Since 2014, When Calls the Heart has been one of the most popular original series on the Hallmark Channel. The TV show is based on Janette Oke's popular Canadian West book series that first hit bookshelves in the '80s -- When Calls the Heart (1983), When Comes the Spring (1985), When Breaks the Dawn (1985), When Hope Springs New (1986), Beyond the Gathering Storm (1999), and When Tomorrow Comes (2000). Michael Landon Jr. developed the story for television and brought Oke's frontier town to life.
The storyline centered around school teacher Elizabeth Thatcher first aired as a Hallmark original movie in 2013, starring Maggie Grace as Elizabeth and Stephen Amell as police officer (and love interest) Wynn Delaney. To transition the story into a TV series, Hallmark made a few adjustments. They focused the story on Elizabeth Thatcher's niece (who coincidentally has the same name) who was played by Poppy Drayton in the original movie. Erin Krakow stepped into the role and has been playing Elizabeth for the past seven seasons.
Elizabeth is a young teacher who receives a teaching position in Coal Valley, a small mining community on the Canadian frontier. She quickly learns that the frontier is quite different from the city life she is used to, but she does her best to fit in. Elizabeth befriends the widow Abigail Stanton, played by Lori Loughlin, whose husband and son passed away in the mines. (Abigail's character was written off the show after season 6 after Loughlin was involved in a college cheating scandal.) When the mines are officially closed on the show, the name of the town is officially changed to "Hope Valley."
While most of the town is instantly drawn to Elizabeth, Mountie Jack Thornton, played by Daniel Lissing, has some initial reservations. Like any good love story, it's not easy, but he eventually falls for the teacher. Other man characters include sheriff Bill Avery (who goes on to become the town's judge) played by Jack Wagner, and Henry Gowen, played by Martin Cummins, who comes to town to start an oil business. The show is filmed in Vancouver and the beautiful countryside really captures the charm of the early 1900s frontier.
In 2019, Hallmark Movies Now (the network's streaming service), aired a spin-off series, When Hope Calls. Orphaned sisters Lillian and Grace were first introduced on When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing. Now grown up, the two sisters are living in the small town of Brookfield, not far from Hope Valley.
So after 7 seasons, what's in store for Hope Valley? The series has been picked up for the eighth season, which will premiere this month. "Hearties" have anxiously been awaiting the new season which will pick up after the last season's focus on Elizabeth's love triangle with Lucas Bouchard, played by Chris McNally, and Nathan Grant, played by Kevin McGarry. The season ended on a cliffhanger...will she finally choose between her two suitors? Faith Carter, played by Andrea Brooks, has sadly left the show and the eighth season will be the second full season without Lori Loughlin. So lots of changes are happening. Despite Lori Loughlin no longer being part of the series, Krakow has opened up about how the two women are still friends and has referred to the actress as her "forever friend" on social media. While there is some uncertainty on what the future holds, Erin Krakow tells ET that she can't wait to continue telling Elizabeth Thatcher's story.
"I'm also so excited because I feel like we still have a lot more stories to tell," she shared. "Our cast and crew are some of my best friends. And so I'm really looking forward to getting to spend more 16-hour days together."
Every season is currently streaming on Netflix so there's plenty of time to catch up before tuning in to When Calls The Heart season 8 in a few weeks! The first new episode will air on February 21. Check out some sneak peek photos here from Entertainment Tonight.
This article was originally published in 2020.