TV viewers who adore sweet, romantic films will likely recall the shockwaves that went through the fandom when a number of Hallmark’s big stars left for rival, Great American Family. That exodus began a little over a year ago, but the biggest surprise to fans probably came when the Fuller House star who had been seen as the queen of Hallmark, Candace Cameron Bure, signed an exclusive deal with GAF in mid-April 2022. But, there’s been way more controversy surrounding her move in recent weeks, when she noted that the network’s 2022 Christmas movies and other content would focus on “traditional marriage.” Now, in the backlash that’s followed, GAF star Neal Bledsoe has split with the network in an emotional statement.
What Did Neal Bledsoe Say About His Decision To Leave GAF?
Though Cameron Bure’s choice to leave and work exclusively for GAF was likely the biggest surprise to fans, it was actress Danica McKellar, in October 2021, who was the first to really make news from her switch. GAF had its first big holiday movie season that same year, and one of their movies, The Winter Palace, starred Bledsoe, who is also in this season’s Christmas at the Drive-In, which co-stars McKellar. After the comments made by the Full House star, though, Bledsoe has now left the newer network, in a passionate statement given to Variety. It says, in part:
You may have noticed that I have been unusually silent at a time when I should have been promoting a holiday film, a film with the express purpose of bringing everyone comfort in a time of great tumult and change, but I cannot continue with business as usual. I cannot take comfort from, nor will I give refuge to, those who excuse exclusion and promote division in any way, shape, or form. Everyone is entitled to their beliefs, and these are mine: the recent comments made by leadership at Great American Family are hurtful, wrong, and reflect an ideology that prioritizes judgment over love. I was raised as a Christian, and believe in the essential message of love and forgiveness. That said, I could never forgive myself for continuing my relationship with a network that actively chooses to exclude the LGBTQIA+ community.
Bledsoe, who has also been in Hallmark’s Coming Home for Christmas and A Christmas Carousel, referred to the “leadership” at the growing network because Cameron Bure isn’t just acting in movies there, but is also now its chief creative officer, meaning that she works with GAF’s CEO, Bill Abbott, and others to determine the types of stories that will be shown. Abbott, in fact, added that those in charge at the network are “aware of the trends,” to which Bledsoe also said:
This is about someone in an executive position speaking about deliberate exclusion on behalf of an entire network. This is why the phrase 'traditional marriage' is as odious as it is baffling. Not simply wrong in its morality, it’s also a moot point, when you consider that most romantic movies don’t feature married couples at all, nor even weddings, but simply people meeting and falling in love. To describe that love and the full human representation of the LGBTQIA+ community as a 'trend' is also both troubling and confusing.
It’s been less than a month since the Full House talent opened up about the goals that she and GAF are embracing when it comes to its content. That immediately brought people like former Hallmark and One Tree Hill star Hilarie Burton down on Cameron Bure, whom she called a “bigot” for excluding same sex couples from their films.
Others have come out to either speak against or defend GAF and one of its leaders. YouTube star JoJo Siwa (who already had a dust up with the actress earlier this year after calling Cameron Bure the rudest celeb she’d met) called the decision to purposely exclude the LGBTQ+ community “shitty.” Hallmark stars like Holly Robinson Peete and Jonathan Bennett also responded with words that landed on the side of love stories needing to be inclusive, while Jodie Sweetin supported both Peete and Siwa on social media, which led to her former co-star seemingly unfollowing her.
We have yet to see whether or not anyone else who’s appeared in content for Great American Family will cut ties with the channel, but if they do, it’s likely that such news will come before too much longer.