"Debbie Macomber's Cedar Cove," based on novelist Macomber's books, focuses on a judge who weighs putting her career ahead of her roots and family. MacDowell said taking the role appeared to mean she'd have to give work precedence over her role as a parent.
"When the script came to me, I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it," the actress said. "I love my work, but my kids come first, and I was finishing off my daughter's last year in high school."
She didn't want to leave her job as mom early, MacDowell said. But when her two daughters read the script and declared it perfect for her, she reconsidered. As luck would have it, the production was delayed and she was able to neatly balance home and acting.
MacDowell is enthusiastic about "Cedar Cove," which debuts at 8 p.m. EDT Saturday and represents the Hallmark Channel's first original prime-time series. Dylan Neal, Bruce Boxleitner, Teryl Rothery, Barbara Niven and Sarah Smythe are in the cast.
The series is a warm-hearted respite from the many dark and edgy shows on TV, MacDowell said.
"It's one of those stories that makes you feel good, classic Hallmark that makes you cry, makes you laugh," she said, adding that the title's fictional town is a "great character, and you enjoy being in the place."
As for her daughters, "they're both sprouting their wings and taking off," she said, with Rainey, 24, an actress and singer-songwriter and Margaret, 18, an actress and model.
MacDowell's son, Justin, 26, is pursuing a master's degree in English at the University of Montana.