When Calls the Heart made its debut on the Hallmark Channel this season amidst glowing reviews. The series is based on Janette Oke’s best-selling books of the Canadian West, and presents the loves and labors of a coal mining town in the 1800s. The captivating story depicts the life of lead character Elizabeth Thatcher, played by Erin Krakow, a young teacher from an affluent family who receives her first classroom assignment in the small coal-mining town of Coal Valley.
While Coal Valley offers a slower pace of life she is soon greeted with many challenges. Actress Lori Loughlin plays the supporting role of Abigail Stanton, a wife and mother whose husband, a mine foreman, was killed along with fourteen other men in a mine explosion. The newly widowed women find their faith utterly tested when they make a decision to return to the mines and work in order to keep a roof over their heads.
Abigail takes Elizabeth under her wing and begins to help her understand the importance of learning how to survive life on the frontier a necessity if she is to thrive on her own in the rural west.
Sonoma Christian Home Contributor Raschelle Loudenslager had the pleasure of talking with Lori Loughlin about her role in When Calls the Heart. In this exclusive SCH interview Raschelle reports “I found Lori to be authentic, kind, and engaging as she shared openly about her role as Abigail Stanton as well as her role as a woman, wife, mom, and actress and how she balances it all amidst life’s daily challenges.”
Sonoma Christian Home: When Calls the Heart is The Hallmark Channels first attempt at debuting a family-friendly prime time weekend television series. Why do you think airing family-friendly television is so important?
Lori Loughlin: It gives opportunity for families to come together. We live in such a fast-paced and busy world it is nice to have a reason to reunite as a family unit. I also feel When Calls the Heart opens up opportunities to engage in wholesome conversations about relevant topics as a family. I grew up in a modest home with a loving family. Every Saturday evening as a young girl I had a standing date with my Mom. We sat together and watched every episode of Love Boat followed by Fantasy Island. These shows created an opportunity for my Mom and I to spend time together and introduced issues that were timely and relevant for us to discuss.
SCH: How do you, similar to your character Abigail Stanton, balance the demands of everyday life as a woman, wife, mom, and career woman?
LL: I do a block schedule of working days. This is actually the first series I have filmed out of town since my girls were born. I work a five day on and two weeks off schedule right now. This allows me to focus completely on what I need to at the time. For the five days I am working I am totally focused on work but then during the two weeks of off time I am totally focused on being a wife and mom. I think like most women do, I take life one day at a time and do my best to handle well the circumstances that come with each day. We all have to do the best we can and let that be enough. It’s not easy to balance it all you just have to do your best and not compare yourself to everyone else.
SCH: Why did you chose to play the role of Abigail Stanton and how are the two of you similar?
LL: Abigail Stanton is a strong woman with a kind heart. I really saw myself in her from that standpoint. I like the fact the storyline is about Community and women coming together through unfathomable circumstances to overcome adversity. Let’s face it, life today for some is hard. There are a lot of people living through hard things every day. Even though the time period in When Calls the Heart is historical the storyline itself is truly timeless.
SCH: As a recipient of the Michael Landon Award in 1984, what, if any influence did this have on your decision work with his son as director of this series?
LL: Michael Landon was definitely a great director and actor but what I want people to know is his son Michael Landon Jr. is a great talent in his own right. I think it can at times be difficult when you work in the same industry as a parent to come out from under their shadow and find recognition apart from them for your work and ability. Michael Landon Jr. is very talented and a thorough director, he has been a joy to work with. His is not only a talented director but writer and producer as well.
SCH: Why should viewers watch this series?
LL: It is applicable to today. The women in the series all learn from and support each other. They, just like I do today with my girlfriends, share in one another’s lives. Although the time period is different making the circumstances a bit unique to the era the challenges are much the same. We all need one another to lend encouragement, a shoulder to cry on, advice when asked, and a helping hand when it’s needed. When Calls the Heart engages the spirit in all of these. What I like most is the Romance Aspect. It’s like Little House on the Prairie meets a romance novel.
SCH: Have you met author Janette Oke and what character in When Calls the Heart most reflects who she is as a person?
LL: I will have to say my character, Abigail Stanton, because both are very solid and grounded in who they are. They are kind and very strong individuals. Right now Janette and Michael Landon Jr. are creating more stories together. We had dinner with Janette and her husband and I found her to be a charming, funny, and very humble lady. She said, “I have tried to retire many times but they just won’t let me!”
SCH: Given this is your first experience acting in a Western how has it stretched you as an actress and as a person?
LL: As an actress, I have learned how to work and breathe in a corset. (Laughs) They are so tight; no wonder all the actresses of earlier times had such small waists. Personally, I am very thankful for a washer and a dryer. Seriously, I have learned more about myself through this role as I believe every role teaches something. Through portraying the character of Abigail Stanton I am reminded just how strong we are as women and the importance a community of friends plays in helping us to overcome times of adversity.
SCH: What encouragement can you give to women facing difficult circumstances of their own?
LL: As hard as things may be at times, have faith. The bottom-line is we have a higher power out there looking out for us. God does help those in need of help. I have always been true to my faith. It is important in our home. When struggles come my way I lean on my faith to sustain me and it always has. So I would encourage women no matter how difficult things may seem don’t give up and hold on to faith.
SCH: What is one thing others might be surprised to know about you?
LL: I have a very loud, rock your world laugh. I mean a really loud laugh. I am somewhat softer spoken in voice however my laugh probably increases by five decimals. Over Christmas we were in Aspen having dinner five houses down with friends. My children were bored and decided to walk home a little early after dinner. We got a little hot sitting around and the table and opened a window slightly to bring in some cooler air. Someone told a joke and I laughed. My kids texted me from our home because they heard it from all the way down the street. My Dad says I have had that loud laugh since I was a baby.
SCH: Last question, in a perfect world, given the opportunity, what types of roles would you like to play in the future and why?
LL: I am having a great time working with everyone at Hallmark. I would love to do a Christmas special. I love mysteries, the “who done it” types. I would love to do a Christmas mystery: the type of movie that is family friendly similar to When Calls the Heart and one I can watch with my kids staying true to the Hallmark brand.
When Calls the Heart airs Sunday evenings on the Hallmark Channel. It is truly a must see for all. You play an important role in keeping family-friendly television alive. Make Sunday a regular family night in your home by tuning into When Calls the Heart. Your choice in entertainment matters!
Click here to watch Lori in When Calls the Heart – Official Trailer
For more information and air times, please visit The Hallmark Channel – When Calls the Heart
To learn more about the author visit Raschelle Loudenslager