13 Former Soap Stars Who Made The Move To Hallmark

The ever-lengthening list of actors to have appeared in Hallmark Channel movies and TV series really does run the gamut, from Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth (2019's "A Christmas Love Story") to Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex herself (2015's "The Dater's Handbook"). Even TV legends Betty White (2011's "The Lost Valentine") and Ed Asner (who starred in a whopping five Hallmark movies) have made their mark on the network.

In fact, that impressive roster also includes a considerable number of actors who are best known for their roles in soap operas. That shouldn't be all that surprising; soap actors, as it turns out, are considerably well-suited for Hallmark productions. Both soaps and Hallmark movies move at a lightning pace. A typical Hallmark movie is filmed in as little as 15 days, with actors often signing on days before production begins, according to Vancouver Sun. Soap stars are trained to memorize tons of dialogue at a moment's notice, and they move quickly from scene to scene without retakes unless absolutely necessary. These are all skills that make them particularly perfect fits for the fast-paced world of the Hallmark Channel.

Here's the scoop on former soap stars who've made the move to Hallmark.

Ashley Williams got her start on As the World Turns

If Hallmark Channel were to ever nominate an actor for MVP, there's no question that Ashley Williams would be in the running. The 2016 rom-com "Love on a Limb" served as Williams' first Hallmark project — and it was far from her last. Since then, she's appeared in numerous films and TV series for the network, including two "Sister Swap" movies, in which she starred alongside her real-life sibling Kimberly Williams-Paisley.

While Williams' other television credits include a recurring role on "How I Met Your Mother," and portraying comedian Jim Gaffigan's wife in his eponymous sitcom "The Jim Gaffigan Show," soap fans know she began her career on "As the World Turns" as Danielle "Dani" Andropoulos. As Williams revealed in an interview with My Devotional Thoughts, she grew up next door to soap star Anna Holbrook (aka Sharlene Frame on "Another World"), who regaled her with stories about the fun of playing make-believe on a soap opera. "Getting to play for a living felt like the ultimate goal in life," Williams recalled. 

Williams fondly remembers her five years (1995 to 2000) on "As the World Turns." "I'd do a soap again in a heartbeat," she revealed. "As a mom, there's no greater gift than a steady gig, and I love the storytelling in soaps. It would also fulfill my lifelong dream of being Anna Holbrook, so that's a no brainer."

Jonathan Bennett learned the ropes on All My Children

Jonathan Bennett has long been a staple of the Hallmark Channel. In 2022, he made Hallmark history by starring in the network's first-ever LGBTQ+ Christmas film, "The Holiday Sitter." "I'm just so proud to stand with Hallmark, and make inclusive programming because it's fun to stand on the right side of history," Bennett told Them. Beyond Hallmark, Bennett is best known for playing Aaron Samuels in the iconic 2004 comedy "Mean Girls." However, prior to appearing in the Lindsay Lohan classic, one of Bennett's earliest roles was in the daytime drama "All My Children." Back in 2001, he was cast as teenage Adam "J.R." Chandler Jr.

As Bennett revealed in a 2017 interview with Soap Opera Digest, he wound up getting the role due to something of a fluke. "It was because I got bored during the audition and leaned up against a wall," he recalled. "They thought it was an actor choice and that I was being edgy and didn't care. But it was literally because I am really hyper and the audition was taking a long time. So I just got tired and leaned up against the wall. They thought it was so cool."

Looking back, Bennett is grateful for the skills he gleaned from "All My Children," which remain beneficial for his Hallmark roles. "I learned how to learn dialogue really quickly and take direction on the fly," he explained, "which really helped when making films, especially independent films."

Hallmark star Jack Wagner is a veteran of multiple soaps

Jack Wagner is no stranger to viewers of the Hallmark Channel. In addition to being a series regular on "When Calls the Heart," he's appeared in a large share of Christmas movies. Wagner also starred alongside his former "Melrose Place" co-star Josie Bissett in multiple "Wedding March" movies.

Likewise, Wagner's face is certainly a familiar one to soap fans. In addition to playing Warren Lockridge on "Santa Barbara," he's also portrayed Frisco Jones on "General Hospital" and Dominick "Nick" Marone on "The Bold and the Beautiful" — appearing in a staggering 1,334 episodes of the latter.

When he was younger, Wagner balked at being pigeonholed as a soap star. "It was a hard label to be called a 'soap opera actor.' That's how I was always referred to in articles," he admitted to My Devotional Thoughts. Since then, however, he's come to appreciate the skills he learned in soaps. That's particularly true when filming Hallmark Channel's "When Calls the Heart," which he said shoots up to eight pages in a day, compared to 55 to 60 pages on a soap. "I think it's hard for anyone to wrap their mind around how quickly things happen on a soap opera," Wagner explained. "And the challenge is giving a good, believable performance when you ultimately don't have a lot of rehearsal time."

Lacey Chabert's journey to Hallmark began on All My Children

Lacey Chabert was just a kid when she was cast as Bianca Montgomery, daughter of Susan Lucci's Erica Kane on "All My Children" — the third actor to be cast in that role. "I was 10 years old," Chabert said of the role during an appearance on "Live with Kelly and Ryan." That marked the beginning of Chabert's successful career as a child actor. She went on to star in the Fox drama "Party of Five" and then hit the big screen in "Lost in Space." In 2004, she was cast in perhaps her most beloved role: Gretchen Wieners in "Mean Girls." 

In 2010, Chabert played the lead in "Elevator Girl" — the first of many Hallmark Channel movies in which she would star. Later, she was cast in "Matchmaker Santa," "Christmas Melody," and the cleverly titled "Pride, Prejudice, and Mistletoe." She also headlined Hallmark's "Crossword Mysteries" franchise and starred in "The Christmas Veil" and its two sequels. 

Chabert is happy to call Hallmark Channel home. "I love telling these stories," Chabert told Vulture of the network's uplifting fare. "People talk about the formula of them or certain things we're trying to hit, but it works really well. It's my job to leave the audience a little bit surprised and try to find a different way into that story." She continued, saying, "I try to make the characters as human as possible, or create a character the audience can see themselves in. Hopefully it's a bit different than the last one I played."

Ryan Paevy's General Hospital background prepared him for Hallmark Channel

Hallmark Channel favorite Ryan Paevy is a veteran of "General Hospital," playing Nathan West from 2013 to 2018, when he made the decision to exit the show. "My contract came up," Paevey told SoapHub. "There are other avenues I want to explore. It's an amicable parting. Our time together has run its course."

One of the first projects he took on after leaving the soap was the Hallmark Channel movie "Marrying Mr. Darcy," which led to further work with Hallmark, including the movies "From Friend to Fiancé," "Hope at Christmas," and "Harvest Love." Like other former soap stars who jump into the world of Hallmark, Paevy's background in daytime drama proved invaluable in coping with the speedy pace of production that characterizes Hallmark Channel movies. "My introduction to it was fast, long days, lots of pages. I had never really done anything before ['General Hospital'], so I was just like 'Okay, well, that's what this is, so I'll learn how to do this.' And Hallmark movies, by comparison, are actually a much more relaxed pace than a soap day," Paevy told Wide Open Country

When he's worked on other series, he admitted, he's found it amusing to hear actors complain about the workload. "You get on a show like this and they've got nine, 10 pages [to film] and everybody's losing their mind. I'm like, 'I did 76 once. I'm sure we can handle 10,'" Paevey joked.

Alison Sweeney spent 30-plus years on Days of Our Lives before heading to Hallmark

Few actors have been more associated with "Days of Our Lives" than Alison Sweeney, who was cast as fan-favorite character Sami Brady way back in 1987. "I started when I was 16 years old. And I was just this dopey kid, and I just loved it," Sweeney said of her "Days" role during an appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show."

In 2013, Alison Sweeney starred in her first movie for the Hallmark Channel, "Second Chances." It would not be her last; the following year, she said farewell to "Days of Our Lives" after 21 years and began pursuing other opportunities — some of which included additional projects for Hallmark. These days, Sweeney has become as well known for her Hallmark work than for her "Days" role. That includes the "Chronicle Mysteries" and "Murder She Baked" franchises, as well as holiday-themed fare like "Christmas at Holly Lodge," "Good Morning, Christmas!" and "Time for You to Come Home for Christmas."

For Sweeney, being able to become a part of viewers' holiday celebrations has been heartwarming. "I find myself so honored to be part of people's Christmas holiday traditions," she told TV Shows Ace. "Being in these movies is so special to me because they know it is so special to the fans. This is their holiday tradition to turn on Hallmark at Christmastime and watch them all."

Cameron Mathison was a soap veteran when he made the jump to Hallmark

There is no questioning Cameron Mathison's soap opera cred. In 1998, he was cast as Ryan Lavery in "All My Children." To say he stuck around a while would be putting in mildly. Mathison played the character in more than 1,100 episodes until finally parting ways with the series in 2011. A decade later, he returned to daytime when he joined "General Hospital" in the role of Drew Cain. "I am loving every second of it," Mathison told Soap Opera Digest, "I'm having such a good time. It feels in many ways like coming home."

During the period between those two soaps, Mathison joined the Hallmark Channel family, beginning with the 2013 holiday movie "The Christmas Ornament." Mathison went on to become a Hallmark regular, appearing in numerous movies, including the "Murder She Baked" movie series, starring alongside fellow soap vet Alison Sweeney. In addition, Mathison also became the face of Hallmark Channel thanks to his gig on the network's daily talk show, "Home & Family," which he co-hosted alongside Debbie Matenopoulos until the series ended in 2021.

Jen Lilley was a two-time soap veteran when she came to Hallmark

In addition to starring in numerous Hallmark Channel movies, Jen Lilley starred in not one but two popular soap operas. She played Maxie Jones on "General Hospital" from 2011 to 2012 and Theresa Donovan in "Days of Our Lives" from 2013 until 2018. Speaking with Showbiz Cheat Sheet, Lilley opened up about the stress that's part of the everyday life of a soap actor. "There are no teleprompters," she explained. "You are doing anywhere from 150 to 200 pages a day on soap operas. Word perfect. ... And if you mess up, you will get recast."

After starring in soaps, she found a home at Hallmark Channel, starring in such films as "Paris, Wine & Romance," "Snowkissed," and the holiday heart-warmer, "Mingle All the Way," among many others. As she revealed in an interview with Parade, she's come to appreciate the experience of working on the network's movies. "Hallmark Channel treats their actors and actresses with utmost respect," she shared. "Their scripts remind of me of why entertainment exists in the first place: escape. Hallmark Channel gives their viewers a unique, warm, stress-free escape from life, and leaves you encouraged, uplifted and happy."

Chandler Massey joined Hallmark after a long run on Days of Our Lives

Chandler Massey joined "Days of Our Lives" in 2010 as Will Horton, one of the most iconic LGBTQ+ characters in the soap genre. The character went on to make history in 2014 when Will married Sonny Kiriakis (then played by Freddie Smith) in the first-ever same-sex marriage between two men to be depicted on a soap. Massey remained on "Days" for over a decade, eventually leaving in 2023 after over starring in over 700 episodes.

A couple of years before leaving the popular soap, Massey made his Hallmark Channel debut in the holiday film "Next Stop, Christmas." Speaking with Soap Opera Network in 2021, Massey recalled his surprise at being offered his first Hallmark Christmas movie. "I didn't really believe it because it just came out of nowhere. It fell from the sky ... a gift from the universe," he shared. "It was just kind of a shock, and then it sunk in like, 'Holy crap! This is going to be a lot of fun.'"

The following year, Massey starred in another holiday flick, "A Tale of Two Christmases," and also appeared in "Heart of the Matter" for the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. In the latter movie, Massey portrayed a character with an intellectual disability. "Obviously, 'Next Stop, Christmas' was so much fun and I thought it was really charming, and ['Heart of the Matter'] was probably the biggest acting challenge for me of my career," Massey said in a 2022 interview with Soap Opera Network.

Hallmark star Trevor Donovan got his start in soaps

Trevor Donovan is best known for playing Teddy Montgomery on "90210," the reboot of iconic teen drama "Beverly Hills, 90210." One of Trevor Donovan's earlier screen credits, however, was "Days of Our Lives," in which he played Jeremy Horton back in 2007. In 2012, Donovan made his Hallmark Channel debut, portraying a country singer in the movie "Strawberry Summer." He went on to appear in several other Hallmark projects, including "Marry Me at Christmas," "Nostalgic Christmas," "USS Christmas," and "Nantucket Noel."

Speaking with Wide Open Country, Donovan expressed his pride at being a part of the Hallmark Channel success story. "Hallmark movies have been a place for people to, for the past 10, 12 years ... a place for people to sort of escape and know that they're [watching] this morally uplifting, positive message, feel-good story that's going to have a happy ending," Donovan explained.

While the actor has chosen roles outside of the Hallmark Channel, those heartwarming storylines still hold a special appeal. "I have other projects outside of this that are challenging, and maybe darker, and stuff," he told TV Fanatic of appearing in holiday movies, "but to do this and to tell kind of a light story like that, it's a feel-good project."

General Hospital alum Vanessa Marcil is no stranger to Hallmark fans

Vanessa Marcil is known for her roles in the blockbuster action movie "The Rock," playing Gina Kincaid in "Beverly Hills, 90210," and Sam Marquez in the primetime drama "Las Vegas." For soap fans, however, Marcil will always be fondly remembered for playing Brenda Barrett on "General Hospital," a role she originated in 1992 and continued to play, on and off, until 2015. "They've always made me feel super welcome and like it's my home," she told TV Line of being able to dip in and out of "GH" over the years. "I mean, they're awesome."

In 2008, Marcil made her Hallmark Channel debut in the film "The Nanny Express," which led to several more projects for the network. These included "Stranded in Paradise," and "The Convenient Groom." 

Regardless of the role — whether it's in a Hallmark movie or any other project — Marcil is adamant about doing her research. "I immerse myself into whatever the role is. I research it and follow the backstory. I study like a mad person and I run my lines for like 12 hours at a time," she told TV Source. I feel like this magic spark just appears and something just clicks in my performances," she added. "I work my ass off because I feel like one day the magic might not appear and I'll be just stuck."

Casey Deidrick's credits include Days of Our Lives and the Hallmark Channel

You may know Casey Deidrick from The CW's series "In the Dark," as he portrayed Max Parish throughout the entirety of the series' 2019-2022 run. He made his television debut, however, back in 2009 as Chad DiMera in the NBC soap "Days of Our Lives." He exited the show in 2013.

"Leaving 'Days' was completely my decision. I wanted to pursue other career opportunities. I felt like it was just time to try something else, I don't like staying in one spot for too long," he said of his exit in an interview with She Knows, adding, "I will always cherish the time I had on 'Days' and the people I got to work with."

In 2021, Deidrick made his first (and only, as of this writing) Hallmark Channel movie, "A Very Merry Bridesmaid." At the time, he spoke about the film with Digital Journal, revealing how much he enjoyed being part of a heartwarming holiday movie — because he's actually a fan of those movies himself. "This film was honestly a dream come true," he shared. "I've never been a part of a Christmas film before, and it's actually a tradition for my family and me to celebrate Christmas and watch these types of films."

Soap legend Linda Dano starred in a Hallmark movie about a soap opera

To describe Linda Dano as a soap veteran is something of an understatement. During the course of an acting career that began in the 1960s, she's appeared in "As the World Turns," "All My Children," "Port Charles," "One Life to Live," "General Hospital," "Guiding Light," and "Days of Our Lives." However, she's best known for playing Felicia Gallant in more than 1,300 episodes of "Another World." 

In 2019, Dano appeared in her first Hallmark Channel project — an episode of "The Chronicle Mysteries." In 2021, she returned for Hallmark's "A Little Daytime Drama," co-starring with fellow soap alums Ryan Paevy and Jen Lilley. In the film, Dano plays Alice Hamlin, the creator of a long-running soap who's contemplating retirement, eager to pass the torch to the show's head writer, Maggie Coleman (Lilley). Complications arise, however, when Alice decides to bring back fan-favorite actor Darin Mitchell (Paevy) — who also happens to be Maggie's ex. 

"When my agent called and said, 'They want you for this role,' I said, 'Oh, I don't think that's much of a stretch, and I can do this one,'" she told MediaVillage. "I loved it." Dano added, "I was thrilled to be asked, as I knew the background and what it was about. I lived it for what, 35 years of my career? I got it, I understood the closeness that happens on a soap opera or whatever show it is."