Hallmark fans aren’t about to let an actors strike keep their favorite stars’ movies from succeeding. In a podcast interview with celebrity photographer Joshua Schultz on August 28, 2023, longtime Hallmark star Andrew Walker said he’s been amazed by how the network’s “passionate” fan base stepped up to support and promote his latest movie, producing “staggering” results at a time when the performers themselves can’t promote their projects.
On July 13, film and TV actors across the United States began what could be a months-long strike after negotiations broke down between studio executives and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which comprises 160,000 members, according to The Washington Post.
As part of the strike, which has prompted many Hallmark stars to take to the picket lines, actor members are not allowed to promote their projects, including making social media plugs and doing press interviews. Members can, however, guest-star on podcasts covered by the SAG-AFTRA Podcast Agreement, according to PodPod, which includes independent podcasts that make less than $10,000 in income per year — as long as the actors don’t appear to promote their work. That allowed Walker to appear on a podcast with Schultz, who has photographed him many times over the years.
Though the ban on promotion makes it much harder for the public to learn about upcoming shows and movies, Walker told Schultz that he’s been wowed by how Hallmark’s fans have taken care of that in may ways, building buzz on their own. Here’s what you need to know:
Andrew Walker Gives Fans Credit for Making His Latest Movie Successful
When Walker’s latest Hallmark movie, “Safari Romance,” premiered on August 13, he and costar Britt Bristow were uncharacteristically quiet ahead of the airdate, avoiding promoting the film they made in South Africa. But to Walker’s surprise, he told Schultz on his podcast, the movie got great ratings anyway, thanks to fans’ efforts to build buzz for it.
“There’s no fans like these fans that we have,” Walker said of the Hallmark fan base. “I’m reminded of it constantly, but when my movie was airing last week and not being able to do any of the promo, the amount of fans that reposted press bites and movie bites was just like, it went viral. It was crazy. And it was all of these people!”
In addition to his fan base, Walker gave a shout-out to the “Hynies” and “Spicy Hynies” — fans of fellow actor Tyler Hynes — who, Walker said, “have taken me into the fold” and built up excitement for “Safari Romance.”
“So, that aired and it did really, really well,” Walker said. “The numbers were really staggering.”
“You don’t really get these type of dedicated, loving, compassionate and committed fans that we get (at) Hallmark in really any other network or TV show that’s out there,” he said. “I just always … feel so much gratitude for all of those people that allow me to do what I do. It does not go unnoticed or unappreciated.”
Walker acknowledged that not being able to promote his movies was “frustrating” but said he believed it’s for a good reason.
“There needs to be a strike,” he said, adding that it’s critical for SAG-AFTRA to “sort out … with the [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] what the new deal is gonna be.”
Walker mentioned he’s supposed to film a new Hallmark Christmas movie soon but said “we’ll see how that goes” with the strike. Meanwhile, he already filmed a third “Curious Caterer” movie with Nikki DeLoach, due out later this year.
Hallmark Actors Continue to Show Up at Picket Lines
There’s no telling when Walker and his fellow Hallmark colleagues will be able to resume filming or promoting their projects. Only the network’s hit series “When Calls The Heart,” which is filmed in Canada, was given an exemption and is currently allowed to keep shooting its 11th season. But its stars are not actively promoting season 10, which is airing now.
There are also some independent production companies who’ve been granted exemptions by SAG-AFTRA. So certain Hallmark actors, especially those who are Canadian and belong to a different union, could be allowed to film new projects.
But in solidarity with SAG-AFTRA, many Hallmark stars have continued to show up on the picket lines in front of Hollywood and New York’s major entertainment studios, including Rachel Boston, Hunter King, Lacey Chabert, Brennan Elliott, Stephen Huszar, Erin Cahill and more.
Kristoffer Polaha, who will join Walker for a fan cruise taking place in January 2024, posted an Instagram video on August 10, taken while he was picketing, and wrote a heartfelt message about why the strike is so important.
“Actors and writers can ply our trades anywhere on any stage,” he wrote, “but we love Hollywood because, mainly, over the past 110 years we’ve helped build this town and its industry and we don’t want to give it away to new mediums or platforms of distribution. That’s what’s really at stake here, new ways to bring you our stories shouldn’t mean less pay to us for doing the same job.”
SAG-AFTRA’s negotiating committee said on August 27 that it “remains ready at a moment’s notice to go back to the bargaining table” with AMPTP, when its members are ready to negotiate, according to Deadline.
Among the issues SAG-AFTRA wants resolved, per BuzzFeed, is to have clear restrictions on the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to replicate actors’ likenesses, and to determine how actors are compensated when their work is aired digitally and by streamers.