Lacey Chabert Pushes Back On The Criticism That Hallmark Movies Are Too 'Formulaic'

The wedding Veil official poster with Lacey Chabert
(Image credit: Hallmark)

Over the last several years, Hallmark movies have grown in prominence and popularity on cable, a feat given the current landscape and shifts to streaming. The network has been no stranger to controversy, and has recently emerged as a proponent of diversity casts and LGBTQ+ storylines. And yet, there is still a perception the cabler is “formulaic,” to the point where network mainstay Lacey Chabert was point-blank asked about the concept in a recent interview. However, she pushes back on that a little bit. 

In fact, Lacey Chabert points out that while her movies may be sweet in some ways, feature romance, and play out over the same amount of time (for commercial breaks of course), there is more to them. When asked about the formula by Vulture, she points to the diversity of the movies she’s done over the last couple of years as evidence that Hallmark is trying to push a little harder into different genres. 

'Haul Out the Holly' was a comedy. That’s not something we would’ve done at the network a few years ago. Last year, I did a movie called 'Sweet Carolina,' where my character’s sister suddenly passes, and she finds out she’s the guardian of her niece and nephew. That was something deeper I had been wanting to do for a while. A more emotional story, if you will.

If you saw Chabert's Hallmark Christmas movie this year, you may have noticed that Haul Out The Holly really tried for comedy in ways most other great Hallmark movies have not. There's a whole subplot involving a neighborhood watch committee that keeps tabs on how tall people's holiday nutcrackers are in their yard. Is that laugh out loud funny? Perhaps not, but it's still a plotline that makes me chuckle months later. 

Sure, the audience for Haul Out the Holly may be similar to the audience for the much more emotional Sweet Carolina (about an aunt who must raise her sister's kids after her sudden death), but Lacey Chabert says she is always looking for ways to make her characters and the stories different, even if people are talking about “the formula.” 

People talk about the formula of them or certain things we’re trying to hit, but it works really well. It’s my job to leave the audience a little bit surprised and try to find a different way into that story. I try to make the characters as human as possible, or create a character the audience can see themselves in. Hopefully it’s a bit different than the last one I played.

She’s also taking on more at Hallmark, as a producer and creator for the channel. She, in fact, spear-headed last year’s Wedding Veil trilogy of movies and then tackled an entire follow-up trilogy of movies. (Take that LOTR!) She notes the 2023 set of movies really has allowed her and other leading ladies Autumn Reeser and Alison Sweeney to tackle storylines outside of the meet-cute and the chaste first kiss. In The Wedding Veil Expectations, there are even scenes with Chabert and leading man Kevin McGarry in bed as a married couple, which is fairly outside-the-box compared to storylines the network pursued in the past. 

I think we’re being allowed to take our storytelling outside this box it was put in. 'The Wedding Veil' is the first time they did a true trilogy that aired consecutively, and now we have the chance to revisit those characters. A lot of times, these movies end with the people falling in love: the kiss or the quick wedding scene. With 'The Wedding Veil' movies, we get to see what these characters are like in love, in a relationship, and in living real life together. It doesn’t have the meet-cute — you’re watching two people already in love exist within a marriage. What types of challenges does that bring them? We see the relationships of the three girlfriends in a deeper way: All three are married and in different directions; how has that affected their friendship?

Lacey Chabert isn’t the only Hallmark star who is openly aware of the criticisms. Ryan Paevey addressed the criticism Hallmark is “repetitive” a while back, with the A Timeless Christmas star saying the network is really working to change perceptions by “embracing a broader range of content and subject matter to be more reflective of real life.” Fellow star Nikki DeLoach also recently commented to clarify Hallmark is telling, "richer, deeper, bigger stories." So while aware of what some critics might say, the stars that lead the network's films seemingly have bought in to the new era of storytelling.

Chabert has said in the past that fans come up to her at events and tell her how "uplifting" Hallmark has been for them. It's something that clearly has touched her --she called it the "most rewarding" part of partnering with the network -- and has probably been a big reason she's stuck around at the network so long, since her first movie Elevator Girl. There's only more to come and we'll be sure to keep you posted the next time the mom of 1 has a major project coming out.  

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.