Here We Go: Hallmark CEO Promises ‘Seismic’ Shift in Number of LGBT Characters as Network Expands Diverse Programming

Wonya Lucas, who was named President & CEO, Crown Media Family Networks six months ago amid controversy, wasted no time addressing the cloud that has been hanging over the Hallmark cable networks for years.

“Before I arrived, we had begun to expand our brand inclusiveness in front of and behind the camera,” she said second into her opening remarks. “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 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. And what a difference a year makes. But believe me; we know there is so much more good work yet to be done.”

Lucas took over the role previously held by Bill Abbott, who stepped down in January 2020 following Hallmark Channel’s controversial handling of an ad featuring a same-sex couple kissing. It capped longtime criticism over Hallmark movies’ lack of racial, sexual and religious diversity.

Lucas and Michelle Vicary, EVP, Programming, Crown Media Family Networks, faced more of that — and some skepticism — from critics during the company’s TCA executive session who argued that LGBTQ characters and characters of color are too often in supporting roles as the leads’ best friends.

Asked for specific examples of positive changes in on-screen representation, Vicary pointed to The Christmas House from this past holiday season, a multi-generational story about a couple (Treat Williams and Sharon Lawrence) with two grown sons, one of whom is in a same-sex marriage. “And what I’m really excited about is our first gay lead which is coming out this weekend in Mix Up in the Mediterranean, starring Jeremy Jordan,” she said.

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SOURCE: Deadline, Nellie Andreeva

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