Heart­land hunk thrilled with pumped-up drama

Gra­ham War­dle says show tak­ing more chances in fourth sea­son

Calgary Herald - - ENTERTAINMENT - Eric Volmers

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.”

Cour­tesy, An­drew Bako

Heart­land ac­tor Gra­ham War­dle is ex­cited about the dra­matic pos­si­bil­i­ties in the show’s fourth sea­son.

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