Hallmark movies are synonymous with feel-good, saccharine entertainment that veers away from tense conflicts and steamy love scenes. It’s part of the network’s charming formula. There are always happy endings, always peaceful resolutions, and always violence-free storytelling. It’s rare for the movies to go to dark or to sad places, but every once in a blue moon, viewers grapple with grief or death scenes.

Hallmark has mastered its lineup of seasonal flicks, touching on everything from autumn love stories to summer romance abroad. And of course, its signature Christmas fare is like opening presents each year.

Wondering how fan-favorite actors such as Lacey Chabert, Paul Campbell, Candace Cameron Bure, or Nikki DeLoach stick to the approved recipe? Hallmark bosses established what flies and what will not.

Hallmark movie cast and crew have to dial down emotional reactions

Compared to Lifetime movies or other made-for-TV scripted films, Hallmark keeps the anger, PDA, and cringe-worthy behavior to a minimum. In some cases, it’s non-existent. And the humor has to stay balanced too.

During an interview for Empire magazine’s December 2021 issue, actor Nikkie DeLoach shared that the certain emotions must be toned down for the movies. “Instead of being angry or full of rage, you have to lighten it and be frustrated,” she said. Brennan Elliott revealed how challenging it is to make “passion” and kisses believable when there are constraints. “…We can’t look like we’re ravaging each other on some late-night show.”

For Hallmark movie writers and directors, sex, drugs, politics, and edgy dialogue or behavior won’t make the cut. Writer William Pennick explained that projects have to amp up the romance factor while turning down the comedic moments. He told the outlet, “It’s capital ROM, lowercase com.” But with that in mind, the maximum kiss quota sits at one.

Avoid contentious backdrops

Jobs, background images, props, and set decorations can’t be controversial or unappealing. That includes alcohol. According to Empire, certain characters are permitted to have liquor in scenes, but others stick with basic drinks. Additionally, mounted animals and religious imagery are automatically off limits.

Clothing choices need approval. Director James Head admitted that he’s not supposed to have men wear plaid, and there are rules about hair. “They’d ask you to bring the lead’s hair down in the foreground because his hairline was starting to recede,” he said.

Though they have to honor the Hallmark brand’s always-upbeat tone, the cast and crew love working for a company whose content doesn’t bring down the room.

‘Countdown to Christmas’ has begun

Hallmark kicked off its popular reign of Christmas programming on Oct. 22. Each Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, fans can tune in for new holiday movies. This year, stars such as Jordin Sparks, Loretta Devine, Danica McKellar, and Jason Hervey are among those spreading love and cheer.

Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd appear in Next Stop, Christmas. Other films include Christmas Sail, A Holiday in Harlem, Nantucket Noel, The Nine Kittens of Christmas, Christmas at Castle Hart, and more.

For a complete rundown of the “Countdown to Christmas” 2021 schedule visit Hallmark’s website.

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