Actor Jonathan Bennett, known for his roles in Mean Girls, Veronica Mars and on the ABC soap All My Children, just landed the coveted leading role in The Christmas House, the first queer-centric Christmas movie for the Hallmark Network.
The New York Daily News reports that The Christmas House will mark Bennett’s third outing (pun intended) with Hallmark films. He is joined by actors Ana Ayora and Sharon Lawrence in the film. Actor Robert Buckley, of One Tree Hill fame, will play Bennett’s husband.
“Our holiday table is bigger and more welcoming than ever,” Michelle Vicary, executive VP of programming at Crown Media, Hallmark’s parent company, said in a statement. “This year’s movies reflect our most diverse representation of talent, narratives, and families, including The Christmas House, featuring a storyline about a gay couple looking to adopt their first child, and starring Jonathan Bennett in an ensemble cast.”
The announcement of Bennett’s casting, as well as the first plot description of The Christmas House follows a year of controversy and social media backlash. Hallmark had previously endured sharp criticism for its lack of including LGBTQ and characters of color in its films. Last year, George Zaralidis, Crown Media’s VP of network program publicity, had claimed the network was open to including queer characters in its upcoming movies. That statement invited the wrath of homophobic muckrackers One Million Moms, which pressured Crown Media to refrain from including any LGBTQ storylines. The activist group also pressured Crown Media to pull a jewelry commercial featuring a same-sex couple. The company initially complied, but met with even wider backlash for doing so.
Following the kerfuffle over the commercial, Crown Media reinstated the ad and reaffirmed that it would include LGBTQ storylines as part of its upcoming Christmas films. In July 2020, the Hallmark Network set off backlash yet again when its announcement of 40 upcoming Christmas movies did not include any LGBTQ-themed stories. Rival network Lifetime announced earlier this month that it would feature real life married couple Ben Lewis and Blake Lee as the leads in The Christmas Setup, prompting Hallmark to fast track The Christmas House.
The Christmas House will air on the Hallmark Channel November 22.