In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter’s “TV’s Top 5” podcast, Hallmark Channel chief executive Bill Abbott said the company is “open” to doing movies with gay lead characters.
“I’m gay, where are the same-sex movies?” one of the interviewers in the podcast asked. “Have you talked about incorporating stories about same-sex couples at Christmas?”
“We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship in any space,” Abbott said in response.
The podcast, posted on Nov. 15, focused the conversation around Hallmark’s annual “Countdown to Christmas” programming block that started in 2009. This year, Hallmark will feature a whopping 24 new holiday films, up three from last year.
And with the holiday season comes a younger viewer demographic, Abbott noted, suggesting that families feel comfortable putting a Hallmark movie on knowing they won’t have to run for the remote in the case of an inappropriate scene suddenly popping up.
Were Hallmark to air a holiday movie with gay leads — something it has never done before — it would be a major shift for the brand, which is known for producing entertainment that is purposefully uncontroversial and family-friendly.
Abbott said himself in the podcast that Hallmark has been able to differentiate itself from other brands by producing entertainment that is “relentlessly positive, family-friendly, always appropriate for all members of the family.”
Part of its broad, uncontroversial approach is to make religiously ambiguous films, Abbott indicated in the podcast.
“We don’t look at Christmas from a religious point of view, it’s more a seasonal celebration,” he said, when asked about producing films with varying religions.
“I think Christmas has become almost a secular type of holiday,” he added.
So, are there plans to make a gay Christmas movie?
No, this year’s “Countdown to Christmas” will not feature any films with gay leads. But Abbott’s expressed openness to making “any type of movie [about] any type of relationship” likely means that more scriptwriters will pitch such an idea to the company in the future. So, it may not be long before viewers will see one.
In the podcast, the interviewer who asked Abbott whether Hallmark would run a same-sex movie pressed him on his claim that the company is always looking to broaden its viewership.
She groaned about how the Hallmark Channel is on nonstop when she and her wife visit family and friends during the holidays, yet they don’t see any films that reflect their relationship.
“My wife and I are not reflected on anything you guys are doing,” she said. “It would be really cool to broaden out and have our nieces see a version of us on TV, or see a version of anything else besides Christmas with, you know, white leads.”
“In terms of broadening out the demographic, it’s something we’re always thinking about, always considering,” Abbott responded.
Listen to the full interview in the player below, starting at the 6:10 mark: