On Sunday, March 6th at 8/7c, the hit Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart returns for its ninth season!

As with all shows that have been on this long, things can change and with its ninth season, the series will add a new character, Mei Sou, played by the wonderfully talented Amanda Wong.

The Canadian born actor has worked in the financial sector, the news industry and now has devoted her life to the acting profession. You may have seen her in series such as Welcome to Surrey, A Million Little Things, Debris and The Followers.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Amanda and talk about her life before acting, what it was like to step on the set of When Calls the Heart for the first time and working with Kevin McGarry.

Pop Culture Principle – Before you got into acting, we learned that you were involved in journalism and finance. Can you tell us a little bit about that time in your life?

Amanda Wong – Yes, so I was studying business and communications while in undergrad. One semester, I took this one reporting class where we got to tour the CBC, which is one of the biggest broadcasters in Canada, and when I was there, I met one of the radio hosts and he mentioned an internship. I applied and ended up being the runner-up two years in a row. It was the only internship that I wanted and I was so bummed that I didn’t get it.

Fast forward, I was waiting tables while still in school, and it just so happened that the radio host that I had met earlier, Stephen Quinn, walked in but wasn’t in my table section. Then another group of people came in and we started talking casually. I asked where they came from and if they were at a broadcast-related event because I had noticed Stephen Quinn. The woman I was talking to, asked how I knew it was him and I told her about the CBC internship. Then, she asked if I wanted an internship with CTV! She was the news director of CTV.

Before the internship ended, I got a regular position and worked at CTV for a few years. After, I moved away and went to grad school for journalism. A protest broke out shortly after I arrived (in Hong Kong), which for a student journalist, was an invaluable experience. I ended up getting a contract with Al Jazeera then a contract with Bloomberg Asia where I was their assistant assignment editor and media manager.

Pop Culture Principle – Our research showed that during that time, you were covering a protest and you were hit with tear gas? Is that correct?

Amanda Wong – Yes, not deliberately though. A protest broke out in Hong Kong right when I started graduate school. I was on the field and there was a media bridge that no one was allowed on, except for accredited sources. So as an intrepid student journalist, I lied and said I worked for the New York Times. The tear gas happened further away to disperse the crowd that had formed, but being on the bridge, the wind picked it up and I was caught in it. The footage I filmed ended up opening the evening news for CTV for a week though!

Pop Culture Principle – So, how did you go from being in journalism and finance to trying your hand at acting?

Amanda Wong – Well, I was working at Bloomberg at the time, and I was working a lot. I actually really liked being a journalist and still enjoy it. It’s new every day and there are a lot of opportunities to exercise your curiosities and you are always learning something, kind of like acting. So, I did enjoy it, but I had been doing journalism since I was an undergraduate and I think a part of me wanted to see the world. I’d have been happy in that position until I retired, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t go explore and then come back.

So, I thought I would take a six-month sabbatical. I came back to Vancouver to pack, and I was talking with a friend about Pokémon, and he suggested I make a Pokémon video. It was during the Pokémon Go phase when everyone was walking around playing the game. So, we came up with this cheeky idea of dating as if you were in Pokemon Go. 😊 We made that video, it was sent to an agency, and that is how I got representation! 😊

Pop Culture Principle – How did being involved with the news, doing interviews for the news and things like that help you when it came to your acting career?

Amanda Wong – When I started my internship, I was connected with this wonderful man who became my mentor and my pseudo-grandfather. He was a former CTV operator and he and I practiced stand-ups together. He really coached me through the journalism part of my life. I guess because of how desensitized I got to staring straight into the camera, I never really felt super nervous in acting. I know it’s naïve, but when I’m being recorded, I don’t feel like anyone is watching.

Pop Culture Principle – Before you landed the role of Mei Sou on When Calls the Heart, what did you know about the show, if anything?

Amanda Wong – I think that most Vancouver actors know about the show. It’s a long-running series and the most popular Hallmark series. I knew all that, but I never really thought of myself being in the show. Sometimes acting classes in town would have a “When Calls the Heart series,” on how to be on the show. It’s funny, I never took those classes because I thought, “What are the chances they would have an Asian woman in the show?” Then all of a sudden, I got a breakdown, and it was asking specifically for an Asian woman with horseback riding experience. All these things they were asking for, I seemed to have, and I thought well, here goes. I hope it’s me but if It’s not, I’m still stoked that there would be an Asian woman in town.

Pop Culture Principle – Did you watch any of the series while you were preparing for the role?

Amanda Wong – Yes, I definitely did. You have to get into the style of the show. Everyone speaks quite differently compared to now. We talk very fast in modern day and move our hands a lot and say “like” and “totally” a lot, but back then, they didn’t talk like that. And the language is so specific, you have to hone that in. The cadence is almost melodic, like a song which is nice.

Pop Culture Principle – What can you tell us about your character Mei Sou?

Amanda Wong – Mei Sou is very intelligent and she’s very courageous. She is coming from the big city, so she is a big city girl and that is why her skirt, if you noticed, is slightly shorter than everyone else’s. Also, because she is from the city, she doesn’t wear a corset because times are changing. She’s not without flaws because everyone is not without flaws. She’s definitely warm inside, loves animals and is very nurturing and capable as well.

Pop Culture Principle – Barbara Gregusova is well-known for her amazing costumes for the series. Did you get a chance to input your thoughts or ideas for your character’s clothes or did Barbara pretty much have everything ready for you?

Amanda Wong – Well, she more so asked me what colors I liked to wear. She is just a genius at what she does. When I did my first fitting, she just held up cloth next to my body and asked if I liked the material and then she just whipped it up! I didn’t see it at first, but it was just beautiful after. If you see that promo shot of me walking down the stairs and meeting Nathan for the first time, that skirt was completely made by her, and it just turned out beautifully.

Pop Culture Principle – When Calls the Heart has been on the air for nine seasons, and it’s been a well-oiled machine. What was it like for you as a new addition to the series and did anyone help you with your integration to the show?

Amanda Wong – I was nervous, but everyone was really nice! All of my castmates went out of their way to welcome and include me. Along with the directors of the show, they’ve been ultra generous and compassionate. I felt super safe knowing how much everyone loves the show. No director, crew, writer, or actor wants to see the show fail, so we all have each other’s back and I think that’s why the sense of community really shines through in Hope Valley.

Pop Culture Principle – In the Season 9 trailer, we see your character and Mountie Nathan Grant seem to already have some chemistry on screen.

Amanda Wong – Well, the funny thing is that I feel like I was experiencing a lot of what Mei was experiencing for the first time as well. The scene where she meets Nathan was the moment I met Kevin. Five minutes before that scene we introduced ourselves and then I went to the top of the stairs, and I walked down! When Mei sees Nathan without his mustache, that was the first time I saw Kevin without his mustache too! As far as chemistry, it’s easy when your scene partner is as charismatic and talented as Kevin.

Pop Culture Principle – Can you tell us how many episodes that you will be in this season?

Amanda Wong – I don’t want to say how many because I don’t want to reveal anything, but many. 😊

Pop Culture Principle – What have you enjoyed the most so far while being a part of When Calls the Heart?

Amanda Wong – Well, I’ve really enjoyed working with Kevin McGarry. He cracks me up! Sometimes, we have these late shoots where we work until 1am or 2am. Everyone might be tired, but not Kevin. He is the most joyful person and is always making jokes. He’s witty, kind, and makes everyone laugh during the wee hours of the morning.

Pop Culture Principle – When Calls the Heart has such a loyal and vocal fanbase. Do you plan on getting involved with the social media aspect of the show?

Amanda Wong – I would love to live-tweet with the fans, and I have a lot of things that I want to do for the show like doing reaction videos and things like that. I look forward to it.

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A huge thank you to Amanda Wong for taking the time to talk with us. When Calls the Heart returns for its ninth season premiere on Sunday, March 6th at 8/7c only on the Hallmark Channel!

**All photos courtesy of The Hallmark Channel**

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