After weeks of speculation, the rumors are true: the followup to Hallmark‘s hit 2020 movie “Christmas Waltz” starring Will Kemp and Lacey Chabert will air, instead, on Great American Family with an entirely new cast, including former Hallmark star Jen Lilley. She’ll co-star with “Glee” actor Matthew Morrison, who hasn’t had a TV project for more than a year, after being removed from the Fox reality show “So You Think You Can Dance” for “behavioral misconduct,” per People.
Deadline confirmed the news on June 6, 2023, though it likely won’t come as a huge surprise to Hallmark fans, given that Kemp and Chabert premiered a brand new mystery series with “The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango” four days before the official announcement about the “Christmas Waltz” franchise.
The new movie won’t technically be a sequel, and Kemp has already given the new actors his blessing. Here’s what you need to know:
Jen Lilley Recently Hinted at New Movie With ‘Christmas Waltz’ Team
As previously reported by Heavy, Lilley — who signed a four-movie contract with Great American Family in January 2022 — fueled rumors of a “Christmas Waltz” sequel in the works when she shared on social media that she’d been learning how to dance the waltz for her next movie.
She mentioned in one of her videos that she was working with director/producer team Michael and Janeen Damian, who were behind the original “Christmas Waltz” movie and there were already social media rumors they were working on a non-Hallmak sequel. According to a release from Great American Family, the couple has collaborated on 17 original movies; Hallmark’s “Christmas Waltz” was the highest-rated holiday film of 2020, it said.
The movie premiered nearly a year after Hallmark’s former CEO, Bill Abbott, parted ways with the network amid a firestorm of controversy, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Abbott later announced he was launching the Great American Family network with the Hicks Equity Group, a major backer of former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, per Bloomberg, after the firm purchased Great American Country from Discovery with a desire to create a network with more “family-friendly” programming.
On June 4, Michael Damian tweeted that production had just begun on “Paris Christmas Waltz” with Jen Lilley, marking their first day of filming.
What he didn’t mention in his tweet was the addition of Morrison as her co-star, after a year out of the spotlight. According to People, Morrison was let go as a judge from “So You Think You Can Dance” in May 2022 after failing to follow “competition production protocols.” But after his exit, a source close to the show told the outlet that the Broadway star was fired due to behavioral misconduct “after he had an inappropriate relationship with a female contestant” that included “messages that crossed the line.”
In an Instagram video on June 2, 2022, Morrison said that report was not accurate.
“It’s really unfortunate that I have to sit here and defend myself and my family against blatantly untrue statements made anonymously, but I have nothing to hide,” he started the video, and then proceeded to read one message that he said he wrote to a dancer on the show that said, “If you don’t mind, would love to get your number and talk you through some things.”
“I sent this because this dancer and I both share a mutual respect for a choreographer that I’ve known for over 20 years, and I was trying to help her get a job as a choreographer on the show,” he explained, but also admitted that it was against show protocols as a judge and apologized to everyone affected.
‘Christmas Waltz’ Sequel Will Not Focus on Same Characters as Original Movie
Though some have billed “Paris Christmas Waltz” as a sequel to the original movie, Great American Family described it as “the legacy of Michael and Janeen Damian’s beloved ‘Christmas Waltz’ franchise” coming to the network. Lilley and Morrison will play Emma and Leo — different characters than Chabert and Kemp did in “Christmas Waltz.”
In “Christmas Waltz,” Chabert played Avery, whose storybook Christmas wedding is canceled unexpectedly. Hallmark’s synopsis says a “handsome and irreverent dance instructor” named Roman, played by Kemp, persuades her to continue with the 10 dance lessons she’d booked. As Avery takes lessons with Roman, the duo eventually “moves together flawlessly – both on the dance floor and off.” Roman “helps Avery take a holiday from perfection and to live in the moment, and in return, she helps guide him on a special business venture,” per Hallmark.
Meanwhile, in “Paris Christmas Waltz,” Great American Family says “Emma relinquishes her job so a colleague with a family will keep his. Contemplating life’s next steps, Emma meets a professional dancer, Leo, whose love for competitive dancing is waning, until a once in a lifetime opportunity arises for the novice to join the pro and sweep all of Paris off its feet.”
When Lilley posted the news about the move on her Instagram feed, Kemp gave his blessing, commenting, “Very exciting! Huge congratulations. Send my love to everyone. 🙌🔥👏🕺🏻💃🏻” and she responded, “@iamwillkemp will do! We love you Will and @thereallacey ❤️”
Chabert and Kemp have already moved on to a new dancing-themed mystery franchise, with the premiere of “The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango” on June 2. Kemp, a professional dancer, worked closely with screenwriter Aubrey Day on the script and both he and Chabert received executive producer credits.