'When Calls the Heart' Cast Reacts to Elizabeth Choosing Lucas and That Passionate Kiss! (Exclusive)

ET spoke exclusively with Erin Krakow, Kevin McGarry and Chris McNally to learn more about what went into Elizabeth's big decision.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Sunday’s season 8 finale of When Calls the Heart!

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

During Sunday’s season 8 finale of When Calls the Heart, hearties around the world saw the end of its seasons-long love triangle, as our favorite school teacher told the dashing saloon owner she’s ready to begin a romantic relationship -- and they even sealed it with a passionate kiss!

ET spoke exclusively with series stars Erin Krakow, Kevin McGarry and Chris McNally via video chat to learn more about what went into Elizabeth’s decision, how suitors Nathan and Lucas are feeling, the challenges of filming that kissing scene on the bridge and what’s next as they prepare to start filming season 9. 

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“I'm very happy and I'm very sad, it’s the truth, people!” Krakow, who’s also an executive producer on the drama series, tells ET of how she’s feeling now that Elizabeth has made her decision. “I hope that I'm validating what probably many of the hearties are feeling, which is very mixed feelings. We have been blessed with Kevin and Chris, who have done such an incredible job bringing  these characters to life, and it's impossible not to, as a viewer, fall in love with the characters they've created, it's just impossible not to. So I'm really excited about this next chapter for Elizabeth, getting to see her happy and free and in love.”

McNally chimes in to speak on behalf of his character, explaining, “I think that Lucas is ecstatic! He did his best to show [Elizabeth] how he felt and tried to be patient and took his time. Obviously there were hiccups along the way, but I think he said [in season 6 or 7], ‘I'll wait as long as I have to for the woman of my dreams.’ Something in that neighborhood. So I think he's mostly just relieved and excited for the future.” 

As for Nathan, McGarry admits the Mountie is “totally heartbroken” (more on that later) -- but for now, the Ontario, Canada native wants to assure the viewers that the plot for this season was just as much of a mystery to the actors as it was for the fans.

“This decision, I think, was right up until the very end. I've read many comments being like, ‘Oh, they're weaving us through this carefully-orchestrated thing. But the truth is, that a lot of times, Hallmark, all of us, we're just still kind of figuring out what was best, what was the best way to go. So when we did finally come to that conclusion, I think it does open up for some really interesting storylines moving into next season,” McGarry said.

Krakow echoes McGarry’s words, confirming that Elizabeth’s choice to start a romance with Lucas came at a point during the season. The actress explains, “It was a very long, drawn out decision that involved many voices and brains, and, yeah, it took a really long time. And again, that's a testament to these guys and how interesting their characters are and how wonderful they are in real life. It was very hard to choose, and ultimately, this was the story that we decided to tell. But I've said it before, I'll say it again, I think we would have been in really great shape with either decision. It just would have been a slightly different story.”

After three seasons of back-and-forth between Elizabeth and both suitors, who are exceptional men in their own ways, Krakow sheds light on why her character ultimately aligned with Lucas.

“For a long time, Elizabeth has just been kind of confused and overwhelmed by her feelings, and specifically, the connection that she's felt with Nathan over these past few years, it is undeniable. There's been a connection between these two characters. It's like a thread between them. I think they have obviously similar experiences with loss. Their lives were just sort of supposed to be intertwined in this way,” she explains. “I think for a long time, she was swept up in those feelings with Nathan, but didn't necessarily realize how much of it was because of Jack and what she was almost projecting onto Nathan. Once she got to a point where she could see the difference between why she was feeling what she was feeling for Nathan, and what she'd been feeling all along for Lucas, I think it became clear to her that one was absolutely love, but the other was hopefully her lifetime,” she concludes, referencing Rosemary’s poignant advice from episode 11.

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And while Elizabeth’s vision is seemingly clear, Krakow says the weather on the day they filmed the scene on the bridge was anything but. The Juilliard School graduate describes the outdoor elements that day as “poor” and adds that it was “sort of a scary day,” as they hoped Mother Nature would cooperate. McNally says the weather had him feeling “massively stressed out” as the wind started picking up and they heard tree branches cracking. He recalls, “All we can hear is, ‘We don't have time! We don't have time! We can't do this, is it safe? Is it not?’"

Krakow explains, “We had saved this very important scene for the final day of filming, and we can't control the weather and we were expecting this really bad windstorm,” before sharing alternative sets they considered pivoting to. “There was conversation the night before of, ‘What do we do? Do we move the scene? Do we move it inside Elizabeth's row house? Do we kind of just wait and see how things are looking in the morning?’ And Chris and I both felt pretty strongly, the scene couldn't happen in Elizabeth's living room. It had to happen somewhere that felt cinematic, that was a place that was special to them… luckily, all we got was a bit of a drizzle, and I think it turned out beautiful.” 

McNally calls the kiss on the bridge a “very powerful moment” for Lucas. Why? “He's been through such a roller coaster emotionally… He knows that he loves this woman more than he's ever loved any other woman before, and that she is the woman of his dreams,” he gushes. “So when he sees her at the bridge, or when he finds her, she's at the bridge and they make eye contact and he realizes how deeply she's feeling, thinking that he's left, and Nathan has told him where she stands with him, and they have that moment of connection. I think they just both intuitively understand each other and know that they've come to the same place and common ground, and they can finally come together, no strings attached, and move forward.”

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As for that kiss -- or shall we say sequence of kisses -- Krakow says she and McNally discussed it ahead of time and pre-planned how they wanted it to look and feel on camera. “We talked about how we wanted it to feel, like it was this explosion of their passion and emotion, and that it wasn't just one sweet romantic kiss,” she shares, before adding, “It was just this [feeling of], ‘Now that I have you, I don't want to take my hands off you’ kind of feeling.”

When it comes to Nathan, McGarry shares some insight into the emotional scene filmed in his office, when the Mountie learns that Elizabeth loves him but isn’t in love with him.  

“It was written that Nathan thanked her at the end [of that scene], and I was like, ‘I didn't want to say thanks,’” he explains. “I think the idea was that he was like releasing from this obligation that he had to kind of protect her, but I felt like Nathan was in love with her. It might have started with him coming in and trying to, you know, with the whole Jack story and him coming to Hope Valley to protect her, but he really did fall in love with her. So I thought, we owe it to the Nathan fans that have been with us. You got to see him get heartbroken, essentially, and I just thought it was better if he didn't say anything and he just took that in.”

McGarry goes on to call his character “totally heartbroken” but says viewers should remain optimistic.

“We all get broken hearts, and that'll be a fun thing to play and see. I hope he has some kind of redemption story of him building himself back up and moving on,” he says with a smile. “I think there should be a little bit of mourning that we see at the beginning of season 9 that Nathan's going to have to go through. What's so cool is that both these guys are still on the show, so we get to see these after-stories. We've all seen the guy gets the girl and the happy ever after, but the guy that doesn't is still on the show, so there's this whole different storyline that's going to come out of it.”

Hearties watched Nathan’s bond with Allie (Jaeda Lily Miller) grow even closer in season 8, as they formalized an adoption and became father and daughter. While Allie was hopeful to see her teacher, Mrs. Thornton, strike up a romance with her now-father, McGarry predicts she’ll be just fine going into season 9.

“Clearly she was playing her old Parent Trap game for a while in season 8, but that scene that Chris and Jaeda had, that Lucas and Allie had together when she kind of realized that maybe Lucas is not such a bad guy and maybe this is just the way things are. I think she's made peace with that. I think she knows Uncle Nathan's fine. He's been through worse,” he shares. “I think she is going to move into season 9 more interested in her own love life,” McGarry says, laughing, before adding, “Now he's got to deal with the young love life of his niece!”

While Allie and Nathan’s bond grows closer, McNally predicts his character’s relationship with Elizabeth’s son, Jack, will also develop. “I'm looking forward to the next season and working more with the Taylor twins and seeing Lucas in more of a father figure role,” he says. “I feel like we will see more of that and explore more of that.”

For fans wondering why there have been only a small number of interactions between the little one and the saloon owner, McNally offers a behind-the-scenes tidbit.  “We did [film] one that literally got cut. Lucas gave little Jack, I think it was a toy dog or something like that, and said, ‘Every little boy needs his dog.’”

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With season 9 of When Calls the Heart officially a go at Hallmark Channel, all three actors gush with excitement over the opportunity to continue telling their characters’ stories. For Krakow, she says she’s particularly excited to figure out what Elizabeth and Nathan’s friendship is going to be like. “I love working with Kevin and I am just really excited to see what that dynamic is and how they move forward with each other. And obviously we talked a lot about how exciting it will be to get to bring Lucas into the little Thornton family and see what that is like. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is I can't wait to get back to work with Kevin and Chris,” she says, smiling.

McGarry reflects Krakow’s sentiments, telling ET he too is excited to uncover how Nathan and Elizabeth will interact in the coming episode. While he wouldn’t spill the idea, he does share that showrunner John Tinker recently sent him an idea for Nathan that left McGarry totally stunned yet excited. “It would be a trip,” he exclaims. “It would be a big thing if it happens.”

As for McNally, he’s looking forward to exploring the relationship between Lucas and Elizabeth further. He says, “Now that they've made a mutual decision to move forward together in a more solid capacity, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens there and what that looks like.” However, McNally also has a pitch of his own (in case Tinker is reading this)! “It might be fun on a personal level for Lucas, who has always done quite well financially, to maybe run into some [financial] trouble and see what it looks like when everything is taken away.”

As the cast looks ahead to filming the new season, they also can’t help but look back with tremendous gratitude for their loyal fanbase, the hearties. “I have to say thank you to them for being patient with us and for being as passionate as they have been over these past three years,” Krakow expresses. “I hope that they know that on-screen, Elizabeth loves both of these guys. She's in love with one, but she loves both of them. Off-screen, I have nothing but love for both of these guys. I'm so, so happy that both Kevin and Chris are sticking around and that we're going to get to continue to tell these stories together.” 

McGarry also delivers a special message centered around uniting the fans of WCTH around the world. “I think we're all going back to Team Hope Valley now,” he says. “Nathan’s not going anywhere. He's going to have a bunch of other exciting adventures and we'll see what happens with him, but Team Nathan and Team Lucas, I think it's time to come together and be Team Hope Valley.” 

When Calls the Heart will return to Hallmark Channel in early 2022.