ENTERTAINMENT

Hilarie Burton Says She Left Hallmark Film After 'Diverse Casting' Request Ignored

The network has sparked controversy over its since-rescinded decision to kill ads depicting a same-sex wedding.

Hilarie Burton responded to the Hallmark Channel’s since-rescinded decision to scrap ads depicting a same-sex wedding with some eyebrow-raising claims of her own. 

The actor, best known for playing Peyton Sawyer on “One Tree Hill,” has appeared in a number of Hallmark’s original films over the years, including 2012’s “Naughty or Nice” and 2013’s “Christmas on the Bayou.” However, she said she was dismissed from one of the network’s projects last January because she demanded more “diverse casting.” 

“I had insisted on a LGBTQ character, an interracial couple and diverse casting,” Burton wrote in a series of tweets Sunday. “I was polite, direct and professional.”

 Though she didn’t mention the title of the film, she said studio executives took “none of my requests” into consideration, at which point she was told to “take it or leave it.” 

“The bigotry comes from the top and permeates the whole deal over there,” said Burton, who is married to Jeffrey Dean Morgan of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Walking Dead.” By contrast, Lifetime “rallied” for her when she signed on to star in “A Christmas Wish,” she said.

That film, co-starring Cristián de la Fuente and Megan Park, debuted on the network Nov. 28. 

Later on Sunday, Morgan responded to Burton’s remarks, noting in a tweet, “I do love you in an elf costume.”

As for his wife’s allegations, he added, “Gross. No other words needed.”  

Hallmark officials did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the claims. 

The network this weekend ignited a firestorm of controversy when it opted not to air a series of commercials for Zola, an online wedding registry and retailer, that showed a lesbian couple kissing at their nuptials.

The decision came after One Million Moms, a subgroup of the right-wing American Family Association, started a petition urging Hallmark to the remove ads featuring same-sex couples from the airwaves. 

A representative for the network told The New York Times the commercial featuring the two brides violated a company-wide rule against “public displays of affection,” but did not clarify why a nearly identical ad featuring a man and woman kissing was not rejected.

After the news drew a blistering response from celebrities, politicians and LGBTQ advocacy groups, Hallmark apologized and said it had decided to reverse course by airing the ads after all. 

“Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions, and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are,” Mike Perry, the CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc., said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused.”

The company said it would continue to work with advocacy groups “to better represent the LGBTQ community.”

CONVERSATIONS