Hallmark Channel has become a cable powerhouse, in large part because it's a platform for former A-list performers who still have a loyal following and a hunger to work.
Add Minneapolis native Rachael Leigh Cook to that roster. The actress best known for "She's All That" and "Josie and the Pussycats" has transitioned into a Hallmark regular, starring in a series of romantic films set in a vineyard. The latest, "Valentine in the Vineyard," premiered earlier this month and will be re-broadcast on Valentine's Day.
Cook is well aware that the roles aren't as glamorous as being in a high-profile, big-budget comedy.
"I was worried that it would appear that my career has gone soft," siad Cook, hanging around the dessert bar this past weekend at a Hallmark party also attended by Debbie Gibson, Rebecca Romijn and Catherine Bell. "But it just made sense."
Cook has two kids, ages 3 and 5, and committing to a feature film or a series is tough. On the other hand, a Hallmark shoot in Canada wraps after just 15 days.
"The kids are only alllowed to miss so many days of schools, so I really can't take them with me," said Cook who, at 39, could still pass for a Pussycat. "Now I can do one of these and be back home quickly."
The movies are also quite popular. The premiere of the 2016 romantic comedy, "Autumn in the Vineyard" drew 2.2 million viewers. Cook said she has a deal for two more Hallmark movies and is working on a project for another cable network.
The actress doesn't return to Minnesota much these days -- her parents have moved to California -- but the Midwest winters are still on her mind. Her 2018 Hallmark movie, "Frozen In Love," was based on her original idea.