Everything about Heartland, eh?

Heartland’s Graham Wardle talks the winter finale and Ty’s journey

Whoa, talk about one heck of a winter finale for Heartland. “A Horse with No Rider,” was jam-packed with drama and danger on both sides of the world.

First, Ty and Bob were on the hunt for the elusive—and endangered—Gobi bears in Mongolia. They ran into some pretty tough customers on the road and then battled the heat and terrain in their quest before finding a cub whose mother had been killed.

Back in Alberta, Tim, Georgie and Amy fought for their own survival after a rockslide crushed the truck and horse trailer. With a horse trapped inside the trailer, Tim suffering from a concussion and Amy in physical distress with the baby, Season 10 is taking a break with plenty of drama.

One of the most interesting—and galvanizing—storylines this season has been Ty’s personal journey. He left Heartland with Bob because of something he believes in, despite Amy’s pregnancy. Not only has this story angle been an adventure for Ty but actor Graham Wardle, who really jetted to Mongolia earlier this year to film segments for the series and Ty’s blog, BordenWithoutBorders. With 10 seasons playing Ty under his belt, we spoke to Wardle about Ty’s journey, his time in Mongolia and what’s the come for his character.

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I just watched the pilot episode of Heartland on Netflix a week or so ago. Was it ever a kick to see Ty in a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette.
Graham Wardle: [Laughs.] Yeah, that was the character back then. He was a smoker, but they axed that as soon as the show got picked up. They were like, ‘Yeah, we’re not going to have him smoke.’ I think it was a wise decision, because having to smoke on-screen for 10 seasons … my character would have lung cancer by now. [Laughs.]

What’s it been like to have that character evolution? To go from a guy who was rough and tumble to the man we see today, who not only has a baby on the way but is in Mongolia because of something he believes in?
I’m very honoured to be part of the journey this character has been on and able to contribute to it. I think that’s what every artist wants to get out of their work. To contribute something authentic, to contribute something that inspires them and other people as well and speaks to bigger truths about turning your life around or going from a rebel troublemaker to getting his life straightened out and standing up for what he believes in is a big turn. That’s a big storyline. I’m a bit older than the character, but close enough in age that, as he goes through these things I learn and then want to contribute and add to him. I feel very blessed and passionate about telling those bigger stories, arcs and journeys. This is one of them.

I wanted to talk to you because of Ty heading to Mongolia. You really went there to film scenes. How did that and the story that sent Ty there come about?
It was a bit of a collaboration where I had sort of presented an idea about doing something a little bit different and we were going back and forth. [Showrunner] Heather [Conkie] had found a story about the Gobi bear and how there are, I think, less than 24 left in the desert. They are on the brink of extinction. And, from what I remember, the Cecil the lion incident was kind of part of that idea and how that impacts society, along with the Gobi bear story in Mongolia.

That was presented to me and I thought it was really cool, very unique and very different. As we started Season 10, I thought, ‘Well, what if I really go there?’ Most of the time when a character goes away somewhere they’re talked about but not seen, so I thought this was an opportunity to do something new and different and, I think, add a tremendous amount of value for the audience because they’d see a new part of the world and it would expand the storyline beyond Canada and Alberta. How to other people interact with their animals on the other side of the world?

Scott Lepp, our digital producer, set up BordenWithoutBorders, where Ty updates—within the reality of the show—Amy and his family about what’s going on. I went with a friend from Toronto, a good friend of mine who I went to school with named Peter Harvey. He came along and he shot stuff and I shot stuff. We were out there for just under two weeks and we did everything we could.


This storyline is important to me because I think it’s something everyone struggles with, including me. How do you balance your passion with making time for your family, your loved ones and your responsibilities?


You said you had some ideas for Ty before this was sussed out. What were some of your ideas?
I’m actually meeting with the writers to go over potential storylines for next year and is exactly some of the stuff I pitched to them originally. I could tell you, but then it would be out about what could be happening next year. It speaks to the larger vision that I want to contribute to this role and this show … the relationship of human beings to animals and how we see that relationship. A lot of people see animals as less than us … I want to explore the magical connection between animals and us.

You mentioned yourself and Peter filming the Mongolia bits. It sounds like you’re moving into producing and directing your own stuff. Is that fair?
Absolutely. I’m writing my own scripts and taking classes and doing my best to further my storytelling abilities behind the camera. That fits into that vision of what I feel passionate about in my life and what I want to contribute to the world is telling stories either in front of or behind the camera.

What was filming like in Mongolia? It’s not a country I know very much about.
Neither did I! I got a Lonely Planet book and was reading it. I met a guy from Mongolia who was an actor on the show before I went over. We filmed some stuff in Drumheller and I was talking to him about it and he told me what it was like. Filming there was a challenge at first because of the jet lag. Peter and myself taking care of the acting, the continuity, the scripts, the costumes and the filming … that was a challenge to do all at once. The heat wasn’t that bad, the people were really friendly, we could stop and talk to anybody at the side of the road and find out what was going on. Beautiful country and beautiful people.

OK, so what segments were actually filmed in Mongolia? Bob and Ty looking for the bear cub was done in Drumheller.
Almost all of the Skype calls, the blog and then some establishing shots were done in Mongolia. The rest is Drumheller doubling as Mongolia.

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Let’s talk about Ty and Amy. This storyline has been galvanizing for the fans. Some want him on this journey and others think he should be with Amy. Where do you stand, as Graham the actor?
It’s something I took seriously as an actor and a person. We all have responsibilities in our lives, things we are committed to and responsible for. At the same time, we all have dreams, hopes and wanting to experience and give more. This storyline is important to me because I think it’s something everyone struggles with, including me. How do you balance your passion with making time for your family, your loved ones and your responsibilities? I’m glad that the fans are interacting because it means it’s striking a chord with them and they’re asking those questions or stating those opinions. That conversation is out there and I’m happy about it.

What can you say about how this experience affects Ty? I feel like taking care of horses would be boring.
Hey man, you’re onto the nerve of it in a sense. That’s what I want to talk to with the writers. Where does he go from this? How do things change going forward? We have some pretty cool ideas about that.

Heartland returns with new episodes on Sunday, Jan. 15, at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Heartland scores a Hall of Famer

Jack’s been getting a lot of screen time over the past few weeks of Heartland and I, for one, am loving it. Sunday’s new instalment, “Here and Now,” written by Ken Craw and directed by Chris Potter (that’s two in a row), served to celebrate Jack’s accomplishments in the rodeo with old pal Will Vernon extolling his buddies’ virtues and welcoming him into the Rodeo Hall of Fame.

The whole rodeo dinner scene was enjoyable, from Tim realizing Jack was being given the award, to Will’s talk and Jack’s heartfelt thank you speech. It also caused me to wonder if Heartland could do a spinoff of Jack and Will’s adventures in their early days? A Heartland prequel series where they travelled the circuit, racking up wins and breaking hearts. I’d watch that, wouldn’t you? Anyway, back to the episode, and Tim setting Jade straight about her latest actions.

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Social media once again wormed its way into a Heartland story, as Jade had her sponsorship pulled after she was captured one-upping Clay in a beer funnel contest. I think Jade was dead-on to suspect Clay plotted to unseat Jade as the face of Chuck Wagon soup and I’m glad there was enough feedback about Jade from Chuck Wagon fans that she was reinstated. I’m not sure about you, but the whole Clay-Jade dynamic is starting to grate on my nerves. It’s obvious they both like each other, so what not put them together already?

Meanwhile, Georgie and Olivia have found themselves as the co-backups on the Extreme Team. I had expected the Heartland writers to automatically award top spot of Georgieshe’s one of the main characters after all—to I tip of the cowboy hat to them for giving the captainship to Sam, who is the better rider, and giving Olivia and Georgie spots as her supporter. And kudos to Georgie—and the rest of the team—for standing up to Natalie over the dangerousness of the single-rider tail drag.

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Wolves and pot-bellied pigs on Heartland

Mitch has, like, the worst timing in the world, doesn’t he? Last week he snapped at Lou down by the river and she backed off from telling her how she felt about him. And leading off Sunday’s episode, he showed off a horse he got her … just as Peter rolled up in a cab. Awkward.

“Riding Shotgun” was both literal and figurative in the script written by Pamela Pinch and directed by Chris Potter, as Petunia the sick pig (and Adam) sat next to Georgie in Bob’s truck on the way to the clinic and a shotgun was handy at Mitch’s side when wolves threatened to make a sinewy snack out of Jack.

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For Mitch, being unable to pull the trigger when a toothsome predator was mere inches from Jack’s throat was a call back to his time in Afghanistan, where he lost his cousin, Zach (the dog tags Mitch was holding last Sunday). But Zach didn’t die over there, he committed suicide back in Canada. It was a sobering revelation that not only brought real life back to Heartland but added another layer to Mitch the character. The wise-cracking, good-looking ranch hand has stuff going on below that tough exterior.

It was nice Mitch apologized to Lou for snapping at her, but his admission he didn’t gift Venus to her means he thinks their relationship is over, and Lou hopes it’s just begun.

(Speaking of tough guys, it was great to see Peter not only agree to help out at Heartland more if Lou ends up spending more time away with Maggie’s expansion and telling Georgie the key to a successful relationship is talking. He smartly took his own advice.)

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Jealousy rears its head on Heartland

It’s not often that an episode of Heartland goes by without some closure. A problem or issue arises and by the end of the hour things are almost always settled and Sunday concludes with some great song as the credits roll.

Alas, though we got a fantastic closing tune by Reuben and the Dark called “Heart in Two,” there were strings left hanging. “The Green-Eyed Monster,” written by Bonnie Fairweather, was—as expected given the episode title—dealt with jealousy between horse and human and human and human.

For Amy, it meant realizing she’s spent so much time focusing on keeping busy while Ty has been away that Spartan went neglected. The result was an irritated horse that stumped Jack and Amy. It wasn’t until Amy began working with mounted archer Norah and her horse, Doc, that she understood: Doc was jealous of Norah’s infant son and Spartan was upset with Amy because she was neglecting him. Her solution was to take Spartan into the woods and work on liberty training; paired with “Heart in Two” it made for a stunning and emotional final scene as they reconnected.

Sadly for Georgie and Adam, there was no happiness for them. Adam, who has evolved from standoffish genius to an emotional boyfriend, assumed Georgie was seeing Clay and jealously spurned her. As much as I want to be angry at Adam for his actions, I totally get it. Being in a relationship at that age is an all-consuming thing and you want to be with them 24/7. But smothering the person you love isn’t the answer and these two are going to have to figure out the right mix or things will be over.

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Speaking of over, Mitch and Lou certainly seem to be. One of the frustrating things about some of the Heartland characters is their stubbornness and unwillingness to let the other person speak. That was certainly the case with Lou, who assumed Mitch’s coldness while fly fishing meant he doesn’t like her. Of course, that’s not the case—the dog tags mean Mitch was remembering fishing with a friend who’s no longer alive—but she wouldn’t let him explain and, honestly, he didn’t try hard enough.

The only person who had anything go right was Jack. After Lisa accidentally chucked his stew jar it was recovered. Well, at least there was that.

Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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