Fans believe in the magic of Hallmark programming. It's feel-good, heartwarming entertainment that often reminds you of the beauty in this world.
It's also one of the few options available if you're looking for a little old-fashioned romance. It's the on-screen counterpart of Harlequin Romance novels, which bypass sex for love.
Hallmark movies give us hope that we, too, will find a soul willing to see the best of us while accepting our faults.
Katie Cassidy and Stephen Huszar star in A Royal Christmas Crush, premiering this Saturday on Hallmark Channel. Hunky royals are a modern-day fantasy in the Hallmark universe, and Katie's Ava Jensen and Stephen's Prince Henry fall madly in love.
As it turns out, so did the costars, as Katie and Stephen announced recently they were, in fact, a couple.
Looking at their photos, you can see they're a beautiful match. Seeing them on screen together hints at what their relationship could be, and when the characters meet for the first time, Katie's face unknowingly registers perfectly for the camera what she is feeling about Stephen.
A Royal Christmas Crush is Katie's first Hallmark production, and when we spoke recently, I said I would have asked her how it was, but since she landed the prince, it seemed to go pretty well.
Katie laughed, "Oh, hilarious! Yes, it definitely was a fun experience for sure. And obviously, well, maybe it's not obvious, but this is the first time that falling for a costar has ever happened to me."
Love happens all the time on and off-screen, and because of the closeness of actors during production, sometimes a kiss is more than just a kiss.
While Katie worries that it's a bit cliche, she also realizes that sometimes you've got to follow your heart. "I honestly did not expect any of this to happen, but you kind of just let go and let the universe take you where it's supposed to."
"And yeah, I can't stop smiling," Katie laughed.
If Katie is new to this world and its devoted fans, Stephen has over a dozen shows and movies in his rearview mirror. This marked the first time that he realized that, well, Hallmark really is love.
He admits that their feelings took both him and Katie by surprise. "It's one of those fairytales, you know? Why not let it happen?"
A Royal Christmas Crush finds Prince Henry holding out for love until he meets the right woman, despite his family's protests. When they meet, Prince Henry and Ava discover so many similarities between them that what follows next is natural.
What you see on screen is almost precisely what happened behind it.
"Katie and I have so many similarities," Stephen said, noting that while it often takes a little while for people to get to know each other on these shoots, with Katie, it was surprisingly quick. "We both love our crystals," he laughed, "and we both have these interesting quirks, so right away, we knew there was a good connection."
Both Stephen and Katie agreed that they kept it professional while shooting the movie, "as well we should," Stephen said, but their chemistry is undeniable.
Acting ensures that we believe characters fall for each other, but Stephen said, "There's also something that just happens, a connection that happens that you can't really force; you can't plan. That's the sort of magic of what you see on camera, so it's wonderful to hear that you witnessed that as well."
When it comes to falling in love, it's hard to think of a better place than a genuine ice castle, where the movie takes place and was filmed.
Katie said she'd shot a few snowy movies, such as Black Christmas, but even then, although there was snow on the ground, they used movie magic snow machines to bring it home. "It was gross," she said. But not with A Royal Christmas Crush.
"This was all real," she said, "and it was freaking freezing."
The ice hotel is an actual location just outside Quebec City in Canada. The production landed the hotel at the end of its lifecycle when guests had departed, and all that was left was for it to melt back down to nothing.
Architects like Katie's character in the movie sculpt the ice hotel, but their hard work is fleeting. "At the end of the winter, the castle melts away," Katie shared. "Their work just melts away, and then they do it all again the following year. I thought that was really cool."
Stephen said they had three weeks to a month of production time to finish the whole movie before it disappeared, taking the magic away with it.
Katie tried out one of the ice beds ("I think they take a lot of jacuzzis"), and Stephen slipped between the covers as well ("It was surprisingly warm"), but they weren't permitted to give it more than a test drive as it was considered a safety risk.
They did share a unique scene as Ava and Prince Henry went down an ice slide together, filming it themselves as they laughed delightedly to the bottom. Director Marita Jane Grabiak suggested they film their descent with a cell phone, and the cuts, which made it into the movie, create one of the film's most engaging scenes.
Katie hadn't watched a lot of Hallmark before joining the production, but she couldn't turn down the opportunity. "Who doesn't want to play a princess who gets swept off her feet by her price?" she laughed.
And although he's old (hunky) hat at Hallmark, A Royal Christmas Crush marks Stephen's first time playing a prince. He was particularly excited that he got to use an accent, which helped him transition from being Stephen into Prince Henry.
It doesn't help that with the Queen's passing and Prince Harry and Megan in the new cycle so frequently, royalty is fresh on everyone's mind, which both are hoping will bring eyes to their Christmas in July original.
Ava Jensen may be a far cry from Katie's turn as Laura Lance as Black Canary/Black Siren on Arrow and certainly from her well-received turns in horror films like Black Christmas or A Nightmare on Elm Street, but she's no stranger to lighter fare, either.
She costarred with Leighton Meister and Selena Gomez in 2011's Monte Carlo, and she starred on the short-lived Melrose Place revival a year earlier. If she gets another opportunity to work with Hallmark, she's totally on board.
What she would love to do more of is direct. Katie went through the Warner Brothers Directors program and fell in love with the process and first directed Arrow Season 8 Episode 3, "A Leap of Faith."
"As long as you stay within the aesthetic of the show, m the world's your oyster. You get to build the whole world and bring your vision to life, and ultimately tell the story. Creatively, it's incredibly fulfilling and inspirational and fun," she said.
The pandemic hit shortly after her directorial debut, and she lost some momentum, but she wrote and directed a short spoof on American politics called America's Next Best President.
Ultimately, she says, as a creative being, she'll be doing all the things. "Whether it be acting, directing, or writing, I'm just expressing myself and telling stories for the greater good of this universe is my purpose here on this planet."
On his end, Stephen is hoping The Jane Mysteries: Inheritance Lost, in which he starred with Jodie Sweetin and is, ironically, playing opposite a Royal Christmas Crush, might get picked up for a series and otherwise just waiting to see what the universe delivers to him next.
For now, he won't be traveling much, as he and Katie recently traveled the world, including Fiji and New Zealand, as well as hitting some Formula One racing in Monaco and visiting her family in Portugal.
They're basking in the enjoyment of finding each other while making a Christmas movie for July, so it's hard to imagine they won't find other things to do together and apart to make their summers very special.
Their fairytale came true, and we couldn't be happier for them.
A Royal Christmas Crush premieres on Saturday, June 11 at 8/7c.
Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer and critic for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, conversing with cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film with anyone who will listen. Follow her on X and email her here at TV Fanatic.