Deck the halls in rainbow holly, don that gay apparel, and get ready for a queer Christmas y’all. In this perpetually strange year where everything just feels so wrong, it seems like the Hallmark Channel is here to set some things right. This Sunday, November 22, the network is slated to air their first ever LGBTQ storyline in The Christmas House.
“This is about real families all over. There are three different couples in this story, and they all have different struggles, experiences, and are trying to figure out and go through life together in the pursuit of happiness and love,” our friend Brad Harder Arychuk, one of the film’s stars, recently shared with us.
As if featuring a leading same-sex couple wasn’t enough to usher Hallmark into a new era, the network pulled a total one-eighty by throwing an adoption wrench into an already stressful holiday plot line. Brad stars alongside Jonathan Bennett (Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls; AKA the surprise catalyst to every millennial gay boy’s sexual awakening) as the pair embark on an adoption journey while navigating convoluted family dynamics during the Christmas season.
Gay dads, adoption stories, and feel-good made-for-TV movies? We are SO here for Hallmark era two-point-oh.
“If I’m going to have a TV husband… Aaron Samuels is a pretty great one! Jonathan is so incredibly talented; he makes every single person on set laugh and have a great time. He is gracious as an actor and it’s been amazing to become great friends together. When you are part of making history in some form, I feel like there’s a bond that’s created because we are telling a story that so many people have been waiting for as well as ourselves, so a definite friend for life,” said Brad.
Apart from the far-too-infrequent decision to cast queer actors as queer characters, what makes The Christmas House particularly exciting is how strong a pivot Hallmark has made in the wake of their recent anti-LGBTQ blunder. In late 2019, Crown Media Family Network’s — Hallmark’s umbrella — then Chief Executive Bill Abbott made headlines and caused public outcry after nixing a marriage advertisement for the Channel which featured a same-sex couple. This decision caused a massive brand boycott until eventually Abbott was removed from his post.
“I’m so glad that this story is through Hallmark. The table is only getting bigger at Hallmark and it is so wonderful to be a part of it,” Brad continued.
Off the screen, Brad and his husband Graham (featured in the photo above) live in Vancouver, BC, with their son Kael (who just happens to star alongside Brad in the movie — but you’ll learn more about that when you watch). “This family is like so many families all over, and this movie may shift perceptions for people as they realize that the struggles, desires, and journeys straight couples go through in life are just the same with gay couples,” reflected Brad. “This has been the greatest set experience I’ve ever had. My fellow actors are like family, and everyone in the cast and crew was excited every day to get to work and tell this story that Robert Buckley created.”
October gives us fabulous Halloween costumes; November has the #ThanksgivingClapback; but what does December offer the queer community? Anxiety.
In all seriousness, a subconscious truth we all seem to know a little too well is that the holidays can be a stressful time for those of us in the community. Indeed, Brad’s story is similar — he shared: “My parents and extended family are homophobic and unsupportive due to their extreme evangelical Christian and Mennonite views. So, they are a major Hallmark audience; hopefully, slowly but surely, this group comes around.
“In this movie, this is the type of family I once hoped to come out to and to be a part of. Graham’s family is this way, which is amazing. Hopefully this movie will help kids who are still figuring out their sexuality, and their parents, to see another positive view.”
This holiday season, in a year plagued by, well, a literal plague, let’s all channel our inner Hallmark movies. Let us always remember that everyone is fighting a unique battle — some more visible than others — and while 2020 may have us all stretched a little more thinly than is comfortable, all we need to brighten up the holiday season might just be a little more love for one another.
“I auditioned for this role in August,” Brad shared, “and just a few days later we found out that we were pregnant with baby number two! How incredible is that?! I read the role and instantly got goosebumps... like, this role is us! Incredible, right?!”