Forget the MCU, the Hallmark Channel Universe is officially here and it's spreading Christmas cheer.
Tyler Hynes, Andrew Walker and Paul Campbell, three of the network's most popular leading men, are teaming up for Three Wise Men and a Baby, which premieres Saturday, Nov. 19, and is one of 2022 Countdown to Christmas' most anticipated releases.
Bucking the usual set-up of a romantic relationship being the main, well, hallmark of a Hallmark flick, the actors play a trio of childless siblings who find themselves taking care of an infant. Holiday hijinks, brotherly banter and a dance sequence ensue the years-in-the-making team-up of three of the network's favorite leading men. (And you can get an exclusive sneak peek at Three Wise Men and a Baby in the video above, which features Hynes interacting with an adorable baby. You're welcome, Internet!)
Fans were thrilled when Hynes and Walker made surprise cameos in each other's 2021 movies, the most handsome version of Easter eggs we've ever received under our tree. Campbell also got in on the crossover fun, not only writing An Unexpected Christmas, Hynes' starring vehicle, but also briefly popping up in The Nine Kittens of Christmas, which starred his frequent co-star and Three Wise Men and a Baby co-writer Kimberley Sustad.
After these appearances, Hynes, Walker and Campbell began idea for a project that would star all three of them. But it turns out they weren't the only ones who noticed the audience's response to their collaborations.
"It just so happened that I had a meeting with the head of Hallmark and she said, 'We greenlit a movie with you and these two other guys,'" Hynes exclusively told E! News. "I said, 'How do you know this? We haven't brought it to you yet.' And an executive had brought the same idea to her, so it was the meeting of all of us wanting to do the same thing, which was nice. It was a really easy process."
It was just as effortless for Hynes and Walker to portray siblings given that they are related through marriage in real life. (Walker is married to Hynes' cousin Cassandra Troy.) "Drew is like my brother," Hynes said. "I love him dearly. I root for him."
And he feels the same way about Campbell, though their friendship didn't exactly begin with brotherly love.
"He claims that we have met before and that I was a dick," Hynes admitted with a laugh. "I don't remember. It was at a Hallmark party years earlier and it was at that moment in the party when I realized, 'I need to leave here because the whiskey has now kicked in.' I think he introduced himself, he says, and I don't remember this. And he was like, 'Well, that guy is kind of a dick.'"
Rocky start aside, the duo ultimately bonded when they worked on An Unexpected Christmas, which was just a small taste of what working together on Three Wise Men and a Baby would be like for Hynes.
"To be able to sit with them and to have my friends, who I f--k with, present their craft in front of me is really, really rewarding as a friend because I really enjoy it so much," Hynes explained. "I admire and respect them so much and as a fan, it's fun to see it up close and then to openly communicate about ways to augment or change or support the scenes, just reacting to what each other does. It's just so open and so fluid and so easy. Every day we were like, 'Gosh, can't it always just be like this?'"
And while working with his friends was as fun as expected, the real surprise was how Katie and Kallie, the "ridiculously cute" twins who played the titular baby, impacted the atmosphere on set.
"They say don't work with babies or animals, but I don't agree," Hynes said. "I loved it thoroughly. They smelled like happiness and joy. Having them with us every day changed the dynamic of the scenes. When they were there, it became something else.
Hynes' character, the tech-savvy and cynical Taylor, isn't exactly comfortable around the child at the movie—see the exclusive clip above—he does share one quality with his onscreen persona.
"I mean, I have a Pomeranian. This is where I'm peaking," Hynes said with a laugh. "This is as much as I want to do right now. I have nieces and I love them to death. I do love babies and I do love children and I do love treating them like adults. The conversation that Taylor has with the baby, it's not completely unreflective of how I handle babies. I'm not quite as inept, but I do enjoy talking to them like they are adults."
Since Hallmark announced their 2022 Countdown to Christmas lineup, the anticipation for Three Wise Men and a Baby has been Buddy the Elf-the-night-before-Santa-arrives-at-Gimbels-level high. And Hynes has steadily stoked that excitement with behind-the-scene photos and videos from set, though the 36-year-old actor said they "are the tip of the iceberg, to be honest. There was a lot of time during this movie where I wasn't posting or sharing. I really wanted to enjoy it."
That being said, Hynes still gifted the Internet with an early holiday treat when he shared a TikTok video of the three leads rocking elf costumes on-set. One of the Hallmark leading men with the most ardent followings—they proudly refer to themselves as Hyneys—Hynes asked his fans to remix the slo-mo video and later shared his favorites.
"I just really, really enjoy making people happy in the littlest of ways and however I can be of service in that regard, I try to be," Hynes said. "It's very nice to see everybody react to it the way that they did. It's fun and it's a two-way conversation. I love the fact that I'm even invited to that party because it's truly their party and I'm just a guest. It's spectacular."
The cheeky Instagram posts, Hynes' tendency to (gasp!) swear in conversation and the overall tone of Three Wise Men and a Baby—a blend of heart and humor with a slight edge that would likely make the 2012-era of Hallmark Channel clutch its pearls—is just the latest example of the network taking chances with its longrunning Countdown to Christmas programming. And it's a transition that Hynes, who joined the Hallmark family in 2018, has embraced.
"This has been part of a conversation for a while now on our ends and it takes time for things to evolve and I think it's really starting to blossom," Hynes said. "Everything, from the key art to the post-production to the storylines, to the sort of bravery as far as inclusiveness and diversity. Also allowing us to do things and leaving us to it, to some degree."
One example Hynes pointed to was a small moment in Three Wise Men and a Baby, in which Walker's character puts Hynes into a full nelson wrestling move, which the producers were initially concerned would be cut from of the movie.
"They felt like it was rough-housing and it was too much and it's, like, 'My goodness, this is not the focus of the scene so why is it the focus of our conversation?' It's those kinds of things where there's a trust within the network."
Ongoing support from the executives and the response from fans has encouraged this "evolution" at Hallmark, which, Hynes said, has been "a very beautiful thing to watch. Everyone is excited for what the future holds."
As for his future, Hynes, who also stars in Hallmark Movies & Mysteries' Time For Him to Come Home for Christmas, is hoping to use the "familiarity" he's established during his four-year run with the fanbase to tell "diverse stories that are more inclusive...to help hopefully open folks to lives and human beings that they might feel, at first glance, that they don't identity with and hopefully bridge that gap."
"So we can do what really good art does," he continued, "which is connect us all and aid in providing empathy in a medium that's sole job is to do that. It does it better than any other form."
Three Wise Men and a Baby premieres Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel and Time for Him to Come Home for Christmas premieres Saturday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m. on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Both movies will then be available to stream on Peacock the following day.