I do not recall how long ago it was when I initially heard about a possible Godwinks television series, but at the time, I had absolutely no idea what that meant except that it would be a faith-based series and it would be on the Hallmark Network. Some time passed, and I actually wondered if perhaps the deal had fallen through. But lo and behold, the movie A Godwink Christmas popped up, and immediately I began following SQuire Rushnell, creator of this movement. I knew virtually nothing about this man and his best-selling book series, but I did some cursory exploration so that I was somewhat aware of what Godwinks was. I was already predisposed to be enthralled by the film because it features three of my very favorites in the Hallmark universe as well as Kathie Lee Gifford. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with SQuire himself and gain even more insight into the man God is definitely using to infuse this world with hope, encouragement, and a reimagined understanding of what are sometimes referred to as “coincidences” in popular culture–“Godwinks.”

RH: SQuire, it is so good to get to chat with you today. I cannot tell you how excited I am for A Godwink Christmas

SR: Thank you, Ruth, nice to chat with you too. We are very happy with our upcoming film.

I have already talked with a couple people about the movie–Paul Campbell, Kimberley Sustad, and Giles Panton. But it’s nice to be able to chat with the creator of the series.

All of those actors did a terrific job on the film. I was just bowled over with all of the performances. And how wonderful it was to include Kathie Lee in this film. I’ve known her for probably four decades, and she doesn’t get that many acting roles. And when she does, it’s more like, “Gee, Kathie Lee, we’d like for you to play the part of a talk show host.” Which makes you want to go kick something! {laughs} So she was able to get her teeth into this role as Kimberley’s aunt and did a fabulous job. We are so pleased. The performers are pleased, and they were really taken with their roles. In fact, I was talking with Kimberley after the last scene, which was the great romance scene with the Hallmark kiss. She talked the next day about how all of a sudden, the gushers opened and she just wept and how Paul was caught up with the emotion as well. It was just so sincere. We were delighted with everything.

But more important than that is that Bill Abbott, CEO of Hallmark, and the other Hallmark executives have just been raving about it. And that’s the more important judgment. Until we get those all-important ratings!

I’ve noticed that Hallmark has been pretty actively promoting the film for quite some time. And I believe we have a mutual friend in Debi Bailey, who told me just how much she enjoys both you and your wife, and I know the Hallmark family is very excited about this film.

Debi and her team are truly amazing. She has been a great friend to us. I know she has been instrumental in getting the Hearties on board for this film and getting the word out about it. We are truly delighted with everything about this project.

I understand that this is something that has been in the works for quite some time.

Yes, I often talk about the fact that it was like a four-year degree in the Hallmark College of Procedure. {laughs} The evolution of getting on Hallmark has been quite a process. It really was four years ago that we had our first meeting with Bill. He came for dinner at Kathie Lee’s home, and we got to know each other on a more personal level. He was enthusiastic about Godwinks right from the beginning. There really was no point when we said, “Gee, we gotta sell harder.” It was the process that took a certain amount of time.

But you know, Ruth, when you look back upon these things, you have to say that if God is sovereign and He makes all things happen, He also puts his hand on the brake and makes things slow down. So when we stop and think about how this year and how this month of November is going to be so much more important for a nation that needs hope and encouragement than any time most of us can ever remember in our lifetime… and the fact that this film is going on the air a week and a half after the election, and there is such unrest and turmoil in so many hearts…the people are just gonna want to escape. It doesn’t matter what brand you are or what team you’re on…you’re gonna need hope and encouragement. And we’re just so thrilled that the timing is perfect.

It was a four-year degree in Hallmark that we have enjoyed, and hopefully, now we’ll go on and get our master’s degree and our doctorate {laughs} in creating a franchise.

Paul and I were talking about the fact that this is going to be a series of films, and what he thinks is that he and Kimberley should come back and play different roles next time so they can still be a part of the series. 

Well, I don’t think that’s a bad idea. To tell you the truth, I have been talking about for a long time–maybe five years or more–the idea of creating a library of short movies based on Godwinks, and the idea to make them financially possible is to produce several movies at the same time with a repertory company of actors. So when we really started working with Hallmark, we said, “You know something? Hallmark is always ahead of us. Hallmark is already using a repertory company of actors.”  While they don’t call it that as such, in short, that is what happens. They have something akin to a repertory company. So from my perspective, I think it’s a wonderful idea.

I know when he and I were talking, he mentioned that A Godwink Christmas is the first Hallmark movie to have “God” in the title, and I believe he is correct.

Well, it’s better than that. From our research, it is the first television series in the history of television that has “God” in the title. With one exception. And that is the launch of the CBS show that just premiered this fall called God Friended Me. In fact, I mentioned this to CBS Sunday morning, who did a Godwink feature about two years ago, and it’s the idea that for the first time in history, as far as anybody can tell, these are the two programs for the first time in television where “G-O-D” has been in the title.

Wow! That is very significant! In fact, I have been telling my Hallmark watch partner–my mom–about this movie A Godwink Christmas, and at first, she kept asking me about the term “Godwink.” It took a while for the title to sink in with her. But the reason I was familiar with the title is I remember at the TCA’s a year or two ago when they first mentioned this series Godwinks. But it was something I had not heard previously until that time. Glad to see it coming to fruition now!

Well, “Godwinks” is a new word in the language. The words take a little while to catch on unless they happen to be really faddish. It takes a while for them to get into the language and into dictionaries and into popular use and so forth.

Even though I’ve been in the media business all my life…I ran Good Morning, America and was at ABC for twenty years. But it took me eight years to get booked on Good Morning, Americabecause…one of the producers said it succinctly to one of my PR people: “Tell SQuire we love him. We just hate the title of his book.” Meaning that G-O-D word. And that was the only time I got booked on the show I used to run, and I had to have the help of my old friend, the president of ABC. But then I had a good friend at The Today Show who loved Godwinks. She just kept pitching it and pitching it. So four years ago, we started the monthly segment called the Godwinks segment on The Today Show. It has been evolving as a word and the eleventh book has just come out, and it’s called Godwinks Christmas Stories.  So I think this is really the year that the word “Godwink” is gonna reach visibility at a tipping point basis.

I know we fans are excited to see faith-inspired media, and then to see it coming to Hallmark is even better. It seems like Hallmark is always more open to having a kind of faith element to their films and shows. Additionally, it is a joy to discover how many people of faith work for the network on a regular basis. And with the addition of this series, I couldn’t be happier. 

I am in full agreement with you there. And I understand, Ruth, that you’re also a teacher, and I just love teachers. As one of the “fathers” of Schoolhouse Rock during my years of network TV, I always felt a great kinship to teachers in school. And then with the ABC After-School Specials…that was also a part of my history. Then I spent a lot of time with the homeschool market, which has just grown so much that I don’t even know how many homeschools there are now. At the time that I started a series at ABC for teaching kids the values of the Bible, I think there were about two million homeschoolers. That seemed pretty outlandish at the time. But the homeschooling teachers were a really great support system.

Read the full interview here

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