After a two year absence, Rachael Leigh Cook will return to the Hallmark family when her newest holiday movie, “Rescuing Christmas,” premieres on December 7, 2023. It’s one of two original movies in Hallmark’s new Countdown to Christmas lineup that will debut on its streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now, rather than on one of its traditional cable channels, per Variety.
The actress, who rose to fame in 90s movies like “The Baby-Sitters Club” and “She’s All That,” had become a favorite among Hallmarkies in recent years, starring in eight movies between 2016 and 2021, per IMDb. But Cook’s recent rom-coms on Netflix, followed by her signing a major development deal with Fox’s Marvista in April, left many wondering if she’d left Hallmark for good.
Cook’s return is a homecoming in multiple ways. Not only is she back in the Hallmark family, but she got to film “Rescuing Christmas” in Minnesota, where she’s from.
Here’s what you need to know:
How Rachael Leigh Cook Wound Up Back at Hallmark
Cook, who turns 44 on October 4, last worked with Hallmark in the 2021 Christmas flick “‘Tis the Season to Be Merry.” But by then she’d also begun appearing in Netflix rom-coms like 2020’s “Love, Guaranteed,” 2021’s “He’s All That” — a remake of her classic “She’s All That,” and “A Tourist’s Guide to Love,” which premiered in April 2023.
That same month, Deadline revealed that Cook had signed a “wide-ranging deal” with Fox’s Marvista Entertainment to develop, produce and star in a variety of projects, including a feature film called “There She Goes” that’s “loosely based on her real-life experiences.” Deadline said the deal would allow Cook to develop and produce multiple projects “over the next few years” via her own production company, Ben’s Sister Productions.
As part of the deal, it was announced that Cook was working on a “holiday-themed film about an anti-Christmas photographer.” She even posted an Instagram photo from the set in May, but most fans assumed the movie was not for Hallmark, given that Marvista had been acquired by Fox in 2021. However, according to Variety, Fox’s goal with the acquisition was to produce more movies for streaming services, starting with its own Tubi. At the time, it also had projects in the works for Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney.
Meanwhile, Hallmark has been working this year on expanding its own streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now, which is where Cook’s new Christmas movie will debut. Though Hallmark continues to be one of the top-watched entertainment cable networks, nabbing the number one spot during the fourth quarter year after year, per CNBC, it has experienced a decline in traditional viewership as people turn more frequently to digital content and streaming platforms. In January, according to Deadline, Hallmark hired digital media expert Emily Powers to be its EVP of streaming and digital platforms, with a focus on expanding its digital programming.
Hallmark is betting on Cook’s return being a big draw for fans, along with “An Ice Palace Romance” starring Celeste Desjardins and Marcus Rosner, which premieres on Hallmark Movies Now on December 14. After a seven-day free trial, fans can watch a wide range of Hallmark fare on-demand for $4.99 a month.
Rachael Leigh Cook Filmed ‘Rescuing Christmas’ in Her Home State, Minnesota
Cook’s Hallmark return was a literal homecoming for the actress. Born and raised in Minneapolis, she filmed “Rescuing Christmas” in Duluth, a popular city for tourists visiting the shores of Lake Superior and about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from where she grew up. The movie co-stars “Mad Men” and “The Bold Type” alum Sam Page, who appeared in multiple Hallmark movies through 2020, per his IMDb. This will mark his return to Hallmark, too.
The movie’s director, Emily Moss Wilson, told the Duluth News Tribune, “The fact that Rachael is a Minnesotan was such a kismet thing.”
Filmed in May 2023, the Minnesota winter had long melted away, so the crew needed artificial snow for the sets, but appreciated that the spring temperatures were still cool enough to be tolerable as the stars wore sweaters and winter coats in many scenes, Wilson said. However, the lake effect created unexpected challenges for the cast and crew, she said.
“The first week, the wind was really a big factor,” Wilson explained. “We had all these Christmas decorations and (were) trying to lay down fake snow and just these big gusts that come off the lake (were) knocking everything down.”
In a May Instagram post, Wilson wrote that she had “the most wonderful magical time working on this one” and couldn’t wait for rom-com fans to see it.
In April, Cook told Decider that she keeps returning to making rom-coms because she’s personally such a big fan of them.
“I think that only true fans should be playing in this pool, I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t think that you can fake it, as it were. So that’s why I keep coming back. It’s the kind of entertainment that I seek out. I call it ‘cortisol free’ entertainment. And I love it.”