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 view her eleventh project for the network titled Christmas Island, both set and shot in Canada. The TV movie follows Kate Gabriel (Rachel Skarsten), a commercial pilot looking forward to spending her holiday break flying the Sharpe family on a luxurious vacation to Switzerland. During the flight, a snowstorm forces her to land at a small airport in Maritimes, Canada.
Although hesitant to divert the plane, Oliver Macleod (Andrew Walker), the pragmatic Air Traffic Control Officer, guides them to the nearby (and very real) Christmas Island, their safest option. Fate does its thing bringing Kate and Oliver closer together as they help the Sharpe family make the best of things by partaking in some local holiday traditions. Spoiler Alert: It’s probably a love connection.
Herman spoke to Deadline about her love of holiday films and how they inspire her, writing strong female characters and what’s ahead. She noted that before we hopped on Zoom, she was planning her upcoming Hanukkah celebration while watching World Record Christmas, another 2023 Christmas movie offer on Hallmark Channel. Yes, she’s a real super fan.
DEADLINE: You’ve written multiple Christmas films for Hallmark, which is interesting because you’re Jewish. What inspired you?
SAMANTHA HERMAN: Yeah, I’ve done 8 Hallmark Christmas movies and the other three are non-seasonal. I’ve also done a CBS Christmas movie. I don’t know…why it is, the dual ironies. There’s the whole Holiday Hebrew thing, which is being Jewish and somehow becoming a Christmas expert, and being single and somehow becoming a romance expert. With Christmas, I think it’s because I didn’t really celebrate it growing up. We did a few of the classic things like we made cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve and we would do a few gifts just to feel like we’re like part of the spirit of the season.
We didn’t have a full-on Christmas. I’ve never decorated a Christmas tree or made gingerbread houses, nor did we have lights in front of the house—none of that. But we had friends and family that would have us over and later in life I had boyfriends who celebrated. I’ve never had a specific personal connection to it other than watching Christmas movies which I love.
DEADLINE: What are some of your favorites or ones that have inspired you?
HERMAN: I remember distinctly seeing Home Alone and I still watch it every year without fail. We didn’t have Hallmark in Canada but we had other channels that would sublicense the content. I watched their movies that way as often as they were available simply as a fan. When I moved to the U.S. in 2007, I went to Chicago for law school. I remember calling to set up my cable and internet and requesting the package that included Hallmark. I’m really not saying this because it sounds good, it’s all true.
I love romance movies, books and romantic ballads. I just love love. And maybe part of it is because I have not been particularly lucky in love myself, but I just gravitate to it. And so the combination of love—most of these movies are romance-forward or at least romance-related in some way— plus the magic of Christmas is the perfect synergy.
DEADLINE: In Christmas Island, the lead female character Kate is not a stereotypical damsel in distress. Why was that important to you?
HERMAN: I think some of what has been done is like a girl returns home to a small town and abandons everything she’s worked for [to be with a man]. I’m not into that so I wouldn’t do that. The channel is encouraging us to move away from kind of that old-school trope. It is important to me to have a woman represented with strength, ambition and quirks so people feel like they’re seeing a real human being and not a cookie-cutter.
DEADLINE: Do you have any plans to do a Hanukkah movie in the future?
HERMAN: I would love to. I gotta switch it up and trade a Christmas tree for a menorah. But I already have some ideas for other stories I’d like to tell.
DEADLINE: Do you have any wishes to share with us being so close to the holidays?
HERMAN: Anyone who may have a blind date for me, hit me up.