Hallmark Stars Forced to Back Out of Fan Convention

Rachel Boston, Brennan Elliott, and Lacey Chabert

Heavy/Getty Hallmark stars Rachel Boston, Brennan Elliott, and Lacey Chabert

When thousands of Hallmark fans descend on Overland Park, Kansas, to meet their favorite actors during the popular fan convention Christmas Con — scheduled for June 9-11, 2023 — there will be a number of previously-scheduled stars missing from the lineup.

Multiple fan favorites who had planned to appear, from Lacey Chabert to Brennan Elliott, have had to cancel or scale back their time there at the last minute, due to schedule changes. One reason, according to former Hallmark actress Jen Lilley, is that networks are scrambling to change filming dates for many movies, eager to get them completed before a potential actors’ strike goes into effect. Here’s what you need to know:

Christmas Con Carrying On Despite Actors’ Cancellations

In just two weeks, Christmas Con, a bi-annual convention for fans of the kind of romantic comedies and Christmas movies that Hallmark Channel is famous for, will hold its first-ever event near Kansas City with over 20 still-confirmed Hallmark fan favorites including Tyler Hynes, Jonathan Bennett, Erin Cahill, Andrew Walker, Nikki DeLoach, Ashley Williams, Paul Campbell, Benjamin Ayres, and Wes Brown. According to Variety, stars can make anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000 for attending Christmas Con.

The three-day conventions, which are also held in New Jersey each December, typically include movie screenings, meet-and-greet opportunities with actors, and special events. The Kansas City convention, for instance, will include an ugly Christmas sweater contest for fans, hosted by Bennett with Ayres, Taylor Cole, and Cindy Busby as the celebrity guest judges.

While stars occasionally have to cancel their appearances at these and other fan conventions, there’s been an influx of changes to the Kansas City event over the past week. On May 16, the company behind Christmas Con, That’s4Entertainment, announced cancellations — due to “a change in filming schedules” — by Hallmark stars Catherine Bell and Rachel Boston, as well as Lilley, who left Hallmark for Great American Family in January 2022, per Deadline.

On May 20, it was announced that Elliott would no longer be appearing either due to his altered filming schedule and that Cameron Mathison would only appear for one day, on May 10. Mathison was scheduled to be in Burbank, California, the same weekend for a similar convention that’s aimed at fans of the soap opera “General Hospital,” on which he also stars, but he had to pull out of that convention completely. It’s possible he’ll be busy filming the next “Hannah Swensen Mystery,” given that his co-star Alison Sweeney recently promised fans a new installment will be released this summer.

Meanwhile, on May 23, Christmas Con organizers announced on Instagram that Chabert will also miss the Kansas City event due to a change in her filming schedule. Chabert was the first celebrity to sign on to be part of the inaugural Christmas Con in 2019, according to Variety, and has attended many of them since.

In the comment section of the post about her missing the next one, Chabert wrote, “I’m SO sorry to miss seeing you all. I hope to see you again very soon ❤️”

Lilley also commented and added some context for fans to let them know why so many cancellations have taken place.

She wrote, “Awww. I love Lacey. Shes such a gem ❤️. Love you all! Sorry filming is getting crazy for so many of us because of the pending strike. We love you and our fans SO much. And everyone who’s going to Christmas con is in for a real treat!! It’s SO fun! ❤️❤️”

The “pending strike” Lilley referred to is a step that SAG-AFTRA, the union working actors are part of in the United States, is considering — and holding a member vote on, per Pajiba — which could lead to actors striking alongside all the writers currently on strike. Many networks and production companies are scrambling to film projects now in case their actors do stop working, while some indie films are shutting down production, according to Deadline, because insurance companies won’t cover the projects due to the impending strike.

Given that tickets are non-refundable, some fans have expressed disappointment over the cancellations. That’s4Entertainment’s social media manager addressed their concerns in a pair of Instagram Story videos on May 24.

“First and foremost, trust us — we are as bummed as you guys,” she said. “But with the convention industry, it is sort of par for the course. Cancellations happen. It’s especially the nature of the business when you’re dealing with working actors because the nature of Hollywood is that filming schedules change, and they change on a dime.”

She also alluded to union strikes as a reason for so many changes, saying, “There is an X factor right now happening if you’ve seen the news. In Hollywood, there’s a big writer strike happening. So that’s really throwing a wrench into productions all over the place and, you know, causing some scheduling snafus.”

Benjamin Ayres & Nikki DeLoach Have Big Plans in Kansas City

Benjamin Ayres and Nikki DeLoach

HallmarkBenjamin Ayres and Nikki DeLoach in “Cranberry Christmas”

Two Hallmark fan favorites who are still on tap to appear at Christmas Con, Benjamin Ayres and Nikki DeLoach, who starred together in 2020’s “Cranberry Christmas.” They recently chatted during an Instagram Live session on April 28 about how excited they are to meet up in Kansas City and tour the headquarters of Hallmark, where Hallmark Cards was founded in 1910.

“You guys, we’re going to Kansas a day early, many of us, and this is really exciting,” DeLoach told fans watching their live chat. “We’re going to the Hallmark headquarters, which is so exciting to me. I have wanted to do this for forever. We’re gonna meet a lot of the people that work there which is going to be awesome. People behind the scenes that we never get to see!”

“It’s very cool,” Ayres agreed. “They keep calling it, ‘We’re going to the mothership!'”

DeLoach said she’s also excited to meet fans and hear their feedback on their favorite movies during Christmas Con.

She explained, “I’ve said it a thousand times, but the people who watch Hallmark and tune in … they are a reflection of the work that’s done on the network. It is warm, it is kind, it is loving, it is fun. And I have found our audience to be the most generous, the most charitable, and those moments you get to spend with everyone … at the Christmas convention? It’s a game-changer when you get to meet the people that you’re making the movies for and you get to hear their stories.”

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