As When Calls the Heart returns from its creative hiatus, co-creator and executive producer Brian Bird discusses how challenges have shaped the show and sets the stage for the rest of Season 6.
How do the themes of When Calls the Heart mirror real-life challenges?
Even though we set When Calls the Heart in the 1910s, we have always wanted the show to feel as universally relevant to the issues of today as possible.
I think that is why the fans and Hearties have loved it so much. They seem to love the simplicity and traditional values of life in 1915, but the issues of the heart our characters have to deal with in our story-telling feel just as real to the fan as their own experiences in the present.
Whether it be simple challenges to overcome, the prospect of loss, or the aspirations of trying to realize a dream. I have always believed that as humans we all have violin strings running through our souls, and those strings are tuned to the themes of courage, nobility, integrity, hard work, community, forgiveness, sacrifice and redemption.
Stories pluck those strings today just as have since the dawn of man.
Would you comment on some of the issues surrounding the reason for the creative hiatus?
This season, we were all caught off guard by the circumstances surrounding our friend Lori Loughlin and her family. While our hearts hurt for Lori and none of us has any idea what the future holds for her right now, Abigail Stanton’s story has always been an important part of the Hope Valley journey.
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, and Hope Valley will always be a place of second chances. However, in the real world, having a heart of forgiveness does not mean that justice can be ignored.
I am speaking for myself here, but I believe forgiveness and justice are flip sides of the same coin. They are never meant to cancel each other out, or overrule each other, but actually meant to work together for good in our lives. Both justice and mercy are values we care about in Hope Valley — as should all of us as individuals in the real world. And sometimes the laws of man, and the laws in our hearts have to coexist in a state of conflict, until justice and redemption can be resolved and life can be restored.
Good people can disagree with each other over these important ideas and how to apply them in this case, but I’ve always believed that can — and should happen — without any of us having to be disagreeable. That’s how a majority of the fans of When Calls the Heart have rectified these challenges for themselves as well.
What do Utah fans mean to the show?
Of course, 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-binged-watched TV program.
It doesn’t surprise me and 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 Utah’s citizens at that time because we had several hundred of them working the show. It was a pleasure to work there and I count many Utahns as good friends.
Who is a character fans should pay attention to this season?
Without giving any spoilers away, I think the Hearties are going to want to pay very close attention to two characters in the remaining episodes of Season 6: Lucas Bouchard and Mountie Nathan Grant.
Why should fans stick with the show?
In terms of why fans should continue to tune in to When Calls the Heart, we realize that perhaps this series has been through more unpredictable changes and challenges in the last few seasons than most shows — and it takes just as much courage for the Hearties to stick with it as it does for us trying to make the show.
But I have also personally 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 faced.
Knowing that it has meant so much to so many people gives all of us behind the scenes the courage to continue pressing on.
“Persistence beats resistance” is a lesson I’ve personally had to learn — a lesson that has been good for my soul and character.
The show itself is very much about that lesson. And I believe that value and others in the show are helping fans everywhere get through the challenges in their own lives.
Why would we ever want to stop offering that gift to the world?
And when are they ever going to stop needing it?
Why should fans tune in when Season 6 returns?
Beyond the important values and virtues I mentioned earlier that we always hope fans and Hearties will take away from watching the show, I can’t wait for them to see the remaining episodes in Season 6.
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!