After two seasons of watching suitors Lucas and Nathan court Elizabeth on 'WCTH,' the cast confirms to ET she has selected her man!
Elizabeth Thornton has finally made her decision!
After two seasons of watching suitors Lucas Bouchard (Chris McNally) and Mountie Nathan Grant (Kevin McGarry) court the charming school teacher on When Calls the Heart, the cast of the beloved Hallmark Channel series confirms exclusively to ET that Elizabeth (Erin Krakow) has selected her man -- and, there’s a kiss!
“I am happy to say that we will, in season 8, have a decision and we'll get to see Elizabeth move on with her romantic life,” series lead and co-executive producer Erin Krakow reveals via video chat from the show’s Vancouver set. “I really think it's about time. Love triangles are so exciting to watch and I'm really proud of the way we've told this story, but they're also really frustrating and I have felt that from the fans. They're like, ‘All right, it's enough already, let’s go!’ They're enjoying the ride but they're so eager to see Elizabeth and baby Jack happy and starting to kind of get to enjoy that real courtship.”
McNally calls the season “such a roller coaster” and admits that he, McGarry and Krakow didn’t know the outcome as they filmed each episode. He explains, “Each time you get a script, you’re like, ‘Oh, OK!’ So each time, it keeps evolving and becoming more and more intense. At one point, you see it going one way and then it goes the other way and then it swings back… I hope the fans are on edge like we were reading the scripts.”
McGarry echoes that same sentiment, lovingly teasing that the audience will be thrown for several loops as they start to speculate where Elizabeth’s heart lies. “There are more red herrings in this season than a zoo. Is that even a saying?” he playfully asks with a laugh. “It's all over the place, so don't think that you have figured it out until the very end!”
As fans have grown to know both Lucas and Nathan a bit better, we’ve taken notice of how their courtship styles differ. While Lucas is straightforward and a fan of grand gestures, Nathan is a bit more reserved and, at times, tongue-tied when he’s around Elizabeth. McGarry tells ET that more of Nathan’s backstory will unfold in season 8, which will better explain the reason behind his demeanor.
“I think what happened at the end of season 7 for Nathan, it kind of kicks him into gear a little bit and he does start to get a bit more direct at what he wants and what he is willing to give up to get it,” he shares. “There is still awkwardness between Nathan and Elizabeth and actually, I think it is unveiled this season why there is awkwardness between the two of them. There has been something that Nathan has been holding on to that gets revealed, as to why he's felt so awkward around her, and why there has been so much distance between them.” So, does this mean someone prior broke Nathan’s heart? McGarry quips, “Yeah, but it's not the heartbreak that you think it is. It's a different kind of heartbreak.”
For Krakow, she’s not as fixated on the guys. Instead, she says she’s more focused on Elizabeth’s journey as a woman opening up to the idea of love. “The moments I'm most interested in are the ones where we get to see Elizabeth take the reins and really lead the guy, or the guys,” she says, laughing, about having to contend with two suitors. “I think that she has made it very clear that she's going to need time to figure out how she feels. She's going to need things to move slowly... So getting to see her overcome those emotional hurdles has just been really interesting and exciting for me to get to play.”
It seems Elizabeth will successfully maneuver her way through any aforementioned “hurdles,” because Krakow confirms there will be a kiss between Elizabeth and the man she chooses. After letting out an excited “eeeeek,” the Juilliard School graduate tells ET, “I'm so happy that we've been able to find some closure to this love triangle and that Elizabeth is going to get to move forward with this particular man.”
But this all begs the question: what happens to the suitor that doesn’t win Elizabeth’s affection? Will he stick around in Hope Valley? “Nobody's leaving town,” Krakow assures, before affirming, “We're not going to lose either of these guys. [The suitor that Elizabeth does not pick] takes it like a champ.”
“I feel like season 8 leaves in a very healthy place between the three of them with a mutual understanding and room for progression in the future, in terms of building a friendship, or at least a very respectable dynamic between everybody,” McNally explains. “I think fans that are hoping that things will come together in a positive way for everybody, they'll be pleased with how things wrap up this season.”
McGarry chimes in with more reassurance. “As far as the other suitor, I think, of course, they will be sad. It's going to take time to get over a broken heart, but that’s OK, that’s being human,” he says. “The other character is not going anywhere. Erin has made that very clear, they are still members of Hope valley.”
Aside from the love triangle, our favorite friends in Hope Valley will also be facing individual obstacles. For Elizabeth, that includes welcoming new students and overcoming the challenges that come with it.
“[Elizabeth] is so over-the-moon excited to bring Cooper Canfield into her class, and is particularly passionate about finding a way to teach [his sister] Angela Canfield, who is blind, and her mother is particularly protective of her,” Krakow explains of the newest family to move to Hope Valley. “Elizabeth decides, we're gonna find a braille book and we're gonna learn to read braille together,” Krakow shares, before adding that Angela’s mother, who is very protective, isn’t exactly supportive of her daughter learning under Mrs. Thornton’s instruction. Krakow adds that while it’s an uphill battle for Elizabeth, she’s determined to keep fighting to give Angela the best education possible.
For Nathan, McGarry says we’ll continue to see his touching bond with his niece, Allie, as it grows stronger. The actor says they’re closer than ever before, and this season, we’ll see Nathan “really commit to Allie as a parent.”
“I think, as Kevin, that it would make sense that they kind of secure that relationship with Allie and Nathan. It does get stronger this season with those two, they make a very strong commitment to each other and they kind of help each other through a lot of stuff,” McGarry shares. “She explains things to Nathan that he doesn't think of, or she kind of paints them in a way he can see, and he does the same for her. They really make each other better people.”
McGarry also goes out of his way to sweetly praise 13-year-old actress Jaeda Lily Miller, who plays Allie. “Jaeda really impressed some people this season,” he gushes. “She had some really tough scenes and she killed them, she nailed them. It was really impressive to watch this actress that I have now known for three years get better and better, especially this one scene, she just hit it out of the park. She is very fun to joke around with in between takes… and then, she can just drop into what she needs to do when we are doing the scene.”
Also on the horizon for Allie? A little romance, which McGarry says Nathan is unprepared for. “Allie kind of experiences a little bit of romance this season that she is figuring out, and Nathan gets a little taste of what that is like as the father figure in that scenario. I think, right now, he is pretending like it doesn't happen. I think moving forward with these storylines, there is potential for some very amusing stories.”
Meanwhile, Lucas has his hands full in season 8 after taking full control over Gowen Petroleum. You’ll recall, in the season 7 finale, Henry offers to let Lucas buy him out completely. McNally says Lucas’ decision to take over has him “in over his head -- it’s not going great.”
“Lucas doesn’t know the ins and outs of that business, so he's not striking oil where he thought he would. He's not pumping out the product the way he thought he would,” McNally expresses. “I think it gets to a point where Lucas needs Gowen. He needs him back. He needs his help with the company, so there’s a bit of that journey, and he knows he needs a hand and entices Gowen to come back.”
When it comes to the town patriarch, Judge Bill Avery, actor Jack Wagner says he’s staying busy in a myriad of ways. “He's wearing an apron a lot. He's in his judge’s chamber a lot. He's also trying to be a mentor to Elizabeth and Clara, and he has a little bit of flirtation going on this year. There's a little touch of mini romance going on,” the Melrose Place alum teases.
Hearties have been rooting for Bill to find a love match for years. Sparks flew when Bill teamed up with AJ Foster (Josie Bissett) in season 6, but since then, he’s remained on his own and instead focused on being a strong pillar for the community to lean on. Now, Wagner says, Bill is being acknowledged as “a viable bachelor in town!”
“I wouldn't call it love, but I'd call it a lot of fun… It is really adorable,” Wagner teases. “We're starting to open up that part of this character because it really hasn't happened for quite a while since AJ Foster was on the show. It’s somebody you know, and her hair is red. Just going to leave it at that!”
When Calls the Heart season 8 premieres Sunday, Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Hallmark Channel. For more on the series, watch the video below.