Robert Buckley Continues to Break Ground for Hallmark with "The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls"

By Behind the Scenes in Hollywood Archives
Cover image for  article: Robert Buckley Continues to Break Ground for Hallmark with "The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls"

When describing his brief yet extremely fruitful time at Hallmark Channel, actor Robert Buckley can only refer to it as "surreal." It's a word he used just over a year ago, when after one movie for the network (2020's Love in Store), the following November he was promoting another -- one of their most significant projects to date -- The Christmas House, a movie he pitched, wrote, executive produced and starred in. It was Hallmark's first film to feature a married gay couple, with a major storyline and a kiss, and after being so well received, Buckley, along with the rest of the cast, is back with its sequel, The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls. "'Amazing' is one word for it, 'surreal' is another," he mused during an exclusive interview with MediaVillage. "The fact we got to make the first Christmas House still kind of blows my mind, so the fact that we are talking about a sequel is hard to wrap my head around. I'm just so grateful as it's been such a fun experience, and a great ride."

Buckley had no idea that teaming with Hallmark would become a major career move, yet while shooting the first Christmas House he knew it was something special. "I'm being completely transparent when I say I didn't wait for them to say they had an interest in [another]," he admitted. "While shooting the first one, I was thinking of what we could do for a sequel. To me, it was immediately apparent we had something that could be more than one movie. Filming it, I was kind of brainstorming ideas with a couple of the Hallmark execs, lightheartedly, batting around ideas.

"After the first one was well-received, the time was right and there was a space to pitch this," he continued. "They were immediately like, 'Absolutely. We're doing that.' I think I had an hour phone call with Kate Redinger, an exec whose kind of the backbone of it, and Erin Rodman, the writer. Within that hour we had the outline that was pitched, and they greenlit it."

In the film, approximately two years have passed since we last saw the Mitchell family. Mike (Buckley), Andi (Ana Ayora) and her son Noah (Mattia Castrillo) are navigating life in the family home he purchased. Parents Bill (Treat Williams) and Phyllis (Sharon Lawrence) have adjusted to retirement, while Mike's brother Brandon (Jonathan Bennett) and husband Jake (Brad Harder) are the proud parents of two. Sadly, the Christmas House tradition has been retired; that is, until Mike is invited to participate in Deck the Halls, a celebrity holiday decorating reality show. He reluctantly agrees, but when he finds himself facing off against his brother (in a last-minute change), their competitiveness tests the usually happy clan.

"I think it's different from the first in that it has a lot more fun," said Buckley of the sequel. "Not to say the first one wasn't fun, but part of the fun was the banter I had with Jonathan, and those moments Treat and Sharon got to play were also really fun. I thought if we ever get to make another, I want to do more of that, and we really deliver in this one. Treat and Sharon's storylines were heavier in the first one; this time they're much lighter. There's a lot more banter with Jonathan, that I love, with the brotherly competition. The sincere moments are there, but they're surrounded by a lot of humor and land in a different way, which makes for a nice balance of lightheartedness and sincerity.

"I love Jonathan," he added. "We get along really well, which lends itself to have [that] brotherly banter. We give each other a lot of grief and that made playing this stuff completely effortless as that's how we interact. The heavier stuff was fun too, as we had the opportunity to go to some depths and really work with each other. We also had a new director in Rich Newey, who allowed us to collaborate with different adlibbed takes based on our ideas. Watching it, I was pleasantly surprised with how many made it into the movie."

Buckley is thrilled to have helped open the door to more inclusive storylines on Hallmark and is delighted that the network kept that door open. "I'm so incredibly proud," he shared. "We're seeing a lot more storytelling featuring gay couples and same-sex marriages. The truth is, everyone should be at the table and given a chance to see themselves in a movie and be represented. From a storytelling perspective, by not including all types of relationships you are short-changing yourself, and by bringing them into the fold, you have more colors, so why wouldn't you?"

And there was another unexpected bonus in the Christmas House experience. "After the first one premiered, the Smithsonian reached out to us saying, 'We'd like a couple of pieces of wardrobe and some props to put in our archives,'" Buckley recalled. "It was incredible! They'd started an LGBTQ+ archive and wanted The Christmas House in it because of the fact it was so groundbreaking, and the first time a Hallmark movie had predominantly featured a same-sex couple and a same-sex kiss."

Movies aren't Buckley's only avenue of success with Hallmark. This past April, he landed the plum role of Evan Kinkaid on Chesapeake Shores, alongside his Christmas House dad Williams. "That was a case of, when you're not looking, something comes along," he explained. "My wife and I had just moved to Oregon and were settling into our first house when I got a late-night text from Treat asking, 'You up?' I hopped on the phone, and he asked, 'Hey, have you heard anything?' I had no what he was talking about till he said, 'The guy who owns the [series] I'm on was just asking about you, so keep your ears open.' Sure enough, I got a call on a Thursday asking if I could be on a plane on Monday, and that was it."

After a busy year, this holiday season Buckley is taking it easy. "My wife and I recently had our first child," he said. "I left to do Christmas House 2 when my son was barely two months old, so over the holidays it's going to be daddy duty for me." However, his creativity isn't taking a break. "If you don't think I wasn't pitching ideas for a third Christmas House while shooting this one, you'd be mistaken," he laughed in closing. "I'm hoping Chesapeake will be back, and these Christmas House movies are like getting paid to go on a three-week summer camp with good friends. Yeah, I'm hoping for a third."

The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls will be telecast Saturday, December 18 at 8 p.m. on Hallmark Channel as part of their Countdown to Christmas programming event.

Click the social buttons to share this content with your friends and colleagues.

The opinions and points of view expressed in this content are exclusively the views of the author and/or subject(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of, Inc. management or associated writers.

Copyright ©2024 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.