The Hallmark Channel is set to make history — and make good on its promise for more LGBTQ-inclusion — with its first holiday movie featuring a gay lead character. “The Christmas House,” which debuts Sunday, will star out actor Jonathan Bennett.
“I’m proud of everyone at Hallmark Channel for making the holiday table bigger and more welcoming and warmer this year,“ Bennett, best known for his role in “Mean Girls,” told NBC News. “It’s an honor to be part of the network’s progress.”
The new holiday movie comes a few months after the network aired its first same-sex wedding in a TV movie and a year after it pledged to increase LGBTQ representation following its controversial decision to pull, then reinstate, a commercial featuring a lesbian wedding.
“The Christmas House” follows Brandon Mitchell (Bennett) and his husband, Jake (Brad Harder), who take a trip home for the holidays while anxiously waiting for a call about the adoption of their first child.
“What I love about the characters in the movie is that we aren’t caricatures or stereotypes,” Bennett said. “We are two loving, stable, kind men who are in love and want to start a family of our own.”
Bennett said he hopes the LGBTQ community will be proud of the representation in “The Christmas House.”
“Representation is important, but correct representation is more important, not just for viewers who may not interact or accept LGBTQ people, but it’s also important for LGBTQ people to see themselves in media,” he said.
Bennett, 39, said shooting the movie was almost like life imitating art, as it inspired him and his partner, Jaymes Vaughn, to consider adopting.
“Being on set and experiencing this couple navigating the adoption process, there are ups and downs, you start to feel the warmth and unconditional love of family, and it starts to inspire you to consider sharing that experience with your partner in real life, too,” he said.
“The Christmas House,” airing Nov. 22, is one of many movies being released in what appears to be a boom in LGBTQ inclusion in home-for-the-holidays themed movies.
Kristen Stewart and Dan Levy star in Hulu’s “Happiest Season,” centering on a lesbian couple’s trip home for the holidays in a rom-com first for a major studio, available on Nov. 25.
Fran Drescher and real-life partners Ben Lewis (“Arrow”) and Blake Lee (“Parks & Recreation”) also return home for the holidays in Lifetime’s first holiday movie to focus on an LGBTQ romance, “The Christmas Setup” on Dec. 12.
And Paramount’s “Dashing in December” finds “The Young & The Restless” actor Peter Porte returning home from the big city to his mother’s ranch and falling for a rancher played by “Fuller House” star Pablo Di Pace.