Heartland hunk thrilled with pumped-up drama
Graham Wardle says show taking more chances in fourth season
While it may seem a cliche to suggest life imitates art, actor Graham Wardle admits his decision to buy a motorcycle last week may not have occurred to him had his character not owned one on the CBC family drama, Heartland.
As fans of the show already know, Ty Borden roared out of town on his trusty 1975 Norton Commando 850 to bring the third season of the Alberta-shot show to an appropriately melodramatic and romantic end. The love interest of horse-whispering cowgirl Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall), Ty decided to hit the road for parts unknown in an effort to find himself, promising to return to Amy and the ranch life he has adopted in rural Alberta these past few years.
Needless to say, the spectre of the soul-searching ranch hand perched on a motorcycle is more than enough to send Heartland’s devoted female fan base into a hormone-driven tizzy. It also fits well with the character’s past image as damaged goods.
But before Heartland starting shooting in 2007, the B.C. actor admits motorcycles weren’t really his thing. Neither, for that matter, were horses.
“I had never even thought about motorcycles,” he said, back in Vancouver during a break from filming the fourth season. “I’d never even thought about riding horses until I started on Heartland. Then you get to do all these things that you don’t normally do. You just never thought of doing them, and then you do and say, ‘Hey, that’s fun. I could do that.’ ”
Wardle may not own a horse just yet, but he is the proud owner of a 2010 Triumph Bonneville that he purchased on Tuesday. Like many young actors who play a character for any length of time, Wardle has become increasingly invested in the ups and downs of Ty Borden. Season 4 will even include some of his own suggestions for his character’s trajectory. Similarly, fans often seem hardpressed to separate the character from the actor. Heartland’s high ratings as it enters its fourth season this Sunday — Season 3 averaged more than a million viewers per episode — is certainly proof that Ty, Amy and the Fleming clan have connected with a large audience with its earnest mix of horse and young-love stories. More direct proof came two weekends ago when Wardle and Marshall attracted thousands to an autograph session at Spruce Meadows, a scenario the actor admits he still finds surreal.
“It’s great to meet people,” he says. “What really throws me off is when people start screaming and yelling and getting worked up.”
Wardle’s status as a Tiger Beatstyle sex symbol seems to be picking up steam, thanks in no small part to its careful cultivation on CBC’s Heartland blog. He recently graced the cover of Avenue magazine under the heading Heartland Heartthrob, which accompanied an interview in which Wardle name-dropped Gandhi and sang the praises of brooding method actor Sean Penn.
As an actor, he seems most excited about the dramatic possibilities opening in Season 4. While he wouldn’t give too much away, he did say the writers were taking more chances in this season, entering into some darker areas while staying true to the show’s G-rated tone.
“All of us have had times in the show where we’d like to step up the maturity factor a bit and deal with some content that’s a little higher rated,” Wardle says. “But this is the vehicle we have and it’s a great one. We can still deal with content that is serious, but we have to do it in a careful way.”
Season 4 will begin with Ty rumbling back to the ranch on his fearfully loud Norton Commando. The fact that he returns with a woman provides the show with some early melodrama.
The “you-can-never-go-homeagain” premise will be a recurring theme this season, says writer and executive producer Heather Conkie. Season 3 found Heartland characters facing big changes. Amy’s older sister Lou (Michelle Morgan) married and headed to Dubai. Amy herself was set to go on the horse-focused “Ring of Fire” tour. Grandpa Jack (Shaun Johnston), the family’s anchor, begins to realize he’s not as young as he used to be.
“It’s about not being able to pick up where you left off,” Conkie says. “There’s lots of little surprises and a few big ones.” Any hints? “There will be a wedding,” Conkie says. “Someone is going to get married. There’s a lot of horse action, but also a lot of relationship bumps and high and lows.”
Heartland actor Graham Wardle is excited about the dramatic possibilities in the show’s fourth season.