SALT LAKE CITY — On the surface, "When Calls the Heart" is a show about simple romance in simpler times. Dive a little deeper, however, and the popular Hallmark Channel series reveals rich layers of redemption and forgiveness — along with day-to-day struggles that tug on the heartstrings.
“I really enjoy taking characters on an emotional journey,” said showrunner Alfonso Moreno in an email interview with the blog From the Desk of Kurt Manwaring. “There is no more powerful journey than the road to redemption."
And of all the characters on "When Calls the Heart," mine owner and resident bad guy Henry Gowen, played by actor Martin Cummins, "has the longest road to redemption because he has historically done the most harm to others,” Moreno said. Henry bears responsibility for a multitude of sins ranging from embezzlement to the death of the town’s miners.
“There’s so much that’s happened over the time period with this guy,” Cummins said in a phone interview. “He’s the head of the mine and then the mine goes down. And then he’s charged. And then he’s the mayor. And then he’s in prison. I’ve had two trials. And (on it goes).”
Henry has evolved over the years to the point where, although once hated, he's now a fan favorite. As an actor, Cummins cheers for his character’s redemption but points out Henry doesn’t feel the same way — especially as it relates to the deadly mining disaster in Season 1.
“He feels responsible for it. 100 percent,” said Cummins. “That’s something he’s going to have to live with for the rest of his life.”
Yet despite the gravity of his sins, there are periodic glimmers of light for this character on a slow-but-steady arc of redemption. One of Henry’s greatest advocates is Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin) — an entrepreneurial and kindhearted woman who lost her husband and son to Henry’s greed.
The surprisingly tender moments shared between the two characters have led to a variety of fan responses.
“The audience realized it and the network realized it, and went, ‘Oh, this is interesting, what’s happening here (between Henry and Abigail),'” Cummins said.
For Cummins, these reactions are understandable, but Loughlin's and his character's complicated relationship is likely on a slow burn.
“It didn’t get heavy-handed and all the sudden next week they’re dating and they’re married on Tuesday,” said Cummins. “This whole thing is played out over six seasons. I think they’re standing on opposite ends of the room kind of looking at each other on and off, but we’re not moving anywhere quickly.”
Henry may need to wait for love and redemption, but the town of Hope Valley will have a variety of changes to deal with almost as soon as the new season begins — including the introduction of the telephone and stock market.
“In more ways than one, future comes knocking at the door of Hope Valley,” Moreno said. “The challenge for our characters is how do they hold onto the best of the past while moving into the future.
“Also, the fortunes of some of our residents change dramatically this season,” he added.
Moreno didn't say exactly who might be part of a rags-to-riches (or riches-to-rags) storyline. But he does want fans to know the new season will be filled with all the things they love and plenty of new ones as well.Comment on this story
“In Season 6, we have some new faces and new exciting stories to tell. The series continues to provide the emotion, romance and humor that has made it successful,” said Moreno.
“The storylines will have twists and turns and have real emotional stakes, while remaining true to the Hallmark brand. ‘When Calls the Heart’ continues to be a show that your whole family can genuinely enjoy.”
"When Calls the Heart" season 6 premiere will air on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday, Feb. 24, 6 p.m. MST