Peete echoes this sentiment—”Hallmark Channel is very family oriented, so they have respect for us hard-working mamas”—as does Loughlin. “Bill Abbott, the head of the network, and Michelle Vicary [EVP of programming and publicity at Hallmark] are parents,” she says. “They have children. They really understand if you say, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t make it to this thing’ or ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I have to leave set because it’s my kid’s birthday.’ They’re like, ‘Yup, go. You do whatever you need to do.’ They’re so understanding about kids and obligations that parents have in regards to their children. “
Accommodating the Hallmark actors who are mothers is a priority for Abbott. (He says three-quarters of the employees in his direct reports are women, and approximately half of them have children.) “We owe it to our employees who give so much, and our talent who give so much,” he says. “It’s more than just a job. It’s a relationship—it’s a long-term relationship. It fits our brand and it fits our style and it just works for us, and we are very focused on it.”
Of course, the actors without children have different reasons for staying in business with the network. Witt, for example, enjoys balancing her darker work (like on The Walking Dead) with Hallmark’s lighter fare.
“It’s fun to come out with a movie where every day you have a happy ending and it’s a sweet love story [or] family story,” she says. “I just spent the last week in winter clothes and people I really enjoy working with and Christmas lights everywhere and snow and gingerbread cookies and vegan eggnog. There’s very little heaviness on my psyche right now.”
Witt says the more uplifting work makes Hallmark’s movie sets really enjoyable—which is another reason she keeps coming back for more. “There’s something about the lighter material that I think lends itself to everyone just having so much fun,” she says. “If you’re making a movie about something really dark, it does something different to your psyche. You’ll get home from work and try to shake it off, and you’re kind of in a darker place.”
Loughlin agrees. “If you’re dealing with disturbing content, that affects everybody on set,” she says. “With Hallmark, we’re not going to the dark side, so these sets tend to be super lighthearted and more fun because the content we’re working on is lighthearted and fun.”