Fans of the romantic comedy genre may be familiar with the film 27 dresses, in which the character of Katherine Heigl serves 27 times as a bridesmaid.
Vancouver actor Nelson Wong can relate to that number – his claim to fame lies in his 27 roles in the Hallmark films.
Wong’s Hallmark ties began when he played Kenny Kwon, a sidekick of a detective, in the 2005 mystery film Third man out for director Ron Oliver.
When Oliver started directing for Hallmark, he made sure to find a place for Wong – often as a character named Kenny.
âWhile Ron started working for Hallmark, Kenny started working for Hallmark. It just became a thing. The fans seem to react and 27 movies later, here we are,â Wong said with a laugh.
Wong moved to Vancouver when he was about six from New Zealand. He has been playing since 1999 and has also appeared in video games like Far cry 4 and TV shows like Arrow and Riverdale.
He has said in previous interviews that he came from a Jehovah’s Witness background and left the organization after entering the film industry.
Wong said he only truly celebrated the holiday season after becoming an actor in the Hallmark films.
As Kenny, he featured in various odd jobs and office roles.
âKenny was a cooking TV producer, a wedding planner. He was a janitor on a plaza. He was a baby daddy,â Wong said.
“The whole time, I thought Kenny was still undercover as a detective. He just has these identities that allow him to go into these different universes.”
A source of comfort
Iconic Christmas movies – and their close cousins ââon the Lifetime Network and Netflix – have become a staple of the holiday season. This year Hallmark is releasing 41 Christmas or holiday themed films, many of which were filmed in and around Vancouver.
Vancouver director Linda-Lisa Hayter, whose own movie Hallmark Five more minutes comes out this season, said the core value of the film is love.
âWhether it’s romantic love, whether it’s parental love, whether it’s beautiful friendships, brotherhood, brotherhood, I think it’s just love,” said Hayter.
She said movies are a source of comfort in difficult times.
âWe go through so much trauma in our lives all over the planet,â she said.
“You have beautiful lights. You have soft music. It’s like having a blanket around you. It’s something soft, comfortable, and feeling good.”
The films have sometimes been criticized for being too schmaltzy, which Wong faces in his other role as an acting coach with Haven Studio.
“[Actors] sometimes struggles with the Hallmark genre. They think it’s a little too positive, too happy. I remind those actors who always want to play the drama … like Bourne’s identity“said Wong.
“These Hallmark movies are actually more true to life, I would say – nice people doing their best under their circumstances.”
Wong said his experience on the Hallmark set opened up other opportunities for him.
“They have given me so much in terms of working relationships and often on set and on screen, I can’t help but get in the Christmas spirit when I do them now.”
Adapt to the times
More serious criticism – that stories lack diversity and are almost always heterosexual – has encountered efforts to change studios.
âPersonally Hallmark has gone through a big change over the last few years and they’re a lot more inclusive now, and I think that’s attracting a much larger audience,â Hayter said.
Wong said he has seen improvements over the past decade.
“There was such a big movement … [and] people are not satisfied with homogeneous representations of families, working families or Christmas, âhe said.
âIt’s quite interesting to see over the last decade as an Asian-Canadian LGBTQ artist come into this world and be able to develop in itâ¦ relationship and to have a belonging to these seasonal vacation images. “
On the coast7:04Do you like Hallmark Christmas movies? Meet the actor who appeared in 27 of them