Sad Details About These Hallmark Stars

The following article includes mentions of addiction, mass violence, and sexual abuse allegations.

Hallmark is a blissful place with easily digestible content of consistent quality that, unlike real life, only serves happy endings. The Hallmark Channel, for example, is a place where we go to watch Christmas movies and love stories and Christmas love stories. Per Decider, the network's 2022 holiday movie slate — airing between October 21 and December 8 — racked up an average of two million viewers per film. And beyond the holidays, Hallmark does very well with its original series, stand-alone films, and mystery movie franchises (which air on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries offshoot channel), such as "Murder, She Baked" and "Crossword Mysteries."

Hallmark casts many of the same actors repeatedly, and its stars are generally attractive, with a good amount — like Ryan Paevey, Natalie Brown, and Eric Winter — having gotten their start in modeling. You also tend to see a lot of soap opera actors — like Alison Sweeney, Jack Wagner, and Cameron Mathison — and celebrities who are still famous but whose stars have declined somewhat since their breakthrough roles. People like Lacey Chabert, Jesse Metcalfe, and Rachael Leigh Cook were once A-listers, and Hallmark has kept them working consistently and in the public eye. As Country Living noted, most Hallmark productions film in Canada, which explains why a huge number of their recurring actors are Canucks, including Victor Webster, Brennan Elliott, Andrew Walker, and Jessica Lowndes. 

While Hallmark personalities commit to bringing us joy, some have lived through rather hard circumstances. Here are some sad details about your favorite Hallmark celebrities.

Josie Bissett's house caught on fire

Anyone who was of a teenager or adult in the 1990s probably remembers Josie Bissett from her breakout role as Jane Andrews-Mancini on the cultural phenomenon "Melrose Place." But Bissett worked very little in the years immediately following the show's end in 1999. Her next on-screen gig didn't come until 2003, when she guest-starred in one episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." When Bissett started making TV movies, her luck changed. Her first with Hallmark came in 2013, when Bissett appeared in "Christmas with Tucker," but her biggest hit with the network has been the "The Wedding March" series. Bissett has appeared in six of these films over the years, as of this writing, in addition to her other work with Hallmark.

Sadly, Bissett is no stranger to heartache, as she has spoken quite openly about a devastating miscarriage that occurred when she was on "Melrose Place," per Lioness, and had a very public divorce with fellow "Melrose Place" actor Rob Estes. Bissett also lived through a true nightmare when her home was destroyed by a fire in 2015. According to an interview with First for Women, the fire ruined the home and took with it nearly all of Bissett's possessions and memories. 

But in true Hallmark fashion, there was a happy twist — the complex in which she lived while her home was being reconstructed is where Bissett and her future husband, businessman Thomas Doig, met. She explained, "In a way, it just solidified a belief I already had that every day is so special."

Alicia Witt got a cancer diagnosis just before her parents died

Alicia Witt has appeared in many Hallmark films, particularly holiday ones like "Christmas Tree Lane" and "Our Christmas Love Song." Sadly, the first few years of the 2020s have been nothing short of heartbreaking. Not only did the actor have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that we all did, but she also suffered multiple personal tragedies. The Hallmark actor's name trended just before Christmas 2021, when her elderly parents, Robert and Diane Witt, were found dead in their Worcester, Massachusetts home. According to death certificates captured by the Telegram & Gazette (via People), Alicia's mother and father died of "probable cardiac dysrhythmia," which was caused because of the cold. The home they lived in had a broken heater, and their bodies were only discovered after Alicia asked someone to go check on them, per one of her Instagram posts.

As if the loss of both one's parents is not painful enough, Alicia Witt was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly before the incident. She only made her cancer public in a detailed Instagram post shared in May 2022 regarding her journey, from diagnosis through treatment. That June, the actor revealed that she was cancer-free alongside a cute video of her reaction to ending chemotherapy months prior. 

Alicia had continued to work throughout her treatment, without telling most of those around her of her diagnosis, and she explained in another post that December that she wore special caps to maintain her hair in order to allow her the privacy to deal with her cancer quietly.

Peter Porte was hit by a car

Per an interview he did with Ruth Hill of the blog "My Devotional Thoughts," Peter Porte considers his role on "The Young and the Restless" to have been his first big break. Porte appeared on the soap opera for 51 episodes in 2011 and 2012, but he may be best known for subsequent work like his recurring role in the series "Baby Daddy" or his work in the miniseries "Days of Our Lives: Beyond Salem." Most of all, Porte is recognizable to many as a Hallmark Channel recurring player. He has appeared in five Hallmark movies to date, including "Rome in Love" and "Love at the Shore."

Though he has worked steadily in Hollywood, Porte was temporarily unable to take roles when he was in a bad car accident. Speaking with Soap Opera Digest in 2018, Porte revealed that he was on his vespa when a car hit him and caused him to fly through the air. "I was lying there and the adrenaline was just pumping like crazy, so it didn't hurt like I thought it would. Then I was scoping out the situation and that's when I saw my ankle was on top of my foot," he detailed to the magazine. "It was at this horrible position, and then I pressed on my calf and I felt a pop. It ended up breaking in four different places." 

While waiting for and recovering from surgery, Porte said he had to turn down work, including a coveted Christmas movie.

It took Jodie Sweetin years to get a handle on her sobriety

Candace Cameron Bure was one of Hallmark's prized gems for years before jumping ship to their competitor, Great American Media, in 2022, per Deadline. But it's Cameron Bure's "Full House" and "Fuller House" sister Jodie Sweetin that we want to talk about here. Even though Sweetin has not appeared in as many Hallmark films as Cameron Bure's over two dozen, Sweetin has made five Hallmark Channel films since 2017, such as "Entertaining Christmas" and "Love Under the Rainbow," as of this writing.

Before her 2016 career resurgence with "Fuller House," Sweetin's personal life often eclipsed her professional one in media coverage, as the actor's struggles with addiction and her multiple failed marriages made her tabloid fodder. Like far too many child stars, Sweetin found herself in a difficult place after she rose to fame, which she has detailed in her 2009 autobiography "unSweetined." She began drinking as a teen before turning to drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, and eventually methamphetamine. It took her multiple attempts at treatment in rehab centers to get clean for good. "I was selfish, self-serving, insecure, angry and fearful person living a double life," she wrote (via Us Weekly). "I covered up my problems by pretending to be happy and saying that everything was fine."

Sweetin's early years were also quite heartbreaking. Per E! News, she was adopted by an uncle as a baby because her biological parents — her mother also struggled with addiction, and her father died in prison — were unable to care for her.

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Kristoffer Polaha had a near-death experience

Kristoffer Polaha has been a Hallmark staple ever since his first film back in 2016, where he starred opposite future Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle in "Dater's Handbook." He has since appeared in over a dozen other films for the network, including stand-alone movies like "Pearl in Paradise" and "Double Holiday," and seven flicks as part of the "Mystery 101" series that airs on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

The actor loves appearing in these films so much that he even wrote a 2018 guest column about it for The Hollywood Reporter. "As an actor, I am leaning into Hallmark because it's fun to sit with my seven-year-old and show him what I do for a living. These are family-friendly movies," he explained in the article. "I'm leaning in because my 91-year-old Nana finally thinks I've made it in Hollywood because I'm on Hallmark."

It is terrible, therefore, to think that a horrible accident could have kept Polaha from pursuing not just Hallmark movies, but everything else in life. In 1997, as a young adult in New York City, Polaha and a friend were walking down the street when a grate flew open with a fireball, causing him to fly through the air and suffer facial injuries, per "The Pure Flix Podcast." He explained in a 2020 Facebook Live video, "Later that night, the fire marshal came ... and they said that, 'You should be dead. Like, you should have been decapitated.'" Polaha also said that the close call made him reconnect with his religious beliefs because he felt God's presence.

Marc Blucas failed to make the NBA

For many actors, being a working thespian was the original dream, but some set their sights on other goals first and only turn to acting once other doors close. This is actually quite common for those who don't make it as athletes, as many famous actors — from Jason Statham to Kurt Russell — were professional sports stars before they landed in Tinseltown. For his part, Marc Blucas played basketball for Wake Forest University and had dreams of playing professionally.

"Every kid who plays basketball wants to make it to the NBA, but I was a tweener: more of a shooting guard in a point-guard size body," he told ESPN. "I knew it wasn't going to happen." After his NBA dreams were dashed, Blucas turned to Hollywood and landed his first acting gig in 1995, only one year after graduation. His breakout role came a few years later on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and he has since conquered both film and TV. While Blucas is perhaps better known for television series like "Necessary Roughness" and "The Fix," he's also become notable for his Hallmark projects, including the films "Miss Christmas" and "Season for Love." 

Blucas has kept his passion for basketball alive as a coach for the all-girls Marymount High School team in Los Angeles. It's also aided some of his sports-related acting gigs, as he told ESPN, "Because of my sports background, I can offer assistance to the writers to help the storylines appear more authentic. I'm a sounding board, almost a tech adviser. I'm just doing my part."

An injury ended Andrew Walker's football dreams

Andrew Walker also had dreams of being a professional athlete before he began his acting career. For Walker, the original goal unfortunately came to a crashing halt when a devastating ACL injury at Vanier College stopped him from being able to attend Boston College and play football for them, per the Vanier College website. "They have a huge pool of athletes in the U.S. Once you're damaged goods, you're finished," he explained. "... The first weeks after surgery were devastating. But I tried to channel my energy into different avenues after the accident. I tried to turn something bad into something good."

Though acting wasn't the first choice, Walker has become one of the most prolific Hallmark actors since beginning his relationship with the network in 2012's "A Bride for Christmas." To date, he has starred in over 20 Hallmark films, such as "Bridal Wave," "The Perfect Catch," and "Three Wise Men and a Baby," as well as a couple of episodes of the original Hallmark series "When Calls the Heart." However, he's especially prominent in the yearly Christmas movie lineup. That's not too shabby for an actor whose first major gig was on a Canadian teen show called "Student Bodies."

In an interview with Lolly Christmas, Walker revealed that his long history with Hallmark has allowed him top priority when choosing projects, explaining, "I do get a script and I get to read through it, and say, 'Hey, do you want to take this one? Do you want to wait for the next one?'"

Jesse Metcalfe struggled with alcohol addiction

Jesse Metcalfe's worldwide fame came suddenly, but once he hit screens as John Rowland — an oft-shirtless teenage gardener sleeping with a married housewife — on "Desperate Housewives," you could not avoid his face. Metcalfe had already established himself as a popular soap actor due to his five-year stint on "Passions," but "Desperate Housewives" opened up all sorts of new doors. He went on to headline "John Tucker Must Die," but with subsequent film projects including many flops, Metcalfe has had more success on TV, appearing in series like "Chase," "Dallas," and "Chesapeake Shores." The latter show is a popular Hallmark original that ran for six seasons (Metcalfe was on the show for five). Metcalfe has also appeared in many Hallmark films, including four movies in the "Martha's Vineyard Mystery" franchise. 

Amid his continued success, Metcalfe has been open about how his struggle with alcohol addiction threatened to derail his career. Per Page Six, Metcalfe entered rehab in 2007, after a particularly bad weekend of hard partying landed him in the tabloids. While promoting "God's Not Dead 2" in 2016, the actor told Fox News that Alcoholics Anonymous not only helped him become sober, but also led him to connect with religion. 

"A large part of that program is giving the will and care of my life over to God — or a God as you understand him — and prayer is also a big part of that program as well," Metcalfe explained. "I feel that that really helped me overcome a difficult time in my life."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Tamera Mowry-Housley's niece was the victim of a mass shooting

It's a tragic fact that mass shootings have become a norm rather than an anomaly in American culture. We've seen shootings at schools, places of worship, movie theatres, and other public attractions. One incident hit very close to home for Tamera Mowry-Housley, whose family was met with tragedy in November 2018 when her niece, Pepperdine University student Alaina Housley, was murdered. 

"Our hearts are broken. We just learned that our Alaina was one of the victims of last night's shooting at Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks," the "Sister, Sister" alum said in a joint statement with her husband, Adam Housley (via CNN). "Alaina was an incredible young woman with so much life ahead of her and we are devastated that her life was cut short in this manner." The tragic event took the lives of 11 others, and Alaina's family later set up the Alaina's Voice Foundation in her honor. "Our mission is to inspire hope and kindness in our communities through education, music, and mental health initiatives," the site states.

Mowry-Housley has become a Hallmark regular in more recent years as a featured expert on the "Home & Family" talk show and acting in five Hallmark movies, as of this writing, like "The Santa Stakeout" and "Girlfriendship." She's also continued to mourn the loss of her niece. "There are days I loop my LIVE photos just to get a glimpse of you; your spirit, your smile, your kindness," Mowry-Housley shared on Instagram in 2020. "2 years without you ... it still hurts." 

If you have been impacted by incidents of mass violence, or are experiencing emotional distress related to incidents of mass violence, you can call or text Disaster Distress Helpline at 1-800-985-5990 for support.

Hilarie Burton was allegedly harassed by a showrunner

Like far too many women in Hollywood (and beyond), Hilarie Burton was allegedly harassed by someone in a position of power on set. In a 2017 interview with Variety, she accused "One Tree Hill" showrunner Mark Schwahn of verbal and sexual abuse. "Things took a turn in season three," she said. "That's when Mark decided that I was his muse." 18 female cast and crew members came forward with sexual harassment allegations against Schwahn that November. He faced similar allegations from the cast and crew of "The Royals" and was later fired.

In 2020, Burton told People that the alleged abuse still affected her and even shaped her parenting. "I was told that if you speak up, your career is over," she said, adding, "I didn't say anything for a decade. And as a result of that, people were abused after me. The guilt that comes with that is really difficult." Burton, who shares two kids with husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan, said of their daughter, "She will never be a pleaser. If my daughter tells someone to f*** off, awesome. I wish I had had the ability to do that."

Lucky for fans, Burton's experience didn't lead her to run away from Hollywood — and she's continued to speak truth to power. She first joined Hallmark to star in 2012's "Naughty or Nice," and later appeared in "Summer Villa" and "Surprised by Love" ... though she famously left the network in 2019 after execs allegedly failed to honor her requests for more inclusive casting and storylines.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Cameron Mathison had kidney cancer

Cameron Mathison was the co-host of the Hallmark talk show "Home & Family" from 2018 to 2021 and has appeared in a plethora of films for the Hallmark Channel and its offshoots. This includes titles like "Along Came a Nanny" and "A Christmas to Remember," as well as five movies in the "Murder, She Baked" series. The "All My Children" alum may be done with Hallmark, however, as he jumped ship and filmed "A Kindhearted Christmas" for Hallmark's competitor Great American Family in 2021 and made "A Merry Christmas Wish" for the network the following year.

The apparent move came a couple years after Mathison's 2019 diagnosis with renal cancer. "About a month ago, I had an MRI for some gut issues I've been having, and during that MRI they found a tumor on my right kidney. It's consistent with Renal Cell Carcinoma ... or kidney cancer," he wrote on Instagram that September, one day after announcing the diagnosis on "Home & Family." Soon after, Mathison confirmed doctors had removed his tumor. During an August 2022 appearance on "Good Morning America," Mathison said he had thankfully been cancer-free for three years. 

These days, the star works with a health coach and regularly focuses on his physical wellbeing. "I've learned more about my own specific health challenges and growth than I have probably in decades before that," he told People, noting that his experience had "increased my desire and my willingness and my effort and motivation to help others ... and just to be a benefit."

Niall Matter almost lost a limb in an accident

Even a casual Hallmark fan would surely recognize Niall Matter's face, if not his name. The star has appeared in over two dozen Hallmark projects to date, including 10 "Aurora Teagarden Mysteries" films and standalone flicks like "Marrying Father Christmas" and "Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Sweater." He also had a recurring role on Season 4 of "When Calls the Heart."

An Alberta native and third-generation oil rigger, Matter worked on the rigs for eight years before a serious injury caused him to permanently change paths. While juggling work as an oil rigger and pursuing his dreams of working in film on the side, Matter's leg was badly injured when he was crushed by a drilling rig weighing 17 tons, according to the Chicago Tribune. "It took me about six months to learn how to walk again. And when I got back to the rig, my very first week I saw a terrible accident ... and the next day I quit," the "Eureka" alum told the outlet. "I came back to Vancouver [and] ... after a month of working as a bartender I ended up booking my very first lead role."

Per the article, Matter's injuries were so bad that amputation was considered — though the actor, who enjoys hitting the gym and performing his own on-set stunts, has thankfully since recovered in full. "I have no problem with it whatsoever now," he said. "... It took about two to three years for it to really feel like a normal part of my body."

Chad Michael Murray's mother left when he was 10

Though he has not signed an overall deal with Great American Family — as former Hallmark staples Candace Cameron Bure, Trevor Donovan, and Danica McKellar have (via Us Weekly) — two of Chad Michael Murray's more recent TV films have been for this network. Still, he has appeared in five Hallmark movies, as of this writing, like "The Beach House" and "Road to Christmas," which classifies him as appropriate for our list. And though the "One Tree Hill" alum is incredibly handsome and obviously quite talented, that doesn't mean Murray hasn't struggled in life. 

For example, the Buffalo, New York native had to miss four months of high school because of a football injury, per Seventeen magazine, and also sadly experienced bullying during his childhood. He also went through a very public divorce with then "OTH" co-star Sophia Bush after only months of marriage in 2005. However, one of the saddest details about Murray's life happened quite early in his upbringing: Murray was just 10 years old when his mother left the family, abandoning him and his younger siblings. 

"I idolize my father," he told Seventeen of his close relationship with — and gratitude for — dad Rex Murray. "I mean, he has worked so hard in his life. ... He stepped up, and he said, 'You know what? I'll take care of what I need to do. I've got responsibilities in life.' He took care of all five of us and raised us well."

Ashley Williams experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage

Both Ashley Williams and her sister, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, have become Hallmark recurring players — though it's younger sister Ashley we want to focus on here. The former teen actor's resume has been littered with an array of shows like "The Jim Gaffigan Show" and "Good Morning Miami," as well as TV movies on networks from ABC to TBS — but with one exception, all of her TV films since 2015 have been for Hallmark, as of this writing, including two "Sister Swap" movies, as well as "Love on a Limb" and "Two Tickets to Paradise." 

The event that has landed Williams a place on this list is one that many women have sadly experienced: miscarriage. The actor has made it a point to talk about her experience, even writing a Medium essay about it in 2016. "These are hopeless and disempowering diagnoses," Williams, who shares two children with film producer husband Neal Dodson, wrote. "I gave birth to Gus on the living room floor, a planned home birth, with no medication. I am a badass woman. I am strong. My miscarriage, however, decimated my confidence."

Opening up about the essay to Country Living, Williams noted, "When I went through that I was just so surprised by how much secrecy I found in our culture surrounding it. It didn't make sense to me, so I wanted to write about it. The response I got was overwhelming — the amount of women who were relieved and inspired. It's so common and we need to talk about it."