Meet Hallmark's Christmas all-stars: Why Lacey Chabert, Bethany Joy Lenz, Andrew Walker and others bring 'familiarity and comfort' to the network's holiday hits

Hallmark has created an aspirational and addictive escape for audiences, one holiday movie at a time.

Hallmark has a reliable set of stars, including Lacey Chabert, Andrew Walker and Bethany Joy Lenz, who help to bring its beloved holiday movies to life. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Hallmark Network)
Hallmark has a reliable set of stars, including Lacey Chabert, Andrew Walker and Bethany Joy Lenz, who help to bring its beloved holiday movies to life. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Hallmark Network)
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With Hallmark Channel's 42-movie holiday slate in full swing, the network's cinematic universe has never looked more festive — with a healthy stable of go-to actors and actresses to lead the Christmas charge.

Fans know that there's often a formula to these holiday films and over time, the storylines may start to sound the same, the settings become indistinguishable and the characters even begin to appear interchangeable. Still, having a case of déjà vu while watching Hallmark movies isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"So much of contemporary culture involves some idea of knowing what you're getting into. These movies are not unique in providing a certain level of familiarity and comfort," Alonso Duralde, co-author of I'll Be Home for Christmas Movies and movie critic at the Film Verdict, tells Yahoo Entertainment. "Hallmark very cannily has figured out there is a formula to these movies and people watch them for specific moments to enjoy, for specific visuals that they want to partake in or emotional beats — and they deliver them."

Annabel Monaghan, author of the Hallmark-inspired novel Nora Goes Off Script, credits the predictable happy endings and a reliance on proven storytelling tropes — think career woman returning to her small town or childhood friends becoming lovers in adulthood — for creating an aspirational and addictive escape for audiences.

"They're a little bit of the way you wish the world was," Monaghan tells Yahoo Entertainment.

Hallmark has cracked the code on giving its viewers exactly what they want each holiday season, even if the movies are slight variations on a theme, be it a festive town event or a kiss under the mistletoe.

But the network has shown, especially this year, that it's "willing to play around a little, obviously within certain parameters," Duralde explains. "There's still going to be, most likely, that kiss at the end, the tree lighting and decorations everywhere, but you're seeing more of a willingness to expand the window of what goes into one of these movies while at the same time providing that sense of Christmas-ness that brings people back every year."

Hallmark has a reliable set of stars who help to bring its familiar plots to life. Meet seven of the network's mainstays.

Lacey Chabert

Actress Lacey Chabert
Lacey Chabert has been called the "Queen of Hallmark" by fans. (Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

Known as the "Queen of Hallmark," Chabert made her debut more than a decade ago in 2010's Elevator Girl. Since then, she's starred in 38 films, 15 of which are holiday titles, with two airing this year: A Merry Scottish Christmas and Haul Out the Holly: Lit Up. The Party of Five alum frequently shares the screen with Hallmark's top male talent, Will Kemp and Brennan Elliott.

"She's become the network's biggest draw," Duralde says. "You will see her in movies where she's playing the classic Hallmark career-driven heroine who learns to slow down and love Christmas, but then you see her in something [else] where she's more game to be the Christmas-y one."

Chabert has expressed her gratitude for playing a part in bringing joy into people’s living rooms, telling the Messenger, "I want to be a part of things that add some goodness back into the world and be a part of projects that bring out the good in humanity and hopefully leave people feeling uplifted. With Hallmark, I've really been able to do that."

Bethany Joy Lenz

Actress Bethany Joy Lenz
Bethany Joy Lenz's A Biltmore Christmas brought in 3.1 million viewers when it aired on Nov. 29. (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

The One Tree Hill vet has bounced back and forth between Hallmark and Lifetime over the years, but she lately seems to have settled into the Hallmark family. The 42-year-old actress has starred in eight films, including four holiday offerings. Her latest movie, the time-travel romance A Biltmore Christmas with Kristoffer Polaha, premiered on Nov. 29. It beat ABC and Fox in Sunday ratings and was the No. 1 most-watched cable broadcast that evening with 3.1 million viewers.

Lenz's characters tend to have a "strong leading lady presence," Duralde says. Her storylines in these movies usually involve fake relationships, royal matchmaking and exes forced to work together during the holidays. She's headlined movies with Andrew Walker, Tyler Hynes and Victor Webster.

Nikki DeLoach

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Nikki DeLoach attends Hallmark Channel's Countdown To Christmas Holiday Celebration at The Grove on November 15, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Olivia Wong/Getty Images)
Nikki DeLoach stars in 2023's A World Record Christmas. (Olivia Wong/Getty Images)

Another Hallmark favorite, the 44-year-old DeLoach has led 17 movies overall since first starring in 2015's Christmas Land, seven of which are holiday themed. Her most recent, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' A World Record Christmas (2023), is inspired by true events and follows a mother whose autistic son attempts to break a world record involving 1,400 Jenga blocks. She has starred in five movies with Andrew Walker, which include the Curious Caterer mystery franchise, and the pair make up one of Hallmark's popular onscreen duos.

You'll likely see DeLoach playing a single mother, grieving widow or amateur sleuth-solving caterer, though she's also leaned into her comedic side through conventional romantic comedies like 2020's Sweet Autumn. On Christy Carlson Romano's podcast in January, DeLoach described Hallmark as telling "deeper, richer, bigger stories."

"The way Hallmark thinks about it now — the mindset that's happening at our network — is our audience is very diverse, actually. We want everybody to see themselves in at least one or [a handful] of our movies, and I love that," she said.

Andrew Walker

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 10: Andrew Walker attends a special screening of Hallmark's
Andrew Walker, a Hallmark star, often plays the good guy next door or the dreamy significant other. (Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)

The Canadian actor first joined Hallmark in 2012's A Bride for Christmas opposite Arielle Kebbel, where he plays a man who bets he can get her noncommittal character to say yes to marriage. The 44-year-old has starred in 26 movies for the network, 13 of which are holiday-centric.

Now a Hallmark household name, Walker starred in this year's Christmas Island with Rachel Skarsten. His other popular December movies include 2022's hit Three Wise Men and a Baby, which co-starred Hallmark fan favorites Tyler Hynes and Paul Campbell; the amnesia-centered Christmas on My Mind from 2019; and A Dream of Christmas from 2016, where a marriage is on the verge of being over.

Walker primarily teams up with DeLoach — the pair have starred in five movies together. With his chiseled features, Walker often plays leading men who are the quintessential good guy next door or the dreamy significant other.

In February, he spoke to Entertainment Tonight about working for the network. "It's the culture that Hallmark has created and the people that they've hired to put in these positions, they have just excelled in every way. And it doesn't feel like work," he said.

Tyler Hynes

EDISON, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 10: Tyler Hynes attends Christmas Con New Jersey 2022 at Expo Center on December 10, 2022 in Edison, New Jersey. (Photo by Emily Assiran/Getty Images for That’s 4 Entertainment)
Tyler Hynes began working with Hallmark in 2018. (Emily Assiran/Getty Images for That’s 4 Entertainment)

Compared to other Hallmark stars on the list, Hynes is relatively new to the family. The 37-year-old Canadian actor made his network debut in 2018's Falling for You, but has made his five-year run on the network count.

He's in the upper echelon of Hallmark talent as he's often paired with leading ladies like When Calls the Heart's Erin Krakow (also in 2021's It Was Always You) and Chabert (2021's Sweet Carolina, 2020's Winter in Vail).

Often stepping into roles where he plays sarcastic, witty and prickly heroes who hold jobs like house flipper or video game developer, Hynes's Hallmark resume has 17 credits. Every Christmas season, you'd be hard-pressed to not find Hynes starring in one, or maybe even two, holiday movies. This year, he was in the middle of a love triangle with Janel Parrish and Pascale Lamothe-Kipnes in Never Been Chris'd.

While promoting Three Wise Men and a Baby, Hynes spoke to ET about branching out from typical Hallmark romances.

"Hallmark, I believe, is more interested in those kinds of stories from the conversations that I've had, just telling a more diverse palette of stories that are not just relationship-based in your traditional sense. But more in all of its shapes and sizes," he explained.

Luke Macfarlane

Actor Luke Macfarlane
Luke Macfarlane often plays traditional romantic leading men in Hallmark movies. (Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Macfarlane has starred in over a dozen films, including nine Christmas movies such as the Santa Claus holiday caper Catch Me If You Claus, which aired this year.

The 43-year-old actor is openly gay. It wasn't until Notes of Autumn, which premiered this past fall, where Macfarlane played a LGBTQ character on Hallmark for the first time. In the movie, he plays an author who explores a queer relationship following a house swap à la The Holiday.

Previously, he's played traditional romantic leading men on Hallmark, wooing actresses like Candace Cameron Bure, Alison Sweeney, Krakow and Lenz. Duralde says that Notes of Autumn and Catch Me If You Claus, which was more comedic in tone, could be the start of a new creative chapter for Macfarlane: He can "come into a whole new space with these movies."

In an interview with ET in 2019, Macfarlane said Hallmark’s track record was hard to pass up. "To be able to do a movie that you know people are going to get to watch really makes a big difference. And Hallmark is crushing it because people are continuing to watch our movies in record numbers," he said.

Ryan Paevey

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 20: Ryan Paevey attends Hallmark Media's star-studded kickoff of 'Countdown To Christmas' with a special screening of
Ryan Paevey stars in Hallmark Channel's Under the Christmas Sky. (Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Hallmark Media)

The former soap opera star was first introduced to the Hallmark audience in the Jane Austen-inspired Unleashing Mr. Darcy film series, where he played the wealthy, prideful yet charming titular hero.

Among his 15 Hallmark movies since 2016, the 39-year-old fan favorite has played a variety of romantic heroes, from a single father who falls in love with the daughter of the local innkeepers in 2021's A Coyote Creek Christmas to an architect from the 1900s who time-travels to present-day New York in 2020's A Timeless Christmas to a fictional soap opera star in 2021's A Little Daytime Drama.

This year, Paevey stars in one holiday film, Under the Christmas Sky, but he has headlined a total of seven. Though he rotates between scene partners, he's shared the screen with actresses like Cindy Busby and Jen Lilley.

"It's a big machine," Paevey said in a 2021 interview about Hallmark's casting approach. "Somebody's job [at Hallmark] is definitely to play human Tetris, so to speak, and see which pieces fit together the best."

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