SALT LAKE CITY — “When Calls the Heart” is coming back to television and co-creator Brian Bird can’t wait for fans to see what happens next.
It’s been a hard past few months for the popular Hallmark Channel show. In March of this year, Hallmark announced that they were dropping “When Calls the Heart” lead actress Lori Loughlin from all Hallmark projects following allegations regarding her involvement in the college admissions bribery scandal. For fans who worried the network would cancel the whole show, Hallmark announced a short time later that not only would Season 6 return to the air this year, on May 5, but that the show had been renewed for a seventh season.
However, many questions about the show’s plot remain. After all, Loughlin’s character, Abigail Stanton, was a central figure in the ensemble cast.
“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,” Bird said in an email interview with the blog, From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring.
“I could not agree more, and Hope Valley will always be a place of second chances,” he said. “However, in the real world, having a heart of forgiveness does not mean that justice can be ignored.”
‘Persistence beats resistance’: Brian Bird addresses fans as ‘When Calls the Heart’ returns from creative hiatus
Although these unexpected challenges posed an obstacle for those behind the show, Bird appreciates the past few months have also been difficult for fans.
“We realize that perhaps this series has been through more unpredictable changes and challenges in the last few seasons than most shows,” said Bird. “It takes just as much courage for the Hearties to stick with it as it does for us trying to make the show.”
The challenges faced by “When Calls the Heart” make a notable list. From nearly succumbing to financial ruin before the initial show ever premiered to losing its male lead to terminating Loughlin, the show is developing an impressive track record of overcoming obstacles.
“I have (been) on the roller coaster of giving birth to this show and raising it up since the beginning, and have learned to be fearless when it comes to facing the challenges we have,” said Bird. “Knowing that it has meant so much to so many people gives all of us behind the scenes the courage to continue pressing on.”
The “many people” Bird mentioned include a global audience that has resulted in an enviable viewership — as well as a strong base in Utah.
“All our fans across the world are beloved by the cast and crew of ‘When Calls the Heart,’ but it’s especially gratifying to know that Utah families have made us their No. 1 most-binge-watched TV program,” said Bird, referencing a recent Geek.com survey.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” he added. “It takes me back to my days of spending so much time in Utah when we were filming ‘Touched By an Angel’ there. I became very aware of the strong family values and tremendous work ethic of (Utahns).”
Hard work is a theme likely to show up in the remaining episodes of Season 6. “The fortunes of some of our residents change dramatically this season,” showrunner Alfonso Moreno teased earlier this year of the upcoming season.
Back for a second season, ‘When Calls the Heart’ showrunner Alfonso Moreno sets the stage for Season 6
Fans have already seen two characters wrestle for ownership of a newly vacant saloon only to see it grabbed up by a mysterious newcomer, Lucas Bouchard (Chris McNally).
Bird emphasized that fans will want to keep an eye on McNally’s character — as well as Hope Valley’s new Mountie, Nathan Grant (Kevin McGarry).
“I can’t wait for (fans) to see the remaining episodes in Season 6,” Bird said. “Not only are they full of good humor, emotion and romance, but I’m especially excited for the audience to get to know our two newest bachelors in town. They are intriguingly written characters, but also pretty hard to take your eyes off of!”
This article originally appeared in the Deseret News.