Wonya Lucas will take over as president and CEO of Crown media Family Networks, which oversees the Hallmark Channel.
Lucas previously ran TV One, as well as PBS and NPR stations in Atlanta.
Her hiring follows the ousting of Bill Abbott, who was embroiled in controversy for pulling an advertisement depicting a lesbian couple getting married.
Earlier this month, Hallmark Channel announced its crop of holiday films, but it had one more surprise in store. The company has announced that television executive Wonya Lucas will take over as president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, the company that oversees the network.
"Hallmark has been central to my life since I can remember, starting with those Hallmark Hall of Fame movies that were as enriching as they were entertaining," Lucas told The Hollywood Reporter. "In some ways, my entire career has led me to this incredible opportunity to use the breadth of my experience and skills to evolve an iconic and beloved brand, a culture and a business. I am honored to link arms with the multi-talented leaders and their teams at Crown to build toward an exciting future."
Lucas has extensive experience in the entertainment industry. She ran NPR and PBS stations in Atlanta, served as CEO of cable network TV One, and sits on the prestigious Peabody Awards' Board of Jurors.
As Hollywood Reporter noted, Lucas is taking over a Hallmark Channel that is lagging behind the times in terms of representation. Bill Abbott, who previously held Lucas' role, was criticized after the network pulled an advertisement featuring a lesbian wedding. Hallmark has also faced increasing backlash for the homogeneity of its programming, with few black actors featured in prominent roles. Of 24 original holiday moves that debuted in the 2019 holiday season, just four had black leads.
In an interview with Out, Crown Media's George Zaralidis said the network is in "active negotiations" to feature LGBTQ+ storylines, actors, and characters in its 2020 holiday slate.
"We are committed to creating a Hallmark experience where everyone feels welcome," Zaralidis said.
Hallmark Channel actors and others welcomed Lucas to her new role on Twitter:
— Danica McKellar (@danicamckellar) July 23, 2020
— Kellie Martin (@Kellie_Martin) July 23, 2020
A much needed and warm welcome to Ms Wonya Lucas: new CEO of #CrownMedia @Hallmark . Reading about her work history, accomplishments and excitement for her new job, I look forward to seeing what #diverse and #inclusive shifts are made on #HallmarkChannel 's various platforms. https://t.co/71vqjhvlop
— Rukiya Bernard (@RukiyaBernard) July 23, 2020
Hallmark Channel has been a staple of the holiday season since it released its first Christmas film in 2002, but hopefully Wonya Lucas will be able to make space for more diverse actors and plots among its crop of feel-good films and shows.
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