Hunky leading men, assemble!
Forget Marvel, we are more interested in the cinematic universe Hallmark has steadily been putting together over the last several years, culminating in three major crossover cameos in 2021's Countdown to Christmas movies. (Should we call them hot cocoa bombs instead of Easter eggs?)
First, Tyler Hynes briefly appeared in My Family Christmas Tree as a waiter who serves Andrew Walker, much to the delight of the network's fans. Then, Walker returned the favor, popping up as a bar patron Hynes' character bumps into in An Unexpected Christmas.
Oh, and then Paul Campbell, the actor who wrote An Unexpected Christmas and starred in The Santa Stakeout, made a cameo as a firefighter in his frequent co-star Kimberley Sustad's The Nine Kittens of Christmas.
The MCU is shaking! Okay, not really, but it has been an unexpected delight to see the Hallmark talent have some fun and appear in each other's movies, which is why we had to get the scoop on how the crossover cameos came to be. Spoiler alert: It is because the stars really are friends and even related in some instances. (ICYMI: Walker is married to Hynes' cousin, Cassandra Troy.)
"Andrew was in town shooting his movie and I know they were hanging out and Andrew was like, 'Hey, why don't you come and show up the background?'" Campbell told E! News in a recent phone interview. "And Tyler was like, 'Great, why don't you come show up in ours?' It kind of started as a joke and then everybody realized what a great idea was."
So great, in fact, that Campbell was initially set to pop up briefly in An Unexpected Christmas. But, because he already had a cameo in The Nine Lives of Christmas, "Hallmark was like, 'Alright, we've seen enough of you this year. You can't show up in all the movies,'" he joked. "So I didn't end up doing it."
Still, Campbell is hoping for more crossovers in the future, explaining that "the fans love them" and because they help highlight one of the network's strongest assets: The feeling of family among its talent.
"What Hallmark has done that is so outstanding is that they have created a community, which is so rare," Campbell explained. "I couldn't really point to any other network that has created [that]. After five years of working for Hallmark and Hallmark being loyal to all of their people, everyone kind of gets to know everybody else."
And it's not uncommon to see the stars supporting another's movies on social media or hosting watch parties.
"Each person's or each movie's individual success reflects better on all of us, so there's no competition," Campbell said. "I don't have to have the highest rated movie, I want to see anybody succeed because success for anyone means success for all of us. We're all so supportive. The camaraderie is very genuine. I know that down the road I am going to be working with these people most likely and there are relationships just developing all over the place."
Between the networks year-round programming events, including "Fall Harvest" and "New Year, New Movies," it seems like every possible lead couple pairing has happened already. "It's like an old studio system," Campbell said. "They've done this incredible thing and built this incredible community that the fans are loyal to and excited about."
Unfortunately, Campbell has no inside knowledge about how the casting actually goes down (though we like to believe a secret Fantasy Football draft is held between the stars).
"I would be fascinated to see how all that works," he admitted. "I'm like, 'I wonder who it's going to be. Kim Sustad and I have done three movies together, who is it going to be this time?' It's like Secret Santa."
While Campbell may be in the dark about that, there's one thing he's certain of.
"The Hallmark fanbase is just full of love," he shared. "You put up a post on social media and there is just this massive outpouring of love and support. It's just wild. Hallmark fans love, love, love those movies and I think it's just a testament to how impactful those movies are. People really turn to those movies for happiness and for escape."
And now, for those crossover cameos, too.