Lifetime is putting a LGBTQ romance and an Asian American family at the forefront of two of its 30 original holiday movies this year. While Hallmark promised in July that its upcoming films will prominently feature LGBTQ storylines and characters, its competitor is putting its money where its mouth is — expanding the call for diversity through its storytelling, casts and themes.
The Christmas Set Up will be Lifetime’s first movie with a LGBTQ romance as the central story. The cable network cites last year’s holiday film, Twinkle All the Way, which featured a same-sex kiss between married couple Lex (Brian Sills) and Danny (Mark Ghanimé), as the precursor for the greenlight.
According to the official synopsis, The Christmas Set Up follows “Hugo, a New York corporate lawyer and his best friend Madelyn, who head to Milwaukee to spend the holidays with his mom Kate, who is also in charge of the local Christmas celebrations. Ever the matchmaker, Kate arranges for Hugo to run into Patrick, Hugo’s high school friend and secret crush, who has recently returned after a successful stint in Silicon Valley. As they enjoy the local holiday festivities together, Hugo and Patrick’s attraction to each other is undeniable and it looks as though Kate’s well-intentioned Santa-style matchmaking is a success. But as Hugo receives word of a big promotion requiring a move to London, he must decide what is most important to him.”
Lifetime is also branching out and greenlit A Sugar & Spice Holiday, which will focus on an Asian American family at the heart of the romantic holiday film. It will be directed by Jennifer Liao.
Centered on a Chinese American family, A Sugar & Spice Holiday follows “Suzie, a rising young architect, who returns to her small hometown in Maine for Christmas where her Chinese American family runs the local Lobster Bar. Following the loss of her beloved grandmother who was a legendary baker in their community, Suzie is guilted into following in her grandmother’s footsteps by entering the local gingerbread house competition. Teaming up with an old high school friend Billy, who grew up to be a catch, Suzie must find the right recipes and mix of sugar and spice to win the competition and perhaps find some love in the process.”
Both movies are currently being cast with filming to begin later this month.
Additionally, Lifetime will welcome Tiffany Haddish, who is executive producing Christmas Unwrapped starring Amber Stevens West, Marco Grazzini and Cheryl Ladd. Jason Priestley has joined Melissa Joan Hart, Robin Givens, Ed Begley Jr. and Faith Prince in Dear Christmas, and Tony winner Ali Stroker will star in Christmas Ever After opposite Daniel DiTomasso.
The full “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime” holiday movie slate will be released in September.
“We are thrilled to continue our legacy of creating a holiday destination that is welcoming to all at Lifetime,” said Amy Winter, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming at Lifetime and LMN. “With more new movies than any one cable network or streamer, I couldn’t be prouder of the incredible talent joining us in front of, and behind the camera, on these new holiday movies.”
For more on those movies, see below.
CHRISTMAS EVER AFTER
Popular romance novelist Izzi Simmons (Tony winner Ali Stroker) spends every Christmas at her favorite snowy bed & breakfast, but this year, she’s faced with an impending deadline and a severe case of writer’s block. Luckily, inspiration strikes in the unlikely form of the B&B’s new owner Matt (Daniel DiTomasso), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the handsome hero from Izzi’s novels. As both partake in the lodge’s annual itinerary of Christmas activities, Izzi’s writer’s block is cured and the first pages of her and Matt’s own love story may just be beginning. Christmas Ever After is produced by Neshama Entertainment in Association with Marvista Entertainment and executive produced by Arnie Zipursky, Suzanne Berger, Julianna Hays, Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew. Pat Kiely directs from a script by Katrina Mathewson and Tanner Bean.
From executive producer Tiffany Haddish, Christmas Unwrapped follows Charity (Amber Stevens West), an ambitious reporter, who learns the true meaning of Christmas when she investigates Erik Gallagher (Marco Grazzini), a beloved member of the town who insists all the gifts he provides are from none other than Santa himself. Cheryl Ladd also stars. Additional executive producers include Tracy “Twinkie” Bryd and Dominique Telson, Arnie Zipursky and Suzanne Berger for Neshama Entertainment and Larry Grimaldi, Hannah Pillemer and Fernando Szew for MarVista Entertainment. Bosede Williams directed from a script by Gary Hardwick.
Natalie Morgan (Melissa Joan Hart) is an author and host of a popular podcast, Holiday Love, which shares true stories of holiday romance with its listeners. While to the outside world and her listeners everywhere see Natalie as an expert on romance, she’s never truly experienced a romance of her own. As Natalie prepares to embark on a promotional tour for her new book, she stops back home to spend Christmas with her family and to celebrate her parent’s 50th anniversary where she unexpectedly begins to experience her own holiday romance as sparks ignite with local firefighter Jack (Jason Priestley). Dear Christmas also stars Robin Givens, Ed Begley Jr. and Faith Prince and is produced by Hartbreak Films, Paula Hart and Melissa Joan Hart. Emily Moss Wilson directs from a script by Juliet Giglio and Keith Giglio.
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