The Hallmark Channel (as well as Hallmark Movies & Mysteries) has become very well-known for their many seasonal, made-for-TV romantic (but still family-friendly) films and television shows. This includes their increasingly popular lineup of holiday movies, a slate that grows with each passing year. But, Hallmark star Danica McKellar has now left for another network, which begs the question of whether or not other exits could be coming soon.
While Danica McKellar got her big break as a child on the ABC hit The Wonder Years, many of her recent efforts have seen her star in a number of films for Hallmark. Because of this, she’s easily one of the most recognizable faces the company has, but Deadline reports that she’s now signed an exclusive deal with GAC Media, which runs Hallmark competitors GAC Family and GAC Living. McKellar is set to executive produce and star in four movies for the outlet, starting with The Winter Palace, which will premiere in January 2022 on GAC Family.
Since 2015, McKellar has starred in 15 of Hallmark’s original titles, including Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Matchmaker Mysteries franchise and the recently released Hallmark Christmas movie, You, Me & The Christmas Trees. That film will now be her last for the network, at least through 2023, when her current deal with GAC Media ends.
With the company, which was just formed earlier this year, clearly setting itself up to offer very similar programming to what Hallmark has offered fans for two decades, the question now is whether or not other big stars will follow McKellar’s path and leave the channel behind. Recently, Trevor Donovan, another of the consistent Hallmark movie stars, also jumped ship and signed an exclusive deal with GAC Media. On top of that, the group will also be working with Lori Loughlin, who’s bringing her When Calls the Heart character to its spinoff, When Hope Calls, which is moving from Hallmark Movies Now to GAC Family for Season 2.
And, that’s not where the seeming exodus ends. There are no other exclusive deals tying Hallmark stars to GAC Media right now, but their upcoming holiday film slate (the first for GAC Family) stars nothing but beloved Hallmark actors like the aforementioned Donovan, as well as Sam Page, Chad Michael Murray, Rukiya Bernard, Jessica Lowndes, Jennie Garth, Dewshane Williams, Cameron Mathison (who recently led Welcome to the Great American Christmas on the new network with his fellow former host of Hallmark’s Home & Family, Debbie Matenopoulos), and Daniel Lissing, who also famously starred on When Calls the Heart and will be joining Loughlin on the spinoff later this year.
One has to admit that this seems like a troubling trend. It’s worth noting that the new channel (which was Great American Country before being sold a few months ago) is being run by Bill Abbott, a former Hallmark executive who left his post in January 2020, after a lot of controversy over a same-sex kiss in a commercial. It’s clear that he knows who worked well in Hallmark’s programming over the years, and by setting up deals with some of their top talent he could lure more away on a permanent basis.
Even though viewers will see several talented stars appear in multiple Hallmark movies each year, the network hasn’t been in the habit of signing them to deals (exclusive or otherwise) for holiday films or its many rom-coms. The only exception so far has been Tamera Mowry-Housley, who inked a deal in November 2020 to star in and exec produce movies for them, as well as joining Home & Family as a contributor.
If anything, GAC Media’s actions might see that start to change, and Hallmark’s leaders make moves to lock down talent before even more take their leave of the channel.
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