It's not easy to find nice, wholesome family friendly
fare in such a cynical age.
That was why Lori Loughlin signed on the dotted line to
be a part of the new Hallmark Channel series When Calls the
Heart, based on the popular books by Janette Oke about a
big-city school teacher taking a job in a small mining community in
the Canadian west of the early 1900s. That teacher, Elizabeth
Thatcher (played by Erin Krakow) has to get used to the hard
lifestyles of the frontier town.
Much of her introduction to the genteel ways of the old
west is provided by Loughlin's character of Abigail Stanton.
Abigail, like many of the other women of the town, was recently left
a widow due to a mining collapse. Now she must learn to survive and
raise her children on her own.
The series is helmed by Michael Landon, Jr., which makes
sense because it is rather reminiscent of his dad's previous shows
Little House on the Prairie and Bonanza. The show is
also similar to the 70s hit The Waltons, so it is a sad
coincidence that this interview took place on the same day as the
death of the father from that series, Ralph Waite.
Loughlin has had a long and varied career, starting as a
teen in the soap opera The Edge of Night. Soon she was
playing lead roles in several popular me-generation hits including
Secret Admirer (with C. Thomas Howell and Kelly Preston),
Back to the Beach (as the daughter of a grown up Annette
Funicello and Frankie Avalon) and the motocross drama Rad.
Soon after that, Loughlin joined the cast of the hit
TGIF sitcom Full House, with Bob Saget and John Stamos. (Stamos
recently started a buzz referring to Loughlin as the woman who got
away in his life.)
In the time since Full House left the air,
Loughlin has juggled acting and motherhood, appearing in such
diverse series as Seinfeld, Spin City, The Drew Carey Show, Ghost
Whisperer, 90210, Psych and The Larry Sanders Show.
We recently took part in a conference call with Loughlin
and a few other media outlets to discuss her new series and her
you're filming the show you immerse yourself so much in the
lifestyle of the old west. If you were living back then what do you
think you'd miss the most? And what do you think you'd miss the
I really would miss my washer and dryer. Hah! And my
dishwasher. (laughs) We had to do a scene where we were
washing the clothing. Michael Landon, Jr. was directing that
episode and he really had me scrubbing. He's like, "No, you have to
scrub like they did years ago." My hands were raw by the end of the
afternoon. I'd miss just the simple things, like my washer and
Michael's dad was
obviously sort of synonymous with this type of family-friendly old
west programming. What is it like working with Michael Jr.?
Michael Landon, Jr. is an absolute dream to work with.
I can't say enough nice things about the guy. He's extremely
talented. He's very, very kind. He's a great director, great with
actors. Kind to the crew. Very soft–spoken. Loves to laugh.
Loves to be funny on set and have laughs during the day. He's
I still remember
first seeing you in a great old film comedy called
which I was shocked to find while
researching these questions that it is almost 30 years old.
Really? Is it really? (laughs) Wow.
Yeah. It came out
in 1985. When you first got started in acting, did you ever imagine
you'd still be working all these years later?
You know, I tend to live my life one day at a time. But
I really am very blessed and thankful that I've been able to work
all these years. I know that I am fortunate and I am among a small
percentage. For me, I feel like I wasn't trained to do anything
else. I had nothing else to fall back on, so I had to make it work
for myself. Thankfully I've been able to.
Abigail, is she going to have a bit of a
type moment with the mine? A rabble rouser as far
as the safety of the women that are working in the mine? And I'm
wondering if your character too will find love this season.
I think towards the end of the season there is potential
for a love interest for Abigail. As far as the Norma Rae
component, the going and working in the mine was one specific
episode. After that episode was over, once they achieved their
goal, which was to save their homes, they took us out of the mine.
So I think it's more about women coming together and community and
helping each other. For me, what I like about Abigail is she is now
on her own. She has to be independent. She doesn't have a man to
rely on. I really like that. She does open her own business
halfway through the season to take care of herself and support
herself. She definitely goes up against the character of Gowen,
Martin Cummins' character. He's the guy that runs the company that
basically, for lack of a better word, owns the town. He funds the
town and the miners and pays the miners. She definitely stands up
to him when nobody else in the town will do that. She's afraid, but
not enough where she won't stand up for what she believes in.
Just a touch of Norma.
Okay. A touch of Norma.
I'd think it's been
very moving for all of you to inhabit these characters who've
endured so much. Can you talk a little about what you've learned
and how it's affected you?
Well, I think what I've learned – and what I think I've
always known in my own life – is that in life, we need other
people. It's hard to go it alone. It takes a village and you need
a support system. What I love about When Calls the Heart is
even though it's set in 1910, it feels contemporary to me in the
sense that these women really need each other. They rely on each
other. Together they forge ahead and they triumph. I think that’s
really indicative of society today. It's interesting because I see
we can be so isolated nowadays
of the computer and the phone. You see everyone looking down at
their phone. But I do think that we really do need each other. I
know for me, in my life with my friends, they're very important to
me. When times get tough, of course I rely on my husband but I
really do rely on my girlfriends. That’s what I like about When
Calls the Heart. It's these women in this community that are
coming together to make a better life for themselves and for their
When you filmed the
When Comes the Heart did you
know that it was going to be a series? Or did you just think you
were doing a one–time shot?
Well, they told me
I actually came on just to do the very last scene of the actual
movie. When the producers approached me they said, this is a
potential backdoor pilot. So if it does goes to series, we'd like
you to be a part of the series. So we would love to have you be in
one scene at the very end, which sets up the character of Elizabeth
coming to town to Cold Valley. So that’s how I ended up [in it].
Then through other
the movie became very different from the series and they did a lot
of re–casting. They re–casted two leads and it just shifted and it
changed. But I did know that they were potentially trying to do it
as a backdoor pilot for a series.
Perfect. Would you
be interested in doing season two if that does come about?
your girls watch the show considering that it's such family–friendly
series? Or are they like, "We don't want to watch mom on TV?"
No, no, no. They actually like the show. That's one of
the things I like about the show is that they can watch it.
Every family member can watch it. I think that a lot of the major
networks and a lot of the cable stations, while there's great
programs on television, not [much] scripted television is not geared
for family viewing as much as it used to be.
Are you working on
any other projects right now? Any new movies coming out? Anything
else you have due?
Well I did another project for the Hallmark Channel
called Garage Sale Mystery, which reminded me a lot of
Murder She Wrote. It did very well. It's already aired. It
did very well. So we're talking about potentially doing some more
of those. Having that be not a series, but an ongoing series of
Were you familiar
with the books by Janette Oke from which the show is based?
I actually was not, but I had the pleasure of meeting
Janette Oke. She came to set to visit us a few months back. I had
dinner with her. She's a lovely, lovely woman. She's very funny,
she's so popular and these books are so popular. She made a comment
[that] she's been trying to retire for years but they just won't let
her. (laughs) But, yeah, I know she has a huge, huge
following and the books have a huge following.
Can you talk about
any of the challenging scenes perhaps that have been filmed so far?
We have one coming up this Saturday night, which is the
birth of a baby. I am instrumental in delivering the child. Those
are scenes are tricky to film
you want to be true, but you can't be too graphic. It's finding the
balance of how to shoot that and make that scene as realistic as
possible... again, within the confines of television.
By contrast are
there any funny, behind-the-scenes stories that you might want to
share with us today?
Funny behind-the-scenes stories? Gosh. I mean I can
say that we always have fun all day long on the set. I can't think
of anything off the top of my head. I'm so sorry. I can tell you
that it's a joyous place to work. We laugh a lot. We have a good
time, but I can't think of one thing. [It] doesn’t pop into my
would you change about Abigail?
What I'd change about Abigail? Maybe, maybe, a nicer
hairdo. (laughs) She's pretty simple right now. Towards
the end [of the season] we start to evolve a little bit. I'd like
her to a have a little... well we start going for just a softer look
towards the end of the season. But other than that, I really love
the character. And she's just being developed. I really like the
direction that they're taking her. I like her strength. I can't
think of anything I really would change about her.
You've worked on
network series in the past and now on cable, how is working on a
cable series different than network? And why do you think that many
of the truly imaginative shows have been shifting to cable from the
more traditional network model?
Well, I can't speak for cable across the board. I mean,
I think I can answer the question why I think actors are gravitating
towards cable. I think actually whether it's network or it's cable,
I think it comes down to the writing. You definitely have more
freedom on cable but I think it comes down to the writing and the
project. There are a lot of good projects on cable. Just as there
are a lot of good projects on network television. What I can say,
what I can speak to, is working for the people at Hallmark. I can
tell you that they are really some of the nicest people I've ever
had the pleasure of working with. They're very much in contact with
you. You really have a relationship with them. In the past while
I've always definitely been on friendly terms or everyone is very
nice at the different networks, I've never... I'm able to call Bill
Abbott, the President of Hallmark, at the drop of a hat and he picks
up the phone. He gives me his cell phone number. I have his direct
e–mail. I have access to them and to all of the executives at
Hallmark in a very different way. I have a relationship that feels
more like a family than I've ever had before.
Like you said, the
show is definitely more family–oriented than most on television.
Why do you think there aren't more shows out there that you can sit
down with your kids and watch?
You know, somewhere along the line something shifted.
I'm not sure why, but somewhere somebody deemed that family
programming wasn't popular. Everyone seemed to shift and walk away
from it, which I find funny because years ago family programming was
huge. Now I realize that you didn't have as many outlets. You
didn't have all the cable stations. But I know for me as a child,
when I was growing up, we didn't have a lot of money. Television
was a big part of entertainment for us and how we viewed
entertainment. We would sit down as a family. Loved those,
Fantasy Island, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, The Brady Bunch,
Partridge Family. I mean, I could go on and on. TV shows that
we could watch together. I don't know how or why that shifted. I
have to believe in my heart our country is made up of a lot of
families. I have to believe that people want to watch television
with their families. It's one of the reasons I think American
Idol and The Voice and Dancing With The Stars are
[popular]. Besides being very good reality shows and great shows
and great competition shows, I think they're shows that you can
watch with your family. But as far as scripted television, you're
right, there's not that many out there for families anymore and I
don't know why. I know Disney has carved out this whole niche for
kids, but I don't think a lot of adults want to sit down and
necessarily watch The Disney Channel. So it's trying to find the
balance for everybody, which many years ago that was done very
how has the series sort of made you appreciate the hardships of mine
working and frontier life?
Well the truth is we only did one episode where we were
working in the mine even though we're set in a coal mining town.
But you just realize – we try to be as authentic as we can. Even
our lighting. Like, yeah, they bring in lights but you know a lot
of the time as much as they can do like candle light and shoot that
way, they try to. The funniest thing is the wall sconces with the
candles in them. I can't tell you, countless times that we've all
banged into them, hit our heads, knocked them down. So we have a
lot of open flame on set
of that – so you know working in that kind of environment, which is
great but you realize wow, electricity was a great thing. Then just
the fact that you don't even have a washer and dryer. You know
we've done scenes where we're outside doing the laundry and you
realize, wow, what a great luxury to have a washer and dryer.
(laughs) Or a dishwasher.
And also back on
the family friendly things, there's a bunch of
reunions and buzz lately. How exciting is it for to know that that
show is still so special to so many people? And would you like to
get involved in some of those kind of nostalgic glances of the show?
It's really nice. It's very touching that the show has
really stood the test of time. It's been so many years since we
were in actual production. Yet, funny, last night I flipped the TV
on and there we all were. They have marathons, one after the
other. Sometimes occasionally because it's on so much, I'll watch.
It makes me smile
I look and I think, you know what? I'm proud of that show. It
really served a purpose and it's a feel good show. It makes people
happy. As far as the reunions, I would love to be a part of
whatever. I mean, if the cast is getting together and it's a good
script, I'm up for anything. I love all those people and I love
working with them.
Will there be
anymore back story on Abigail and her late husband? Perhaps a
flashback to their early days in Coal Valley?
I don't know. That’s a good question. They haven't
done that so far, but I
don't see why they wouldn’t.
The writing on the
show is really so well done. I'm wondering, do you have any input?
Is there something that they write and you're like, I don't know if
Abigail would do that or yeah, that’s great?
Yes. They're very collaborative and they do take our
suggestions. Even, I don't know if we'll get to a second season,
but I have a story that I've already pitched to one of the writers
for my character next season that they really like. I'm going to
sit down and pitch it to the other executive producers and possibly
the people at the network. So they are very, very open to hearing
ideas in the broad strokes of it all. Even if you're on set and
you're struggling with some dialogue or saying it doesn't feel right
that I would say that. They really take a look at it and go, "You
know what? I agree." Or "You know what? This is why we wrote
that," and they'll explain why. It's a very collaborative working