‘When Calls the Heart’ Cast Teases Season 9 Romances and Challenges (Exclusive)

The cast of 'When Calls the Heart' opens up to ET about love, careers and life in Hope Valley.

Hearties, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not the holidays! It’s When Calls the Heart season! Specifically, season 9 of the beloved Hallmark Channel series.

Only ET spoke with the cast via video chat, straight from Hope Valley, where they opened up about budding romances, recovering from heartbreak, finding new love, expanding families and career trials and tribulations. Erin Krakow (Elizabeth Thornton), Chris McNally (Lucas Bouchard), Kevin McGarry (Mountie Nathan Grant), Pascale Hutton (Rosemary Coulter), Kavan Smith (Lee Coulter), Andrea Brooks (Dr. Faith Carter) and Viv Leacock (Joseph Canfield) all share insight into their characters this season, as they face obstacles and celebrate the joys of love and life. Read below to learn more and don’t miss the season 9 premiere on March 6 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel. 

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Elizabeth Thornton and Lucas Bouchard:

During the 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! Fast forward to season 9, and Krakow says their courtship is moving along. 

“We see that they have progressed in their relationship a bit. There's still that excitement about new young love, really, and we're getting to explore more of what that relationship is in a family dynamic with little Jack, and what that relationship is like in their private, more intimate moments together,” she explains. “It is a relationship that is fueled by care and respect and understanding, but also a fair amount of passion. They're not holding back, I'll say that.”

As for McNally, he says Lucas and Elizabeth are in the “honeymoon stage” when season 9 kicks off, but adds that communication will become an “integral theme.”

“Lucas is somewhat of a grand gesture person. So here, we examine that under the microscope, and what does that mean? Perhaps small gestures are, at times, more meaningful than large gestures,” he shares. “So we'll see them try and make their way through that, making some mistakes along the way, but hopefully ultimately learning to be cohesive together.” Krakow echoes those thoughts, adding, “Elizabeth and Lucas do share a few conversations about how [grand gestures aren’t] the only way to show your love for your partner, and that actually the simple little things and the little moments can mean just as much.”

As for what’s next for the couple, both actors play coy. When Krakow, a Juilliard School graduate, is asked if her character and on-screen beau will exchange “I love yous” this season, she asks rhetorically, “They're magical words, aren't they? And how do I tease this? I think it would be a good thing if that happened.” McNally chimes in with a cryptic tease of his own. “They do like each other… so yes, they express that.”

This all begs the question: could their love lead to a proposal? Again, both actors remain tight-lipped, but Krakow encourages fans to stay observant.

While holding up her left hand, she says, “This is the same ring that I've been wearing since season 1. I took it off temporarily when I was wearing the engagement ring and wedding band from Jack, rest his character’s soul, and it's back. So maybe something will replace it on my left hand this season. We will see!”

McNally offers his character’s perspective, telling ET, “Lucas has known from the start that Elizabeth is different to him and is the person that he wants to spend his life with, so we do get to see him begin to wrap his mind around what that means. But as far as an actual proposal, I don't know!”

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One guarantee? Lots of screen time with Little Jack, who’s growing up and spending lots of time with his mom and Lucas.

McNally gushes, “It's been a lot of fun [filming with newcomer Hyland Goodrich]. I've thoroughly enjoyed it and I'm very excited to see how the fans react to that dynamic.” He teases that Lucas and Jack will enjoy lots of moments together, including “activities, dinner, schemes, plots, and games.” As for whether all this time spent around such a special youngster gives Lucas the itch to expand the family someday, the actor says it’s definitely a topic on his character’s mind. However, McNally also points out, “[Lucas’] relationship with Jack, and experiencing that dynamic, is very fulfilling to Lucas in the meantime. It's not like he feels, ‘Oh, I think I need to have my own son as well.’ I feel like he does truly look at Jack as a relative, as his own son. Again, not to disregard [elder Jack Thornton’s] character at all, but Lucas feels a desire and a responsibility to want to step up and be a father figure to Jack.”

Krakow swoons over Lucas and Jack’s developing bond, telling ET that every time they’re together feels like a “heart melt” for Elizabeth. “If Lucas is playing with Little Jack or putting him to bed, or whatever the case may be, she's falling deeper and deeper in love with him because he's not just the studly guy who owns the saloon. He's the studly guy who owns the saloon and is great with her son.” Quite simply, the actress jokes, “It probably gets the ovaries going. I would think. Can I say that?”

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Mountie Nathan Grant:

We last saw our beloved Hope Valley Mountie, Nathan Grant, respectfully honoring Elizabeth’s wishes to remain just friends while she pursues a courtship with Lucas. Flash forward to season 9, and McGarry says his character is slowly but surely moving on.

“We don't just pick up like he's all better. But without a doubt, Elizabeth's happiness has always been his main focus and he sees how happy she is,” he expresses. In simpler terms, McGarry explains, “[Nathan] comes to terms with how happy she is and he learns to accept it.”

This, in turn, brings about a very interesting dichotomy between Lucas and Nathan. While they may have butted heads in the past, McGarry says Nathan sees “what a good guy Lucas is, even though he sometimes is a little wary of his decisions or the way he handles things.” Bottom line: if Elizabeth is happy, Nathan is too. 

The Ontario native tells ET that season 9 picks up with Nathan on “friendly terms” with Elizabeth and Lucas, and he’s excited for fans to see scenes involving the trio. “If it wasn't a love triangle, there's something that always connected those characters… and drama ensues when they're together, so I think it's a great thing when we see the three of them together.”

And while Elizabeth’s happiness is important, Nathan deserves to find love too, prompting many hearties to wonder if he’ll find new romance in the coming season. McGarry confirms that while the opportunity presents itself, it remains to be seen if the Mountie capitalizes on it. “The possibility of Nathan finding romance and love will happen in season 9. Whether he jumps on it or whether that opportunity balloons into something that can be called a relationship is yet to be determined. You've got to watch to find out,” he teases.

Fans have noticed a few potential suitresses for the handsome Mountie. He’s seemingly smitten with newcomer Mei Sou after she gallops into town and catches his attention. There’s also recently-single Dr. Faith Carter, who shared a tender scene with Nathan in the season 8 finale while repairing his injured hand. 

“At the end of season 8, those two could really get on the same wavelength. Understood each other, you know?” McGarry says, alluding to both characters’ dealing with heartache (Nathan with Elizabeth, Faith with Dr. Carson Shepherd). “For both of them to then be at that spot at the end definitely puts them in a new area moving into season 9, and a friendship would blossom out of that, and an understanding. And we do see that grow, for sure.” But for Nathan, McGarry insists that whomever winds up being his romantic partner, it’ll be because they share a strong connection.

Ultimately, the actor shares that a big focus this season is largely on another special lady in his life: his daughter, Allie, whom he formally adopted last season. “Nathan's true love is his daughter. Allie is the one he cares about the most, and she's there. There's some very sweet moments between the two of them this season as that relationship grows, and Allie's growing up too. It's a big thing,” he reveals. Specifically, it sounds like Nathan’s going to need some help from the ladies of Hope Valley. McGarry explains, “Nathan really doesn't have the kind of female presence in his life to help out when a young woman starts asking questions… we start to venture in that territory a little bit throughout this season, which is, I think, super funny and fun.” 

And get this: McGarry teases a standout scene with Allie that will make Hearties across the globe “clutch your pearls” and let out a sweet sigh.

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Rosemary and Lee:

Rosemary and Lee Coulter have been happily married for years, and the couple continues to find new ways to reinvent themselves with their careers, hobbies and circle of friends. However, one question among hearties remains unanswered: will they expand their family?

“I think that after this season, fans will not need to ask that question anymore, one way or the other,” Smith teases. “I think we have finally found a way to resolve anybody belaboring that question. I think we're going to address it.” 

Hutton says she keeps up with fans on social media, and even jokes that the question of Rosemary becoming a mom is “all I've heard about for the last, I don't know, three, maybe even four seasons!” But the British Columbia native assures ET that in season 9, “We see more resolution on that journey than ever, and I'm so pleased with how that story is told this season. It's complicated, and it's nuanced, and it's not easy, it's not easy. And I'm just so excited for fans to go on the ride with us.”

Smith pays attention to what viewers are saying too, telling ET, “This is a storyline that the fans have wanted, but almost more than that, Pascale and I have wanted resolution… we really felt strongly that we wanted to address this issue and I'll give Pascale credit where credit is due. She really spearheaded it this year. She was not going to let it go. She was determined to get an answer. And it's because of her tenacity that we got it. And the fans will get it too.”

So how did Hutton make it happen? Lots of conviction and conversations with the WCTH producers. She explains, “I would say I'm very open and receptive to what the writers have envisioned for my character, but this was one where I really felt very strongly that there was a certain story that should be told… and fortunately, our writers were really receptive to hearing that conversation and [showrunner] John Tinker and I, we sat down a number of times over the phone, over Zoom, over FaceTime, kind of plotting it out and mapping out the storyline of, what was the most respectful way of telling this story? The most compassionate, the most loving way to tell this story? We touched base throughout the season on how to go forward, and I'm really happy that we did because I really believe in this storyline very strongly.”

And hypothetically, if Rosemary and Lee do welcome a baby, both stars insist they have no preference when it comes to adoption or pregnancy.

“I've always been Team Baby. So give them a child any way that you want. I just have always thought they needed to have a baby in their life,” Hutton says with a smile. Smith echoes that sentiment, asking ET, “Can I pick both? I'd like a scoop of each, please!” Could this mean that multiple children is a possibility for the Coulters? Smith grins and says, “I'm not saying anything. But wouldn't that be something!”

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Dr. Faith Carter:

While season 8 found Dr. Faith Carter thriving in her professional career, her love life took a sharp left turn when her beau, Dr. Carson Shepherd, left town to pursue ambitions of his own. With added responsibility at work, compounded by the absence of her partner, Brooks tells ET that Faith is finding her footing in season 9.

“Faith is still very much dealing with, and digesting that bit of a fizzle out between Faith and Carson… and now that she's working alone, trying to realize all of the dreams at The Infirmary by herself, it really makes her think back to Carson and there are some moments where she very much is forced to deal with that relationship, so by no means is it finished,” the actress reveals. 

As for whether Faith and Carson could find their way back to one another? Brooks tells ET they’re on a “permanent break” but says, “There are still loose ends that need to be tied up… She definitely has a little bit of a broken heart that needs mending.” It’s that complicated dynamic that the University of British Columbia grad hopes resonates with Hearties dealing with similar issues in their own lives. “It's not an easy thing and I do hope that it's something that people can relate to because sometimes people are intended to be in your life for a moment, for a time, they teach you lessons and perhaps that person isn't the one,” she laments. “So you'll see Faith confronting that this season in a really honest way.” 

As a newly-single character in Hope Valley, will the town doc spark up a connection with someone new? For Brooks, she’s mostly concerned with her character grounding herself before entering into any new relationship. She explains, “[Faith] definitely has a lot of thinking to do and a lot to figure out and things are buzzing at The Infirmary. You know, the town is expanding. We have a lot of new community members. There's a lot going on in that capacity. But yeah, I do think that eventually I would love to see this character happy. She worked so hard. She bottles so much up and I would just love to see her free and allowing herself to express herself the way that she deserves to express herself.”

One possible suitor comes to mind: fellow newly-single Hope Valley resident Mountie Nathan Grant.  Fans will recall, Faith shared a tender moment with Nathan in the season 8 finale when they were both freshly dealing with the emotions of crumbling relationships (Nathan with Elizabeth, Faith with Dr. Carson Shepherd). 

“That was actually one of my favorite scenes from season 8. It was just a really simple, honest moment between two brokenhearted people whose lives deviated from the direction that they were expecting them to go in, and it was just this really gentle check-in and I think that Nathan and Faith share a lot of things in common,” Brooks explains. “They're people who service their communities. They put others before themselves and their own needs, time and time again.” Still, the actress remains tight-lipped and exclaims, “I don’t know!” when asked about the pair taking their friendship farther.

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Joseph Canfield:

Season 8 delivered the gift of a new family planting roots in Hope Valley: the Canfields. Joseph, the town pastor, and his wife, Minnie (Natasha Burnett), relocate to the quaint town with their two children, Angela and Cooper, played by Leacock’s real-life kids, Vienna and Elias Leacock. Now that the Canfields are settled and Hope Valley is their forever home, Leacock tells ET they’ll all be facing individual challenges in the coming season. 

“Joseph is very well-established in the community at this point. He is the pastor, so you get to hear me do some sermons,” the actor explains. “He's doing more projects. He's helping build a couple of buildings. He's kind of everywhere. He really is the guy who's running around fixing things, he's running around counseling people. He's making sure that everybody's alright. And, you know, there's a caution to doing that. If you spend a lot of time dealing with other people, you can kind of miss what's going on in your own home. And so, that's Joseph's big lesson for this season.”

In Joseph’s home, it seems he’ll encounter conflict with his son, Cooper, who’s in a “rebellious stage.” Leacock says, “Elias gets to flex his muscles a little bit in this season… [Cooper] is getting a little older, getting a little more brazen, which is interesting because it couldn't be further from Elias in real life. He's super sweet, super easy-going, but Cooper starts to kind of push the boundaries and test the limits.” 

But Leacock teases that Cooper’s misbehavior has a meaningful purpose behind it. “What I like about this story is it's not just because he hit a certain age. It's not just because, you know, hormones are shifting or changing. It goes back to his love for his family,” Leacock explains. “He questions a lot of things. His faith included, and we have lots of interesting conversations surrounding that.”

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For Cooper’s older sister, Angela, she’s also growing up, too. The young pianist, who was previously homeschooled due to her blindness, is now attending school alongside the other children in Mrs. Thornton’s class.

“Angela is spreading her wings,” Leacock gushes. “Literally, you'll see in a couple of scenes. She is pushing for a little more time for herself, time with friends. She wants a little more independence, which is great to see. The thing that I love about Angela, and about watching my daughter, Vienna, play Angela, is that Angela doesn't let her blindness define her. It's not the thing that makes her who she is. She loves life, loves people, loves her family, and she doesn't let things set her back. She just pushes forward. And yeah, it's the independence that she's pushing for. It's well deserved, and we have to let go. We have to let go a little bit and watch her go.” 

When it comes to Minnie, the Canfield family matriarch, Leacock says she and Joseph have flip-flopped a bit in season 9. “The roles have kind of switched because in season 8 it was really Joseph that was like, ‘No, let her go. She has to learn.’ And in season 9, it's really Minnie who's like, ‘Let her go. You got to let her go past this point.’"

And that conviction will seemingly manifest in other areas of Minnie’s life. The actor teases, “There's a continuing storyline from last season, as far as an obstacle that was in our way, that Minnie takes it upon herself to deal with head-on.” All that, plus, she’s pushing Joseph to think outside the box when it comes to caring for his family all while chasing her own passion: cooking! Leacock reveals, “The cafe becomes a huge centerpiece of Minnie's storyline."