Hallmark's Jonathan Bennett Talks Inclusivity Amidst First Gay-Led Romance And Rival Network GAF’s ‘Traditional Marriage’ Drama

the stars of the holiday sitter
(Image credit: Hallmark)

There’s been quite a storm brewing in the made-for-TV Christmas movie game for several weeks now. Though fans of said films already knew that the competition this year would be fierce, with several Hallmark stars leaving for competitor GAF throughout the end of 2021 and early 2022, it was just about a month ago that newly appointed Great American Family star/network executive Candace Cameron Bure revealed the channel will stick with “traditional marriage” and set off a still ongoing stream of rebuttals and defenses. Now, Hallmark star Jonathan Bennett has talked about the channel’s increased push for inclusivity amid all of the drama.

What Did Jonathan Bennett Say About Hallmark’s Inclusivity And Its First Gay-Led Romance?

Ever since the very public dust-up over a same-sex kiss in a commercial that aired on the network, Hallmark has installed some new leadership and made a commitment to broadening the scope of the romantic stories it shows. This had led to more movies starring people of color, interracial love stories, and films with LGBTQ+ characters. However, until the 2022 Christmas movie schedule entry, The Holiday Sitter (which was one of the upcoming Hallmark movies until this past weekend), viewers hadn’t seen one of these films focus on a gay couple.

Mean Girls star Bennett, who’s one of the leads of the new movie and also executive produced it, spoke to USA Today about the importance of the film’s inclusivity, and said:

What's so special about The Holiday Sitter is that it's the first time we'll see two men meet-cute and fall in love at Christmas. We tell a story that's really important, so people that are watching it feel seen when they watch it. But just like Christmas is for everybody, The Holiday Sitter is for everybody... It just happens to have two men as the lead.

Now, if you are a tried and true Hallmark fan, you will know that the newlywed Bennett has already helped to break some barriers in the network’s films. In 2020, he starred in The Christmas House, which was its first movie to feature a major LGBTQ+ storyline. However, that movie didn’t feature that couple’s story as the main plot. Plus, they were already together and trying to expand their family (a story that continued into the movie’s 2021 sequel), so it wasn’t a true romantic journey for them. Now, that gap in Hallmark's romances has been covered by The Holiday Sitter.

Head of programming for the channel, Lisa Hamilton Daly, also opened up about why diversifying is something they’re concentrating on, and noted:

We definitely love our core story of like, ‘Girl goes back to save the Christmas tree farm.’ Everyone loves that one. I think we have that one pretty much every year, but we wanted to tell different kinds of stories, also…It’s important because we really do want to show everybody gets their love story. It's not just straight couples. It's not just white couples, it's everyone gets their love story.

In the lead up to his movie debuting, Bennett spoke about how “proud” he is to be on a channel that supports inclusivity, and the “care they take” in making sure those romances are done right, so it sounds like fans will be treated to many more of these loving tales in the future.

Adrienne Jones
Senior Content Creator

Covering The Witcher, Outlander, Virgin River, Sweet Magnolias and a slew of other streaming shows, Adrienne Jones is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend, and started in the fall of 2015. In addition to writing and editing stories on a variety of different topics, she also spends her work days trying to find new ways to write about the many romantic entanglements that fictional characters find themselves in on TV shows. She graduated from Mizzou with a degree in Photojournalism.