Hallmark Stars Who Used To Look Totally Different

As the holiday season approaches, the Hallmark Channel is ready to shell out a bunch of new made-for-television movies starring our favorite Hallmark stars. We'll get to see fan favorites like Andrew Walker star in "Christmas Island," Bethany Joy Lenz in "A Biltmore Christmas," Jonathan Bennett in "Christmas on Cherry Lane," and, of course, one of Hallmark's leading women and newly appointed Christmas queen Lacey Chabert in "A Merry Scottish Christmas."

These stars are regular faces on the Hallmark Channel, but they have actually been working in the industry for years and come with impressive acting résumés. Though they moved to Hallmark, stars like Alison Sweeney and Ryan Paevey come from soap opera backgrounds, having worked on shows including "Days of Our Lives" and "General Hospital." Then there are stars like Jodie Sweetin and Holly Robinson Peete, who worked on major television productions before they became Hallmark household names. There's even a boy band member who made his move to the network!

While we get cozy and watch all the beloved movies on the Hallmark Channel this season, we can't forget that these stars have not only worked in big-budgeted films and TV shows but looked totally different when they did.

Luke Macfarlane's first major gig was on Brothers & Sisters

Luke Macfarlane has been a staple on the Hallmark Channel since 2014. His first movie was the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film "The Memory Book," in which he starred alongside Meghan Ory. In the movie, Chloe, portrayed by Ory, finds an old album filled with photos of a young couple in love. Wanting to see if true love does exist, Chloe makes it her mission to find the couple. Macfarlane's character Gabe joins in on her adventure, only to fall in love with Chloe.

In 2015, Macfarlane starred in "Christmas Land," his first holiday-themed movie for Hallmark. Since then, he has starred in at least one movie every year for the network, including "A Shoe Addict's Christmas" and "A Magical Christmas Village." Besides starring in several Christmas-themed films, in 2023 he starred in the LGBTQ+ romantic comedy for Hallmark "Notes of Autumn."

However, Macfarlane isn't only known for his work on the feel-good network. You might remember the star portraying Scotty Wandell, the love interest of Kevin Walker (played by Matthew Rys) in the ABC television drama "Brothers & Sisters." Back then, the actor was clean shaven and a little less wizened. In 2008, Macfarlane came out as gay, telling The Globe and Mail, "There is this desire in L.A. to wonder who you are, and what's been blaring for me for the last three years is how can I be most authentic to myself."

Remember Andrew Walker on Sabrina, The Teenage Witch?

Andrew Walker may be the unofficial king of Hallmark, as he's starred in many made-for-television films. Some of his most memorable roles include "Bridal Wave," "The Perfect Catch," "Sweet Autumn," "Christmas on My Mind," and the Hallmark favorite "Three Wise Men and a Baby." Starring in over 20 Hallmark Channel movies, Walker loves acting for the network. In 2021, he shared with FanSided, "It's like acting with your heart and soul. It's not having to dive into a character that is so far off of who you are as a person, which I've had to do in previous projects. Once you find the character, I find that it's almost easier working on a Hallmark movie where it's very genuine and it's a very close version of yourself."

Before he became a Hallmark fixture, Walker's earliest roles were starring in several popular television shows, including portraying Cole Harper in "Sabrina, The Teenage Witch," "ER," "The Big Bang Theory," "Without A Trace," and "Reba." At the time, he was more boyishly handsome than ruggedly handsome. Walker has an extensive acting résumé, with his first role in the TV series "Sirens" coming when he was 14. He would go on to find work every year since then until his big break for Hallmark came in 2012 with "A Bride For Christmas."

Jodie Sweetin is known for her Full House role

1990s babies surely remember Jodie Sweetin for her role as Stephanie Tanner in "Full House." Sweetin was five when the show aired in 1987, with the beloved series lasting for eight seasons. It became Sweetin's most memorable role, and in 2016, she reprised the role on the Netflix spin-off series "Fuller House." Of course, she's only become more beautiful with age, but the young Sweetin almost looks unrecognizable. 

In between "Full House" and its spin-off, Sweetin starred in a few roles, including acting in two independent films: "Redefining Love" and "Port City." However, she found her niche acting in Hallmark Channel movies. Her first film for the network was 2017's "Finding Santa," and since then, she has starred in "Love Under the Rainbow," "Merry & Bright," and "A Cozy Christmas Inn." 

In 2023, Sweetin landed her own Hallmark Murder & Mysteries film series, "The Jane Mysteries: Inheritance Lost." In the film series, Sweetin stars as a singer named Jane DaSilva, who inherits her family's detective agency and takes on cases that have been left cold or neglected. Sweetin even shows off her real singing skills in the film and sings the theme song. In an interview with "The Morning Show," she shared (via Global News), "It was really fun to get an opportunity to sing in one of these. It's something that I love to do ... "

Alison Sweeney grew up on a soap opera set

Before Alison Sweeney starred on the Hallmark Channel, she was known for portraying Sami Brady on "Days of Our Lives." Sweeney nabbed the role in 1993 and worked on the show until 2014. She reprised her role in 2017 and has made sporadic appearances since then, including her most recent return in 2022. She's kept her blond locks, and her blue eyes are as alluring as ever, but she does look a little different now! 

During a guest appearance on "The Kelly Clarkson Show," Sweeney reflected on her 30 years of portraying Brady. "I grew up playing this character — playing Sami Brady. I started when I was 16 years old. And I was just this dopey kid, and I just loved it," she said (via YouTube). 

Sweeney has since made working for the Hallmark Channel her main focus. Talking to People in 2021 about why she won't return to "Days of Our Lives" full-time, Sweeney shared that she received new opportunities, including producing movies for the network: "The opportunity to go back to Days, it feels like going home again, to be honest with you. It's like visiting my family during the holidays ... But then I get to go out and develop these projects and do other things, and expand myself, and push myself."

Sweeney has starred in several films for Hallmark, including "The Wedding Veil" series and "A Magical Christmas Village," which she produced. 

Holly Robinson Peete was on the original 21 Jump Street

Holly Robinson Peete's first-ever movie role was in 1986's "Howard the Duck." Despite the film doing horribly at the box office, it later became a cult classic thanks to Marvel. Despite a rough start in the movie industry, Peete found her calling in television. Her portrayal of Officer Judy Hoffs in the 1987 television series "21 Jump Street" (she reprised her role in the 2012 remake) put Peete on the map, though fans may have to look twice to recognize her behind that '80s makeup. After the series ended in 1991, she landed the role of Vanessa Hamilton in the TV series "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" and later starred in the 1998 series "For Your Love." Peete continued to star on television, including on "Love, Inc.," and "Mike & Molly." In 2015, Peete starred in her first-ever Hallmark film "Angel of Christmas" as Yvette Collins. 

Peete has become a regular face on Hallmark. She later starred in the "Christmas in Evergreen" film series and the Hallmark Murder & Mysteries film series "Morning Show Mysteries." She also starred in the network's first-ever movie about Kwanzaa, 2022's "Holiday Heritage." Speaking to ABC News about Hallmark creating movies that celebrate diversity and inclusion, Peete shared, "I've been doing this for a minute, so when I hear people say they are going to be more inclusive and diverse, you don't always see it. So now, we're really seeing the content. It's really inclusive of everyone's holidays and their traditions, and I am so proud to be on this network."

Jonathan Bennett is Aaron Samuels

Jonathan Bennett's most memorable role was starring as Cady Heron's (portrayed by Lindsay Lohan) love interest Aaron Samuels in "Mean Girls." Though the character is still attached to Bennett after all these years, he doesn't appear to be bothered by it. In 2023, celebrating 19 years since the release of "Mean Girls," Bennett shared photos with the cast on Instagram and captioned it, "Happy Anniversary to Mean Girls. 19 years ago today a beautiful talented actress with red hair let me borrow a pencil and a blonde one told me my hair looked sexy pushed back. Who knew that it would change my life forever."

These days, Bennett actually does wear his hair pushed back, but he still looks very different from Aaron Samuels. His first film for Hallmark was 2010's "Elevator Girl." He has since starred in "Christmas Made to Order," "The Christmas House," and "Wedding of a Lifetime." In 2022, Bennett made history with the Hallmark Channel when he was featured in the first Hallmark Christmas movie to showcase an LGBTQ+ couple as leads, "The Holiday Sitter."

Also having a hand in writing and producing the film, Bennett shared with Entertainment Weekly, "I'm so proud to be on Hallmark Channel and to be telling this story on Hallmark because of how inclusive the network is, but also from a creative standpoint ... we're opening new doors by telling this story on the network, and a lot of people are gonna feel represented and feel like they see themselves on screen."

Brennan Elliott starred in dozens of television shows

Before Brennan Elliott became a fixture on the Hallmark Channel, he was on about every television series you could think of, but Hallmark fans still might not have recognized him. Elliott has starred in "Monk," "House," "Cold Case," Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy," "Bones," and that's just naming a few. From 2000 to 2005, the actor portrayed Dr. Nick Biancavilla in "Strong Medicine" and later starred in the movies "Curse of Chucky" and "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb." 

Elliott also has an extensive résumé with Hallmark that began in 2009 when he starred in "The Nanny Express." From 2013 to 2015, Elliott starred in three seasons of the Hallmark series "Cedar Cove." Then he starred with Hallmark leading lady Lacey Chabert in the 2015 film "All of My Heart." Of course, Brennan has also acted in several Christmas movies, including "Love You Like Christmas," "Christmas at Grand Valley," and "Open by Christmas."

In his Hallmark films, Elliott has portrayed numerous professions, from a chef, to a businessman, to a detective. That's something he most enjoys about his job on the network. "One of the great honors I get with Hallmark is the opportunity to play a diverse range of characters, which can be challenging but fun. I wouldn't mind doing a Western or a period piece someday. If I could, I've made it in my dad's eyes," Elliott told The Harlton Empire in 2019. Hear that, Hallmark?  

Autumn Reeser was on The O.C.

Anyone who was once obsessed with the 2003 television drama "The O.C." surely remembers actor Autumn Reeser starring as Taylor Townsend. She played the role for two seasons until the show's completion in 2007. Back in 2010, Reeser spoke fondly of her role, telling Staying In, "I feel like there's a lot of girls out there who could really relate to her, who hadn't seen themselves on TV in that way. I loved that about her. I loved that she made no apologies for who she was even though she wasn't what all the magazines said was okay. She was like, 'I'm still valid. And I'm awesome. And I know I'm odd, and that's okay.'" Of course, Reeser looked very different on the show, as she portrayed the nerdy over-achieving valedictorian that was Townsend.

From there, Reeser starred in several episodes of HBO's "Entourage" and had guest roles in popular shows like "Pushing Daisies," "Ghost Whisperer," and "Hawaii Five-0." Her first film for Hallmark was starring as lead character Emily Jones in 2012's "Love at the Thanksgiving Parade." After that, Reeser had leading roles in "I Do, I Do, I Do," "A Country Wedding," "All Summer Long," and "Christmas Under the Stars," to name a few. In 2022, Reeser joined Hallmark staples Lacey Chabert and Alison Sweeney in "The Wedding Veil" trilogy, and the women reprised their roles in a 2023 sequel trilogy. 

Ashley Williams starred on How I Met Your Mother

Like Hallmark Channel star Alison Sweeney, actor Ashley Williams also got her start on soap operas when she was still a teenager. From 1995 to 2000, Williams starred as teenage Danielle Andropoulos on the popular soap "As the World Turns." Following her run on the show, Williams went on to appear in over a dozen television shows, including "Dawson's Creek," "Psych," "Monk," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," and "The Mentalist." She had a 16-episode stint on "How I Met Your Mother" as Victoria, a cupcake baker and the ex-girlfriend of Ted Mosby (Josh Radnor). In addition, she starred as a fictionalized version of comedian Jim Gaffigan's real-life wife on 2015's "The Jim Gaffigan Show."

That same year, Williams starred in her first Hallmark film, "October Kiss." The actor also starred in the "Christmas in Evergreen" film franchise and starred in and produced the 2016 film "Love on a Limb." In her latest film, 2023's "Notes of Autumn," the actor appeared alongside Luke Macfarlane. 

Though Williams is now mainly known for her work on the Hallmark Channel, she shared with My Devotional Thoughts that she'd love the opportunity to work in another soap opera. "I'd do a soap in a heartbeat. As a mom, there's no greater gift than a steady gig, and I love the storytelling in soaps."

Alexa PenaVega was a popular kid spy

Alexa PenaVega has slowly become a staple on the Hallmark Channel after her first movie with the network, 2016's "Ms. Matched." She's also worked alongside her husband Carlos PenaVega in many of her Hallmark movies, including "Love at Sea," "Love in the Limelight," and the "Picture Perfect Mysteries" film series. In the series, Penavega stars as Allie, a photographer turned amateur sleuth who teams up with detective Sam to solve murders.

" ... I love working with my husband," PenaVega told TV Insider when working on their film "Love at Sea." She added, "We really know what each other's limits are, and we can be way more playful. I think there's something to be said that's really special about getting to work with your spouse."

Of course, most people might remember PenaVega starring as Carmen Cortez in 2001's "Spy Kids," when she wore her signature dark-brown hair. The film revolves around two siblings (Carmen and Juni, portrayed by Daryl Sabara) who become spies to save their parents, who are ex-spies. PenaVega and Sabara went on to reprise their roles in three more "Spy Kids" films. Besides kicking butt in "Spy Kids," PenaVega is also known for her work in "From Prada to Nada," "Twister" and "Ruby & the Rockits." 

Big Time Rush star Carlos PenaVega is on Hallmark

Carlos PenaVega made his acting debut with the Hallmark Channel with 2017's "Enchanted Christmas," in which he got to star alongside his wife Alexa PenaVega. Since then, he's worked with his wife in several Hallmark films, with the couple's latest project being 2023's "Never Too Late to Celebrate."

Before PenaVega made his mark on Hallmark (and dyed his hair blond), he was known as one-fourth of the Nickelodeon-formed boy band Big Time Rush. The band was first introduced in a four-season sitcom with the same name that ran from 2009 to 2013, with the band initially also releasing three studio albums. Besides PenaVega, the group consisted of James Maslow, Kendall Schmidt, and Logan Henderson. The group disbanded in 2014, which marked the last time they performed on stage together. In July 2021, the members of Big Time Rush announced on Instagram that they were reuniting and have since released their fourth studio album, "Another Life," which came out in June 2023.

The band received an overwhelming amount of support after reuniting and, after a few on-stage performances, announced a 2023 tour. "We decided to put a full-blown tour on sale. But we kind of just went out on a limb and said, 'Hey, let's just got for it.' And we are playing some pretty insane venues like Madison Square Garden, you know, like a couple of huge amphitheaters, and surprisingly, people are coming. I'm really excited," PenaVega shared with The War Cry

Nikki DeLoach starred in Awkward

The cast of "The All New Mickey Mouse Club" featured stars like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Ryan Gosling, each going on to achieve massive fame. What most people might not know is that a dark-haired Nikki DeLoach, who went on to become a Hallmark star, was also part of that gang, having appeared in three episodes of the show in 1993. 

DeLoach would go on to star in several television shows, including "CSI: NY," "Cold Case," "Without a Trace," and "Ringer," and starred in 12 episodes of "Days of Our Lives." Her most notable role was in the MTV series "Awkward" where she portrayed Lacey Hamilton. She's even remained close to the cast, telling Us Weekly in 2023, "There's nothing more that all of us would want to do than to come back [and] do those characters [again]. And see what they're doing 10 years later."

Since 2015, DeLoach has repeteadly starred on the Hallmark Channel. Her first film for the network was the holiday movie "Christmas Land," and she would go on to star in several movies for Hallmark, including "Reunited at Christmas," "Two Turtle Doves," "Sweet Autumn," and "The Gift of Peace." In addition, DeLoach stars alongside Andrew Walker in the "Curious Caterer" film series. 

Julie Gonzalo was everyone's favorite mean girl

Julie Gonzalo's work on the Hallmark Channel includes the movies "Falling for Vermont," "Flip that Romance," Jingle Bell Bride," and "The Sweetest Heart," with the latter being where she met her partner, Hallmark star Chris McNally, in 2018. The couple have been private about their romance for the most part, but Gonzalo did announce the arrival of their daughter in an Instagram post in June 2022. In 2023, Gonzalo and McNally teamed up for the second time when they starred in the Hallmark movie "3 Bed, 2 Bath, 1 Ghost."

Gonzalo had starred in several popular movies before being a hit on the Hallmark Channel. You may remember her portraying mean girl Stacey Hinkhouse in 2003's "Freaky Friday," where she acted alongside Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. In fact, she also played the antagonist again in 2004's "A Cinderella Story," where she starred opposite Hilary Duff and Chad Michael Murray as Shelby Cummings. Gonzalo has also starred in "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," "Christmas with the Kranks," and several episodes of "Dallas." Throughout this period, she had now-iconic long blond hair.

In June 2020, Gonzalo reposted a throwback photo on the set of "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" on her Instagram. First shared by her co-star Justin Long, the two stars are seen on the set of their film with Gonzalo wearing a fake baby bump while Long rests his head on her stomach. 

Lacey Chabert was part of The Plastics

Lacey Chabert is easily known as the queen of Hallmark after starring in over 30 films for the network. Her first appearance was 2010's "Elevator Girl," and since then, she has starred in over 10 Christmas-themed movies, including "Christmas in Rome," "Haul Out the Holly," and "Christmas at Castle Heart." She starred opposite Hallmark staples Alison Sweeney and Autumn Reeser in "The Wedding Veil" trilogy and its second trilogy. In addition, Chabert leads in the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film series "Crossword Mysteries" and, in 2023, starred in her latest mystery film "The Dancing Detective: A Deadly Tango." 

Chabert loves working with Hallmark. "[When] someone lets you into their living room for two hours, it's kind of an honor," she told Us Weekly. "I want to leave people with a good feeling."

Although she's older now, there's no denying that movie-goers recognize Chabert for her portrayal of Gretchen Wieners, one of "The Plastics" in the 2004 cult classic "Mean Girls." She hasn't forgotten about one of her most iconic roles, either. In April 2023, she shared throwback photos with the cast on Instagram, celebrating 19 years since the movie was filmed. "I can't believe it's been 19 years since #MeanGirls was released! I'm forever thankful to have been a part of this special movie. The friendships that were formed because of it still bring so much joy to my life," she captioned her post.