Writer Samantha Herman can’t get enough of the holiday season and being in love with love — so naturally, she writes Christmas movies for the Hallmark Channel.
Viewers can now see his eleventh network project titled Christmas Island, both set and filmed in Canada. The TV movie follows Kate Gabriel (Rachel Skarsten), a commercial pilot eager to spend the holidays flying with the Sharpe family on a luxurious vacation in Switzerland. During the flight, a snowstorm forces her to land at a small airport in the Maritimes, Canada.
Although hesitant to divert the plane, Oliver Macleod (Andrew Walker), the pragmatic Air Traffic Control Officer, guides them to nearby (and very real) Christmas Island, their safest option. Fate does its work by bringing Kate and Oliver closer together as they help the Sharpe family make the most of things by participating in some local Christmas traditions. Spoiler alert: It’s probably a romantic connection.
Herman spoke to Deadline about her love of holiday movies and how they inspire her, writing strong female characters and what’s next. She noticed that before we got on Zoom, she was planning her next Hanukkah celebration while watching World record Christmas, another 2023 Christmas movie offering on the Hallmark Channel. Yes, she is a true super fan.
DEADLINE: You’ve written several Christmas movies for Hallmark, which is interesting because you’re Jewish. What inspired you?
SAMANTA HERMAN: Yes, I’ve done 8 Hallmark Christmas movies and the other three are non-seasonal. I also did a CBS Christmas movie. I don’t know… why this happens, the double irony. There’s that whole Hebrew holiday thing, which is being Jewish and somehow becoming an expert on Christmas, and being single and somehow becoming an expert on romance. With Christmas, I think it’s because I didn’t really celebrate it growing up. We made some classic things like cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and made some gifts just to feel part of the spirit of the season.
We didn’t have a complete Christmas. I never decorated a Christmas tree or made gingerbread houses or had lights in front of the house – none of that. But we had friends and family who would welcome us, and later in life I had boyfriends who celebrated. I’ve never had a specific personal connection to it other than watching Christmas movies that I love.
DEADLINE: What are some of your favorites or things that have inspired you?
HERMAN: I clearly remember seeing Alone at home and I still watch it every year without fail. We didn’t have Hallmark in Canada, but we had other channels that would sublicense content. I watched their films like this whenever they were available simply as a fan. When I moved to the US in 2007, I went to Chicago to go to law school. I remember calling to set up my cable and internet and ordering the package that included Hallmark. Actually, I’m not saying this because it sounds good, it’s all true.
I love romance films, books and romantic ballads. I just love love. And maybe part of that is because I haven’t been very lucky in love either, but I just gravitate towards it. And so the combination of love – most of these films are romance-oriented or at least in some way related to romance – plus the magic of Christmas is the perfect synergy.
DEADLINE: In Christmas Island, The main female character Kate is not a stereotypical damsel in distress. Why was this important to you?
HERMAN: I think part of what was done is like a girl going home to a small town and abandoning everything she worked for. [to be with a man]. I don’t like it, so I wouldn’t do it. The channel is encouraging us to move away from this old-school trope. It’s important to me to have a woman represented with strength, ambition and quirks, so that people feel like they’re seeing a real human being and not a prefabricated model.
DEADLINE: Do you have any plans to make a Hanukkah movie in the future?
HERMAN: I would love. I have to change it and exchange a Christmas tree for a menorah. But I already have some ideas for other stories I’d like to tell.
DEADLINE: Would you like to share with us that we are so close to the holidays?
HERMAN: Anyone who has a blind date for me, let me know.