Hallmark Channel is explanding its venture into original programming with When Calls The Heart, based on Janette Oke's Canadian West books. BFTV recently had the opportunity to chat with series star and TV mainstay Lori Loughlin about her role as Abigail Stanton, and the one scene you won't want to miss in tonight's episode.
When Lori first portrayed Abigail in the premiere movie that aired last October, she had an idea that When Calls The Heart could become a regular series. "They told me because I actually came on just to do the very last scene of the movie," she explained. "When the producers approached me, they said this is a potential backdoor pilot [and] if it goes to series, we'd like you to be a part of the series, so we would love to have you be in one scene at the very end, which sets up the character of Elizabeth coming to Cold Valley.
"And then through other circumstances, the movie became very different from the series, and they did a lot of recasting," she continued. "They recast two leads [Maggie Grace and Stephen Amell were replaced by Erin Krakow and Daniel Lissing], and it just shifted and it changed. But I did know that they were potentially trying to do it as a backdoor pilot for a series."
What she didn't know were the books on which the series is based. "I actually was not [familiar with the books], but I had the pleasure of meeting Janette Oke," she told us. "She came to set to visit us a few months back, and then I had dinner with her. She's a lovely, lovely woman and she's very funny. Because she's so popular and these books are so popular, she made a comment about [how] she's been trying to retire for years but they just won't let her. I know she has a huge, huge following and the books have a huge following."
The series has its own strengths, including one particularly challenging scene that you'll see in tonight's episode. "[It] is the birth of a baby and I am instrumental in delivering the child," Lori said. "And those are scenes are tricky to film, because you want to be true but you can't be too graphic. So it's finding the balance of how to shoot that and make that scene as realistic as possible within the confines of television."
"They're very collaborative and they do take our suggestions," she continued, describing the work environment on the set of the series. "I don't know if we'll get to a second season, but I have a story that I've already pitched to one of the writers for my character next season that they really like. And I'm going to sit down and pitch it to the other executive producers and possibly the people at the network. They are very, very open to hearing ideas in the broad strokes of it all.
"And if you're on set and you're struggling with some dialogue, or you're saying, 'It doesn't feel right that I would say that,' they really take a look at it and go, 'You know what? I agree.' Or 'You know what, this is why we wrote that,' and they'll explain why. It's a very collaborative working environment."
What has Lori taken away from her role in When Calls The Heart? "I think what I've learned and what I think what I've always known in my own life is that in life we need other people," she explained. "It's hard to go it alone. It takes a village and you need a support system. Even though [the series is] set in 1910, it feels contemporary to me, in the sense that these women really need each other, and they rely on each other, and together they forge ahead and they triumph. And I think that’s really indicative of society today.
"It's interesting because I see we can be so isolated nowadays because of the computer and the phone. You see everyone looking down at their phone," she said. "But I do think that we really do need each other. I know for me in my life with my friends, they're very important to me and when times get tough, of course I rely on my husband, but I really do rely on my girlfriends. And that’s what I like about When Calls The Heart. It's these women in this community that are coming together to make a better life for themselves and for their kids."
The series might be set in the past, but it's a new chapter for the veteran actress, who has remained a fixture in our homes starting with her role as Rebecca Donaldson in Full House, to later roles as Carolyn Lance on the cult hit Birds of Prey, Ava Gregory in Summerland and Annie Wilson in the first three seasons of the CW's spinoff 90210. What does she think about having carved out a niche on the small screen?
"I tend to live my life one day at a time," Lori reflected. "But I really am very blessed and thankful that I've been able to work all these years. I know that I am fortunate and I am among a small percentage. For me, I feel like I wasn't trained to do anything else. I feel like I had nothing else to fall back on so I had to make it work for myself. And thankfully I've been able to."
When Calls The Heart airs Saturdays on Hallmark Channel (check your local listings for specific channel and airtime).