Heartland’s Heather Conkie teases Season 11 ahead of Sunday’s return

To borrow a horse saying—appropriate in this case—we’ve been champing at the bit for Season 11 of Heartland to return to CBC. This Sunday can’t come quickly enough thanks to last season’s final episodes. For those who need a refresher, Ty (Graham Wardle) returned from Mongolia in time to meet his new baby after Amy (Amber Marshall) gave birth. Mitch (Kevin McGarry) and Lou (Michelle Morgan) were on the outs after he saw her holding hands with Peter (Gabriel Hogan) and Georgie (Alisha Newton) and Adam (Kataem O’Connor) were rebuilding their friendship. Throw in Caleb (Kerry James) and Cassandra (Kaitlyn Leeb) tying the knot … let’s just say there is a lot of follow up on starting this Sunday.

Thankfully, Heather Conkie, Heartland‘s showrunner, was available to talk about last season and give us a sneak peek into a Season 11 that will see a refresh of the series and some new additions.

Before we get into some Season 11 tidbits, let’s do a post-mortem on Season 10. Perhaps the biggest story was Amy and Ty welcoming a baby into the world. That was the natural next step for this young couple but were you nervous or excited about adding a baby into the mix?
Heather Conkie: I think it was a mixture of both. We knew we might be painting ourselves into a corner, but it was the absolute natural next step. It felt right and we wanted their marriage to have other things to explore, so parenthood is a big theme this season. It also was connected with a little bit of experience. My own daughter was pregnant and I was going through that with her, so writing Amy’s pregnancy was very much a reflection of what I was going through in my own life. That helped us and continues to because my grandson is now a year old and I’m seeing what she’s going through as a mother. It’s really helped that perspective. We’re filming Episode 11 and 12 and the one wonderful thing about the pregnancy being over is that Amy can ride! We really missed writing that for her last year. Most riders ride into their pregnancy but we didn’t want to invite controversy because there are so many people who believe that it is dangerous. We had to go a whole year without being able to do the things that Amy does. This year is so great because we can have the Amy as we know her back. She can ride and she’s building her client base back up; her reputation as the miracle girl was missing in action.

I never realized how much the pregnancy would affect the storylines.
Usually the episodes centre around her and a horse story. We transferred a lot of that over to Georgie and had Amy working with horses because she could still do that. We had some wonderful scenes of Amy doing liberty work with horses. We also used dreams a lot and riding in dreams! [Laughs.]

The benefit of not being able to have Amy work with horses was that you were able to expand Georgie’s story a lot last season.
It really did allow us to explore trick riding more and all of the things Georgie came up to the plate to do.

Now, you didn’t make it easy on Amy and Ty. First, Ty was away in Mongolia for much of the season and then when he did come back, he was very sick. Were you surprised by the negative feedback you got having Ty gone for so long?
[Laughs.] We do like to put people through the wringer a little bit. No, we knew there would be a pushback but it also gave us the opportunity to go outside the box as well. The Mongolia footage and his storyline gave him an aura of a more romantic hero. When he came back he was grown up; it changed the character. And, quite honestly, when you have actors on a show for 10 seasons they need a break. Graham really wanted a break and we weren’t about to do anything drastic with the character. We love Graham Wardle and so do the fans, so it was a compromise to go a little outside the box a little bit and give him a break in the most creative way we could without getting rid of the character, which I never want to do. This is a family people have grown up with and losing a member of the family would be as harsh as if it was really happening to a member of someone’s family. People do need change and the character needed change. As a result of that, we’re writing a much more grown-up Ty.

We’re facing challenges most shows don’t get to. It requires a freshness and even if Graham had said he wanted to do all 18 episodes last year it still needed a freshness and we would have done something. In fact, this year, people are saying that the show feels completely fresh. I’m so pleased to hear that because we’re so close to it. There is a wonderful atmosphere on set. Everybody is thrilled to be back and because of the parenthood theme, it’s changed the dynamic, which is great.

When we pick up this Sunday, where are we at with Ty, Amy and the baby?
It’s fun because they’re in the loft right off the bat and are really squashed in there. [Laughs.] Ty is very protective and it’s a totally different side to him. He’s almost protective to a fault. It’s funny, actually.

Speaking of protective, we can’t forget Lou, who is never afraid to share her opinions about anything. 
She does. It’s a very good family dynamic. The twins that play the baby are adorable and it’s added a flavour before that we had with Katie as an infant. I had kind of forgotten the neat stuff that you can do.

Do we have a baby name yet?
We reveal it in the first five minutes of the first episode. We had a contest to name the baby and it’s incredible that the winner was the name I’ve been toying with for a long time.


There is a wonderful atmosphere on set. Everybody is thrilled to be back and because of the parenthood theme, it’s changed the dynamic, which is great.


Let’s talk about a rocky relationship: the trio of Lou, Mitch and Peter. What can you say about these three in Season 11?
Last season, Mitch read the wrong signal and up and left when he saw Lou holding hands with her ex. So, this year … let’s just say it’s reignited but it’s something that’s going to go on for a long time. It’s timing with these two. Anyone who has been through this knows it’s all about the timing between the ex and the new person. Plus, she’s got this crazy offshoot of Maggie’s in New York … they are in two separate worlds. There is a definite chemisty between the characters.

Peter plays a big role this year. Episode 2 is quite astounding. Gabriel Hogan gives a performance that I’ve never seen before because a ghost from Georgie’s past comes back and he has to help her deal with it. It’s just the most moving episode I’ve ever seen. And Alisha is incredible. She astounded everyone.

Speaking of performances, Shaun Johnston continues to knock it out of the park as Jack. There were some killer performances from him in Season 10.
Everybody forgets that he’s one of the characters who really is acting. He’s not that age, he doesn’t walk like that, he doesn’t talk like that … you just sink into the character and totally forget that it’s Shaun. He has some incredible scenes with Ty this year. Jack is a big father figure for Ty and has been. Last year, the scene between Jack and Ty before he went away to Mongolia … it was one of the most beautiful scenes ever because he was acting like Ty was going off to war. It was just beautiful and Shaun had a hand in writing some of the lines as well because he has such insight into the character.

Where are we at with Georgie and Adam’s relationship this year?
It’s a very strong friendship between them. He is still with Olivia. She’ll be 17 in storyland so she’s going through some complicated relationships this year. There is a fellow named Wyatt [Dempsey Bryk] who was only in one episode last season and he plays a larger part throughout the entire season. And we throw a new face into the mix halfway through, so lots going on in a very complicated love life! Georgie grows up a lot, and most of it is due to Episode 2.

Wow, a lot happening in the first two episodes!
Yeah, the first two episodes are key. Last season, Tim offered Caleb the job at the rodeo so he’s a partner. Caleb and Cass are very much involved this year as godparents.

What else can you say about this season?
There is a very wealthy family that becomes part of Georgie’s world. We’re taking her back to her roots as well as with Amy. Georgie gets a chance to be very involved with this very high-end show jumping horse right off the top in Episode 1, which has Olympic dreams. That’s the road we’re taking Georgie down, the equestrian show jumping world. She wanted to do it, and it’s such an interesting world. Georgie is on social media, and there are hate sites devoted to taking down people in this very competitive world and she becomes involved in that and dealing with people making up stories. We found this beautiful area that just begged us to use it, so we’re using it for this family. It’s a nice contrast to life at Heartland.

What about the new family? I know Kate Drummond is guest-starring this season; is she part of the family?
The family has their own private, cross-country jumping course. We do cross-country jumping and a fox hunt this season. This family has it all, including a very good-looking nephew who takes an interest in Georgie. Kate Drummond plays the mom and she appears in Episode 8.

Anything else you can tease about Season 11?
It’s a huge season for Tim. He starts looking to the future, some uncertainty and regrets of the past. He goes on quite the journey this year. I don’t want to say too much, but he’s doing an incredible job. We’ve given him a lot to do this year because he’s just so good. You’ll see a different side to Tim for sure.

Are you looking forward to Amy and Ty as parents? What are you hoping to see in Season 11? Let me know in the comments below!

Heartland returns Sunday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. on CBC.

 

 

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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19 thoughts on “Heartland’s Heather Conkie teases Season 11 ahead of Sunday’s return”

  1. Thanks for the article, it was an interesting read! Sure would have loved to know what’s going on with Lisa this year, though :)

  2. Geez.. how many boyfriends is Georgie gonna have. Yikesss. dont really know why minor characters are getting mentioned a lot when there’s no talk of Lisa.

  3. People are reading the wrong romances if running off to the other side of the world the instant he hears about a cause, to earn no money and endanger his life, while his wife is pregnant the first time and really only has her almost 80 year old grandfather to truly depend on makes a man more of a romantic hero.

    Quite frankly, since it’s obvious based on set pictures they’re going to repeat the same situation to some extent this season, they should have seized the opportunity to really freshen the show and write him fully off, sad or not. Amy picking up the pieces with the support of her family would have given far more new life to this family show than what they’ve chosen.

    1. Shame on you for spoiling this wonderful, true gift for the dedicated fans of Heartland by sharing your provincial views of how a “real man” should act! This isn’t the correct place or forum.

      Thank you, Heather Conkie and Greg David for this insightful preview of what we can expect during the upcoming season of “Heartland.” There’s absolutely nothing else like it on television and it truly gets better every year. Every announcement that it has been renewed is a magnificent blessing for the fans who have been with the program since day 1.

      1. This is absolutely the correct forum to express an opinion.

        Heartland has a real man at its center: Jack. Someone who has such integrity, he didn’t just provide for his own family, but sacrificed to silently take care of another for decades, asking for no credit or applause in return. A constant rock that is always there when the ones he loves need him — his backstory makes it clear he knew he had to be accountable and present, fair when he married Lyndy and they had a child.

        Trying to claim a guy bailing on his pregnant wife on a whim, putting himself in serious danger and actually losing significant income (without even getting into how he once behaved over Amy possibly having outside Heartland aspirations), is a “romantic hero” is bad PR spin at best, especially on a family show, where sadly too often lately family matters less and less. I’m not going to not comment on that in a comment section.

        1. It was clear Amy and Ty made this decision together and if Amy was fine with it why was it a issue and honstly if he had stay I could see him holding a grudge against Amy for not letting him go

  4. I disagree with the last take on season 11. . The writers producer s actors have done amazing the last 10 seasons. I feel like season 11 will be just as good or better. Thanks to all the wonderful people involved in this great show. Love you all.

  5. Reading this is very interesting, but just makes it more difficult to wait to see it in the US. As I have said before, all the production pictures, and talk about season 11 on social media, this is going to be a very good and exciting season. I certainly hope that what goes on in season 11 will draw a huge audience and lead to another season of the best TV show ever, at least for me.

  6. I can’t wait to see what happens with Ty being so obviously over protective of their baby girl and when he’s mother comes to help with her granddaughter and how relaxed Amy is going to be as a mother I just can’t wait too see what happens with the new season and the rest of the cast members & what happens with Lou love life with Mitch I just hope it’s not going to be like those stupid sitcoms like to remake a full house I just don’t want something stupid like that because for house is stupid I checked it out once I couldn’t keep watching it I just turned it off because it was stupid I hope Heartland is not end up that way and so far it’s not such a great program please don’t turn it into something nobody watches we loveheartland especially Ty and Amy and the rest of the cast we just don’t want something to turn out lame and boring and stupid and we get tired of her like the rest of the stupid sitcoms thanks . But we loveheartland💗😍💗😍💗😍 all the way from Washington state🗽

  7. I knew Season 11 was going to be special, but you have layed out a Season that goes far beyond special, it’s incredible. Ty and Amy as new parents I can’t wait, Georgie’s role has really expanded which it should, she is very talented can’t wait to see her tackling this new role. Jack and Ty’s relationship should grow and Ty has matured and can’t wait to see him tackling fatherhood. Tim has always been a challenge to deal with but I love his character. You all have done a fantastic job and I know Season 11 hasn’t started yet, but I shore hope it leads to Season 12. Heartland is number 1 in all our hearts.

  8. I am really looking forward to finding out the baby’s name and more of Amy and Ty’s relationship and romance since we did not see slog of that last season and to see how they cope as new parents.

  9. What a great glimpse into Season 11. It is frustrating that I have to wait so long to see it since I am in the US and after reading this the frustration has escalated! It is easy to understand the shows popularity. With the combination of cast, scenery, great writing and directing you are producing an amazing show. It easy to be invested in the show since all your characters have remained the same actors. Kudos to all the actors/actresses who have stayed with the show since the beginning. I hate that your filming schedule caused fans not to see newborn baby Borden. On season 10 I will say that as a mom, I would have had a fit if my husband had disappeared for most of my pregnancy when it wasn’t required for a job. However, it made for good storytelling and caused me to yell at my TV on multiple occasions! I am looking forward to lots more of Ty and Amy and the whole Bartlett clan. I am certainly hoping for more seasons of Heartland.

  10. Great article…very informative!! It makes me even more impatient to see season 11 when it finally makes it on UP tv here in the U.S. I don’t think that will be until next summer, possibly. It’s very frustrating!! If there is a way to see it right after the season ends in Canada (or even better, while it’s still playing there!), I hope someone will let me know!

    Anyway, my family and I love Heartland and look forward to many more seasons to come!

  11. Hello, like thousands of other people,I am a BIG fan of Heartland. They seem like part of my family. Thank you for writing it. I hope it goes on and on. Sincerely, Erica L. Wheatley, 69.

  12. “As a result of that, we’re writing a much more grown-up Ty.”
    So, when does that start? Having watched the show faithfully for ten years, I have never seen Ty as IMMATURE as he was last night – 1101. In fact, everyone except Lyndy was wiser than he. He acted an dufus being too overly-protective of his daughter (a little would have been understood – considering his past – but it was way over done and Ty). Amy grew frustrated and had to be the MATURE adult go-between with his mom… even Georgie gave him an “eye-roll.” Then all the things his mom pointed out about child care were correct and he was proven all wrong. Finally, the Ty we knew and loved must have been brain damaged in the hospital, because not only was he not smart enough to pick out a truck that ran (he couldn’t even fix it), he wasn’t man enough to get his money back. So, Jack and Tim had to rescue him; and Jack had to lecture him on fatherhood (which was actually pretty good). The writers must have forgotten that Ty’s forte was trucks and mechanics… he fixed his own and Jack’s constantly… he repaired Tim’s…rebuilt a rodeo clown car….motorcycles… his old girlfriend’s… started Amy’s… and fixed Peter’s exes’ car. But suddenly, he was helpless. Come on folks… if this was the new grown-up MATURE TY, I’ll take old one.

  13. love the show, just wonder if Georgie & Val’s story line with the competitive show jump horse is aiming above the mark for the Olympics? Wouldn’t Spruce Meadows be a much more reasonable goal for horse lovers & someone of Georgie’s talents?

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