Trevor Donovan’s approach to celebrity a much-needed throwback

Once upon a time, film was an industry that focused on finding ways to tell good stories and entertain viewers. Today, thanks to social media and the constant emphasis on celebrity and influence that comes with that, it has an additional role: politics. That emphasis usually creates a fissure between those who spend their time and disposable income watching TV shows or going to the movies and the actors who are in them.

It is hard indeed to be from a small- or medium-sized city or town and feel any sense of connection to what an actor is tweeting about. It’s not just the divergence of political views, but also the lack of connection on any level.

Meanwhile, movie and television storylines tend to find subtle and not-so-subtle ways of taking a swipe at half the people who are paying to watch them. The National Association of Theatre Owners says that 2017 and 2019, both before COVID-19 restrictions, ranked as the worst years for movie ticket buying since 1995. Analysts point to streaming as the culprit. But one might also look at the wild success that the Hallmark Channel has enjoyed. People like storylines that reflect a way of life and a rootedness that appeals to them. For the past 10 years, Hallmark has regularly peaked as cable’s most-watched entertainment network in prime time.

Trevor Donovan, a Mammoth Lakes, Calif., native (a small, rural town that looks like it was built to be a Hallmark movie set), is also a seasoned actor whose career in Hollywood took off when he joined the cast of “90210.”

Donovan has found success recently filming a series of wildly successful Hallmark Channel movies over the past few years; he is also in the new independent film “Reagan,” starring Dennis Quaid as the 40th president. Donovan plays Reagan’s longest-serving Secret Service agent, John Barletta.

Donovan’s approach to his craft, as well as his presence on social media, is a throwback to the Golden Age of Hollywood in terms of how he handles his work choices and his celebrity. Check his Twitter account, and you find a rare treat of tweets on dogs, food, nerdy historical facts, “would you ever” questions and more dogs. It’s an approach that keeps him connected and engaged with audiences that have come to appreciate both his craft and social media profiles.

Donovan said, in an interview with the Washington Examiner,  it  is a choice that has evolved. “When you first start out as an actor, you’re pretty much up to do just about anything,” he said. Then, he paused, laughing. “Obviously, anything that doesn’t go against any sort of a moral construct.”

He said he kept an open mind and was game for just about anything. For him, his opportunities at Hallmark have been heaven-sent. “At the time, there was a stigma at one point of doing movies there. Like, when you start doing Hallmark, you might get stuck there. But that’s all changed, just because, you know, work is work these days, and everybody’s doing everything.”

Donovan was unaware of the impact doing Hallmark movies had until he did his first one. “I can’t tell you how many people have approached me over and say how it’s just exactly what they needed. Especially during this time, it’s this escape that everybody needs, the happy ending everybody needs. There’s something pretty cool about being part of something that is so positive, especially in the times we’re in right now,” he said.

For Donovan, it is rewarding just to make fun movies that his parents, his nieces and nephews, and just about everyone he knows can watch. The same goes for his social media — there is nothing in his tweets that would make anyone, family or not, cringe.

Donovan’s personal call to service is working with young people as they wrestle with bullying. He has taken part in a nationwide effort to talk to children about how to deal with it. It was something he said he experienced when he was a child.

On deciding not to engage in politics on social media, he said, “I try to identify and acknowledge the things that most everybody can agree on and be happy with — in essence, dogs, pets, animals, food, history and anti-bullying,” he said.

“On politics, I am not going to ever take a position on anything. It’s unnecessary. It’s more interesting to see what inspires people in other aspects of life. Politics is for other people to discuss,” he said.

 Salena Zito  is  a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner.