Hallmark Channel's most-watched and longest-running primetime series "When Calls the Heart" has gained a loyal following among Christian audiences and will continue to spread “hope, faith” and “love” in 2021, says Brian Bird, the show's executive producer.
“When everybody else is serving up zombies, vampires, crystal meth dealers and dead bodies, we’re serving up hope, faith, love, grade, forgiveness and community,” Bird told The Christian Post in a recent interview.
The Hallmark Channel's "When Calls the Heart” returns for Season 8 in February 2021 and following a very challenging year, the upcoming season of the wholesome show promises to help encourage its viewers.
Bird, who has worked in Hollywood for over three years, said he is “praying that season 8 will be a huge booster shot of hope for everyone who watches — a vaccine against the frustration and loneliness of 2020.”
Throughout the years, the series' storyline has resonated with millions of people across the world, which cultivated an ardent grassroots movement of mostly female fans known as "the hearties."
As a way to give their fans, the hearties, more, Bird and his partners created a devotional series to go along with the hit TV show. The fictional town of Hope Valley is a town that practices the great virtues of the Bible. While not explicitly promoting Scripture, the episodes highlight biblical virtues.
The latest devotional, which is just in time for the holidays, When God Calls the Heart to Christmas, is now available through BroadStreet Publishing Group.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Bird, who shares details about the highly anticipated new season of “When Calls the Heart.”
Christian Post: Can you share about season 8 of this beloved Hallmark Channel series?
Bird: Over the seasons, sometimes the hearties and other fans of the show feel we take the love stories and courtships a little too slowly. They want our characters to hurry and make a decision already. Well, season 8 delivers the goods in that category, and even though probably half of the audience will be rooting in the wrong direction, Elizabeth makes a decision. I’ll leave it at that, other than to say we could probably rename the town from Hope Valley to Love Valley this season!
CP: Shows like “When Calls the Heart” are so rare in these times as we see mainstream media push all different types of agendas. Why would you say wholesome God-inspired content is needed in 2020 and beyond?
Bird: I’m not sure how it happened, and I don’t think it’s some big conspiracy meant to destroy families, but I believe there has been a collective case of amnesia in the TV business in the last decade about how to make family-friendly shows that not only don’t ambush the values of many people in the audience but actually try to reflect and affirm their values.
For some reason, in the push for ratings in a competitive and noisy marketplace where it’s really challenging to get new TV shows and movies on the audience’s radar, I think the pressure to succeed has pushed family, faith and values-oriented content out of the mainstream. In the drive to get attention, things get edgier and more cynical and pretty soon we’re all going over a cliff into really dark content. What we have found with “When Calls the Heart,” and what I think bodes well for others who want to make this kind of content, is that there is a massive hunger out there for values-centered TV and film.
In a way, shows like “When Calls the Heart,” which might have been seen as old-fashioned back in the day, are now revolutionary, counterprogramming to what everybody else is doing. When everybody else is serving up zombies, vampires, crystal meth dealers and dead bodies, we’re serving up hope, faith, love, grade, forgiveness and community. They offer a diet of razor blades and broken glass. We’re offering soul food. And the fact that we are one of the top scripted cable shows on TV during our broadcast run each season, with an average of 3.6 million live-plus viewers, is proof that we’re offering up a menu people want.
CP: Can you share about When God Calls the Heart to Christmas?
Bird: The reason my co-author, Michelle Cox, and I wanted to write this book is because the fans of “When Calls the Heart,” the hearties, have always longed for a bigger conversation after watching the episodes of the show. They love the teachable moments in the show and want to go deeper theologically with their kids.
Along with the 25 days of specific devotions drawn from stories in the show, we also wanted to provide a keepsake of all our best Christmas stories, recipes and traditions. We also decided to ask the hearties to provide some of their stories, traditions and recipes ... so really the devotional is by hearties for hearties (and other fans of the show who want deeper reflection about Christmas!)
CP: What are you hoping readers take from your book and the season we are in despite such trying times in the world?
Bird: One of my personal essays in the book is from an experience I had as a boy with my maternal grandfather, Clarence Benson, a lifelong handyman who, one spring, was staying at our house doing “fix it” jobs for my parents.
One early morning in April, I woke up hearing him in the bathroom shaving and singing a Christmas carol. I asked him why he was singing a Christmas song in April. He smiled and looked and me and said for Christians, “every day is Christmas.” It’s a life lesson I’ve never forgotten, and I think it has power for others, so that’s why I wanted to share it.
CP: What advice do you have for others in a mainstream industry in regards to being unapologetic about their faith?
Bird: I have never felt like I had to apologize for my faith as a Christian working in the film and TV business, and I rarely encounter others who are expecting an apology.
My best advice for people who hope to break into this work, no matter what worldview you hold, strive for excellence in your craft. That is the minimum price of entry. Put in your 10,000 hours getting good at what you do, prove yourself worthy of your craft and be willing to work harder than anybody else. Yes, it’s competitive, but I believe you are made in the image of the Author of the universe, and you have a strand of that creative DNA. Your goal should be to try to become the Michelangelo of your strand of DNA, not for your own glory, but to reflect praise back on the One who made you.
CP: Has it been a challenge navigating the major changes in the show, including the untimely departure of star Lori Loughlin?
Bird: None of us are ever fully prepared for the challenges that life brings to us, but the best thing we can do is just to show up, take heart and be there for our friends and family, and together I believe people can truly get through anything.
“When Calls the Heart” was born during the financial collapse of 2008 that shook the whole world, so in a way, I don’t think there are too many things circumstances could throw at us that would intimidate us. Sometimes you just have to be fearless in the face of adversity.
CP: What is the resounding theme of season 8? Why would you say that is a message for such a time as this?
Bird: We’ve always felt that “When Calls the Heart” was a “for such a time as this” kind of show, not out of a sense of grandiosity, but because there are very few shows like it on television.
There’s a reason the name of our town on “When Calls the Heart” is Hope Valley. Given the challenges we’ve all experienced this year, we’re praying that season 8 will be a huge booster shot of hope for everyone who watches —a vaccine against the frustration and loneliness of 2020.
CP: What message would you want those who follow your work to hold on to in this season?
Bird: I think the big narrative of season 8 also follows one of the passages of Scripture that has always personally gotten me through the curveballs of life. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”"When Calls the Heart" will be hosting an encore episode on Christmas night (Dec. 25).