Ellen Travolta has her world-famous little brother, John Travolta, to thank for helping her land a role in the 2022 Hallmark Channel Christmas movie “Haul Out the Holly,” starring Lacey Chabert and Wes Brown. The 83-year-old actress says watching the network and landing the role gave her something to feel joyful about after losing her husband of 34 years. Here’s how it all unfolded…
Ellen Travolta’s Heartwarming Story of Landing Role on the Hallmark Channel
The story of how Ellen, who’s the oldest of six siblings in the Travolta family, found her way into a Hallmark movie sounds a lot like…well, the plot of a Hallmark movie. According to the Spokesman-Review, Ellen was heartbroken after losing her husband of 34 years, Jack Bannon, on October 25, 2017, and living alone in the home they shared together in Lake Coeur d’Alene, Washington.
She told the paper that she turned on the Hallmark Channel, hoping to find something to watch that would ease her grief, when she heard a “meow” at the door. Ellen and her husband had many feral cats that roamed around their land, and he had named them all.
But none of the cats had ever come to the door, practically begging to come in. Ellen recognized the cat at her door as one her husband had named “O.”
“For half a minute I thought, ‘Is Jack back as a cat? I can’t ignore this,’” she recalled. “So I let him in. He came up on the couch and we watched Hallmark. And that was the beginning of the rest of that year. From Oct. 25 on through, O and I watched Hallmark movies and I fell in love with them.”
Ellen says all those movies not only uplifted her, but also inspired her to want to act on TV again, specifically in a film on the network. Ellen has had a rich career as an actress; starting out in New York, she was part of the “Gypsy” cast with Ethel Merman, which opened on Broadway in 1959. Her featured roles on the stage included famed shows like “Anything Goes,” “Hello Dolly!,” and even “The Full Monty.”
According to Hallmark, her television credits include “The Love Boat,” “Happy Days” and “Welcome Back Kotter,” starring her brother John, the youngest of her siblings. But after watching and loving so many Hallmark movies to help her through her grief, she set her sights on a new goal.
“I wanted to be part of it because they’re hopeful, and sometimes not so realistic, but I didn’t care,” she told the Spokesman-Review.
Ellen started asking everyone she knew who might have a connection to the Hallmark Channel, from her agent to friends in the industry who’d appeared on the network in the past. Time passed, but Ellen’s dream of being on the network didn’t fade. Eventually, it was her brother John who heard her talk so many times about her new dream that he stepped in to help.
“I was away with John in Austria and all I did was talk about being on Hallmark,” she laughed. “So when we got back, he called his agent and asked, ‘What do we have to do to get Ellen in a Hallmark movie? All she wants is one line.'”
John’s agent called Hallmark, and someone from the network called Ellen in early 2020, inviting her to do an interview with them, after which producers said they’d love to have her in a film. The onset of the COVID pandemic halted talks, but two years later, director Maclain Nelson called. He’d been a huge fan of Ellen’s when she was on the TV sitcom “Charles in Charge,” she said, and offered her a small part in the new Christmas movie “Haul Out the Holly.” She jumped at the chance to finally have that dream come true.
Ellen Travolta Describes Experience Filming & Bonding With ‘Haul Out the Holly’ Cast
“Haul Out the Holly,” which premiered on the Hallmark Channel on November 26, 2022, was filmed over the summer in Salt Lake City. The movie stars Chabert as Emily, who spends the holidays alone at her parents’ house, where the homeowners’ association has seriously strict rules about Christmas decorations and celebrations. Ellen plays one of the neighbors, Mary Louise, and said the whole shoot was everything she hoped for.
“It was a happy, happy set,” she told the Spokesman-Review. “Hallmark is generous, they’re considerate, and it was just a pleasure.”
The only downside? The Christmas movie was filmed in the August heat.
“It was winter coats, scarves, hats and gloves, and snowballs, in 100-degree heat,” she said.
Between takes, she said, the cast rarely headed back to their dressing rooms, which were 15 minutes away, and hung out instead in one of the homes where they were filming.
“We would sit in the living room, or in the den, or downstairs in the rec room, and we would have wonderful conversations,” Ellen recalled. “And we really got to know one another, and laughed and cried, and that was a wonderful, wonderful experience.”
Ellen said she’ll always treasure the experience and would love to do another film for the network.
“I really believe in this day and age we are looking for more of that hope. Hallmark is hope. I loved every second of it,” she said.
According to The News International, Before the movie premiered on November 26, Ellen’s proud brother shared a photo from the movie to his Instagram Stories, telling his fans to watch her in “Haul Out the Holly.”
John wrote, “My sister Ellen always wanted to be in a Hallmark Christmas movie and had so much fun making it.”
And as for “O” the cat, who spent every day of the Christmas season watching Hallmark movies with her after her husband died? Ellen said he wandered off shortly after Christmas 2017 and, mysteriously, she hasn’t seen him since.