'When Hope Calls': Daniel Lissing on His Return as Jack Thornton and Reuniting With Lori Loughlin (Exclusive)

Daniel Lissing opens up to ET about returning as Jack Thornton and reuniting onscreen with Lori Loughlin in 'When Hope Calls.'

Jack Thornton is back -- and no one is more excited than Daniel Lissing.

The Australian actor will appear on GAC Family’s When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas on Dec. 18, reprising his role as the beloved town Mountie he played for five seasons on Hallmark Channel’s When Calls the Heart. Fans will recall that Thornton was killed in battle during WCTH’s season 5 finale in 2018 after the actor announced his departure from the long-running series. Back in 2020, Lissing told ET that he’d “of course” consider revisiting the role if the opportunity ever came up, and now, he’s spilling all the details of his experience of returning to the role that made him famous.

“There was definitely a lot of messages and hope from the fans that this character would come back, in some capacity. And so, I got to give credit to Lori [Loughlin]. It was her idea essentially,” he explains of how the idea to bring Thornton back originated. “[Loughlin] called me and asked if I'd be down for it. And I was like, ‘Working with you again? Of course!'”

Lissing says after agreeing to make the trek to Brookfield, the fictional town where When Hope Calls takes place, he needed to ensure a few key elements were in place. “The most important thing for me was, you have to honor the fans, you have to honor the character and you have to honor Elizabeth's storyline on [WCTH],” he shares, acknowledging that his on-screen widow grieved for three seasons before deciding to pursue a courtship with saloon owner Lucas Bouchard. “It just had to make sense, so when we spoke about it and when this scene came to me, I read the scene, and I was like, ‘Great, that works for me in a great way.’ What you'll find is that it's a beautiful scene done in the right way, in my opinion. And I just know the fans are going to really, really get a kick out of seeing that character back on their screens. For sure.”

As for suiting up once again in the iconic red coat, jodhpurs and traditional footwear, the actor smiles and says with a laugh, “I forgot how hard the boots were to put on! So, I was like, ‘Oh yeah! That's right. The boots!’ You forget that stuff.” But on a more serious note, Lissing marvels over just how emotional the experience was. He reveals a touching story involving executive producer Brian Bird, telling ET, “When I put that serge on and walked on set, and saw him there, and I just walked up to him and hugged him and said, ‘Thank you. Thank you, mate.’ I am so grateful to have played [Thornton], because that character was a really big part of my time, and my life, for a span from 2013 to 2021. That's a long time to do it. There was a break in between, and it was just for this; for this one moment again with Jack. I felt a lot of gratitude.”

Lissing says he wasn’t the only one on set who got a bit verklempt. “I walked on set, and Lori saw me. She got emotional about it. I got emotional about it. The people that were involved with WCTH, producers and whatnot, were there. It's just like, ‘Oh, man!’" he remarks. “I definitely had glassy eyes at one point. Yeah. I did. It's meaningful to me.” 

Speaking of Loughlin, she’s making her return to the small screen in When Hope Calls as Abigail Stanton, the role she originated on WCTH and played for six seasons before the Hallmark Channel cut ties with her in March 2019 due to her involvement in the college admissions scandal. Lissing says acting opposite Loughlin felt like “nostalgia, plus!” mixed with a lot of hugs and joyous moments.

“We're so grateful to be here doing this again together. We FaceTimed Erin [Krakow], and the three of us had a moment together. I feel like it was bittersweet, because we were really happy that Lori and I were working together again, and then we FaceTimed Erin, and she was like, ‘I'm so happy for you guys, I wish I was there!’” 

As for whether fans will ever see the close off-screen friends reunite on-camera one day, Lissing remains optimistic. He gushes, “I would just love, in any capacity, to work with these amazing women again. I did have a couple of conversations with Lori, and we talked about some behind-the-scenes collaboration. I would work with Erin in a heartbeat. The idea of us doing a movie together, a Christmas movie, a rom-com, whatever! In any capacity, I just think that's a no-brainer. I think that's a safe bet, but you know, we'll leave that up to the movie gods and see what happens.”

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ET previously learned that Lissing will only appear in When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas in a single scene as a cameo appearance. Still though, he says the moment his character shares onscreen with Loughlin’s character felt particularly poignant. 

“Lori's a great actor. She can just turn it on… She's really talented. That's why she's had such a long career,” he says, praising his longtime collaborator. “She's just such a professional that it's really fun to work with her. I like people that take their job seriously and have talent and we're friends and we're able to do our job to make sure that we honor our characters and we honor the scene, and this was such an important scene to both of us that we took it seriously. We took it really seriously.”  

Ultimately, the 40-year-old star says his special appearance is a love letter to the fans, the hearties, who have celebrated this cherished television franchise through and through. As for whether Lissing could pop up more frequently? He says the door is open. “I like telling stories that make sense to me, and I have been approached in casual ways from people that are involved with these projects like, ‘Let's do something more. Let's do something.’ I'm like, ‘How?’ If you can give me a good way to do it, that makes sense, then I'll be open to listening," he explains. “I will say this: anything could happen!”

While fans eagerly await Lissing’s next move, they can enjoy even more holiday cheer in his latest feel-good flick, A Christmas Star, where he co-stars opposite Sara Canning. Lissing says the film is special for many reasons, but especially because it marks the first time he’s played a father onscreen.

“Juliette Hawk, who played Celeste, was just a ball of sunshine and positive energy. I was taken by her talent, for one, it was the second project she's ever done,” he marvels. “She's just a special kid, and I loved playing a dad actually for the first time in my career.” 

Love and family are themes not only reflected in Lissing’s art, but also, his life. Last year, Lissing exchanged vows with Polish beauty Nadia. Though their dreams of an extravagant celebration in Bali were dashed due to the pandemic, Lissing says they’re hoping to pull off their destination wedding in 2022. And since getting hitched, the couple has added a dog to their brood, and eventually, they plan to expand their family. Specifically, Lissing says they’d like to have three children -- joking that it’s because they can all still fit in the same car!

“Certainly, when my niece was born, [I knew I wanted to be a dad]. [Nadia and I] have had these conversations before I played a dad, anyway… before you tie the knot, you're like, ‘All right, what do you want for your life?’ So we kind of covered all of that. I think she thought it was really sweet [to see me play a dad onscreen], but she sees me with kids anyway. We have kids in our neighborhood, so I'm kind of like the king of the kids around here, you know?!” he says, smiling. 

Looking toward the holiday season, Lissing will be experiencing a first: Christmas in Nadia’s native country, Poland. “I'm Jewish, she's Catholic, and so, we sort of come together and have Chrismukkah, I guess. We've got a tree in our living room with a Star of David on the top of it. I accommodate the Christmas decorations with a little touch of my traditions,” he gushes. To prepare for his trip, Lissing has been brushing up on his Polish-speaking skills. To hear him in action, watch the video at the top of this article.

The two-part When Hope Calls: A Country Christmas premieres on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on GAC Family.