When Calls The Heart co-creator and executive producer Brian Bird discussed, in depth, the reason why Daniel Lissing left the Hallmark series. Bird also shared how a British series helped inspired how they would send off beloved character Jack Thornton.
#Hearties, are you ready for the deep dive into Daniel Lissing’s last two years at WCTH?
Uncertainty Of Daniel Lissing’s Future On WCTH Dictated Storyline
Recently, Brian Bird was on the Hearties Hotline podcast. In this two-part series he pulled back the curtain and explained what happened with Daniel Lissing’s departure. But he was not asked about Daniel. He was asked what were some of his favorite episodes. Those are the ones specifically with the Aussie actor.
Brian Bird’s first favorite episode is Season 5, Episode 4, when Jack when off to his duty. He thought it was very moving because they really thought that he was saying goodbye. Bird’s belief is that this was so moving because the wedding was filled with anxiety and they didn’t know if Lissing was coming back. That it why it was so powerful and she screams after him when he is riding off.
Daniel Lissing was only working part-time for his last two seasons on the Hallmark series. He wanted to move on from the show for quite some time. But, in this episode, Brian Bird believes that this is the most powerful WCTH episode – eloquent, with the very best acting.
Some Hearties Were Traumatized
Many people don’t understand what really happened here, and many hearties were traumatized. Brian Bird shared that “Making a fictional tv show and hearties are so connected [that] sometimes that passion turns into real anxiety.
There were even conspiracy theories around The Rookie star’s departure. They did a Facebook Live event with Daniel Lissing. Over two million people watched.
Brian Bird then explained more about the situation with Daniel Lissing. Before Season 4, Daniel agreed to come back in more of a part-time role and they hoped to make him change his mind and make him want to stay. Then, at some point in Season 5, they realized they needed to resolve this situation. This is why they had them get married.
They were not able to get Daniel to change his mind. He wanted Season 5 to be his last. The writers had to figure out how they were going to make this happen. They had to build stories. Because he was only part-time, they sent him off and then he comes back. How were they going to make that happen?
They Never Considered Another Actor To Play Jack
Now that they realized that they had to write Daniel Lissing out of the show, they had to figure out how. First, Brian Bird made it clear that no one else could ever play Jack. They could not even consider another actor. He pointed out that this was not the 1960’s and When Calls The Heart was not Bewitched. They were not just going to replace Daniel Lissing with a new actor for Season 6. So, using the cast they had, how were they going to write themselves out of this situation?
They figured that if they had broken the couple up, the Hearties would hate the show and never come back. What if Jack decided that his duty is more important to him than Elizabeth? Could he leave? The WCTH writers knew that the audience would hate this.
Brian Bird shared that the “only one option” was death. He philosophically stated that “This is life for all of us.” He reminded listeners, “This is our journey in our lives.”
The writers and producers clearly felt it would be shocking and hard. But, they also figured that the audience needed to grieve Daniel Lissing’s departure and Jack’s death. They knew that this was traumatic “in such a good way.”
How Downton Abbey Helped WCTH Writers Solve Daniel Lissing Departure
Brian Bird then mentioned Downton Abbey, a show from Great Britain. He pointed out that Dan Stevens wanted to leave after Season 3. This is a spoiler for those who have not seen the show, but he finally wins the heart of the woman he loves. They were at the peak of their love. They just had a baby. Blissfully, he leaves, but winds up in a car accident and dies.
So, the WCTH writers “took a page from their playbook.” He felt that circumstances “required” something this dramatic and traumatic. This is why he was killed by a landslide. This was a traumatic ending.
Brian Bird Felt Erin Krakow Should Have Been Nominated For Emmy
Brian Bird felt that in Season 5, Episode 10, with the announcement that Elizabeth is pregnant was incredible. That is because he felt that Erin Krakow put on an acting clinic. He even mentioned that grief counselors have asked them if they can use this, because Erin goes through the five stages of grief.
Brian Bird believes Erin gave an Emmy-worthy performance. He felt her acting was very powerful.
Brian Bird Still In Touch With Daniel Lissing
Even though Daniel Lissing left When Calls The Heart, the producer admits that he still keeps in touch with him. Bird points out that if this was Hope Valley, and if someone wanted to leave, what would they do? Of course, they would give “wings to life.” They would help that person fulfill those dreams.
Brian Bird shared that “This is what Dan wanted to do.” Of course, Daniel Lissing met his wife because he left. That was the most precious thing in his life.
When Calls The Heart Ratings Are Better Now
Although losing Daniel Lissing was traumatic, Brian Bird says that the show ratings are better now than they were when Daniel was on. They did not lose fans when Lissing left the show.
He explains that the show continues to gather fan. Mostly, it is because there is nothing like it on TV. He shared that it is not because they are geniuses. It is because people are hungry for hope.
Jack and Elizabeth had a deep relationship. Fans had to experience the five stages of grief with Elizabeth. Then, they all had the joy of having a baby. And it should be noted, it was never going to be a girl. They joked about a Jacquelin. But, they knew it would be a Jax.
He’s baaaack! @brbird addresses one of the very hot topics of the Hearties fandom: The departure of Daniel Lissing from #WCTH. We hope that this discussion provides some BTS insight as to what happened during the makings of Season 5. #heartieshttps://t.co/6gpQzwYEN4
— Hearties Hotline (@HeartiesHotline) September 22, 2020
Brian Bird Wanted Elizabeth And Jack At Peak Of Their Love
Wanted to leave Elizabeth and Jack at the peak of their love. They did not drag out Jack’s death with an illness. This was mainly because Daniel Lissing was only working part-time. They didn’t have more than five episodes with the actor. They had to “get him married and buried in that time.”
Although they knew it was coming for several months, many Hearties expressed their wish that they knew Jack would die. Brian Bird contends that “It is television.” He felt they told the story in a powerful way.
He also shared that as writers, “We know best about these things. This is what we do for a living.”
Then he asked, “Would you tell the brain surgeon how to do it?”
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