Actor Chris McNally talks about playing mysterious Lucas Bouchard, speaking French, and seeing pranks on the set of When Calls the Heart.
Lucas Bouchard is the new mystery man in Hope Valley. Bill is suspicious of him, Abigail is trying to be patient, and Elizabeth seems to be making Lucas nervous. There is much we do not know about Lucas, but we do know he is the new owner of the town’s saloon, which he has renamed “The Queen of Hearts”.
Chris McNally generously opened up to Fan Fest about his character and what it is like to work on the wildly popular series When Calls the Heart.
Tracey Phillipps: I’m sure you have heard of the “Hearties”, the large fan base for When Calls the Heart. What kind of reception have you had from the fans and what do you think of the Hearties fandom?
Chris McNally: I think that they’re awesome fans. I think they’re the reason the show is in its sixth season right now. You know, they come out and they support, and they’ve been great so far. Any comments that I have on my social media, anything like that, it’s always been positive. So, I feel well accepted by them right now. Maybe that will change as the season goes on. No, I’m just kidding. They’re fantastic.
TP: What was it like joining such an established cast with so man actors having been on the show since the beginning? Was that intimidating at all? What kind of experience was that?
Chris: Yeah, it was. I felt like Kevin McGarry and I were the new kids starting at a new school, you know, where everyone has been together for so long.
Erin really went out of her way to make sure that we both felt comfortable and we had everything, not that we really needed anything in particular, but if we did need something she was there. She was very conscious of us joining [the cast], and Lori was as well.
Then we started working and everybody on [the set] is really easy going, laid back, and friendly. I didn’t need to be nervous. Everyone was great, the whole cast and crew. Yeah, it’s fun. It’s a great environment.
TP: That’s a very good report. The jury is still out on Lucas. The viewers have seen him in one episode so far, and obviously there’s a lot of mystery surrounding him. No spoilers of course, but can you give us one reason that the fans should root for Lucas?
Chris:Well, I think he has charm.
TP: He certainly is charming, I won’t deny that.
Chris: He also, it may not seem like it, but he puts others before himself.
TP: Interesting. I like that.
TP: Were you given Lucas’ whole story up front when you took the job or did you learn about him like the viewers will one week at a time?
Chris: A little bit of both. I had a couple of key points discussed with me right before we started shooting the season. And then some of those I found came up in the scripts and some didn’t.
So, I had a bare bones idea of what was going on, but I really didn’t have any details, and to be honest, I was kind of like the viewer in that I would learn as I got the episode a week before we would shoot it. “Oh okay, well that’s interesting. Oh, okay [just] learned that.” So I was a little bit in the dark.
TP: Do you like that approach as an actor or does it make it more challenging or more fun, what do you think?
Chris: It’s fun. I mean, I would prefer to have the whole story ahead of time so that you can plan and really go into it. But on the other hand it, was fun to go out and to just kind of learn things as we go, keeps you on your toes.
TP: Now what about the French? Do you speak French? It sounded very accurate on screen when your character made the call in the mercantile.
Chris: Well, thank you! I was in French immersion. I grew up in Canada and French is our second language and when you’re a kid in school you have a choice. You can do an English program or you can do French immersion plan where a handful of your classes at school are just totally in French. So I did that. I was in French immersion from kindergarten until I graduated from high school in grade 12.
It’s been a while since I actually spoke French now that I’m out of high school. I don’t have any friends that are French, or family members that are French, so I found that it disappears. I went to Montreal and it took about a week to come back, so it’s there but buried deep.
TP: You have to sort of revive it.
Chris: Yes. Luckily, in this case, everything was written for me, so I just had to read it, and find it, and it was all good. I didn’t have to create my own sentences.
TP: Was that sort of a happy coincidence or did you offer to the show that you had that capability should they want to use it?
Chris: It was a total happy coincidence. I’m pleased that I got to use it. All those years of French, I got to put them to work in a working environment, which was great.
TP: What is it like for you to step on to the set? Do you feel immersed in that time frame? I am curious what that feels like.
Chris: It totally helps immerse you in the era. They even park the cars around the corner when they’re not using them and I think on average, we have maybe about a dozen horses boarded there at any given time and the stables are nestled right behind it as well. So, if you just turn away from the camera crew, especially if you’re in your wardrobe, it’s a pretty awesome experience. You really feel like you stepped into a time machine and landed back in 1916.
TP: Wow, that’s awesome!
Chris: Except for the gravel, they didn’t have gravel roads at that time, but everything else is accurate.
TP: This is just a fun question, so no right or wrong answer. In thinking about the saloon and playing poker. If there was a real life game of poker going on and the players were Jack Wagner, Lori Loughlin, Kavan Smith, and Erin Krakow, who would win that game?
Chris: Is this their character or them in real life?
TP: In real life.
Chris: I think Kavan would take it. I mean. a little part of me thinks that Lori would catch everyone by surprise and actually win, but my first gut instinct is Kavan. He’s very mischievous and I feel like he’d do well with poker.
TP: Mischievous, I like it! Did you guys have pranks on set?
Chris: Yes. I wasn’t a part of any, but I witnessed some, which is great. I’ve seen Erin and Lori pranking each other. Erin kept stealing and hiding Lori’s Dubble Bubble [gum] that she loves so much. And just a lot of joking around and teasing, especially with Kavan, you see him tease everybody. He’s a great time. He’s so much fun to be around. He’s one of those guys that you’re just always laughing when you’re in their presence.
TP: Do you enjoy that the fans find your character so mysterious and that they’re hesitant to embrace Lucas just yet. They are sort of treading lightly. Is that fun for you as an actor?
Chris: It’s kind of a new experience for me, to be honest, because I’ve never been a part of a project that has such a massive following. So I’m on the fence, you know. Do I want to read comments or do I not want to read comments? Because I also don’t want to read anything negative and go in a spiral that way and feel like I’ve done a bad job or something like that. So, I’m kind of finding my way through this day after day as we go on.
But so far, I know from what I have seen, at least on my personal page, everyone seems pretty positive. And, yeah, it does make me feel good and I do like that they’re a little bit trepidatious about Lucas. I think that’s part of the fun. Sorry, that was a very round about long answer.
TP: No, no, that makes a lot of sense. I appreciate your time so much. This was a lot of fun.
Chris: Well I hope you enjoy the next episode on Sunday.
TP: Oh, I can’t wait! I have it blocked out every Sunday. I’ll be there.
Chris: Perfect, good, good.
It sure sounds like we have much to look forward to as the stories of season 6 unfold in Hope Valley. Let’s hope the mysteries of Lucas Bouchard begin unfolding as well. Thank you so much to Chris McNally for all of the insights about Lucas and the great stories from set.
Tune into Hallmark Channel Sunday night at 8 pm ET for the latest installment of When Calls the Heart.