Interview: Daniel Lissing
On Sunday, February 19th at 9/8c, the Hallmark Channel hit series When Calls the Heart returns for its fourth season. In just a short time, the series has become a phenomenon for the network and has created a devoted group of fans known as the Hearties.
Daniel Lissing has portrayed Mountie Jack Thornton from the beginning and fans have some to love the character’s values and his willingness to always to the right thing.
We sit down with Daniel to talk about the upcoming fourth season of the series, his thoughts about the future of Elizabeth and Jack and his thoughts on a possible fifth season for When Calls the Heart.
Pop Culture Principle - Now that the series is heading into its fourth season, do you feel this show has found its rhythm and its voice?
Daniel Lissing - Yeah, absolutely. I think we really found our voice in Season 3 and what I really like about Season 4 is that it's really sort of a continuation of that same vibe but I feel like we even go a little bit further with the relationships, the story, the drama, the romance. Everything notches up a level in Season 4 which I really like.
Pop Culture Principle - You've lived with this character now for four seasons, how protective have you become of the character Jack Thornton?
Daniel Lissing - You know, I always was protective of the character, any characters that I play. I kind of fall in love with these characters. As someone that's acting and playing these parts, especially Jack, you feel very protective of and keeping true to what makes Jack tick. So for me, if ever I'm reading something that isn't true to the character, then I of course speak up and we will make an amendment to the script. The writers and producers that are running the show really have a good sense of who these characters are at this point and they hear our voices as the actors when they write these characters. The amendments that I make are few and far between these days.
Pop Culture Principle -In Season 3 we finally got to meet Jack's mother Charlotte and we got to see another side of Jack. How important was it to have another perspective of who Jack really is?
Daniel Lissing - I think it's great and it gives the audience a little back story for this character. Working with Brooke Shields of course was fantastic. Brooke really brought Charlotte to life. Their relationship was a really interesting one for me. I feel like the roles were kind of switched in some ways, that she was almost the wild one and he always had to wear the pants in the family and kind of keep things running once his father died. Charlotte was just a fun character and I really liked that dynamic.
Pop Culture Principle - It seemed at the beginning Elizabeth and Charlotte had a bumpy start but ended up working everything out. It also seemed like Jack found the back and forth between the two kind of funny. Would you agree with that?
Daniel Lissing - Sure! You know, I think any guy out there that introduces his girlfriend to his mom has has to be thinking to himself that he hopes they get along you because obviously they are different people. The mom's protective of her boy and the girlfriend is like hey I love him, it's all good. So that kind of dynamic, any guy out there with a mom, which is all of us, that brings home their partner to meet the family I think can relate to that feeling of, oh man I hope they get along.
Pop Culture Principle - One of the really dramatic scenes in the final episodes of Season 3 is when Jack was trying to save the little girl and was thrown from the horse and washed away in the flood. What was it like shooting that scene?
Daniel Lissing - That's the fun part man. I do about 95% of the stunt work on this particular show. It’s great fun for me. For that scene and that dramatic climax to the end of the season I really like the elements of the duality of that kind of intense action, running around on the horse and getting swept away by the river. And then the duality of the scene that follow afterwards, which is wondering if Jack is going to live or is he going to die?
Those heartfelt moments from Erin were just so beautiful and such a nice quiet moment between them. She really delivered that episode at the end of the day. I just had to fall off a horse, but she had to make us care about it. I think she just nailed it, as she always does.
Pop Culture Principle - At the end of Season 2 we see that Jack was going to propose to Elizabeth but of course Charles beat him to it. At the end of Season 3, Elizabeth caught the bouquet at Rosemary and Lee's wedding. Is marriage something that Jack is still thinking about heading into Season 4?
Daniel Lissing - Yeah, I don't think it's ever far from his mind really, especially during that time period because it was about finding your wife, making your family and building a life together. I think it's one of the elements, the traditional aspect of the past that we kind of miss out on in today's society because there's so many choices. Our society doesn't frown upon having however many girlfriends or boyfriends you want and the the list goes on.
It's a nice feeling when people watch this show and get kind of lost in that historical element. I think that for my character it's just normal to choose the woman he's going to marry one day, if we ever we get there or if something else comes along or Jack doesn't die in the line of duty. I think that is definitely on his mind in Season 4.
Pop Culture Principle - Do you think in the back of her mind that Elizabeth still continues to worry about Jack being a Mountie and if push came to shove would Jack quit being a Mountie to be with Elizabeth, if asked?
Daniel Lissing - That's a good question and that's one of the themes for Season 4. This is a job that Jack loves. Just like teaching is to Elizabeth, teaching those kids and shaping those young minds. To protect and serve for Jack, really is his purpose in life. Their supportive of each other, of course, but with that comes elements of discord because he works in a profession that is potentially very unsafe and life threatening. So, of course, that can be problematic and some of those issues come forward in Season 4.
Pop Culture Principle - At the end of Season 3 Jack took Elizabeth and showed her this big plot of land that he purchased. Are we going to learn more about what he's doing with that land in Season 4?
Daniel Lissing - You know what, I've got to be honest with you man, that kind of story line is still a little bit in the background because some of the other elements of the story really come forward in Season 4 for our two characters. He still owns the land, he still plans to build on the land, but that might be an element of his story that we look at in Season 5.
Of course it comes down to ratings at the end of the day and if the show is doing well with the public. I think this show just keeps growing every season. In my opinion this season is the best so far and we are sticking to what has attracted audiences to this show in the first place. I just can't see this show not going to Season 5. I would be very, very surprised if it didn't and I guess time will tell.
I know the network is behind the show and all the producers are behind it and everyone is excited about the show and it's doing really good things out there. This is one of the beautiful things about the show, our fan base is just so dedicated and their such avid supporters of the show on social media and pushing to promote the show and expand their Hearties network to get the word on the street. I really believe in this show and I think it's going to go for a long time.
Pop Culture Principle - The ratings for the When Calls the Heart Christmas movie were a record for the network. It has to make everyone involved with the series so proud. Would you agree?
Daniel Lissing - I was going to say it's unbelievable, but it's really not. The work that has gone into the show has shined through on the screen. I've got to say a show like this, like When Called the Heart, in this political climate and with everything that is going on in the world at the moment, it's a little bit of a respite from the drama out there in our lives. I think the type of programming that Hallmark puts out, is needed, like really needed today. I don't think there are too many networks, if any, that are doing the kind of content that Hallmark is doing. I know that the people are out there and they are starving for it and that is why the network is growing and why the show's numbers keep rising.
At the end of the day what do we really want to do when we are switching off and sitting down in front of the television? We want to feel good, we want to watch something positive. Don't get me wrong I love shows like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead. As an actor, I love those kinds of shows and those are the shows I thrive on, but I really find time to find shows that just make me happy as well. Again, nothing wrong with those shows, but I want to find programming that is positive and doesn’t make you think as much.
These characters and the storylines are just so ingrained in the American psyche. I think a lot of people that watch this show have this idyllic image of what it was like to live back then and if you take the best elements of back then and put it to a good story with a bit of drama and romance, I'm not surprised the show is doing really well. I'm just happy to be a part of it.
Pop Culture Principle - When Calls the Heart seems to have perfectly blended action, drama and romance. Would you agree with that?
Daniel Lissing - You know for the network and for the show, and what we're trying to do, yes I agree with you. This show really does have so many elements to it, so many characters and it is a nice show. I would agree with that, sure.
Pop Culture Principle – You recently attended the second Hearties fan convention. What was the experience like being back there for the second time?
Daniel Lissing - It's overwhelming, is the right word. It's completely overwhelming. There is a lot of love and a lot of excitement and you get a really good sense of what these characters and what this show means to so many people. I mean, I shook hands and hugged and took photos with 500 people. We were all there doing it with a big panel and we talked to everyone. The sense you get, just like the show, is just overwhelmingly positive and positive people come and share their love for this show and it was a tremendously fulfilling experience. I wonder how many people we're going to have next time?
Pop Culture Principle – What do you think Jack's biggest strength is and what do you think his biggest weakness is?
Daniel Lissing - I think Jack is a man of principles and integrity and I think that is his biggest strength. He doesn't change what he believes in for anyone. He has a moral code that he sticks to, and it's always for the betterment of not only himself but for the people around him. I think that's a huge strength and sometimes I personally fall off the wagon, but it's definitely something I aspire to. One of his biggest weaknesses is Elizabeth whom he would do anything for.
Pop Culture Principle - What can fans look forward to with the fourth season of When Calls the Heart?
Daniel Lissing - I think this is going to be a shocking season for the fans. The show has some big changes coming.
We would like to send a big thank you to Daniel for chatting with us about the new season of When Calls the Heart. You can catch the Season 4 premiere on Sunday, February 19th at 9/8c only on the Hallmark Channel. Keep up with all of Daniel's latest news and projects by following him on Twitter @DLissing, Instagram @daniellissing and his official Facebook page here.
**All photos Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States, LLC/Photographer: Eike Schroter**