What You Don't Know About Hallmark Star Alison Sweeney

Soap opera fans know her as Sami Brady from "Days of Our Lives," while Hallmark fans know her as the star of several of the network's films, including "Second Chances," "The Irresistible Blueberry Farm," "Time for You to Come Home for Christmas," the "Murder, She Baked" series," and the "Chronicle Mysteries" films. Sweeney's acting resume dates back to the mid-1980s, and she's racked up dozens of credits since then. She is also recognizable for her role as the host of the reality show "The Biggest Loser" from 2006 until she left the show in 2015.

Although most of Sweeney's roles are in daytime television and made-for-TV films rather than Hollywood blockbusters, that doesn't mean she's not a bona fide star, (and she's reportedly a total sweetheart, to boot). Whether you're a longtime "DOOL" viewer or a Hallmark aficionado, there's still a lot to learn about one of TV's reigning queens.

Alison Sweeney evaded the child star curse

Alison Sweeney was just 7 years old when she landed her first role, a spot in a 1984 episode of "Simon & Simon." She followed that up with other small roles, including parts in "Webster," "St. Elsewhere," "Family Man," and "A Brand New Life" (via IMDb).

While child stars often struggle later in life due to the pressures of growing up on-screen, Sweeney is grateful for those early opportunities. In an interview with Closer Weekly, she revealed that growing up in the entertainment industry taught her some useful skills and life lessons. "Discipline and work ethic was always instilled in me as a kid," she said. "I was really lucky to have rock-solid parents who helped me through the industry and didn't pressure me to do it. It was my choice, and I always wanted to be a part of telling the story behind the scenes."

Sweeney has remained grounded over the years, perhaps because she knew from the age of 6 that she wanted to be on camera. "It's a dream come true, quite literally," she said. She also credits her family with keeping her down to earth, telling Fox News, "I was really lucky. I'm from LA, so it wasn't a big fish out of water story, and my parents are super grounded and normal and real and tough and strict."

She landed her breakout role on Days of Our Lives when she was just 16

After getting her start in television at the tender age of 7, Alison Sweeney landed steady acting jobs for the next several years. When she was 16, she landed the role that would launch her to stardom: Sami Brady on the popular soap opera "Days of Our Lives."

In her 2004 memoir, "All The Days Of My Life (So Far)," Sweeney wrote about what it was like to portray the iconic soap opera bad girl, revealing that she had been a fan of the show before becoming one of its most memorable stars. "The day-to-day turmoil in Salem provided the perfect escape from my own real-life dramas at school," she wrote (via Today). "'Days' was (and is) absolutely habit-forming. So when I was chosen to play Sami in 1993, at the age of 16, I felt like the luckiest girl in the world."

She does more than just star in Hallmark films

As noted by Wide Open Country, Alison Sweeney made her Hallmark debut in 2013 with "Second Chances, AKA Hearts on Fire." She's more recognized for her role as Hannah Swensen, though, having portrayed the character in several "Murder, She Baked" films. 

"Stepping into the role of Hannah is a bit like when I walk back onto set at 'Days' as Sami; they both are a part of me now," she told TV Shows Ace. "I love the character of Hannah for her curiosity, her determination and her 'no quit' attitude."

Sweeney is a Hallmark Channel mainstay, but she does more than star in movies for the network. She's also been the executive producer of several films, including "Christmas at Holly Lodge," "Open by Christmas," and "The Wedding Veil Legacy" (via IMDb).

She also produces the "Hannah Swensen Mysteries," a TV film series spinoff of the "Murder, She Baked" films. "It's a lot to deal with," she told Monsters and Critics of starring in and producing a series. "There's always so much to think about. There's a lot of different steps."

Alison has struggled with her weight and self-image

Alison Sweeney has had a successful career, but growing up on camera wasn't without its drawbacks. For years, she struggled with her self-image and fluctuating weight. "From the time I was 12, I was overweight, and as a teen, I definitely struggled with my weight," she told the now-defunct Working Mother magazine (via PopSugar). Sweeney experimented with fad diets, but they didn't help her keep the weight off. Eventually, she realized that her struggle wasn't with her weight so much as it was with her own self-esteem. "It was about me feeling insecure and lacking confidence," she admitted.

Sweeney has been open about her journey to a healthier lifestyle and loving her own body, telling Dear Doctor that she hopes to inspire others. "I figured a lot of people would identify with me and maybe it would help other girls to know we're going through the same things," she said.

She works hard to stay healthy

These days, Alison Sweeney has a much healthier relationship with her body. She told Working Mother magazine (via PopSugar) that she's careful about her diet, making sure to eat healthy — something her husband is able to help with, as he is "a great griller."

Sweeney also finds time in her busy schedule to get plenty of exercise, saying, "I do a lot of cardio, especially spin classes. I also run, hike, and do circuit training and yoga. I typically work out four or five days a week."

She told Dear Doctor that she's also careful not to consume too much sugar, and she keeps sugar and carb cravings at bay by snacking on fruits and veggies. In an interview with Delish, she said she doesn't keep prepackaged snacks in the house, instead opting for healthier choices. She even makes homemade trail mix, putting in lots of nutritious ingredients. "I'm an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink chef, so I'll throw in almonds, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, dried blueberries, those kinds of things," she said.

Alison Sweeney also has directing experience

Alison Sweeney is incredibly skilled at bringing projects to life, whether she's in front of the camera or behind it. Per her IMDb, she's directed several episodes of the soap operas "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital," as well as a short film titled "A Cow Walks Into a Bar." She told Smashing Interviews that her busy schedule makes it hard to find the time to direct, but that she loves doing it and that she's "always on alert for the opportunity."

Directing Hallmark films could also be in her future, as she hinted to My Devotional Thoughts in an interview about her involvement with the network. "I love every aspect of making a project," she said. "Whether directing or producing, it's so fun to shape the movie from behind the camera as well as my role as an actor."

Sweeney added that she'd "love to explore" both directing and writing for the screen.

She's a published author

Is there anything Alison Sweeney can't do? As if raising a family and being a big star weren't enough, she is also quite a successful author. She has several publications under her belt, notes Hallmark Drama, including the novels "The Star Attraction," "Opportunity Knocks," and Scared Scriptless." She's also turned out two nonfiction titles, a memoir called "All The Days Of My Life (So Far)" and "The Mommy Diet."

"It was definitely a very scary thing to do because it was so new for me," she told RetailMeNot's blog, The Real Deal, of venturing into writing. "I feel confident about the work I do as an actress and host, but to write a book and publish it was very intimidating."

She explained that she wanted to become a novelist because she's "a storyteller" at heart, adding, "it just was really satisfying to me as a storyteller to feel like I could be writing stories myself that turn out the way I want them to turn out."

Alison is unlikely to return to Days of Our Lives full-time

Alison Sweeney spent a good chunk of her life playing Sami Brady on "Days of Our Lives." Sweeney announced her departure from the soap opera in 2014 in an appearance on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" (via USA Today). Sweeney had been on the show for 21 years at that point, and said she had "decided that it's going to be my last year with the show."

Sweeney explained that she wanted to spend more time with her kids, saying, "I just want to be with them." While she has been spotted on the soap opera in guest spots over the years, fans hoping for a full-time return will be disappointed. In an interview with People, she said that she's just too busy to return to the soap. "I love playing Sami, but no, full-time is not the plan for me," she said. "Because I produce and develop content for Hallmark, and for other streaming services. I love getting to do my own projects: I love producing."

Fans can expect to see her continue to revisit the character, though. "It's like visiting my family during the holidays," she said of her brief returns to the "Days of Our Lives" set. In an interview with Soap Opera Digest, she said that she has no problem slipping back into Sami's shoes no matter how long she's been away, saying, "It's funny, it's not hard at all. For some reason, stepping back into that every time, it just feels so natural."

Alison has been married for over 20 years

While her "Days of Our Lives" counterpart, Sami Brady, has had quite the tumultuous love life, Alison Sweeney has been happily married to the same man for decades. She told Access Live that she and David Sanov met as kids through their parents, explaining, "His dad and my mom played the violin for feature film soundtracks ... I totally had a crush on him when we were kids." 

The two make quite the team. In an interview with Cupid's Pulse, she said, "Dave is my partner. ... each day, we take time to ensure we are there for one another and our children."

Sweeney paid tribute to her hubby on their 20th anniversary in a 2020 Instagram post. The two celebrated the milestone anniversary during COVID-19 lockdowns from their backyard, but still managed to have a wonderful time. "Not quite how we'd planned it, but ... that's one of the best lessons we've learned over the last 20 years," she wrote in the caption. "Some of the best adventures come when plans get chucked out the window."

She's a doting mom to her two children

Alison Sweeney and her husband, David Sanov, have two kids together. The couple welcomed their son, Benjamin Edward, in 2005. A daughter, Megan Hope, followed in 2009. 

While unexpected baby names were popular in the 2000s, Sweeney eschewed a unique moniker in favor of something more traditional for each of her kids. "There have been a lot of quirky, unusual celebrity baby names," she told People. "But we wanted people to be able to spell it. We wanted it to be more timeless."

Sweeney threw herself into motherhood and has always prioritized her kids, telling Smashing Interviews that when she's not working, she's with them. "For me, it's important to create that stability for them in their lives," she said. "I love being a mom, and I love everything that we do. It's been fun to spend time with them at home, even if it's just making dinner or helping them with their homework."

It's not easy to balance all that she does

Like many working parents, Alison Sweeney finds it difficult to balance her work life and her home life. With two kids at home and a busy shooting schedule, her life is pretty hectic, to say the least. To keep on top of things, she told Soaps.com that compartmentalizing is key. "It's definitely busy, and I try to focus on just doing things one day at a time, not overwhelming myself [with] how big my responsibilities are for the whole week," she said. "I just think, 'Okay. Today I'm going to do this.'"

She also makes sure to carve out time with her hubby, David Sanov, whether that means cooking meals or having a late-night snack after their kids have gone to bed. "At the end of the day, your relationship and love is the anchor of your busy lifestyle, and if you make that a priority, you'll be able to tackle all else together," she told Cupid's Pulse.

Alison Sweeney lives a pretty frugal lifestyle

Having spent most of her life on television, you'd expect Alison Sweeney would have amassed quite a hefty fortune — and you'd be right. Per Celebrity Net Worth, she has $9 million to her name. While that may sound like a lot of money, she's very careful to make sure it lasts. Far from living a lavish lifestyle, Sweeney told RetailMeNot's The Real Deal that she is "definitely budget-conscious."

She explained that, while she does invest in nice things, she's saving money for her family's future. "When you have kids, they are your priority, and all I think about is making sure we save for a rainy day, making sure we have our kids' education fund set aside, making sure that we know their lives are set up," she said.

Sweeney added that her hectic schedule makes saving money a little easier, saying, "I'm busy working, and I don't have time to spend a lot of money."

She's in it for the long haul with Hallmark

Alison Sweeney is almost synonymous with Hallmark at this point, and the collaboration is only going to get stronger if Sweeney has anything to say about it. She's dedicated to the network, telling TV Shows Ace in 2021 that she has lots of plans for future Hallmark projects.

It seems safe to say that Sweeney will happily continue starring in films for the network for the foreseeable future, and her fans wouldn't have it any other way. That includes her family, who love Sweeney's involvement with the network. She told People that her children are particularly fond of her mystery movies, while her husband and mother offer assistance on various aspects of the production. Sweeney explained that her husband draws on his expertise as a former cop and "always lends a hand and gives me advice on some of the cop dialogue in the scene," while her mother is "a musician, so she always weighs in on the music in all the movies."

Alison Sweeney does her own stunts

Alison Sweeney has starred in many different kinds of projects for Hallmark over the years, from Christmas films like "Good Morning Christmas!" and "Open by Christmas" to romances like "The Wedding Veil" trilogy and "The Irresistible Blueberry Farm." Then there are the mysteries, like the "Murder, She Baked" and "Chronicle Mysteries." 

When asked whether she prefers starring in Hallmark romance movies or mystery movies, Sweeney admitted to Monsters & Critics that she has a soft spot for mystery movies for a surprising reason: She revealed that she often does the stunts herself, and has a blast doing so. "I love the tension and the drama of the danger and all those kinds of moments," she said. "So for me, yes, those are my favorites to do. Don't get me wrong. I love the romance, I love it all, but for me, my favorite is the mysteries."