Wow! Where to begin!? An amazing day beyond our expectations. And, dare we say it, a day that touched our hearts.
Firstly, a sincere and hearty (no pun intended) congratulations to the organisers of this year’s HFR event. It was a mammoth undertaking and it went incredibly smoothly, plus, was very entertaining for those of us in the audience. Thank you – for those of us who have organised events (of course, nothing on the scale of HFR4) we know just how much time and effort goes into making a successful event and you all did a brilliant job!
Thanks also to ACCTV for the Aussie Hearties shirts they provided to us. They were greatly appreciated today.
The day started with interviews with Hallmark and When Calls the Heart executives. Michelle Vicary of the Hallmark Channel made the point that when they consider the storytelling in When Calls the Heart, the first question they ask themselves is, “what will the Hearties think about this?”.
She said that consideration is also at the centre of the new spin-off series, When Hope Calls. We also had the opportunity to meet the two lead actresses of this series, who will play sisters.
During the break, we spoke with other Hearties from around the world. After communicating via Twitter, it was great to meet face-to-face with our new friends Desiree (AKA @CanadianHeartie) from Canada and Jess (AKA @MessyJess26) from the UK, who travelled to Canada by herself.
Next was the main event for all Hearties fans – hearing from and meeting the stars of the show. Lori Loughlin (Abigail), Erin Krakow (Elizabeth), Carter Ryan Evancic (Cody), Pascale Hutton (Rosemary), Kavan Smith (Lee), Paul Greene (Dr Carson Shepherd), Jack Wagner (Bill) and Martin Cummins (Henry) drew enormous cheers from the 300-plus people in the room as they entered for the panel discussion. An additional cheer went up with the arrival of the two new characters – Chris McNally and Kevin McGarry.
Hearties had previously been asked to submit questions for the actors, with the possibility of having them read out at HFR4. Both Jenn and Ange had their questions selected. Jenn asked Carter during the job shadowing episode in season 5 who he would have chosen if he hadn’t spent the time with Lee in the sawmill. He responded that he would have chosen Bill. Ange had asked Martin (who plays fallen former mayor Henry Gowan), what had changed for him or his character over the years the show has been running. Martin replied that the feeling of hope and family was a positive influence when he brought his kids to the set while working, which is often not the case with other sets he’s worked on previously. Martin also let slip that he was texting former cast member (and Aussie) Daniel Lissing during the panel discussions and playfully gave Paul Greene a punch on Dan’s instruction.
Next was the highlight of the day – a kind of ‘speed dating’ with the stars which saw the cast and senior production staff visit each table and spend three minutes talking with the Hearties and taking photos. This was our only chance for one-on-one interaction with the stars, and it was wonderful to meet these actors in person. The JAKK jackets that Kylie had made for the event proved a drawcard for the actors, and the fact we were Australian. They seemed genuinely impressed that we had travelled all the way out to Canada to attend the event.
One of our table mates also brought her young son along, and he was a huge drawcard as well (both Lori and Erin couldn’t resist a cuddle). Not sure how the actors felt afterwards, but it was both exhilarating and exhausting for us, particularly given each actor had only three minutes at each table before moving on. A big shout out to the lovely Loretta Walsh (Florence in the show) who, upon learning we were fellow Australians, broke out into a loud chant of ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie’!
Following the lunch break, Paul Greene brought his guitar onstage for a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which was repeated this year (it was also a feature of last year’s HFR event). The partial recording below gives you an idea of how wonderful this sounded but compared to what it sounded like is the room it really doesn’t do it justice.
We then heard from some of the other actors in another panel discussion. This panel included some of the children including Ava Grace Cooper (who plays Opal), Genea Charpentier (Laura), Gracyn Shinyei (Emily), Ben Rosenbaum (Hickam), Hrothgar Mathews (Ned Yost) Johannah Newmarch (Molly) and Andrea Brooks (Nurse Faith Carter).
Kristyn was also lucky enough to have her question to Ben selected, and asked Ben if he could have any other storyline in Hope Valley, what it would be. He responded that he would love to do a Freaky Friday/bodyswap scenario (much to the amusement of the Hearties).
Melanie McInnes then gave us an insight into the development of the Jamestown movie set on their family farm, the location of Hope Valley, which provided some context ahead of tomorrow’s set visit.
Tonight, we get a special preview of a Hallmark Christmas movie, the much-anticipated Marrying Father Christmas, starring Erin Krakow and Niall Matter. The movie has yet to go to air, so we can’t provide any spoilers.
Apart from the set tour, our plans for tomorrow include picking up a rental car ahead of our trip to the Rockies (wish us luck driving in this traffic!!) and a visit to Granville Island.