Seven years after appearing in the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie “A Heavenly Christmas,” Emmy winning actor Eric McCormack is returning to Hallmark — though the audience won’t actually see him. The “Will & Grace” star will appear in a unique movie this fall, providing the voice for a guide dog, according to TV Line.
“Guiding Emily,” which is scheduled to premiere on September 8, 2023, on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, will also mark a return to Hallmark for “Grey’s Anatomy” star Sarah Drew, who last appeared on Hallmark in 2021 and is back in a role she called “deeply moving.” Here’s what you need to know:
Sarah Drew Says Filming ‘Guiding Emily’ Was ‘Transformative’
In “Guiding Emily,” Drew will star as Emily, a woman whose “life veers off course when she becomes permanently blind after an unfortunate rock-climbing accident and struggles to cope with her new reality,” per a press release. Actor and producer Antonio Cupo, whose most recent Hallmark films were 2022’s “Christmas at the Golden Dragon” and “A Winning Team” this past spring, plays Emily’s friend Matthew, who’s trying to help her cope with the major shift in her life.
Meanwhile, a pup named Garth, voiced by McCormack, is having a hard time with his “rigorous training” to become a guide dog and his trainer Katie, played by Sharon Taylor, works with him to learn the ropes. The synopsis says, “Through a series of missed encounters, both overcome their obstacles and Garth ends up being paired with Emily. With Garth by her side, Emily takes on her biggest challenge yet: opening her heart.”
Drew, who has appeared in Hallmark movies “Christmas in Vienna” with Brennan Elliott in 2020 and in 2021’s “One Summer,” posted an Instagram video on July 10 with Garth by her side to share how meaningful the role is to her.
“It’s a beautiful story about a woman who loses her sight and has to start all over again,” she said. “It’s also kind of a love story between her and her ‘puppy soulmate’ Garth.”
Garth is played by a dog named Owen who is in training to become a real guide dog, Drew said. And, she added, it’s intentionally being released in September in honor of National Guide Dog Month and National Service Dog Month.
In a statement, Drew said, “Shooting ‘Guiding Emily’ was a deeply moving experience that allowed me to enter into the blind and partially sighted community in a very powerful way. We were honored to have two actresses from the community play roles in the film, and sitting with them both and hearing their stories was transformative for me and for our crew.”
Drew also visited the Guide Dogs of America open house before filming started, learning how service dogs are raised and trained for two years before going to live with and support a member of the blind and partially sighted community.
“‘Guiding Emily’ walks the audience into this world in a moving, tender, educational and compassionate way,” she said. “I hope the audience will be as affected by this film as we all were making it.”
McCormack has not publicly commented on his role as Garth yet, but he has been preparing to star in “The Cottage,” a play directed by “Seinfeld” alum Jason Alexander that is currently in previews and officially premieres on Broadway on July 24. In late May, he co-starred in the Toronto production of “A Little Night Music” with Sadie Snow of Hallmark’s “The Way Home.”
The last time McCormack was in a Hallmark movie was in 2016, in “A Heavenly Christmas” co-starring Kristin Davis and Shirley MacLaine as an angel.
‘Guiding Emily’ is Based on Book by Author Barbara Hinske
“Guiding Emily” is based on a book with the same name by Barbara Hinske. It’s her second book to be turned into a Hallmark movie; her novel “The Christmas Club” became a 2019 movie starring Cameron Mathison and Elizabeth Mitchell.
The first “Guiding Emily” book has inspired a series, with the third book — “Guiding Emily: Over Every Hurdle” — released in November 2023.
On July 10, Hinske shared a Facebook photo from the set of the new movie and wrote, “It’s official–the screen adaptation of Guiding Emily will air on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries on September 8 (check local times). Here I am on set with members of the remarkably talented cast.”
She continued, “I’m so incredibly proud of the cast, director, producers and crew! I’ll be back with more–I just had to share this. Please spread the word — the film, like the book, will change lives for the better!”