesapeake Shores exit

Fans of "Chesapeake Shores" faced some bad news during the show's fifth season, when the Hallmark Channel revealed that star Jesse Metcalfe was planning to exit the series (via Us Weekly). However, the good news for fans was that the announcement also confirmed Metcalfe would continue to appear in Hallmark movies. 

Speaking with Entertainment Tonight about his departure, Metcalfe explained that his decision to leave came after he received the first few scripts for the fifth season. "That creative relationship was not really established this time around," he said. "I just felt that there wasn't really anything else I could do with the character."

Of course, Metcalfe pointed out, Trace wasn't being killed off, so there was always the possibility the character could return at some point, even if it was for a guest spot. "Trace didn't die. It's not the end of the road for Trace," Metcalfe said. "He could always come back to Chesapeake Shores. It's possible."

Fans could buy props that were used on the show

When "Chesapeake Shores" ended its six-season run in the fall of 2022, all the show's props wound up at Demxx, a building recycling firm situated in the Vancouver Island town of Coombs. This wasn't a random occurrence — a CTV News Vancouver Island report noted that the show had a long history with the company, going back to the beginning of production.

According to the company's demolition foreman, Ron Ball, all the salvaged props have turned the recycling facility into something of a tourist attraction. "The ladies love that channel and the girls all talk about it and they've just been flying in here," Ball said, noting that photos of the actors interacting with the same items of furniture on the show were especially popular with fans. 

In addition to viewing all those props, fans were also welcome to purchase any of the items. "Watching your favorite TV show and then getting props for your own house is exciting," said the company's social media manager, Kaylea Ganderton.

There was a post-show podcast

The "Chesapeake Shores" fanbase is fiercely loyal, to the point that aficionados of the show actually had their own nickname: Chessies. The ultra-hardcore fans had the opportunity to dive even deeper into each episode by listening to "The Chesapeake Shores Podcast," an after-show podcast. Each podcast episode was devoted to discussing the episode of the show that had just aired on the Hallmark Channel.

In addition to offering rundowns of each episode, the podcast also welcomed special guests, including "Chesapeake Shores" actor Andrew Francis and Sheryl Anderson, showrunner of Netflix's "Sweet Magnolias," based on the book series from author Sherryl Woods. 

That wasn't the only podcast destination for fans. They could also avail themselves of "Dear Hallmark," a podcast devoted to the Hallmark Channel's voluminous programming — including episodes devoted entirely to "Chesapeake Shores." In addition, the "But Make It Hallmark" podcast offered a farewell episode mourning the end of the series.