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.
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.
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.