Hallmark Channel and its parent company, Crown Media Family Network, are delivering on a promise to diversify their holiday movies.
"Mean Girls" actor Jonathan Bennett will star in "The Christmas House," which features a storyline about a gay couple looking to adopt their first child, according to Michelle Vicary, executive vice president of programming for Crown Media Family Network.
Bennett's co-stars include "One Tree Hill" actor Robert Buckley, Ana Ayora of "In the Dark," veteran actor Treat Williams, "NYPD Blue" star Sharon Lawrence and actor Brad Harder. "The Christmas House" premieres on Sunday, Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
A synopsis for "The Christmas House" reads: "Working through some difficult decisions, Mitchell family matriarch Phylis (Lawrence) and patriarch Bill (Williams), have summoned their two grown sons -- Mike (Buckley) and Brandon (Bennett) -- home for the holidays. It is their hope that bringing the family together to recreate the Christmas house will help them find resolution and make a memorable holiday for the entire family and community. As Brandon and his husband, Jake (Harder), make the trip home, they are anxiously awaiting a call about the adoption of their first child. Meanwhile, Mike reconnects with Andi (Ayora), his high school sweetheart."
"Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever. This year's movies reflect our most diverse representation of talent, narratives and families," Vicary said Wednesday. "Our movies are rooted in warmth and positivity, meaningful connections, family gatherings and seasonal traditions -- a winning formula we hope will bring our millions of viewers much-needed levity and holiday cheer at the end of a tough year."
Amid criticism that none of the previously-announced holiday films featured an LGBTQ lead, a Hallmark Channel spokesperson told "Good Morning America" in July the company was "committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome" and would be announcing "LGBTQ storylines, characters and actors" in the future.
In addition to "The Christmas House," Crown Media announced Wednesday that Candace Cameron Bure will star her ninth Hallmark Channel Original Christmas movie, "If Only I Had Christmas," and Lacey Chabert will appear in two films, "Time for Us to Come Home for Christmas" and "Christmas Waltz," which also features her "Love, Romance and Chocolate" co-star Will Kemp. Holly Robinson Peete will also star in two movies: "Christmas Doctor" and the fourth installment of "Christmas in Evergreen: Bells Are Ringing." Veterans Alison Sweeney, Danica McKellar and Tamera Mowry-Houseley will also return for new projects.
#Hallmarkies, the countdown has begun! #CountdownToChristmas kicks off October 23, so get ready for holiday spirit on Hallmark Channel 24/7! Grab a cup of hot cocoa and snuggle in for all new festive premieres Saturdays at 8pm/7c. Your home for the holidays. pic.twitter.com/KNACJlii06— Hallmark Channel (@hallmarkchannel) September 22, 2020
Newcomers to the network include "Riverdale" actress Marisol Nichols, "Pretty Little Liars" star Janel Parrish and Jeremy Jordan of "Supergirl," among others.
Hallmark Channel's "Countdown to Christmas" kicks off Saturday, Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT with "Jingle Bell Bride," while Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' "Miracles of Christmas" begins an hour later, with "Christmas Tree Lane."