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'Good' times continue for Bell in her fourth witch's tale

t's no stretch to say Catherine Bell has cast a spell over viewers.

The co-star of Lifetime's "Army Wives" has found another ongoing success in her recurring series of "Good Witch" TV movies for Hallmark Channel. She recently signed for a fifth film, but before that begins production, the fourth one -- the comedy-fantasy "The Good Witch's Family" -- makes its debut Saturday, Oct. 29, appropriately just before Halloween.

In the latest tale, the somewhat magical Cassie (Bell) considers her life reasonably normal as the new wife of the local police chief (Chris Potter, also reprising the part he's played since the first movie) and stepmother to his children (Matthew Knight, Hannah Endicott-Douglas). But discord suddenly settles over the household, as well as the whole town, and Cassie finally traces it to the source: her troublemaker cousin (Sarah Power).

"It's really incredible," the friendly Bell says of now reaching her fourth "Good Witch" round, with at least one more definite. "People ask me all the time, 'When's the next one coming out?' It's really struck a note with a lot of people … men and women, adults and kids. It's very rare that kind of appeal happens, so I like it."

Despite the "Good Witch" moniker, the new story and its forerunners never have confirmed that Cassie actually is a sorceress. That's one of the elements Bell enjoys most, since she reasons, "What she has could just really be great intuition. She understands people well and has good senses, and I certainly know people in life who are like that. You just never quite know, and that's the mystery of it."

After last season's "Army Wives" episodes that saw the death of her alter ego Denise Sherwood's son in combat, Bell welcomed a return to the much more fanciful "Good Witch" spirit. It can be tricky to maintain that over the course of several movies, but she believes consistency among the cast and crew has been key. "We've had the same director for all of them (Craig Pryce), and that's helped. He knows when to throw in the right tone at the right moments."

And for her purposes, Bell also has had past screen witches to look to. She notes, "I grew up with 'Bewitched,' and I loved the playfulness that she (Elizabeth Montgomery) brought to that character. There's definitely an element of that in this. You actually could call this kind of a fun, modern take on that."

Bell certainly knows about long series runs, having had one with "JAG" on CBS and now enjoying another with "Army Wives," which is about to begin production on its sixth season. She's in a position any weekly-TV-minded performer would love: "Army Wives" could get another renewal, plus Bell has just finished making TNT's upcoming adaptation of the April Smith novel "Good Morning, Killer," and a possible series for her FBI agent character in that production reportedly is under consideration.

And then there's "The Good Witch," which would seem a likely candidate for weekly consideration after what will amount to at least five movies. "There's always been talk about that," Bell confirms, "and I always get asked about it. It certainly would be cute. I like the character and the people I work with, so I would have no problem with that."

Marveling at the bountiful career options that appear to be in front of her now, mother of two Bell reflects, "I remember being a starving actress, going on auditions and keeping my fingers crossed that I'd still be able to pay the rent. It's certainly an interesting journey that life can take you on. It's been really, really fun."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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