The Truth About The Hallmark Channel's Alicia Witt

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Alicia Witt is fast becoming one of the queens of the Hallmark Channel, along with Lacey Chabert (currently) and Candace Cameron Bure (formerly). Since 2013, Witt has appeared in more Hallmark Channel films than you can count on two hands, per Country Living. Moreover, in recent years, Witt has become active behind the scenes at Hallmark. She was the one who pitched 2020's "Christmas Tree Lane," a holiday film that, like "You've Got Mail," asks the question, "will these two ever stop fighting long enough to realize they're soulmates?" Witt also exec-produced and helmed the project's COVID-19 production protocol, she told MediaVillage. And let's not forget that Witt also wrote and performed two original songs for the soundtrack (via the Hallmark Christmas Movies Blog).

If you're familiar with Alicia Witt only from her pre-Hallmark Channel oeuvre, perhaps you're wondering if this is the same actress who was first discovered by the Hollywood prince of darkness, David Lynch? Indeed, it is, per Country Living. In fact, Witt made her film debut in "Dune," per IMDb. And yes, we're talking about the same Alicia Witt who played hard-boiled detective Nola Falacci on "Law and Order: Criminal Intent" and the "final girl" opposite Jared Leto in 1998's horror classic "Urban Legend." The actress' career spans decades, and her range is formidable. Keep reading for the truth about the Hallmark Channel's Alicia Witt.

Alicia Witt was a precocious child

To say that Alicia Witt was a precocious child is more than an understatement. The average baby utters their first recognizable word at 1 year old, according to What to Expect. Alicia Witt said her first word ("hi") at one month, according to Los Angeles Times. She followed that up by learning to read at 7 months old — and not your average kiddie picture book, either. By age 1, she was reading Shakespeare, which she soon learned to memorize and recite, in a foreshadowing of the future that lay ahead for her. Per Closer Weekly, 5-year-old Alicia Witt made an astonishing appearance on the 1980s' reality showcase "That's Incredible," in which she acted out the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" — relying entirely on her memorized lines — with host John Davidson, who wasn't quite as prepared (via YouTube).

By the time Alicia Witt was 7, she not only knew the names of all the U.S. capitals, but she could even recite in alphabetical order. That year, she was cast in David Lynch's "Dune," in which she played a child with the wisdom and knowledge of an adult (and that was no coincidence). At the time, Witt was more interested in pursuing a career as a concert pianist. By 11, the home-schooled Worcester, Massachusetts native was playing professional gigs, which is how the LA Times came to profile her in 1987.

She wasn't looking for fame, but it found her

After Alicia Witt's 1980 appearance on "That's Incredible," she came to the attention of director David Lynch. He was having a hard time finding a child articulate enough to play the role of Alia for his science fiction film, "Dune " — as Witt noted in interviews with Fox News and Closer Weekly – and then he saw Witt's performance as Juliet. Witt turned 8 while she was shooting "Dune." When it was done, she went back home to Worcester and went on as before — an extraordinarily gifted child with dreams of becoming a concert pianist. When Witt finally decided as a teen to pursue a career in Hollywood, she supported herself by playing piano — at least until the roles started materializing, which they soon did, per IMDb

After landing a small role in Lynch's groundbreaking television series "Twin Peaks" and several other small roles, Witt got her first starring role as a murderous teen in the chilling 1994 film "Fun." That led to a role in the Allison Anders-directed segment of Quentin Tarantino's 1995 anthology film "The Four Rooms," in which she played opposite Madonna, and a recurring role as Cybill Shepherd's daughter on the mid-90s sitcom "Cybill." "Urban Legend" soon followed, along with roles in television's "The Sopranos," "Ally McBeal," and "Friday Night Lights." Later came recurring roles on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent and "The Mentalist," among many others.

Alicia Witt took on dark roles in the early part of her career

Perusing Alicia Witt's IMDb page, one thing becomes immediately apparent: A great many of Alicia Witt's roles — prior to her affiliation with the Hallmark Channel, which began in 2010 — were dark. As noted above, her first starring role was a teen who kills an elderly woman for "fun," as the 1994 film is aptly titled. She was convincing enough that her chilling performance earned her the Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival that same year, per the Los Angeles Times. As Witt explained in an interview with the LA Times in 1995, this was one of the roles she had taken in an effort to "squelch" her image as an "ethereal" beauty, which was how many apparently described her looks at the time. 

"People tell me I look like a Botticelli painting or stepped out of 'Howards End,'" she observed. Ironically, it was Witt's "unearthly, mystical beauty" that captivated "Fun" director Rafal Zielinski, who approached Witt about starring in the film after having seen her perform on the piano at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Other roles that Witt took on around that time included a lonely high school student opposite Richard Dreyfus in "Mr. Holland's Opus" and a juvenile delinquent opposite Madonna in "The Four Rooms." 

There is a reason Alicia Witt made the transition to the Hallmark Channel

Although Alicia Witt occasionally angled for laughs throughout the first half of her career, dark characters, unspeakable crimes, and devastating drama were a unifying theme — until she discovered there was something appealing about wading into more lighthearted territory, she told Glamour in 2020. "If you're making a movie about something really dark, it does something different to your psyche," she explained. "You'll get home from work and try to shake it off, and you're kind of in a darker place." 

Starting in 2010 with her starring role in "Backyard Wedding," Witt has been collaborating at least annually with the Hallmark Channel to make heartwarming, romantic productions, including more than 10 Christmas-themed TV movies, per IMDb. According to Glamour, Witt saw the benefit of balancing her "darker work" with "Hallmark's lighter fare." "It's fun to come out with a movie where every day you have a happy ending and it's a sweet love story or family story," she's quoted as having said in 2018 (per Glamour). "Fun" is also how Witt described the vibe on the sets of her Hallmark Channel projects. She has also said that she likes the fact that her collaboration with Hallmark makes people happy. "That sort of thing is why I wanted to be an actor in the first place: to help make the world a little bit of a better place," she explained. 

She hasn't abandoned her dark and ironic side

Although Alicia Witt has, in the last dozen or so years, been associated with feel-good Hallmark Channel programming, she hasn't stopped taking on roles in darker programming. For example, in 2013, the same year that Witt made her first Hallmark Channel Christmas movie ("A Very Merry Mix-Up"), she also took on the role of Wendy Crowe, a sister of the crime lord Dale Crowe and a paralegal who easily transitions to the shady side of the street when it benefits her family, per Deadline. And for Witt fans who weren't the Hallmark Channel type, she also made an appearance in the very un-Hallmark-esque Christmas comedy "A Madea Christmas." 

In 2015, Witt took on a two-episode role in Showtime's dark comedy "House of Lies," per ComingSoon. The next year, she appeared in two episodes of "The Walking Dead" as the doomed zombie Paula (via Fansided's Undead Walking). Although Witt took on another sweetly romantic role in television's Nashville in 2016, she quickly moved back into darker, more ironic fare with appearances in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" reboot (2017), "The Exorcist" (2017 television series), and "Orange Is The New Black" (in 2019, she played the third in a love triangle between two main characters in the series' final season). Most recently, she wrapped a true crime film for Lifetime, "The Disappearance of Cari Farver" (via Fansided).

Alicia Witt managed to escape the Hollywood child star curse

The "curse of the child star" holds that people who achieve stardom in childhood are at risk of crashing to earth once they're no longer the adorable moppets the viewing public once fell for, per Medical Bag. According to former child star Mara Wilson (of "Matilda" and "Mrs. Doubtfire" fame), some of this may stem from rebelling against parents who they feel pushed them into stardom, thereby depriving them of a normal childhood free from the pressures of a high-stakes career. However, many factors play a role, including intense public scrutiny, as "Full House" alum Jodie Sweetin has suggested. 

Alicia Witt recalled those pressures in a 2021 interview with Fox News. However, she considers herself fortunate because, as she put it, "ultimately, I was able to find a real sense of balance." That may be attributable to the loving relationship she had with her parents, who supported but did not push her. It may also have something to do with the fact that she and her family considered her appearance in "Dune" to be a one-off thing. "I didn't have an agent, I wasn't auditioning constantly, and I didn't have to move to LA," she explained. Moreover, as she told the Los Angeles Times when she was only 20, one way that her parents supported her burgeoning career was by letting her make her own career decisions.

She is a legit singer/songwriter

Alicia Witt is an actress whose true passion lies in songwriting, according to The Nashville Edit. Although Witt identifies as an actress and was even discovered because David Lynch saw her playing Juliet in a scene from Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" on a 1980 episode of the TV show "That's Incredible," she identifies equally as a pop singer songwriter — one whose impressive musical credentials date back to age 7, when she first began taking classical piano lessons, according to her website

At 11 years old, even after having made her big-screen debut, Witt still had her heart set on a career as a concert pianist, according to the Los Angeles Times. However, as time went on, she came to feel that songwriting communicates her truth most expressively, she told The Nashville Edit. In fact, Witt's entry into songwriting came about because she needed a way to express herself after the breakup of a long-term romantic relationship with an unidentified man. Encouraged by other singer-songwriters who recognized her talent, Witt soon set her sights on becoming a full-fledged professional songwriter, per The Nashville Edit. She now has five albums, including 2018's "15,000 Days," most of which she wrote while working on the TV series "Nashville," where she also performed her original music. Her latest album, "The Conduit," dropped in 2021 (per Fox News). Witt has also performed her own music in some of her TV movies for the Hallmark Channel (via Wide Open Country).

Alicia Witt had an aggressive form of breast cancer

In late May 2022, Alicia Witt revealed to her fans via Instagram that since late 2021, she'd been undergoing treatment for breast cancer, including the removal of her left breast. "There is so much more to share, and I can't wait to do so," she wrote at the time. On June 1, she posted a video in which she bangs a gong in celebration of having completed her chemotherapy treatment, which was neoadjuvant, meaning it preceded her mastectomy (via Instagram). "Just a little over two months ago, I had my last round of chemical therapy prior to my mastectomy," she wrote in the caption. Although the drugs used in her chemotherapy are the kind that have historically caused hair loss, Witt used the "Cold Cap Therapy" to preserve her hair, per

Witt was declared cancer-free in May of 2022 (via Instagram), but will continue immunotherapy treatments through the end of 2022. This is becoming standard protocol for people diagnosed with Witt's type of breast cancer, known as HER2-positive, which is more aggressive and more resistant to classic chemotherapy, according to the Mayo Clinic. However, in the late 1990s, an immunotherapy treatment called Herceptin became available, halving the risk of this particular cancer's spread (per Genentech).

She lost both of her parents in a mysterious 2021 tragedy

On December 21, 2021, just before Alicia Witt began breast cancer treatment, she suffered a devastating loss. Both her parents (Diane Witt, 75, and Robert Witt, 87, both educators, pictured above with Witt), were found deceased in their Worcester, Massachusetts home following a welfare check. Prior to that, they had fallen out of contact with everyone outside their home for several days, including Alicia (via USA Today). "I reached out to a cousin who lives close to my parents to check on them," Witt said, per a written statement (via AP News). "Sadly, the outcome was unimaginable." 

The cause of death remained a mystery until February 23, 2022, when the Massachusetts medical examiner released Mr. and Mrs. Witt's death certificates, listing their deaths as having occurred on December 20, 2021. The probable cause was "cardiac dysrhythmia" resulting from exposure to cold, per an update posted the next day on USA Today. Neighbors stated that the house, which was in extensive disrepair at the time, had been without a working heating system for some period of time. Witt knew that her parents were living in difficult circumstances, but her attempts to intervene were spurned by the elderly couple (via E! News). Witt asked for privacy while she processed her grief (and underwent breast cancer treatment, although she did not reveal that at the time).

Alicia Witt has a rare condition in common with Brad Pitt

Earlier this summer, Brad Pitt discussed with GQ his experience with face blindness, or prosopagnosia, which makes it extremely challenging to recognize or distinguish between faces, even among close friends and family. Prosopagnosia — which is unrelated to "memory dysfunction, memory loss, impaired vision, or learning disabilities," according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke – can be unsettling both for those who suffer from it and their loved ones, as Brad Pitt shared with GQ. For Alicia Witt, who also identifies as a prosopagnosia sufferer, the challenges extend to not being able to keep track of characters in television shows and film, a known presentation of the disorder, per Faceblind

In February 2019, Witt took to Twitter to commiserate with others who might also have trouble keeping the characters straight while watching HBO's "Game of Thrones." She tweeted several times in a row before revealing that part of the problem could be that she has prosopagnosia. It does not appear that Witt has spoken out publicly about it in any other context, which may be why she was not mentioned by Health Digest or other outlets writing about Pitt's condition.

She is a published author and advocate of plant-based eating

At times, Alicia Witt has identified as a vegan, per an undated interview for The Nashville Edit that took place sometime after she moved to Nashville in 2017. However, it's unclear when that began or when it might have given way to the slightly more balanced approach to plant-based eating that she espouses in her 2021 book "Small Changes: A Rules-Free Guide to Add More Plant-Based Foods, Peace and Power to Your Life." 

We do know that in August 2010, Witt spoke to New York Magazine about enjoying sushi before her musical performances at Manhattan's Joe's Pub. On the other hand, she also mentioned how much she enjoys the vegan chicken curry at Whole Foods. By November 2011, PETA – for whom she made a video explaining the importance of adopting, as opposed to shopping, for pets — reported that Witt was indeed a vegan. However, in November 2021, Witt described her eating style to Closer Weekly as mostly plant-based.

"I discovered somewhat accidentally that I prefer to be 99.5% plant-based," she told the outlet several weeks after "Small Changes" was published by a HarperCollins imprint. According to Closer Weekly, the book is a collection of Witt's thoughts on how to find balance in life, including eating more plant-based foods. Witt, who has narrated several audiobooks — including a children's book by the late celebrated author Paula Danziger (via Audible) — also provides the audio narration for "Small Changes."

Alicia's lip was scarred by a fluke injury

Alicia Witt's 2021 "Small Changes" book is not a vegan manifesto, according to Shondaland, but rather a memoir in which Witt recounts her life thus far and how she came to learn that a "few small changes to your daily habits" can "create a new lifestyle that's bursting with energy, health, and mindfulness." Perhaps one of the book's most relatable anecdotes has nothing to do with food and everything to do with being on friendly, if not loving, terms with her flaws, according to E! News, which published the anecdote as an excerpt.

In 2003, while in London filming "The Upside of Anger," Witt was seated outdoors when a cat came flying out a window above and landed on Witt's face (!) before disappearing into the night. "Touching my face, I realized ... my upper lip was completely split in two." The incident left a scar, which Witt initially dreaded. She has since grown fond of her scar and feels touched when anyone sees it and asks her about it. "My confidence has grown immensely ... ever since I abandoned the notion that I should try to be some version of what others want me to be," she wrote. "Once I stopped worrying about my external appearance first and foremost, I feel I became a better actor, [and] I truly believe my external appearance improved, too."