Longtime Hallmark star Jonathan Bennett has celebrated lots of fun milestones in his entertainment career, from recently celebrating the 19th anniversary of his role in the pop culture phenomenon “Mean Girls” to serving as the annual host of the New Year’s Eve countdown in New York City’s Times Square.
But attending the GLAAD Awards — which honor media that provides “fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues” — in New York on May 13, 2023, as a triple-nominee was a career highlight so important that Bennett said he had “no words for how I’m feeling right now.”
Bennett walked away as a winner of one of the awards, in the category of Outstanding Journalism — Long Form, for his appearance in “Pride to Be Seen,” an hour-long special produced by ABC’s “Soul of a Nation” and journalist Robert Zepeda. He and his husband Jaymes Vaughan were also nominated for their podcast, called PRIDEcast, on which they interview prominent LGTBQ+ figures. But it was GLAAD’s nomination for Hallmark’s “The Holiday Sitter” that had Bennett feeling especially emotional and thankful — even if the movie didn’t ultimately take home the prize.
Jonathan Bennett Celebrates Groundbreaking Hallmark Movie ‘The Holiday Sitter’
In December 2022, Bennett starred with George Krissa in Hallmark’s new Christmas movie, “The Holiday Sitter.” Though LGBTQ+ characters and couples had been included in past Hallmark movie storylines, this marked the first time one of the network’s original movies focused on the love story of a same-sex couple.
Bennett was intimately involved with the development of the movie, so before heading to New York for the GLAAD Awards, he shared on Instagram how much it meant to him to be nominated and that the team at Hallmark believed enough in him and the story to bring it to life.
“There are no words for how I’m feeling right now,” he wrote on May 12. “When I first had this idea to tell a Christmas story of a love that looked like mine it hit my brain like lightning in a bottle. Literally couldn’t sleep for days. I saw the entire movie in my head and it was heart warming, and funny, and I HAD to make it.”
“To then take that idea to @hallmarkchannel and have unwavering support by the network from the first meeting was enough to make me cry,” he continued. “But THEN we assemble the team that is absolutely magical (AND QUEER) with @aliliebert @maddogdunbar @tracy_andreen @gbaldwinla and I was beyond happy. Then we found our ‘Jason’ in @georgekrissa and it brought the story to life.”
Adding that he felt like he’d already won whether the movie actually received the GLAAD Award or not, Bennett wrote, “I want this movie to inspire queer people to create! The fact that this queer person can come up with an idea and have it brought to life though the support of an incredible team shows that your idea can too. I’m nothing special, but I believed in my idea and that’s what made it come true. So if you’re reading this and you’ve been waiting to create your ‘thing’ stop waiting and just do it!”
Bennett reiterated that message in an interview with Good Morning American on the red carpet of the awards show.
“For younger queer people, if you see your story not being told, go tell it,” he said. “Figure out a way to tell your story because there are so many stories out there that need to be told. That’s what we did at Hallmark Channel and with ‘The Holiday Sitter’ … making sure that audiences are able to see stories that reflect who they are in those stories. So go tell your story.”
In 2020, Bennett had a role in Hallmark’s “The Christmas House,” which was the network’s first Christmas movie featuring a gay couple in the cast. Bennett, who had played straight characters in all of his previous Hallmark movies, told People that he had not been told his “Christmas House” character was gay by the Hallmark team; he was just handed the script, and it was a wonderful surprise.
He said, “I remember distinctively screaming to Jaymes, being like, ‘Babe, there’s a gay character.’ And he came running up the stairs. I think I had tears in my eyes actually because it was such a moment of feeling so seen.”
Hallmark Colleagues & Fans Celebrate GLAAD Nomination for ‘The Holiday Sitter’
Bennett was joined by Krissa and a team of Hallmark executives at the GLAAD Awards and received lots of accolades and love from his acting colleagues on his posts about the weekend.
Chelsea Hobbs, who played Bennett’s sister in “The Holiday Sitter,” wrote, “Yes❤️you and this will forever be magic 💕💕💕”
Sharon Lawrence, who appeared with Bennett in Hallmark’s “Christmas House” movies, wrote, “Congratulations honey!! So proud and pleased for you and the way you keep turning love into joyful stories ❤️”
Taylor Quinn replied, “Yes!!! 🙌 congratulations 🎉” and Andrew Walker wrote, “Congrats brother. Very well deserved. 🔥🙌”
Former Hallmark actress Danica McKellar responded, “So well deserved!!! 👏👏 So grateful I got to watch this with *you* on premiere night. You’re just so fantastic in it, my friend. ❤️❤️❤️”
In addition, many Hallmark fans left touching comments about how much Bennett’s involvement in increasing representation for the LGBTQ+ community in Hallmark’s programming has meant to them, with many requesting a sequel.
One viewer wrote, “Congratulations!!! I’ve been watching Hallmark Christmas movies every year since I was little and while I love them it was always disheartening to never see a gay couple starring in them. That is until recently! Thank you and everyone that worked to make this happen, it means the world to me and many others. So again, from the bottom of my heart, thank you and congrats!! ❤️🌈❤️”
“I’m a 69 year old gay man who’s watched your wonderful movie several times,” another commented. “It was a pure delight that left me hopeful that LOVE will find its way to me. Congratulations on your nominations and please continue the terrific work you are doing. 💜💜🌈🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈”
Another viewer wrote, “If there had been films like the Holiday Sitter when I was a kid, it would have made it much easier to love myself. It brought me so much joy last year and I’m excited to add it into the annual Christmas movie rotation and make my girlfriend watch it this year!! Thank you for making it, and making things better for the next generation of lgbtqia+ people 💕”
Hallmark Channel executives have been vocal over the past couple of years about their commitment to making sure its movies reflect a diverse array of characters and perspectives so that everyone in its audience recognizes themselves in its programming.
“Our brand is centered around love of every kind and love for all,” Hallmark Media president Wonya Lucas said at the Television Critics Association virtual summer press tour in August 2022. “And, over the last two-plus decades, we have established a programming niche that brings to life the Hallmark brand. The common denominator of our content is love in all its many forms. We believe that all humans deserve and are indeed worthy of love and seeing themselves in loving relationships through our storytelling.”