Billy Ray Cyrus to star in Hallmark telefilm

'Christmas in Canaan' co-written by Kenny Rogers

Hallmark Channel is planning "Christmas in Canaan," starring Billy Ray Cyrus.

The telefilm, slated to air in December, is based on a novel co-written by another country star/actor, Kenny Rogers, and Donald Davenport.

"Christmas" chronicles the unlikely friendship that develops between two boys -- DJ (Zak Ludwig), who is white, and Rodney (Jaishon Fisher), who is black -- in 1960s Texas as they bond over concern for a wounded puppy.

Cyrus plays DJ's dad, who, with Rodney's grandmother, concocts the puppy plan after the boys get into a schoolyard tussle.

Neill Fearnley is directing from a script by Davenport and a story by Rogers. Production has begun in Vancouver.

Margaret Loesch, Dan Angel, Ted Bauman, Howard Braunstein and Michael Jaffe executive produce.

Dogs are popular this holiday season, with CBS readying the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation "A Dog Named Christmas."