'When Calls the Heart' Boss Spills on Elizabeth Choosing Lucas and Teases Season 9 (Exclusive)

ET spoke with showrunner John Tinker about the end of the love triangle, plus, he dishes on what's to come for the cast in season 9.

Who calls the heart? If you ask Elizabeth Thornton, it's Lucas Bouchard.

During Sunday's season 8 finale of When Calls the Heart, everyone's favorite schoolteacher chose to pursue a romantic relationship with the charming saloon owner, resolving a seasons-long love triangle between them and Mountie Nathan Grant. Naturally, we're now bursting with questions about Elizabeth and Lucas' future together and what's next for Nathan, but don't worry hearties, because ET has you covered!

We spoke exclusively with WCTH executive producer John Tinker over email about the conclusion of the love triangle, plus, Lee and Rosemary's journey to parenthood, the Canfields establishing their roots, what lies ahead for Carson and Faith's romance and even what to expect from the blossoming couples in Hope Valley.

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ET: We just finished watching the last episode in season 8 of When Calls the Heart, and OMG, what a finale! Now that the love triangle has finally been resolved, how are you feeling? How do you hope the hearties are feeling?

John Tinker: We’re feeling very good — and not simply because Elizabeth, Nathan, and Lucas are now able to move on with their lives. When it came to “wrapping up” the love triangle, we took great pains to consider all options. Ultimately, we approached Elizabeth’s choice by asking two questions: What makes emotional “sense” for Elizabeth and what choice allows for the most interesting stories, for each character, going forward? Even if disappointed by Elizabeth’s choice, we hope those fans will be happy for Elizabeth, Lucas, and Nathan. In the most positive sense, there will always remain a triangle of sorts between these three and we’re eager to explore how that develops next season. 

Elizabeth has chosen to pursue a romance with Lucas: why did he ultimately win her heart over Nathan? 

Elizabeth and Lucas have so much in common. They are lovers of good literature, were raised in rather privileged backgrounds (though remain selfless when it comes to helping others), and have a deep appreciation for family — just to name a few qualities they share. And while Nathan has many wonderful qualities of his own, a relationship with Nathan would be fraught by the hurt Elizabeth experienced by Jack’s death. Of course, to whom someone chooses to give their heart often comes with a certain amount of mystery that can’t be quantified. And, in part, that’s what can make it so magical as with Elizabeth and Lucas.

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Please tell me everything about conceptualizing and creating the passionate scene where Lucas and Elizabeth reunite on the bridge.

Erin Krakow had a lot to say about the last few scenes and how they informed her and Lucas’ coming together. With Rosemary’s help, Elizabeth finally sorted through her thoughts and emotions and she’d made her decision so that, somewhere near the mid-point of the final episode, she explained to Nathan why she couldn’t give him her heart. As such, we wanted to create some additional suspense as the episode and season neared its conclusion by offering the very real possibility that Lucas — fearing that Elizabeth just could not be with him — might leave. After all, that’s what he told Carson in the previous episode; that there had been times in his life when he felt he needed to make a fresh start. This time, was he going to sell the saloon and leave Hope Valley? Lucas, however, realized that would’ve been the biggest mistake of his life. He promised Elizabeth he would wait for her and that’s just what he proved by coming back to the bridge where he hoped to find her.

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In the final scene, Elizabeth flips the script and plans a special date for Lucas: why did this feel like the right way to end season 8?

It seemed like the best way to show that Elizabeth was resolute in her choice. It also seemed like a fun way for her to declare to Lucas, through their private celebration over the imminent publication of her book, that she’s ready to write not just a new chapter but another, totally new love story with him.

What does the next chapter of life look like for Elizabeth and Lucas, as they begin an official courtship?

This love story will hold new surprises, delights, and even challenges for both Elizabeth and Lucas. Of course, you’ll have to come back next season to see how that unfolds.

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What kind of role will Lucas play in little Jack's life?

That was one of the considerations that informed our choice of Lucas for Elizabeth. While Nathan is clearly a wonderful uncle to Allie, we’ve seen virtually no interaction between Lucas and little Jack and we believe it will be an interesting relationship to explore. 

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What does all this mean for the character of Nathan? Will he be sticking around in Hope Valley? How will he handle seeing Elizabeth and Lucas around town? Will a new romantic interest be introduced for him? 

Nathan is not going anywhere. He will absolutely remain a fixture in Hope Valley — and not only because he is a Mountie. This was another consideration that informed our choice of Lucas for Elizabeth. Nathan is Allie’s de facto father and Elizabeth is Allie’s teacher (as well as someone to whom Allie very much looks up). We believe this dynamic will provide for interesting growth between and among Elizabeth, Nathan and Allie. Now, as for a new romantic interest for Nathan? After some understandable healing, how could Nathan not find a new romantic interest? Love blooms brightly in Hope Valley.

Nathan and Lucas shared a nice scene together in the saloon, and Nathan even assures Lucas, "I have your back." Will we get to a place where Nathan and Lucas can be friends?

Will they ever be the best of friends? Possibly. What we do know for sure is that both Lucas and Nathan are good men and Hope Valley is a small town and they’ll need to find a way to get along. And while that may take some time, the opportunity to see how this happens is something to which the writers and actors are excited to explore. We think the viewers will be, too.

After a few seasons of hinting at expanding their brood, many fans were hoping to see Lee and Rosemary start a family this season. Ultimately, why did the writers decide to hold off on that potential storyline? Is that something we'll see explored in season 9?

We thought we’d take the opportunity to portray a couple who is unable to have a biological child and how that doesn’t preclude them having a fulfilling and rewarding life. This will be an undertone for Lee and Rosemary this coming season and perhaps, just perhaps, they will eventually come to have a child. You never know.

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The diamond ring Carson bought for Faith was thankfully recovered -- but he didn't propose. Faith even says she was hoping when the stagecoach pulled away, he'd still be standing there. As their relationship pivots to long-distance, what lies ahead for Team Infirmary?

Carson didn’t propose for a couple of reasons: in the previous episode, he questioned Faith’s love — feeling that if she wanted to marry Carson, she wouldn’t need an “official” proposal or even a ring. In the end, Carson and Faith just never seemed to be in the same place, either emotionally or geographically, at the same time. It’s a painful, universal problem for many couples. In 1918, Carson might as well have been leaving for the moon (as going to Baltimore) and the long distance nature of this relationship will impact Faith and Carson as a couple and the infirmary itself.

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Two new pairs blossomed this season: Molly and Bill, and Fiona and Hickam. Can you tease if/how their romances will move forward next season?

Two new pairs blossomed this season but, in truth, it remains to be seen whether these “blossoms” are actually scented by love. These relationships will very much continue being explored and is, we believe, another good reason to stay tuned.

The scene with the children accompanying the Canfields to school was particularly moving. What does this scene mean for the Canfields, their experience in Hope Valley and Angela's education with her now-teacher, Elizabeth? 

We think the Canfield's arrival is a reminder for all of us that understanding, compassion and care for those in the community — to love thy neighbor, if you will — is the foundation of Hope Valley. As for Angela’s direct impact on the school with Elizabeth as her teacher, remains to be seen. Will Angela’s presence adversely or, possibly, positively affect the classroom as has been proposed?

When does production for When Calls the Heart season 9 start? Are you hoping to, once again, have 12 episodes? Will a Christmas movie be reintroduced? Please tease the big plot points that you're most excited to share with the hearties!

Production can’t start soon enough for us. We’re all champing at the bit. We live with the town, these characters, even when we’re not shooting. WCTH is a part of us just as it is for the “fams” (our fans whom we consider family). It’s because of them that we have a ninth season.