'When Calls the Heart' Cast Reacts to Shocking Season 7 Finale Cliffhanger: Did Nathan Die? (Exclusive)

Erin Krakow, Kevin McGarry and Chris McNally react to the shocking season 7 finale cliffhanger and tease what's next in season 8.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead! Do not proceed if you haven’t watched Sunday’s season 7 finale of When Calls the Heart!

Elizabeth Thornton is counting her blessings.

During the last scene of Sunday’s season 7 finale of When Calls the Heart, hearties were left wondering if the gunshot that was fired took the life of Nathan Grant. Dr. Carson Shepherd pronounced dead someone we assumed was Nathan, and our hearts collectively sank, hoping Elizabeth wouldn’t have to endure the loss of yet another beloved Mountie. Thankfully, Nathan emerged from the distance and appeared unharmed, causing Elizabeth to run straight into his arms for a tight embrace… as a nearby Lucas Bouchard watched with a forlorn expression on his face. The love triangle continues!

ET spoke with series stars Erin Krakow, Kevin McGarry and Chris McNally via video chat (as they continue to practice self-isolation amid the coronavirus outbreak) to learn more about that massive cliffhanger, what’s next for the Elizabeth-Lucas-Nathan love triangle and the exciting announcement of season 8!

“We had a lot of conversations about how we wanted the season to end,” Krakow explained. “Should Lucas see this moment or should this moment happen? And how should it happen? I think it's kind of nice that we were able to flip things from the way we ended season 6, not that it's exactly the same." 

Of course, the actress is referring to the season 6 finale cliffhanger when Lucas had the upper hand: Elizabeth asked Lucas to dance and Nathan looked on with sadness. For McGarry, the season 7 finale was bittersweet.

He told ET, “I think Nathan is overjoyed [that Elizabeth embraced him tightly], but at the same time, just under the circumstances, coming back into town, his mind is clearly on that he lost a partner, another Mountie… The embrace was great and I think what’s proven is there is something between those two characters, Nathan and Elizabeth.” 

McGarry went on to acknowledge the argument scene between Elizabeth and Nathan in episode 8, where they quarreled in the mountains over Elizabeth putting herself in danger to bring home her student, Emily, who got lost during a field trip. He explained, “[Nathan] was scared that he would never see [Elizabeth] again. I think that’s where that came from too, with Elizabeth embracing [him], she was afraid that she'd never see Nathan again and I think those feelings will lead to something… it's gonna grow and move forward. Maybe Nathan will be able to communicate a little bit better now that they've been kind of tested in this way.”

Another big moment in the season 7 finale? After multiple failed attempts, Nathan finally worked up the courage to ask Elizabeth out on a proper date. Although she never gave him a response, McGarry hopes to “dive into” their relationship and his character’s backstory further in the coming season.

“Why is Nathan like this? Maybe he's lost somebody? What did happen to him? Why is he so tongue-tied when it comes to women, but especially Elizabeth?” McGarry asked, adding, “Maybe there's a guilt thing there [with how] she was married to a Mountie and maybe he feels like it's wrong. Maybe he doesn't. I don't know. These are questions I look forward to answering or to diving deeper in, if the story continues.”

As for McNally, he thinks the final episode of the season was a bit of a wakeup call for his character, Lucas Bouchard.  

“I feel like Lucas felt pretty confident by the end, you know? He thought he'd made pretty great strides [pursuing Elizabeth] and that everything was sort of falling into place the way that he wanted. So, I feel like when he witnesses [Elizabeth and Nathan’s] embrace, it sort of takes his feet up from under him because he didn't realize those ties were that strong,” he explained. “I think he now has to rethink his whole situation.”

As for what’s next for Lucas and Elizabeth, McNally hopes things get a bit more “messy!”

“I feel like I wouldn't mind having some more conflict, because that’s fun to play with, so I would like for things to get messy before anything gets better,” he explained. McNally reflected on his character’s initial arrival in Hope Valley and how he was shrouded in mystery. After two seasons on the show, we now know Lucas has good intentions, which McNally says is a good thing, but he still wants to shake things up! He continued, “Just having that little bit of mystery is really fun to work with, so I'm hoping that if something messy can happen in the future, that it has something to do with Lucas' character and personality and we can kind of dabble in a little darkness or mystery or suspicion or something again.”

One thing is certain: Lucas knows chivalry! We watched all season as the saloon owner respectfully courted Elizabeth, always staying in his own lane as he honored her wishes of remaining friends, growing to know one another better. From helping advance her career as a writer to inviting her to the Virginia Woolf reading, and even gifting her a pair of binoculars, Lucas found several creative and thoughtful ways to show his affection for the brunette beauty. But not even those kind gestures could top the magical candlelit dinner celebration he planned in the library.

“I think the whole season, Elizabeth has really been holding her feelings close,” Krakow expressed. “She's felt that openness but hasn't really been willing to put herself out there. And in the season finale, we get to see her really starting to play with the idea of being ready for more romance in her life. That was a particularly sweet scene, very charming, and maybe even a little sneaky of Lucas, not in a bad way, to frame it that he knows it’s not a date but we can still play make believe, what it might be like if it was a date.”

McNally added, “I also personally really enjoyed that that scene was the final scene we shot in season 7, so Erin and I got to finish everything off by basically toasting a bottle of bubbles.” Adding even more of a personal touch, and proving what great pals they are off-screen, Krakow shared that the champagne used in the scene was personally provided by McNally. To pop it open, McNally used a saber that he received as a birthday gift from Krakow. Cheers!

For fans wondering if there was ever talk of Lucas and Elizabeth sharing a kiss during their romantic non-date date, Krakow said, “Not to my knowledge, and I would've said, ‘Hard, hard no.’ It's been a slow burn with both of these guys. I don't think it would've made sense to have a kiss in this season, certainly not before Elizabeth had kind of made up her mind a little bit more. She can barely call a date a date… with both of these guys, it's just this sense of excitement but trepidation, so everything is moving very slowly.”

As for what’s next in season 8, both McNally and McGarry agree that it’s entirely Elizabeth’s decision to pursue romance more purposefully when she’s ready, and Krakow is looking forward to seeing it all play out. 

“I think that you can only stretch a love triangle on for so long without it starting to feel a little hard on the fans,” she explained, before adding, “I think that we'll probably start to figure things out a little bit more in season 8.”

When Calls the Heart will return to Hallmark Channel in 2021.