Hallmark Channel may be home to romance, but who are the swoon-worthy guys making those fairy tale dreams come true?
From familiar faces like Chad Michael Murray to Jesse Metcalfe to Cameron Mathison, Hallmark has never shied away from featuring hunky, good-natured, respectable men in their year-round offerings of original romantic movies and TV dramas. So, just what does Hallmark look for in the perfect leading man?
"I think it's pretty self-evident exactly what we're looking for," Michelle Vicary, Executive Vice President of Programming and Network Publicity at Crown Media Family Networks, tells ET's Katie Krause at the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Television Critics Association press tour party in Beverly Hills, California, in July. "We look for the beauty in all people and there is nothing more fun than to watch a movie where you see a little bit of yourself, but it's also a little aspirational, and you put a little makeup on and a beautiful dress and you too are you in a movie with Ryan Paevey. What's worse than that?"
"One of the great things too is they are such quality people and they give back," Bill Abbott, President and CEO at Crown Media Family Networks, tells ET. "They are just great citizens. At the end of the day that represents our brand really well and our content really well."
With the summer already in full swing, ET spotlights five Hallmark faves leading your next romantic guilty pleasures.
Walker, 40, is a regular Hallmark fixture, having led over a dozen original movies since 2012 (his network debut was A Bride for Christmas) and with good reason -- the Montreal native, who has Chris Evans' chiseled features, is just as dreamy in real life as he is onscreen! Happily married to his wife Cassandra, father to son West and expecting his second child, Walker exudes many of the qualities that Hallmark's leading men often represent in their movies.
"I wish there was a secret, but I think it's just communication. We own a business together, Little West, and she stays in her lane, I try to stay in my lane. And we just communicate a lot," Walker tells ET of the secret to his successful marriage. "When something is affecting us, we just bring it up to each other and try to remedy it as quickly and efficiently as possible and then get back to doing what we do."
The actor next stars opposite Jodie Sweetin in the holiday film, Marry & Bright, which follows a woman who inherits a struggling candy cane manufacturing company from her grandparents. Walker plays a employee of an investment firm who comes in and makes bold changes to the company to save it from going under. Walker revealed that he and his family often have Hallmark viewing nights: "That's what's so great about Hallmark. It's kind of like the Disney Channel on the weekends!"
But when does Walker feel the most himself? "When I'm naked," he quipped. "I don't want any clothes on. I really don't want clothes on majority of the time. Walking around the house and yeah... freedom!" Walker shared that growing up with a musical family often lends itself to impromptu singalongs around the holidays in Canada, which is one of his favorite Christmastime traditions. "We get together over the holidays and we just do a big family sing-song. And we eat and we drink and we laugh and... it's music! We're kind of like the Partridge family." But could Walker sing in a future Hallmark movie? "Maybe. I need you guys to tweet about it. For sure I'll sing in a Hallmark movie!"
Merry & Bright premieres Saturday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.
Another Hallmark favorite, Paevey is a former soap star -- the 34-year-old actor played Nathan West on General Hospital for six years -- and has appeared in over half a dozen Hallmark movies, including the Pride & Prejudice-inspired Unleashing Mr. Darcy franchise. The Southern California native next stars opposite When Calls the Heart leading lady Erin Krakow as her Stetson-wearing love interest in the original movie, A Summer Romance, where his hotshot city boy finds love in the unlikeliest of places, Paevey teases, and learns that "maybe simpler is better." Though this is the first time he's worked with Krakow, he had nothing but glowing things to say about his co-star and even hinted at a possible sequel: "She was super fun. The vibe at the end of this [movie] on set, when we all parted ways, was that maybe we might get to do it again, so... Fingers crossed we get to do it again."
Put Paevey on the hot seat about his hunky ways and he gets noticeably shy, admitting that he "never" feels like he's a true Hollywood hunk, as it were. "I'm the most self-deprecating human being on the face of the planet, so I'm going to have the least exciting answer for you ever!" he blushes. "But I am my best self when I am adventuring. When I do something that could potentially risk bodily harm and I don't get harmed, I'm like [brushes his shoulders with pride]."
Paevey says it's been gratifying finding a home base at a network like Hallmark. "As an actor, it's nice to work in an environment where everybody is nice and the things that we do are nice," he explains. "I'm a terrible faker. In order for me to look believable, I have to actually feel those things." Paevey confesses he has "a terrible poker face" and that can get him into hot water, especially when he's hanging out with the boys. "I am terrible at cards. I lose money every time I play, but also... it's nice to be a part of a team that cares about its stars, that produces good product, that's doing well."
A Summer Romance premieres Saturday, Aug. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel.
The When Calls the Heart star made hearts go aflutter when he made his debut on the Hallmark Channel series earlier this year as new Mountie Nathan, and McGarry is already looking forward to getting back to work on season seven, which he said should kick back up in the next month or so. The finale of When Calls the Heart ended on a romantic cliffhanger when Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) asked Lucas (Chris McNally) to dance, but her eyes wandered to McGarry's Nathan. "They've got lots of possibilities with storylines for next season, so I don't think the end is anywhere near sight right now," McGarry says. "I got the glance. She picked the other guy, but I got the glance."
As he explained, there's always hope for Elizabeth and Nathan to reconnect -- even if it doesn't seem possible right now. "There might've been a connection. I don't know if she wished she [chose Nathan]. We'll find that out in season seven." McGarry shared that Nathan already has experience being a surrogate father, saying, "He's got his niece right now so he is kind of a father figure to his niece. But to have his own child, I don't know... I think his hands are pretty full. And some of the stuff I've heard that's coming up... his hands will be full."
McGarry revealed he feels sexiest when he's out on the open road. "I have a motorcycle" he says, before confessing, "I don't know if I'm a hunk, but I feel cool on a motorcycle." The actor joked that while he's never co-opted Hallmark storylines into his real life, they've borrowed from him. "I feel like Hallmark steals storylines from my real life and uses it on-camera," he says with a laugh.
Christmas Scavenger Hunt premieres Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. ET/PT and When Calls the Heart returns in 2020 on Hallmark Channel.
McNally has been a part of the Hallmark family for several years now, but it was his season six introduction on When Calls the Heart that brought the Canadian actor into the spotlight. The actor, whose past credits include roles on Altered Carbon and Supernatural, plays rogue-ish saloon owner Lucas, one of two main men in Elizabeth's life vying for her affections, on the Hallmark Channel drama. "It's awesome, it's great. I think it's fantastic that it worked exactly as our showrunnerAlfonso [H. Moreno] is hoping," McNally tells ET of the show's central love triangle. "We wanted it to be pretty divided -- half and half. If I do my job, half of the fans are going to be excited and half would be for Kevin [McGarry]."
And there's a reason viewers are pulling for Team Lucas to get the girl: McNally is just as sweet as you'd expect! Asked where he believes Elizabeth's heart truly lies, the actor put the new mother first. "Probably with baby Jack. I think her eyes might be wandering towards some guys, but her heart's with her baby," he says, adding that Lucas may be "willing to take chances" and become more of a father figure to Elizabeth's son. "He'll be open to that. It's something he's unfamiliar with, so why not?"
While we're waiting on bated breath for When Calls the Heart to return, let's learn a little bit more about McNally the guy. He's happily in a relationship with actress Julie Gonzalo, with whom he co-starred in a 2018 Hallmark film. When asked when he feels sexiest, he adorably shied away from the question, saying he never feels that way in his everyday life. "If my girlfriend tells me I'm handsome, that'll make me feel good," McNally sweetly says, adding that the most romantic thing he's done is decorate their apartment.
When Calls the Heart returns for season seven in 2020 on Hallmark Channel.
The Hallmark newcomer hasn't made his network debut yet, but we're excited about what's coming for the Canadian actor, who will play Mountie Gabriel in the upcoming When Calls the Heart spinoff, When Hope Calls. Much like the flagship series, When Hope Calls is filled with romance, drama and flirty banter. Hatanaka's character lusts after Lillian (Morgan Kohan), one of two sisters the series is centered on. "It's a very romantic show. It's a very passionate show. I think fans are going to be really excited about that," Hatanaka tells ET. "Morgan... and myself, we have been getting to know each other a little bit and I'm excited to see where that [story] goes."
Hatanaka, who has previously appeared on Chicago P.D. and Eye Candy, credits Hallmark for informing "a lot of romance" in his life. "I do think about Hallmark movies a lot, especially around Christmas," he says with a smile. But when does Hatanaka feel the sexiest? "When I'm playing a sport probably. I love sports. I love baseball and hockey and soccer, so really, when I'm in motion doing those things or on the football field!" Hatanaka is also incredibly close to his family, especially his siblings, sharing his favorite holiday tradition: "On New Year's we spend it at my brother's place. There's four of us and we have a sibling night for New Year's. It's really great!"
The first two episodes of When Hope Calls premieres Friday, Aug. 30, with subsequent episodes debuting weekly through Oct. 25, on Hallmark's streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now.
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