Wonya Lucas, who was appointed president and CEO of Crown Media Family Networks six months ago amid the controversy, wasted no time tackling the cloud that has been hovering over Hallmark cable networks since. years.
“Prior to my arrival, we had started to broaden our brand’s inclusiveness in front of and behind the camera,” she said after her opening speech. “I am proud of the progress this team has made in expanding the diversity of our programming and it is nothing short of seismic. The significant accomplishments made in the D&I space in 2020 laid the groundwork for us to branch out into our storytelling to address the complexity of what it means to love and be a family in a more authentic, diverse and inclusive way. We will continue to strive to challenge common stereotypes and give our characters more depth and dimension; in short, to represent the human condition more broadly. And what a difference a year makes. But believe me; we know there is still a lot of good work to be done. “
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Lucas has reprized the role previously held by Bill Abbott, who resigned in January 2020 following the Hallmark Channel’s controversial handling of an ad featuring a same-sex couple kissing. It capped long-standing criticisms of the Hallmark films’ lack of racial, sexual, and religious diversity.
Lucas and Michelle Vicary, EVP, Programming, Crown Media Family Networks, faced more issues – and some skepticism – from critics during the company’s TCA executive session, who noted that LGBTQ characters and characters of color are too often in supporting roles as leaders. best friends.
When asked about specific examples of positive changes in on-screen representation, Vicary pointed out Christmas house from this final holiday season, a multigenerational story about a couple (Treat Williams and Sharon Lawrence) with two grown sons, one of whom is in a same-sex marriage. “And what really excites me is our first gay lead coming out this weekend in Mix in the Mediterranean, with Jeremy Jordan, ”she said.
Lucas mentioned the movie Christmas comes twice, centered on a strong, biracial woman who is a scientist.
Vicary added, “It was a big priority for us not only to show diversity, but also to show different types of diversity, so we were really happy to have interracial couples. I would say 25% of our films probably contain diversity, and that’s not a number we’re trying to achieve. It was just how to find the best cast and the best actors for each of those roles, and I think the development team and our senior vice president of casting, Penny Perry, did an amazing job.
Vicary also listed Hallmark movies and mysteries Holly and Ivy, the story of a woman with two children who grew up in the foster care system and faces serious illness. “What I love about this script is the fact that our stories are really full of vibrancy and happiness, and that’s real life. Taking people on a different emotional journey, I think, is really what you’ll see the most. The other thing I would add is that the music we have in our films is also evolving. From the sort of cadence expected of music, to just having more variety in the music. And he’s, for me, a central character in any movie. And we also have humor. I think you see a lot more humor. You see a lot more humor in our films and you will continue to see, once again, more depth and emotional breadth than we have done in the past.
Lucas would not address the fallout from the controversy over Hallmark’s gay ads. “All I can talk about is where we are today. And really coming six months ago and seeing the work that the team had already done and started, it really made me proud, ”she said. “What I see moving forward – and I can speak for myself – is that we’re going to continue to look at this and you’ll see more of it. And we welcome all of the advertisers who have supported us, and our team has helped us, and our parent company is incredibly supportive. So that’s who we are.