The married Chicago Med alums talk surviving quarantine, their daughter's favorite bedtime songs and traveling to Malta to film their new movie To Catch a Spy for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

By Kara Warner
June 19, 2021 09:00 AM
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Colin Donnell; Patti Murin
Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While Colin Donnell and Patti Murin have each racked up an impressive list of acting credits and assorted accolades on their own, the Broadway and former Chicago Med stars occasionally appear onscreen and onstage together (to the delight of fans) — although not yet as onscreen love interests.

The reason? Timing and logistics mainly, according to the couple, who married in 2015.

"You know surprisingly, it actually doesn't really happen all that often in theater or TV," Donnell, 38, tells PEOPLE. "It just hasn't worked out that way."

"It's nice that people like to have us both around at the same time," adds Murin, 40. "But they don't necessarily need to cast us [as love interests]. Honestly it works for us, especially now with a child, because then it's either he's working or I'm working. So it's sort of nice to both work at the same place, but we're not spending 24/7 together constantly, giving each other a chance to be sick of each other."

Donnell and Murin's latest onscreen collaboration is in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film To Catch a Spy (premiering Sunday), in which Donnell, who plays an FBI agent, and Murin, a traveler-turned-amateur detective, are both trying to solve a murder at a fancy hotel in Malta.

Colin Donnell; Patti Murin
Credit: Crown Media

PEOPLE recently caught up with the couple to talk about filming on location in Malta and how To Catch a Spy puts a unique spin on the classic Hallmark movie tales. And of course, while we had them, we had to check in on: Murin's campaign to guest host the Bachelor franchise, Donnell's NailedIt contestant dreams, and their 11-month-old daughter Cecily's current favorite songs to hear sung by her talented parents.

Do you just sign on to Hallmark movies when they're in exotic locales?

Colin Donnell: It certainly makes it very easy to say "yes" when they're like, "We're going to fly you halfway around the world and you're going to shoot a movie for a few weeks." It's pretty amazing the fact that we've gotten to go and do the two that we've done. Patti's done one or two more than I have. But it's amazing that together we've been able to travel to these foreign countries and do work in really amazing locations.

Patti Murin: The first one, [Love on Iceland], I had just found out that I was pregnant with Cecily. So it was in the very early days of my pregnancy. Then this one, we were actually able to take her along with us. This was her first trip anywhere out of state, out of the country. So we were like, "Let's just do it. Let's just see how she does on a plane for nine hours." Luckily, she was wonderful.

This Hallmark movie has a unique plot point. How would you describe its uniqueness?

Donnell: I think one of the unique things about it is that it really doesn't involve a love story, which I think is really cool and refreshing. A lot of the audience tunes in for that love story, but to kind of turn it on its head and make it really about these characters and the mystery that they're trying to solve, I think is really refreshing and new and fun. You still have some of that flirtation that happens between the characters, but you're not relying on that love story to be the main focus of the movie.

Murin: It's still going to be your recognizable Hallmark movie, it's not all of a sudden they're going super dark. It still has the great "Will they or won't they?" element, except this time it's will they or won't they catch the murderer/spy? It's still bright and because it's in Malta, it's just beautiful. Malta, much like Iceland, it's just a stunning country. They don't pretend it is somewhere else. It's in Malta. It was in Iceland. So they really are spotlighting these incredible countries, the incredible architecture and people that are part of it, which I think is really cool.

Colin Donnell; Patti Murin; 'To Catch a Spy'
Credit: Crown Media

When you're preparing for something like this, do you help each other prep? Or do you have your own way of prepping individually for roles?

Murin: I think we have our own way.

Donnell: She says, emphatically! There's a period at the end of that sentence.

Murin: [Laughs] I think we have our own way! But if I have a scene that I'm like, "Oh gosh, please run these lines with me," we're always willing to help each other out in terms of being prepared to step on set. Because no one wants to be the person who is not prepared and doesn't know their lines when they get on set. So, we're totally 1,000 percent supportive of each other in terms of that. But in general yeah, it's kind of separate, very separate, I think.

Donnell: I think we both kind of have our own ways of working that compliment each other very, very well when we're working opposite each other, and working together. But it allows us a lot of freedom and the space to kind of just do our own thing. I think it's really helpful for us, in that it helps us maintain a little bit of a work-life separation and balance.

How did you guys survive the last year? What did you learn about yourselves?

Murin: Well, I think we're pretty good under pressure, to be totally honest. Because I had Cecily in July, so sort of in the middle of everything. I was pregnant for the first however many months of [the pandemic]. I had COVID for a month while I was pregnant. I feel like if we didn't fall apart after all that, then I think we're pretty good to go! For life. We can kind of handle anything.

Donnell: It's been a long year certainly. But, we've definitely found ways to deal with everything, kind of found our groove in the face of some difficult situations. That I think has been really great for the two of us. It has brought us closer, which is awesome.

Murin: Cecily's been like, the absolute gift in all this. When you all of a sudden have to take care of another human, there's very little energy leftover to worry and to use excess energy on yourself. It was honestly, I think, the best thing that could have happened to us, to keep the last year lively and not incredibly difficult and depressing. Yeah, it just happened, the timing just worked out that way. I'm very grateful for that.

Patti Murin; Colin Donnell
Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock

I don't want to assume that you using both of your wonderful vocal talents is part of her bedtime or nap routine, but I would hope if I lived in your house, I would get to hear you sing every once in a while. Is that part of it? Do you guys sing to her yet?

Donnell: Oh, we've been singing to her since she was still being cooked inside Patti.

Murin: Yeah, she really loves Taylor Swift.

Donnell: I recorded and released an EP with my band in September. So Cecily was privy to all those songs, the entire pregnancy. For a bit, when I was doing bedtime, that was what she listened to before she would go to bed. When Patti was doing it, it was mostly Taylor Swift. Then we would play her some recordings from Patti's cast albums. A lot of Frozen, for sure.

Murin: I feel like she's gone through phases with music, where it used to be a soothing thing. Now it's almost like it stimulates her, because she loves it. So she loves when Colin plays the guitar. I can't really sing her to sleep anymore at night, because honestly, when I start to sing, she just sort of sits up and is like, "What are you doing?" Honestly, it's the best thing. I'm like, "That's all I've ever wanted in my career. Is for someone to look at me like that when I sing." So, yeah, I think that's the only time it's ever happened. But she's starting to dance when music comes on or when she makes music come on with her toys. It's very exciting, obviously, for us, just to be like, "Oh my gosh, I think she has a semblance of rhythm." Which is going to be a massive relief.

How is the campaign going to host some of Bachelor in Paradise? Have you heard anything?

Murin: No!

Donnell: If you can do anything to help spread the word, it's much appreciated on this end. I could really use a trip to a beach right now.

Murin: You know how they say, 10,000 hours or something makes you an expert at it? I'm pretty sure I'm way past 10,000 hours and I can call myself a certified Bachelor franchise expert. I feel like I automatically should get some sort of, just the opportunity to show or use my knowledge. Colin has basically no interest in it at all.

How about Nailed It!? Have you heard anything about potentially being on it?

Donnell: Again, if there's anything you can do ... The truth is I am an avid baker. I love baking! So I would happily accept a guest host judge position. And Patti also loves to eat my baking.

Murin: I'm a terrible baker. I'm just so curious how my body would react in that situation. Of like, "Do this now!" Because I feel like I would black out and then watch the episode later and be like, "Is that what he did?" I feel something would take over me, because I get very competitive. I just feel like I need to know.

To Catch a Spy premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.