EXCLUSIVE: Lori Loughlin is returning to acting. The former When Calls the Heart star will reprise her popular character from the Hallmark Channel series, Abigail Stanton, on spinoff When Hope Calls, which is coming back for a second season on a new network, GAC Family. Loughlin will appear in the two-part Season 2 premiere titled When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas, slated to air on Saturday, Dec. 18.
Loughlin was last seen on TV as Abigail in Season 6 of Hallmark Channel’s hit series When Calls the Heart before she was let go over her involvement in the college admissions scandal. The actress, who is on probation after serving a two-month sentence, sparked speculation that she may be returning to work last week following a Mercury News report that she had been given permission by a Boston federal judge to travel to Canada for about a week in late September-early October for “a filming production project.”
Having Loughlin on board for the Season 2 premiere in her return to acting after a year and a half is certain to bring attention to When Hope Calls — as well as GAC Family, which launched yesterday, Sept. 27 with the tagline “Stories Well Told.” Formerly Great American Country, the newly rebranded channel is run by President & CEO Bill Abbott, former CEO of Hallmark Channel parent Crown Media Family Networks, who is taking a page out of his old playbook in shaping GAC Family’s brand as a home of family-friendly, holiday-themed movies and series.
Season 2 of When Hope Calls, whose first season aired as the first original on Hallmark Channel’s streaming service Hallmark Movies Now, marks the first original series for GAC Family. Series’ star Morgan Kohan is back, reprising her role as Lillian Walsh, with additional cast, believed to include RJ Hatanaka, to be announced soon.
When Hope Calls, which films in Ontario, Canada, is set in Brookfield, a town on the western prairie. In When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas, Part 1, Brookfield hosts a Christmas festival as one of three contenders in Harper’s Bazaar’s search for America’s #1 Country Christmas Town. The entire town is preoccupied with creating the essence of Christmas for the photojournalist’s lens, though, behind the scenes, residents are not living the spirit of the season. In the midst of the fuss, a stagecoach appears, and out steps Abigail Stanton and her son, Cody (Carter Ryan), who have brought a troubled boy to Lillian’s (Kohan) orphanage.
In When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas, Part 2, photojournalist Paul Franklin is wrapping his stay in Brookfield. By now, he blends in as the town prepares for Christmas Eve. Lillian, the orphans, and Gabriel (Hatanaka) are running out of options to restore the troubled boy’s hope for better times. Just when all seems lost, a secret Santa appears to fulfill all holiday wishes, and Abigail has a profound conversation with a dear friend from the past. Meanwhile, Paul’s lens is recording every miraculous moment.
Executive Producers of When Hope Calls are Brad Krevoy, Brian Bird, Michael Landon, Jr., Alfonso H. Moreno, Kaitlyn Greenough, and David Anselmo. Producer is Kym Crepin. Supervising Producers are W. Michael Beard and Michael Shepard. Director is Bradley Walsh. The spinoff series is created by Alfonso H. Moreno.
Following its debut on Hallmark Movies Now, When Hope Calls Season 1 also aired on the linear Hallmark Channel, with the premiere averaging 2 million total viewers.
With backing from investors, Abbott acquired the Great American Country network, a staple of country music fans, from Discovery, in June, along with Ride TV, a 24-hour, high-definition network for equestrian sports, culture and lifestyle. The Great American Country network has been rebranded as GAC Family, while Ride TV is becoming GAC Living, a non-scripted companion network.
Abbott, who ran Hallmark Channel’s parent company for 11 years before his January 2020 exit amid controversy, is taking on his former network with GAC Family, which is not only featuring similar programming but also some of the same talent. GAC Family will kick off its holiday lineup on Oct. 24, with a special, Welcome to Great American Christmas hosted by Debbie Matenopoulos and Cameron Mathison, former hosts of Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family. The upstart network also has on tap nine holiday movies, including The Great Christmas Switch, Royally Wrapped for Christmas and Christmas is You, with more on the way.
Loughlin, who also exited Netflix’s Fuller House in the wake of the college admissions scandal, is making a return to the spotlight alongside her daughter, Olivia Jade, who is on the current season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.