Hallmark Channel is no stranger to scandal, as actors and viewers alike push for more diversity and inclusivity in the channel’s iconic films. Also, some stars have drawn backlash due to their personal views or controversies. For example, Broadway actress Laura Osnes has starred in a number of Hallmark’s films. The self-proclaimed Christian conservative was apparently barred from appearing on a show in the Hamptons in 2021 because her co-stars complained about her vaccination status, per Page Six.
The network has been in the news for other reasons as well. In early 2020, Hallmark’s website announced that Crown Media CEO Bill Abbott was stepping down from his role. “I would like to thank Bill for his many years of success and contributions to Crown Media and wish him continued success,” said Mike Perry, President and CEO of Hallmark Cards, in the statement. “I have tremendous faith in the Crown Media management team and it is with this team that I will begin the search for Bill’s replacement.”
While the network has changed over the years, Hilarie Burton is among the Hallmark Channel actors who have spoken out against the channel’s lack of inclusivity in their films. The actor starred in Naughty or Nice, Surprised by Love, Summer Villa and The Christmas Contract, according to TV Guide. Now, like Abbott, she no longer works for the network.
Hilarie Burton left Hallmark after fighting for diversity
Hilarie Burton claims she’s been “let go” of a Hallmark film and Hallmark Channel in general after campaigning for more inclusivity in her films, per Entertainment Tonight. She cited her work with Lifetime as an example of what she hoped Hallmark would bring. Those complaints came shortly after it was revealed that the Hallmark Channel had stopped advertising featuring a same-sex couple, according to CBS News.
Burton took to Twitter to share her thoughts while going through old Hallmark emails. “I had insisted on an LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and a diverse casting,” the actor explained in a series of 2019 tweets. “I was polite, direct and professional. But after the executives gave their script notes and NONE of my requests were granted, I was told, ‘take it or leave it.’ I left it.”
Burton also mentioned that she would do it again — that is, walk again — “in a heartbeat.” Though she explained that she wanted the job since it was close to home and paid well, she told her Twitter followers that she didn’t need the job because her husband, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, did too help pay the bills. She went on to say that she feels lucky to be able to walk away as other actors starting out in Hallmark films may not be so lucky.
Controversy struck another project by Hilarie Burton
After the tweets went public, a Hallmark Channel representative told Fox News that Hilarie Burton was never employed by Crown Media Family Networks and has therefore never worked for Hallmark. Burton responded to Hallmark’s response with a tweet, writing sarcastically, “They said they didn’t know me. Uh-huh.”
The outspoken actor previously starred in USA Network’s ‘White Collar’ alongside actor Matt Bomer, who is openly gay. The show also had one of its actors in a same-sex couple. But Burton is best known for her role as Peyton Sawyer on One Tree Hill. Many people believed her departure from the show stemmed from something that went on between her and her co-star Chad Michael Murray, but Burton claimed the work environment was abusive. She participated in a letter accusing showrunner Mark Schwahn of sexual harassment and abuse.
“Many of us have been psychologically and emotionally manipulated to varying degrees,” the letter, reported by Variety, said. The letter, signed by several female cast members, said the reason they remained publicly silent was because they cared about the show and didn’t want it to be cancelled. However, it was mentioned that the women found a way to talk about their experiences with each other.
Outside of her acting work, Burton continues to make a name for herself speaking out on issues close to her heart — whether it’s challenging abuse on set or advocating for more diversity on screen.