[Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading until you have watched the Season 14 episode, “Keep Me in Your Heart.”]
Midway through last fall, TV, Eh? began getting emails. There were rumours among Heartland fans that Ty Borden (Graham Wardle) would not return to the show. We the rumours true, those emails asked? I don’t like rumours, so I didn’t address them. Instead, I let the Season 14 premiere of Heartland speak for itself.
And, sadly, as those rumours were true. On Sunday night, viewers learned that Ty succumbed to the gunshot injury he received in Season 13. “Keep Me in Your Heart” was an emotional hour with a memorial for Ty as its centrepiece, a year-later goodbye for the characters that was truly emotional. Here, Amber Marshall answers our questions about Ty’s death and what it means for Amy and the rest of the family moving forward.
Congratulations on Season 14 of Heartland. Can you believe it’s been 14 seasons already?
Amber Marshall: It seems like only yesterday we were all meeting for the first time. The beautiful thing is the excitement we all shared to be a part of that first season, is still strong over a decade later. We genuinely love and respect one another. The cast and crew have remained close and all have each other’s best interests in mind.
COVID-19 threw a wrench in everyone’s lives. How difficult was it for you and the Heartland family to adapt to filming during the pandemic?
AM: Being such a close and social workplace, it took a while to become consistent with a new routine. We are a group that hugs when we meet in the morning and when we leave at the end of the day. We spend many hours on set in close quarters and typically in between scenes and setups we usually all huddle together and run lines, or chat socially. This all had to change in season 14 to allow for COVID protocol to be followed. Lunches were now spent alone in our trailers or vehicles and any time we had in between setups or scenes was usually spent the same way. In some ways it allowed me to get more ‘homework’ done during the day, but the social side of Heartland looked very different.
Sunday’s episode revealed that, unfortunately, Ty developed complications and passed away. As a cast member and friend of Graham’s, how hard has it been to not have him around on-set?
AM: The story of Amy and Ty has been very prominent since Heartland’s beginning. Graham and I have had many beautiful stories on Heartland over the years and have remained very close friends off-set as well. This year was a strange new reality on all fronts. In a way, the longevity of the Amy and Ty story gave me inspiration as an actor to be able to feel the grief and sorrow of losing that character. Graham and I still spoke often throughout the season and I was able to visit him recently as well.
What would you say to fans who are upset Ty is no longer on the show? He and Amy have been the centrepiece of this show since Day 1.
There are things in our lives we can never prepare for. And when something devastating happens it feels as though our world is ripped apart and could never be put back together. I know fans of the show will be deeply saddened by the loss of Ty and I hope that they can join Amy and the Heartland family during this season of healing. There will always be events in our life that are out of our control and upset us. Instead of attacking them, or shutting down, we experience the most growth when we remain open and understanding.
When we pick up with the new season, a year has gone by. How do you feel about the time jump?
AM: Heartland was supposed to begin filming Season 14 in April of 2020. At that time the scripts were written to be six months after Ty’s passing. When the pandemic caused us to push our start until September is was a beautiful thing for our story. Now, instead of ‘six months later’ we have a more powerful story of a whole year passing. I believe this added immensely to the journey of our characters. The memorial on the one-year anniversary of his death was so much stronger than if it was only six months later. Also, the seasons and backdrop to the stage we were setting was far more tailored to the events. To me, the colder climate and fall/winter landscapes make the audience feel the grief so much deeper than a spring/summer backdrop.
Ty leaves a huge hole in the family. How will Amy adapt to this new life, especially being a single mother?
AM: Amy is no stranger to loss. The series begins with the death of her mother and her journey forward down a new road which she must travel without Marion. It is the horses that have always grounded Amy and as she works to heal their traumas, they, in turn, heal her. When Amy loses Ty, she goes through a wide range of emotions. She is numb to it for many months, then has strong guilt for not doing more to prevent it. With Jack’s help and understanding, she accepts that it was out of her control and the best way to honour Ty is to move forward and be present for their daughter. Amy leans on what has always comforted her in times of sorrow: horses. She includes her daughter in this form of healing and together they share some beautiful moments.
What can fans expect from the new season of the show?
AM: As always, be prepared to laugh, cry and maybe throw something at your TV – perhaps all at the same time! This season is undoubtedly an emotional one, but the strength of the Heartland family coming together and the beauty of the cinematography brings so much to the hearts of the viewers who join us on this journey.
Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.
Images courtesy of Michelle Faye Fraser for Rescued Horse Season Fourteen Inc.