Christmas season is in full swing on Hallmark Channel but you may notice that the network is missing a few familiar faces. Over the course of the past two years, a number of Hallmark's biggest stars have decided to cut ties with the company.
Since 2008, Candace Cameron Bure has starred in over two dozen movies for Hallmark but she recently announced she would be leaving the network. Instead, Cameron joined Great American Family, where she now serves as Chief Creative Officer. She recently explained that the decision stemmed from a leadership change at Hallmark, following former CEO Bill Abbott's decision to step down in 2020. Cameron said that after Bill's departure, Hallmark became "a completely different network than when I started."
"I'm very excited to develop heartwarming family and faith-filled programming and make the kind of stories my family and I love to watch. I am constantly looking for ways that I can inspire people to live life with purpose. Great American Family fits my brand perfectly; we share a vision of creating compelling wholesome content for an audience who wants to watch programming for and with the whole family," she said in a statement.
However, some comments she made about traditional marriage and the content focus of Great American Family stirred up plenty of controversy. Her comments first sparked outrage after a profile interview with The Wall Street Journal. In it, she explained her decision to start doing holiday movies for the new channel, praising the network as being filled with "Christians that love the Lord and wanted to promote faith programming and good family entertainment."
She criticized Hallmark, calling it "a completely different network than when I started because of the change of leadership," before saying same-sex couples likely wouldn't be featured in Great American Family's programming. "I think that Great American Family will keep traditional marriage at the core." It was this last line that garnered the most attention.
CEO Abbott added, "it's certainly the year 2022, so we're aware of the trends. There's no whiteboard that says, 'Yes, this' or 'No, we'll never go here.'"
One vocal critic of Bure's comments was none other than Hilarie Burton, who also left Hallmark but for a very different reason, which you can read more about below.
In 2019, Hilarie Burton claimed she walked away from a Hallmark movie after she "insisted on a LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting" -- and was allegedly denied.
"I was polite, direct and professional. But after the execs gave their notes on the script and NONE of my requests were honored, I was told 'take it or leave it.' I left it and the paycheck," she said at the time. "S----y being penalized for standing up for inclusivity. I really wanted that job. It was close to my house. It paid really well. It was about the military, which you all know I hold dear. But? Id walk away again in a heartbeat. The bigotry comes from the top and permeates the whole deal over there. I’ve been loudly cheering for @lifetimetv all year because they heard my concerns + RALLIED! You want inclusive Christmas magic?! We got it. Love is love."
She added that, thanks to husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan working "his ass off," she had the "luxury to choose morals over paying bills," acknowledging not everyone has the same privilege. "If I had to cover our mortgage and was told 'take it or leave it,' I'd be f---ed."
In 2021, Hallmark star Danica McKellar announced that she had signed a multi-picture deal with Great American Family. In addition to starring in films for the new network, Danica will also serve as executive producer and have involvement in script development. So far, Danica has made her Great American Family debut in "The Winter Palace" and will appear in "Christmas at the Drive-In" this holiday season.
"Part of [leaving Hallmark] was because I had the opportunity to do a multi-picture deal, which I hadn't done at Hallmark, and also not just multi-picture, but also really being a producer, really helping to develop these stories from the beginning. And that's really exciting for me as a storyteller. I love that. Plus, it was Bill Abbott who I adore and a lot of the executives moved over there honestly. In some ways feels more like Hallmark than probably if I were still Hallmark," she told Us Weekly.
Jessica Lowndes signed a multi-picture deal with Great American Family in early 2022, giving her the opportunity to star in, write, direct and executive produce four movies for the network. Prior to signing the deal, she had already starred in Great American Family's "My Angel's Christmas List" as well as "Harmony from the Heart," for which she wrote the screenplay and executive produced. She also wrote, performed and produced several songs from the film.
In January of this year, Jen Lilley inked a multi-picture deal with Great American Family after starring in the debut film of the first Great American Christmas franchise, "Royally Wrapped for Christmas." Previously, the actress and musician had starred in several holiday movies for Hallmark. When some fans criticized her decision to change networks, accusing Great American Family of lack of diversity, Jen defended her decision.
"GAC family is completely loving, diverse, and does so much behind the scenes for the kingdom of God that I get compelled as a Christian to support them whole heartedly. I hope you're not believing the rumors you hear that have an agenda, but I can tell you personally, I know this channel is full of genuine love, rooted in truth, and will do so much for so many," Jen wrote in an Instagram comment.
In 2021, Trevor Donovan announced he would be leaving Hallmark after signing a multi-picture deal with Great American Family. The new deal would not only give Trevor the opportunity to star in several films but also executive produce. So far, he's taken the lead in "Jingle Bell Christmas" and has two films, "Aloha with Love" and "The Engagement Plot," in the works with the network.
In 2018, Hallmark cut ties with Lori Loughlin amid her involvement in the college admissions scandal. For years, Lori took a step back from films and television but made her return in 2022 on Great American Family when the network bought the rights to Hallmark's "When Hope Calls." Lori reprised her role as Abigail Stanton in the series' holiday special, "When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas." It's yet to be seen if she'll appear in the upcoming second season of the show on Great American Family.