Devotees of Holiday TV movies on the Lifetime and Hallmark channels will likely have seen out gay actor Chad Connell, who has appeared in several films in the genre. Last year, he had a supporting role as Aiden, the straight brother in “The Christmas Setup,” the first Lifetime movie that featured a gay male couple at the center of the holiday romance. In 2019, he played the male lead, an uptight Brit, in the charming entry, “A Cheerful Christmas,” and had a supporting role as a would-be love interest (aka “fancy suit guy”) in “Double Holiday,” which had a Christmas and Hanukkah theme. Binge them all for a real sugar rush. 

Connell has also played in “Christmas at Grand Valley,” and “A Christmas for the Books,” among other holiday films, but don’t think that the actor is a one-trick pony. He delivered a soulful performance in the intense gay psychological drama, “Steel,” and had a supporting part as a gay character in the queer horror film, “The Retreat,” that was released earlier this year. 

With the holiday season just getting started, Connell chatted about the appeal of holiday films.

Holiday movies are cozy, with predictable plots, but they have a huge fanbase, and give viewers the feels. What do you see as the appeal for holiday films?

I do get why people like them. I don’t look down on the material because I love the holiday season. I was married at Christmas time, and I look forward to Christmastime all year. Holiday films are part of the whole tradition of getting into the spirit. I’ve heard that the ideal Christmas movie is something you have on in the background while baking — which is part of the appeal of the predictable plot; if you miss a few moments because your cookies are going to burn, you don’t have to rewind. The genre they created has its own archetypal story of the woman from a small town coming home from the big city to wrap up a family issue and discovers Christmas is magical after all through the local handsome guy. The genre as a whole — but specifically Hallmark movies 10-15 years ago — were pretty disregarded. People I know now who watch them maybe started off watching them ironically, but they are no longer watching them ironically. And any network of consequence is now trying to emulate the genre. It’s a full industry. Netflix and Hulu are making them now.

What are your observations about how these films have evolved over the years? 

It used to be really specific; you can predict what the actors would look like and all the storylines. And now, we are seeing levels of ethnic or sexual diversity year after year. The audience who still want super-traditional, old school Hallmark Christmas movies are still getting them, but I think other people are being brought into the fold. There was an amazing “Saturday Night Live” skit about Hallmark Christmas movies. It is so accurate, it’s hysterical.

Do you have a favorite holiday film?

Hallmark would be eating their heart out at my family at Christmastime. My family does gingerbread house decorating competitions. We still all get together and watch “A Christmas Story.” That’s our go-to holiday film. We have a full replica of the leg lamp. We take it seriously. 

Would you do a gay holiday film, or are you typecast more as a straight man?

Why would I not? That’s not a trivial thought. It is certainly something to consider. If it is a fun script or cast, I’d be happy to do it. What I like about “The Christmas Setup” is that it was a traditional Christmas movie. It was only that Ben happened to be male. It fit the format. I’m well aware of how I present. People don’t see me having much of an edge. That’s why appearances don’t always necessarily reflect [actors] accurately. I can walk into these characters pretty easily. I know how to smile big. There is the struggle of being typecast. 

What are the challenges of making these films, which are meant to spark joy?

Atmosphere around set can play a big part — who you are working with. “Cheerful Christmas” was a joy to make. Every smile [co-star] Erica Deutschman or I had was so genuine because we were having fun. We both really leaned into the material in a tongue-in-cheek way, and we thought that would read, and people would enjoy that. Most of these films are shot in the summertime, and that can be a disconnect to get your cold wintery happy mojo going. But I always thought, so many of these are shot in Canada, why are we not making use of real snow? Then we shot “Cheerful Christmas” in February, and it was minus 30 degrees Celsius and I was dressed in Hallmark winter attire, which is a light jacket and scarf and thin leather shoes! 

How would you describe your perfect Christmas? 

My parents have a great old home on the canal in Ottawa. So, it is a magical, fairy tale Christmas to begin with. Lots of fireplaces going, and classic Christmas tunes all the time. We eat the same foods — fondue and tourtière, a traditional French Canadian meat pie — every year and on Christmas Day, we congregate and open gifts. 

What is the best response you have had from holiday film fans?

A woman stopped me in Central Park South the other day and told me that some of the work I have done for the Hallmark channel has helped her get through the pandemic. Life is really tough, and sometimes people do want cake, and that’s what these projects are. They are dessert. There’s pride to be had in giving that to people and doing it well. It’s like Christmas films have taken over the rom-coms of the 90s, which seemed to have gone away. They are almost always female driven, and things resolve neatly. They scratch the same itch.