Lou Fleming has been through a lot over the past two seasons of Heartland. While she stood next to her sister, Amy, as she married long-time love Ty, her own marriage was crumbling. Now it’s completely kaput. Lou and Peter are divorced, he’s got a new girlfriend and Lou is dipping her toe in the dating pool while juggling being a single mom to daughters Georgie and Katie.
It’s been a challenging, but fun, journey for Michelle Morgan. The Calgary born actress wasn’t keen on her character’s current experiences and had to be convinced it was the right way to go story-wise. We spoke to Morgan while she was in Toronto visiting family and out for an audition.
What was your reaction when Heather Conkie came to you and described what Lou’s storyline was going to be?
At first, I was pretty against it. I never would argue with Heather because she always has the best interest of the show in mind. But I was really hesitant and nervous and it took me a few conversations with Heather and the producers for me to get on board.
I also spoke to Gabe [Hogan] about it, and he was really excited. He said, ‘This is great, Heather is going to give us lots of fodder and some great scenes.’ I hadn’t really thought of it in that way, but it’s true. As an actor, this has been a really fun, challenging season for me. And, as an actor, you always want to be challenged. It’s been great, but I was very hesitant at first.
Once you go down that road with Lou and Peter, you can’t go back. We’re past the point of reconciliation…
Really? Do you think everything could be turned around?
Absolutely. People get back together. They can be divorced and be apart for years and then get back together.
But you don’t see it turning around this season…
Absolutely not, no.
Did you do any kind of research into couples or families who have been through this? You can’t go into a storyline like this lightly.
I’ve been playing Lou for so long and I have such a strong relationship with all of the other actors that, rather than do any kind of research into divorce, I really just stayed in the moment. I prepared for the scenes emotionally and then just was in the moment, telling my daughter, Georgie, that Peter and I were separating. I just went with what I was feeling. There was enough there that I didn’t need to sit and talk with people who were divorced. I have had hard breakups, and I looked back on those breakups.
“When you’re watching television that really resonates with you or is a reflection of your life and who you are, it’s comforting.”
Heartland is a family show. You’re very much showing the reality of many who are watching every Sunday. You want to represent that truthfully and without sugarcoating it.
Exactly. You don’t want to sugarcoat it and you don’t want to portray it as the end of the world. That was one of the ways that I was convinced this was a good idea. One of our producers, Jordy Randall, comes from parents who are divorced and said, ‘This will be good for children that are watching it.’ I think when you’re watching television that really resonates with you or is a reflection of your life and who you are, it’s comforting.
What kinds of discussions have you had with Alisha over the course of this season?
Alisha is such a visceral, natural actor, we don’t really talk that much about the material. We just hang out. We’re buddies. We may run scenes and our trailers, but she is just so in the moment … I don’t even think she has to prepare that much.
She’s really, really grown as an actress on this show.
Oh my God, it’s incredible. She started when she was only 12, right? You look back on her appearance when she started on the show, she was a baby. I think you’re going to be seeing Alisha in huge, box-office projects soon.
What have the fans thought about this storyline?
There has been a lot of negative feedback. There have been some hardline Christians commenting that this is a negative portrayal of marriage and that they don’t want to watch the show anymore. That’s their opinion and that’s fair, but we’re not trying to show Candyland. We’re trying to show reality and the real world. Some people don’t like that, but it’s their prerogative.
Where does Lou go from here? She has been dating, which has lead to some funny moments.
Oh, it’s been so fun. As an actor, once you get married on a show you kind of get locked in. The romantic part of it is pretty much over. It’s been fun, because I didn’t expect Lou to be dating again. As a woman with children and recently divorced, you’re approaching dating from a totally different place.
I’ve enjoyed the comic moments you’ve been able to play up.
It’s been great playing with Kevin McGarry, whose Mitch is becoming a bit of a love interest for Lou.
Do you think Lou needs a boyfriend?
Needs? I don’t think so. But after what she went though in Episode 10, when she met Peter’s girlfriend, I think she needs a confidence boost and to feel attractive again.
Heartland airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC. New episodes return on Sunday, March 6.