Lori Loughlin: She’ll probably be home for Christmas — but then what?

Unfortunately for Lori Loughlin, her real-life 2020 Christmas would make a challenging plot for one of her Hallmark holiday movies.
Lori Loughlin and daughters Isabella Giannulli (R) and Olivia Giannulli (L) attend the premiere of Netflix’s “Fuller House” on Feb. 16, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)
On the one hand, Loughlin’s return home this week could make an uplifting movie ending: a Christmas reunion with her daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannullli. But to many viewers, she would have a hard time coming across as a sympathetic heroine.
Once known for her plucky, wholesome persona, Loughlin returns home a disgraced public figure after spending two months in the federal prison in Dublin. With her fashion designer husband, the 56-year-old actor pleaded guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their already privileged daughters fraudulently admitted to the University of Southern California.
There is perhaps a redemption narrative that could work for certain kinds of TV movies. Olivia Jade, 20, tried to lay the groundwork for that arc in her recent Red Table Talk interview, saying that her “strong” mother is using her prison term for “a good reflection period.” But some details of Loughlin’s incarceration sound pretty dark for typically breezy Hallmark fare: Weeks in COVID-19 quarantine, surviving on bologna-sandwich bag dinners, no family visits.
Complicating Loughlin’s story is that her homecoming won’t include a reunion with her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, because he’s still serving his five-month prison sentence.
On top of all this, Loughlin faces an uncertain professional future in Hollywood. After Loughlin and Giannulli, 57, were arrested in March 2019, she became the public face for national outrage over the scandal. She was among the most famous of the dozens of wealthy parents accused of paying bribes to get their children fraudulently admitted to top U.S. colleges.
Hallmark immediately cut ties with Loughlin, one of its favorite Christmas rom-com performers, and wrote her out of its hit series, “When Calls the Heart.” Netflix likewise had her beloved Aunt Becky character excised from its “Full House” reboot.

A Lori Loughlin-free #WhenCallsTheHeart returning to #Hallmark https://t.co/YqRCHrT12Q pic.twitter.com/hYCGEDVXzb
— The Hollywood Reporter (@THR) April 10, 2019

“If I were advising her, I’d say keep a low profile for a while and then ease back into the spotlight,” said Evan Nierman, founder of the crisis management and P.R. firm Red Banyan. “She’s also been more in limelight because of the college scandal than her acting career. She’s got some rebuilding to do, and it’s going to take time.”
Loughlin entered the Dublin prison on Oct. 30, ending a 19-month ordeal that was largely self-inflicted. Months after fellow TV star Felicity Huffman and other accused parents took plea deals, Loughlin and Giannulli paid a high-priced legal team to vehemently insist on their innocence and to accuse the prosecution of overreach and misconduct. Meanwhile, Olivia Jade seemed mostly interested in trying to revive her career as a social media influencer.
Loughlin and Giannulli finally relented in May, after prosecutors went public with photos showing that Olivia Jade and Isabella appeared to be complicit in the scheme orchestrated by admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer. To get Olivia Jade and Isabella admitted to USC on the pretense of being crew team recruits, Loughlin and Giannulli had them pose on rowing machines for photos to submit with their falsified applications.
Before Loughlin’s sentencing in August, U.S. Judge Nathaniel Gorton castigated her for her greed, arrogance and for not being satisfied with her already “fairy tale life.”
“Yet you stand before me, a convicted felon, and for what?” Gorton said. “For the inexplicable desire to grasp even more.”
During the virtual hearing, Loughlin expressed remorse and acknowledged that she allowed herself to be swayed from her “moral compass” in order to give her daughters “an unfair advantage.”
“I thought I was acting out of love for my children,” Loughlin said. “More broadly and more importantly, I now understand that my decision helped exacerbate existing inequalities in society generally and in the higher education system specifically.”
Loughlin became tearful when she said, “That realization weighs heavily on me.”
Loughlin reportedly experienced a “weepy” first night in prison, a source told People magazine. Prison consultant Holli Coulman told the Bay Area News Group that Loughlin was initially housed in a storage building that was converted into a makeshift COVID-19 isolation unit, with temporary showers and toilets, but with no heat or hot water, and inmates forced to sleep on mats on a cold concrete floor. Loughlin was eventually moved into the general population, sharing a cubicle with three other women, added Coulman, who helps federal defendants prepare for prison life with her Pink Lady Prison Consultants.
The source told People that Loughlin “pulled herself together quickly” and became determined to “finish her sentence with her head held high.” Another source told Us Weekly that Loughlin, a Catholic, attended church services at the prison and “has been praying a lot.”
Lori Loughlin departs federal court in Boston with her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, after a hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Philip Marcelo, File)
Loughlin’s official release date is this Sunday, two days after Christmas, TMZ reported. But Loughlin may benefit from a U.S. Bureau of Prisons policy that allows for the early release of inmates whose departures fall on a legal holiday or, as in Loughlin’s case, on a weekend. That means she could be released Christmas Eve, TMZ said.
Whenever Loughlin is released, she is likely to return home to the $9 million mansion that she and Giannulli purchased in August. She’ll be on two years of supervised release, where her choices in work, travel and community service will be tightly monitored by a probation officer. She’ll also need to complete 150 hours of community service.
Nierman raised the possibility that Loughlin doesn’t have to work, given that she and Giannulli appear to have been “good stewards” of their wealth.
“If she were 30 years younger, she might have to get herself back out there,” Nierman said. “But I presume she doesn’t need to work, and they can live quietly and don’t need the spotlight shined on them.”

How to watch jailbird Lori Loughlin’s Hallmark Christmas movies https://t.co/ZtrE911sHc pic.twitter.com/Ochj3aBIak
— New York Post (@nypost) December 11, 2020

But Loughlin could one day revive her career, “if she acts with humility and, over time, demonstrates that she has truly accepted responsibility and isn’t just issuing statements,” Nierman added.
At her sentencing, Loughlin proclaimed her intention to “take responsibility and move forward.” Loughlin also expressed  hope that she’ll get a second chance, saying she has “great faith in God” and in redemption.
“I will do everything in my power to redeem myself and use this experience as a catalyst to do good,” she said.
As much as there might not be another breezy Hallmark Christmas movie in Loughlin’s future, the network could still provide a vehicle for her to work out her redemption narrative.
Fans of Hallmark’s “When Calls the Heart” would love to see Loughlin and her character, Abigail Stanton, return, Good Housekeeping reported. After Loughlin’s arrest, the show, set in the fictional town of Hope Valley in the Canadian West around 1910, had Abigail leave to take care of her ailing mother. But the show never made it clear whether Abigail was gone for good.
Last spring, series creator Brian Bird teased the possibility of Abigail’s — and Loughlin’s — return. In an interview, he said, “Some of the fans have asked what will happen to Abigail’s character, and shared their opinion that Hope Valley should be an example of forgiveness and grace. As Lori’s friend, I could not agree more.”

More recently, Bird liked a tweet from a Georgia-based Catholic priest, who appears to be a fan of Loughlin and of “When Calls the Heart.” The show returns for its eighth season in February. The priest, Randy Mattox, expressed eagerness for a certain kind of Christmas redemption story for Loughlin.
“I am praying daily for Lori Loughlin,” Mattox, wrote. “She has been so kind to me, and I will love her always! Hoping Christmas may bring an announcement of her return to Hope Valley!”
Bird tweeted, “Amen, brother. From your lips to God’s ears.” Other fans agreed:

I would love it if Abigail and Cody come back to Hope Valley! Most of all, I hope LL experiences hope and renewal in her life and that she rises again. pic.twitter.com/Y0iZPFCZns
— Anna B (@annabme4) October 31, 2020

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