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Jack Wagner WHEN CALLS THE HEART Preview

Jack Wagner, who is headed back to B&B for a special Brooke-centric episode next week, is also airing in season 9 of the Hallmark Channel hit drama, WHEN CALLS THE HEART. Here, he talks about the journey of his alter ego, Bill.

Soap Opera Digest: How did you first get involved with the series?

Jack Wagner: When this series started, I came on at the end of season 1 and it’s because I did a movie for the Hallmark Channel and then was asked to come in. the ratings weren’t doing so well and Lori Loughlin [ex-Abigail; ex-Jody, EDGE OF NIGHT] was on the show and I talked to Lori about it. She really encouraged me to jump on and so I came on, and it turned out they picked up season 2 and what can I say? It’s just got this amazing fan base called #hearties on social media and I would compare it to a contemporary LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRE but it’s a little smarter, there’s more comedy, there’s more romance, the storylines are a little bit more adult but you have that feel good, loving quality to it that people are really gravitating to. It’s a period piece, in a turn of the century in a pioneer town.

Jack Wagner

Crown Media United States LLC

Digest: Did you think you’d have this longevity?

Wagner: On this, no. I got asked to do season 2, they asked me to do two episodes and we had a cast dinner and Bill Abbott, Michelle Vicary [then] CEO and VP are at dinner and Bill just kind of goes, “Hey, do you want to do the whole season [laughs]?” And I go, “Yeah I guess so,” and so that’s how my contract for season 2 happened and then I actually signed on for a couple of years and that’s how that all transpired. It was a handshake deal .”

Digest: Season 9 is already off to a strong start.

Wagner: Yes, at the end of season 8, the ratings were the highest rated episode ever, so if you’ve been around long enough in daytime and nighttime television, you know it’s very rare that a series is moving up in the ratings after 8 years.

Digest: What’s your take on the #hearties?

Wagner: I would compare this fan base to the GH in the ’80s fan base, only for me then, it was much more screaming teenagers, but yet there was a real loyalty. On GH in the ’80s, as far as the men go, you had Tony Geary [ex-Luke], you had Rick Springfield [ex-Noah] and John Stamos [ex-Blackie]and then I came in, and Kin Shriner [Scott]. Of course, you had the iconic female roles of Genie Francis [Laura] and Kristina Wagner [Felicia] and Finola Hughes [Anna] and Jackie Zeman [Bobbie], and that fan base was really stirred up. This is a fan base which, I’m not sure how to describe them other than they are loyal, but they’re not screaming teenagers. They are very much devoted to the storylines and the characters and the real value of the show.

Digest: What can you tease about Bill and season 9?

Wagner: I’ve had a really big gift here with this character because I came on as a Mountie forensic expert. I then moved into sort of the sheriff in the town, I now moved on to the judge in the town and I’m now sort of the patriarch of the town, and for me, it gives me so much diversification to play., I can move from really emotional scenes with our leading lady and her child, who Bill is godfather to, and then teach a guy how to be mayor and walk him through the town, and it’s comedy. I deal with bad guys and legal aspects. I’m also dealing with the oil business, so for me, the goal of an actor is to exercise your craft and I can move from comedy to a disciplinary character of authority and then move into intimate moments when you show the underbelly of someone who is very rigid and disciplined, so that’s really the gift for me here, to be able to embroider all of my performances with those layers..

Jack Wagner

Crown Media United States LLC

Digest: Anything to say about Bill’s love life?

Wagner: You know, he dips into the love life arena and gets distracted because he’ll have to save someone or the town. It’s like, ‘Hey, hey what about the love life [laughs]?’, but then I’ll have to bang my gavel or draw my gun. So the best part of the season is I get to beat up a younger guy. I win a fight on nighttime television. I love when I win a fight on TV.

Jack Wagner

Crown Media United States LLC

Digest: There seems to be a real family feel to this show.

Wagner: I think that’s nice you brought that up because I think the show is so popular because people have found a safe place. I think daytime television offers that for audiences and I think this show on Sunday nights this spring offers that for millions of people. This is the top rated Sunday night cable show for quite a few years now and I think it really speaks to people who want to laugh, who want to see romance, they want to see something that’s really entertaining and that also feels safe in their homes to watch. It’s a feel-good show, we have a great time together, and that speaks to my time on GH and B&B, which is that we really laughed when we worked, everybody then had a great sense of humor, as do the actors here. I can attest to the series’ I’ve been on that have been really successful, which is because everybody has the ability to laugh, not only at themselves but with each other, and I think that really shows in performances, and in the material and that’s why I think that the Hallmark Channel, especially with series, garners such a wide range of actors. We all have been around, we all collaborate together, our egos are in check, we are all able to work with material that may be need to be worked through on the set and we all try to raise the bar and try to give the best performance we can to make the show the best that it can be every episode.

WHEN CALLS THE HEART airs on the Hallmark Channel Sunday nights at 8p.m. Stream past seasons on Hallmark Movies Now, Amazon, iTunes and Vudu.