With Hallmark known for its formulaic rom-coms with comforting plots as cheesy and saccharine as Christmas dessert, the notion of the American TV channel throwing a curveball with a holiday movie seems almost paradoxical. And yet, this year it will be doing just that with The Holiday Sitter, the first film in Hallmark history to feature an a LGBTQ couple as the focus.
“I think this is going to be a really big deal,” said North Vancouver-raised comedian and actress Amy Goodmurphy, who will be supporting in the festive film.
Growing up in North Vancouver — where she lived for three decades until moving overtown nine years ago — and attending Catholic private school as a child, Goodmurphy said witnessing representation like this on the silver screen was virtually non-existent, especially in regards to leading love stories.
“So for me to think about younger queer people being able to see themselves on the screen represented in this way, and especially in a Christmas movie, which is really special for people and families, this is huge.”
Goodmurphy plays Ellie, the best friend of lead character Sam, aka Mean Girls’ own “your face smells like peppermint” Jonathan Bennett. Both Bennett and Goodmurphy are queer actors playing queer roles, a small but mighty move by director Allie Liebert that ensures the characters are offering real representation and an authentic performance harnessed from their own experiences.
“When I got the audition and I saw who was directing it — Liebert, who is also queer — I knew this was going to be a huge movie to be a part of. She has been a huge fighting force within the industry for LGBTQ people.”
Bennett, described by Goodmurphy as both “super funny” and “really hardworking,” has long championed change within the film industry, using his platform and relationship with Hallmark to challenge underrepresentation and misconception. He broke the mould with 2020’s The Christmas House, the first Hallmark movie to feature a same-sex couple, and is working alongside Liebert as producer for The Holiday Sitter.
“For Hallmark this is really outside of what they have done before, and I’m so proud of the network for being the first of its kind,” said Goodmurphy.
“I can’t believe that I’m as old as I am and I’m only just getting to see a Christmas movie of its kind like this, but it’s so important, and I’m so thrilled and happy that it’s happening.”
It can only be hoped that the “massive, wonderful changes” that the actress describes are occurring just as much off screen as they are on it. With movies such as this one there are always going to be “trolls”, Goodmurphy said - people who are “always going to have something bad to say about something” - but for the most part she expects the reception to be warm - just like with any other fuzzy-feeling-inducing Hallmark flick.
“I’m hoping that love is going to overpower hate, which it usually does. People can expect a funny, feel-good Christmas movie, and a beautiful love story.”
The film will premiere on the Hallmark Channel on Dec. 11, as part of its Countdown to Christmas seasonal special.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.