I recently had the privilege to interview Rachel Wagner and Amber Nielsen, the two women behind the Hallmarkies Podcast.
Kurt Manwaring: Welcome! Before we begin, would you tell us a little bit about yourselves and the Hallmarkies podcast?
Rachel Wagner and Amber Nielsen: There are two of us that co-host the podcast.
Rachel: I am currently living in Draper. I’ve been here for the last seven years, which is crazy. I grew up in Maryland. I went to BYU for my undergrad and got my MBA from University of Phoenix. I have been a YouTuber and blogger – Blogger for 10 years. YouTuber for five years. I like talking about movies and shows and stuff.
Amber: I’m Amber, born and raised and currently in Salt Lake. Rachel and I both met through our love of a podcast called “Rob Has a Podcast.” We are both patrons of the podcast and we met at a few events and became friends that way due to our mutual love of “Survivor.”
Kurt Manwaring: What led you to create the Hallmarkies podcast?
Rachel: I wanted to talk about “Anne with an E” because I love “Anne of Green Gables,” so I reached out on my Facebook page and Amber was interested and we figured out we both like Hallmark movies so we both got this crazy thing started.
Amber: After we met we just hit it off and we sort of bonded over our dislike of the Netflix series “Anne with an E” and we wanted some goodness in our lives so we decided to talk about Hallmark movies. I was just a guest on her podcast (Rachel’s Reviews) and we decided we liked it so much we made it its own beast. I’m sure Rachel regrets all of the work she now has to put into the podcast because she now has two things but it’s been really fun.
Kurt Manwaring: Who are some of your favorite interviews thus far?
Rachel: It has been really fun. I never would have thought in a million years that talking about Hallmark movies would have led to getting to interview Alonso Duralde, Catherine Disher and William Bibbiani. These people that I really admire and think are the best.
Amber: Rachel loves talking to the critics and voice actors from cartoons but I have really enjoyed talking with obviously Paul Campbell who is my one true love. I have also enjoyed talking to Jen Lilley and our first ever interview with Nina Weinman is still one of my favorites. I’ve also enjoyed having the fans come on our podcast and just geek out with us
Rachel: Yeah, and whenever we have had a fellow podcaster on that has been fun. I really enjoyed having Mike Bloom on to talk about “Once Upon a Time.” Marissa Serafini was great to have. Of course Alonso and William are podcasters. They get it.
Kurt Manwaring: Why do you think Hallmark shows appeal to fans in Utah?
Amber: I think one of the things that does appeal is it is clean content and I don’t think this is specific to Utah. It is specific to everyone who wants clean family friendly content. You are going to get a happy ending. It’s an escape from all of the realness that is happening in society. Even on Twitter it is such a respite to go to our little section of the world and not have to talk about politics or even just the stupidity of what the Kardashians are doing.
Rachel: I think the shows in the end are all about marriage and family and that’s very much a Utah thing. Whether you happen to be LDS or not that’s a general value for the state and is the general goal of most of these movies unless you happen to be a Wedding March movie. Also some of them are filmed here which is fun.
Kurt Manwaring: What makes a show with family values captivating in today’s age of entertainment?
Rachel: You just want something comforting. I think it is the same thing that has always made that kind of entertainment captivating it’s just more rare now.
Amber: It’s true and frankly even a lot of the stuff you see on the Disney Channel is a little questionable and doesn’t hold to the family values. You don’t even get to see strong parent-children relationships because in a lot of the Disney shows they create parents who are buffoons and children who are independent and wild. Hallmark is doing family better than almost any other network.
Kurt Manwaring: Rank your Top 5 Hallmark shows.
Favorite TV series – “The Good Witch.”
Favorite Christmas Movie – “Trading Christmas.”
Favorite Regular Movie – “How to Fall in Love”/”Nanny Express” (one drama, one romcom).
Favorite Mystery Series – “Darrow and Darrow.”
Favorite TV series – “Chesapeake Shores.”
Favorite Christmas Movie -” 9 Lives of Christmas.”
Favorite Regular Movie – “The Perfect Bride”/”Loving Leah.”
Favorite Mystery Series – “Signed Sealed and Delivered.”
Kurt Manwaring: Where can people follow you on social media? Can you provide a tease of upcoming coverage?
Amber- I am at @amberbrainwaves on Twitter and that’s it!
Rachel: You can find me at “Rachel’s Reviews” on iTunes and YouTube. You can follow the podcast at @hallmarkiespod on twitter and @hallmarkiespodcast on Instagram. You can listen to the podcast on YouTube and all the major podcasting apps like Stitcher and iTunes.
As far as upcoming coverage we are going to try and cover Christmas in July and then we have Summer Nights in August, which should be fun. We are also going to be covering the new season of “Chesapeake Shores” coming up at the end of August.
Amber: And of course we will be talking about “Countdown to Christmas” and all the madness that is Hallmark Christmas.
Kurt Manwaring: What are your thoughts on Season 6 of “When Calls the Heart” sans Daniel Lissing?
Rachel: Well, I have am not as attached to Jack as some other fans.
Amber: Honestly for us we live and breathe Rosemary and Lee Coulter. That’s where our hearts truly lie. So I’m actually really looking forward to see what they are going to do and what Elizabeth’s story will be without Jack. I think it is going to allow for a lot of storytelling. It can deal with grief but I hope they don’t dwell on it. I’m looking forward to it. As long as they have the Coulters and Opal we’ll be fine.
Rachel: I completely agree. Those are my favorite characters as well.
Amber: And of course I would love to see Henry Gowen and Abigail find love together. This may just be fan fiction but I feel it.
Kurt Manwaring: In what ways is the online Hallmarkies community like a family?
Rachel: I feel like every other fandom has so many toxic elements and there’s this sense of competition in fandom where what I like is better. Where I feel like with Hallmark the Hallmarkies know what they like and they know its flaws but they own it and get joy out of it. There’s not that many fandoms you can say that about.
Amber: Yeah, you aren’t going to find any of these sweet women on Twitter saying, ‘You didn’t start watching the Wedding March movies until Wedding March 3? You aren’t a real fan,’ because frankly that’s not who they are.
Rachel: Yeah, you might get a collage made about you but that’s about it. The “When Calls the Heart” thing pushed them. . .
Amber: But even in that moment of utter chaos I don’t feel like the fans got negative towards each other. It was mostly just them screaming out in terror and despair. The bargaining stage of grief had become the threatening stage. I will be surprised to see if even a third of the people who say they are quitting will actually quit.
Kurt Manwaring: If you could interview any actor or showrunner, who would you choose and why?
Rachel: If we could pick anyone even outside of Hallmark we would both pick Jeff Probst.
Amber: For real, we would for sure interview Jeff Probst. He basically brought us together.
Rachel: But gosh, I feel like we’ve practically been able to interview everybody that we have wanted to.
Amber: For me the dream get is Nancy Silvers. She’s written so many wonderful things including “The 9 Lives of Christmas” and is a writer for “Chesapeake Shores.” She is just brilliant and I would love to get a chance to talk to her about her process.
Rachel: It would be cool to get to interview one of the queens of Hallmark (Candace Cameron Bure, Lacey Chabert, Danica McKeller). We would never be able to get them but just for the podcast it would be really cool.
Amber: Any of the queens are welcome (Lacey, Danica, Candace, Alicia, etc). Any of them would be dream gets, are welcome any time and we will work around their schedules!
Kurt Manwaring: Let’s say Hallmark asks you to assemble an all-star cast for a new television show. Without knowing anything about the premise, pick an ensemble cast of three women and two men. Explain your reasoning.
Rachel: Men – Jesse Hutch and Paul Campbell. Whatever is thrown at them they will do a great job and will be funny, but can also do tender moments.
Women – Cindy Busby, Kimberley Sustad, Tammy Gillis. It’s easy to say one of the Queens of Hallmark, but they aren’t really ensemble actors (Candace is in “Fuller House,” but still). These three ladies can all pull off the ensemble work and do the drama and comedy. The five of them would be a pretty great cast.
Amber: Your cast is very similar to mine. Men – Paul Campbell and Casey Manderson. I love Casey Manderson so much and I want him to get the girl but he is so great when he doesn’t.
Women – Jen Lilley, Kimberley Sustad, Alie Liebert. And mainly it is because all of these people try to find the funny while still being believable and can bring the drama. I would almost die if they made this movie. How much would my brain explode.
Rachel: Our combined cast of Paul Campbell, Jesse Hutch, Cindy Busby, Kimberley Sustad, Tammy Gillis, Casey Manderson, Jen Lilley, Alie Liebert would be amazing.
Amber: To be fair all we want in life is our “Firehouse Movie,” so limiting us to two men was very tricky.
Rachel: Right. We are dying for our Hallmark version of the “12 Men of Christmas.”
Amber: It’s just because they make all these films around the female leads but they are under-utilizing the male leads.
* Stay tuned for a feature in the Deseret News about Hallmark productions and the Hallmarkies Podcast featuring selections from this interview.