The head of the Hallmark Channel’s parent company said this week the network remains committed to including LGBT characters in storylines and that fans will see “more of that” in the future.
Wonya Lucas, the president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, made the comments during the winter Television Critics Association meeting, saying the Hallmark Channel is “proud” of its progress on the issue.
This month, the Hallmark Channel debuts Mix Up in the Mediterranean, which was billed at the TCA meeting as the first Hallmark movie with a gay lead. The film follows the story of a single man whose brother, a famous chef, is married to another man.
Last year, two new Hallmark movies – The Christmas House and Wedding Every Weekend – featured LGBT characters.
Hallmark’s push to include LGBT storylines followed a 2019 controversy over a commercial depicting a same-sex kiss. Hallmark pulled the ad and then reversed course.
Asked about any fallout from the 2019 same-sex ad controversy, Lucas said, “All I can speak to is where we are today. And really just coming in six months ago and seeing the work that the team had already done and begun, it really did make me proud. What I see, moving forward – and I can speak for myself – is that we’re gonna continue to lean into that and you’re gonna see more of that. And we welcome all the advertisers who have been supportive of us, and our team’s been supportive, and our parent company is incredibly supportive. So this is who we are.”
Deadline was the first to report Lucas’ comments.
Michelle Vicary, Crown’s executive vice president for programming, said she was “excited” about Mix Up in the Mediterranean, which premieres Feb. 20.
The movie includes “our first gay lead,” she said.
Lucas and Vicary said the Hallmark Channel is committed to racial, religious and LGBT diversity in its storylines.
“Before I arrived, we had begun to expand our brand inclusiveness in front of and behind the camera,” Lucas said. “I’m proud of the progress this team is making to expand diversity in our programming and it is nothing short of seismic. The significant achievements made in the D&I (diversity and inclusion) space in 2020 laid the groundwork for us to branch out in our storytelling to approach the complexity of what it means to love and be a family in a more authentic, varied, and inclusive way.
“We will continue to strive to defy common stereotypes and give our characters more depth and dimension; in short, to more broadly represent the human condition,” Lucas said. “And what a difference a year makes. But believe me, we know there is so much more good work yet to be done.”
Last year, One Million Moms, an organization of Christian moms and social conservatives, criticized the new direction of the Hallmark Channel.
“The once conservative network has recently caved to LGBTQ pressure and has done a one-eighty from the wholesome content the channel once aired, and the network is now catering to the Left,” One Million Moms said in a statement. “So many people feel betrayed by Hallmark over these past seven months.
“Hallmark Channel was one of the remaining channels that families could watch without being bombarded by politically correct commercials and the LGBTQ agenda,” the organization added.