As part of her exclusive new deal with Hallmark Media, Nikki DeLoach is thrilled to be working on several projects in 2023 as an actress, producer, and screenwriter, especially since the company has evolved so much over the years. In a new podcast interview, she revealed her relief about the creative shifts that have taken place at the “new” Hallmark.
A fan-favorite since her first Hallmark movie in 2015, DeLoach revealed some of the stunning conversations and creative challenges she faced under the “old” regime, including being told not to cry during sad movie scenes. She also expressed relief about finally getting to give frustrated viewers what they’ve been “hungry” for, from deeper storytelling to greater diversity.
Nikki DeLoach Wasn’t Allowed to Cry in Old Hallmark Movies
Over the last two years, there’s been a great deal of buzz about behind-the-scenes shifts at Hallmark that are now becoming evident in its programming, from more diverse casting to deeper storytelling. DeLoach is among those who’ve been thrilled about the changes that Hallmark Media CEO Wonya Lucas, who took the reins in 2020, has accelerated under her leadership.
At the 2021 Winter Virtual Television Critics Association press event, according to Media Village, Lucas said, “Before I arrived, we had begun to expand our brand inclusiveness in front of and behind the camera. I’m proud of the progress this team is making to expand diversity in our programming. It is nothing short of seismic.”
DeLoach has experienced those seismic shifts firsthand. On a new episode of Christy Carlson Romano’s “Vulnerable” podcast, DeLoach discussed some of the differences she’s witnessed between the “old” and “new” Hallmark, including not being allowed to show much emotion in past roles.
She told Carlson Romano, “I’m a crier. Like, if something is sad, I’m gonna cry. And they would go, ‘No, no, we don’t want to have the tears. Just, like, one single solitary tear.’ And I’d be like, ‘Okaaay.’ Because…they wanted you to still look pretty.”
DeLoach also shared she had to fight for a movie she felt passionate about making several years ago, when executives bristled at the plotline of a divorced couple’s family gathering one last time during the holidays.
“I was actually very lucky (because) this was the ‘old’ Hallmark, right?” she said, explaining that she told executives that with so many American marriages ending in divorce, she thought it was important to reflect that in their storylines and acknowledge that “not every family is perfect, not every young lead has it all together.”
Hallmark let DeLoach produce and star in the movie, 2018’s “Reunited at Christmas,” after she promised she wouldn’t let the storyline about divorce get too emotional or take viewers “into a dark valley.” She made sure the movie also included a sweet romance between the characters played by her and co-star Mike Faiola.
“Now…we are telling deeper, richer, bigger stories,” she said on the podcast, expressing relief that such a storyline would no longer be an issue at the network. “The way Hallmark thinks about it now — the mindset that’s happening at our network — is our audience is very diverse, actually. We want everybody to see themselves in at least one or handfuls of our movies, and I love that.”
Nikki DeLoach Says Latest Hallmark Projects Address Feedback She’s Heard From Frustrated Viewers
As Hallmark’s evolved, DeLoach said she’s not only allowed but encouraged to dive deeper into emotional plotlines and authentic storytelling, which is what viewers have told her they wanted for years.
DeLoach’s recent movie “The Gift of Peace,” which premiered on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries in December 2022, intentionally took viewers inside the difficult journey of grief, featuring a character who lost her husband and connected with a support group of others navigating grief. The movie, she told Southern Living in December, helped her cope with losing her own dad the year before and gave viewers permission to grieve openly and grapple with their faith — topics that Hallmark wouldn’t have touched in the past.
“We got to talk about what it looked like to find your faith again after loss,” she said. “After going through a really dark valley…I think that anybody that walks a faith journey, they know that. Right? And I think it’s so relatable and such a beautiful thing.”
On the “Vulnerable” podcast, DeLoach said she knows the Hallmark audience has been craving deeper, more diverse content for years.
“Our audience can not just handle this, they want it. They’re hungry for it,” DeLoach said, revealing that at fan conventions like Christmas Con, which just announced its next star-studded event in Kansas City this June, she has always asked viewers what kinds of stories they felt Hallmark was missing and what they wanted to see more of on the network.
“Time after time after time again, it was ‘deeper stories,’ ‘stories that look more like me,'” she said, adding that, over the years, many would tell her Hallmark’s main characters often seemed very “privileged” and unrealistically wealthy. Others, she said, have shared they wanted to see more women of color in lead roles rather than as “the sidekick friend.”
DeLoach told Carlson Romano she feels grateful that she now gets to work on such projects with Hallmark, and that her plate is full with acting, producing, and writing in 2023, including two new Hallmark Christmas movies.
“One of them I would star in and the other is based on a true story that’s really fun and hysterical,” she said.
DeLoach also revealed that she and her writing partner, Megan McNulty, have been writing four different movies for Hallmark, including a “mystery wheel” that’s very different than anything Hallmark has done before.
Though she couldn’t yet reveal details, she said, “It’s a lot of social justice that happens in the justice system and legal system and it’s very exciting. It’s something really new for our audience and I think they’re gonna love it.”
DeLoach also produced “Family History Mysteries: Buried Past,” which premiered on January 8, starring Janel Parrish and Niall Matter. Her next acting role will be alongside Andrew Walker, co-starring in their second “Curious Caterer” mystery movie, which premieres on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries on February 5.
Walker, too, has said he’s loved Hallmark’s new direction, recently telling the Vancouver Sun that he’s grateful for the deeper, dramatic roles but also for chances to do true comedies, like 2022’s “Three Wise Men and a Baby,” which became the most popular cable TV movie of the year.
“I think what’s happening now is that they’re doing the more dramatic stuff on their Movies & Mysteries Channel and a lot more comedy on the Hallmark Channel,” he said. “Whereas before the comedy would be a little bit more watered down, now it’s open season.”