The actress stars as matriarch Isabel McMurray on the new Hallmark Channel series Ride
"I had no prowess when it comes to horseback riding," she tells PEOPLE. "The most complex horseback riding I had ever done is maybe on a trail ride where I'm on some very old horse that just follows the one in front of it and carousels."
Despite her lack of experience, Travis was more than willing to take on the role.
"I almost feel like I manifested this whole job," she says, "because right before the project came to me, I was just sort of thinking about, 'Wouldn't it be nice to own a ranch and have chickens and cows and horses?' I mean just indulging in this complete fantasy. But to the point of looking on Zillow and sending my husband listings that he just would delete."
She continues, "Then the script comes and I thought, 'I can't believe that this is happening, and I get to live out this fantasy without any of the responsibility,' which is fantastic."
Filming the show on a working Canadian cattle ranch in Calgary had its perks as well. "Much of the crew were wranglers so we had the best circumstance to be taught not just how to ride, but how to care for horses," says Travis, recalling one episode where a mare goes into labor. "Just the language that goes around and what actually happens, how one deals with that. And just the workings of a ranch and what that entails. It sure looks pretty in pictures, but man, it is hard, hard work."
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As for her role of Isabel McMurray, Travis finds joy in portraying the matriarch. "I love her grit and grace, and the fact that for me, it's an opportunity to play somebody that is a fully formed person," she says. "That may seem like a small thing, but often I find female roles are basically accessories to the guy or the straight person to the guy's comedy. And this was a chance to play somebody that has a full spectrum of feelings and emotions and desires and ambitions. And that was a thrill. I'm still very much discovering her, and I'm enjoying that."
The actress, who will next be seen in the inspirational film Ordinary Angels, is especially appreciative of Isabel's wardrobe of casual ranch attire. "Oh my God, I just want to say, what I love, love, love about this part is it's completely Spanx-less," says Travis, laughing. "It's such a joy to just work in jeans and shirts, and it can be dirty and don't have to be pressed. So Isabel has maybe a dozen pairs of jeans. But it's sort of like cowboy boots. I mean, once you have a pair that fits, that's the pair you wear over and over again. And the more worn in, the better they are."
Even with Ride's popularity, Travis admits she is still approached by fans of her film So I Married an Axe Murderer, costarring Mike Myers, which came out 30 years ago in 1993. "Those kinds of numbers always make me just sort of break out into a sweat," she says teasingly. "It is a long time because it does feel like yesterday, and I think recently there was a big anniversary in San Francisco where we filmed it and there was a screening. It is extraordinary that to this day, people come up to me and recite lines."
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Ride airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel and streams on Peacock.
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