If you thought the anticipation and energy of the Hearties reached its height on Day 1 of HFR2, just imagine the atmosphere of the reunion on Day 2, when they have found their friends, secured their seats in the hotel ballroom, and studied the line-up for the question-and-answer portions of the weekend…
This is the day, my #Heartie friends, where we get up close and personal with every aspect of the show. If I am going to meet these beautiful people, I suppose I should go the extra mile, so I don a bit of makeup (which I never wear) and twist my hair into signature Hallmark curls. I even double-check with my mom, asking her opinion on my wardrobe choice and hairstyle. What am I thinking? She’s my mom. She is a bit biased, and tells me I am beautiful. I choose to believe her.
Hurrying through breakfast, I barely notice what I put on my plate or how it tastes. All I know is that it is food and I need to eat. I also need coffee. Big time. Mom and I grab a refill and head next door before the room can fill up and force us to the last row of seats. I have waited so long for this that I am not about to miss out on a thing.
The first Q&A round is intriguing. From learning about the clothing and color palettes to how detailed and lengthy post-production is, we all gain new sympathies and respect for the behind-the-scenes workers. While all we see are the pretty faces, witty dialogue, and tender moments of the characters, these graphic artists, set designers, composers, and directors are the true backbone of the show. They need their own fan base.
Papa Heartie again draws the entryway doors open, and the team of central figures for our show stream through to resounding applause and cheers. For many of us in the audience, they are the reason we have traveled so far and braved weather, flight delays, and lengthy layovers. It is obvious that the cast is just as excited to be here today. They grin and call out to fans they recognize in the audience while waving around the room in friendly greeting.
In walks Lori Loughlin, or precious Abigail. The only challenge? Her sweet face is obstructed by her iPhone while she is “Facebook Live-ing” the entrance. Hearties love Lori, so we rally our energy and give a #Heartie hello to all of those fans who are unable to be here.
This panel is so full of cute stories and hilarious anecdotes that I need to write another article just to share them. The most special of all, though, is the genuine caring I see in each cast member. Jack Wagner graciously responds to my friend Amy Falk’s question by walking directly to her and giving her a friendly embrace before joking about Lori “still working” at her age. Daniel counters Erin’s response by saying she has “always been so kind” when she admits that this is one lesson she has learned from her character. Pascale’s restraint in acknowledging her “gregarious” personality and tossing the response on to Kavan sends the audience into uncontrollable laughter. All of these, and more, simply cement the belief we have all had: these actors are friends who believe in each other, support each other, and are themselves examples of the #Heartie spirit.
In between sessions, I sneak out to grab more coffee. Standing in line, I nervously watch the clock because I don’t want to miss a minute of the second Q&A. Other Hearties do the same, until we see a couple of familiar faces join the end of the line: Martic Cummins and Mark Humphrey. Both decline my offer to move ahead of me to the front, and seem towant to stay “incognito,” but that becomes very difficult in a hotel full of Hearties. Eventually, one or two people turn around and engage Martin in conversation. I make a different choice: to leave the line and say a quick hello to Mark, who stands at the very back of the line. Something about his smile makes me wonder about his behind-the-scenes personality.
For me, chatting with Mark is one of the highlights of the weekend. He is humble, kind, sincere, and even a bit shy. He blushes a little when I ask him about being in the spotlight and how that works with an introverted personality. I don’t want to monopolize his time, so I ask another Heartie to snap a picture of us, and I head back to the ballroom, energized by this short conversation instead of through caffeine.
The second actor panel is just as fun and engaging as the first. While some might suggest that these characters are subordinate to the central roles, I argue that these “supporting roles” are just as integral and essential as the others. In fact, this segment is even more enlightening. We learn that Martin Cummins will no longer be caring for his best friend’s dog due to some very distressing circumstances. Sweet Gracyn Shinyei is poised and eloquent, but also innocently funny when she has to respond to an audience of 450 adults. Andrea Brooks is excited for Faith to grow as a person and find love herself. Eva is just as loving as the character she portrays.
There are two new additions to the cast: Paul Greene and Niall Matter. Both actors assure us that that neither man is out to steal Elizabeth’s heart, but their roles in this Hope Valley saga are very hush-hush until the season 4 debut.
What one secret do we learn? This comes from a teary-eyed Mark Humphrey. In that pulpit hidey-hole that Jack built for Pastor Frank during season 2, Pastor keeps the revolver his father was loading when he was shot and a photograph of his mother. Mark challenges all the #Hearties in the room to discover the third object at some point in the season. I, for one, am up for this challenge. I won’t miss an episode and Mark’s challenge is just one more pot-stir that will keep me watching. It seems that Mark, too, has been learning from the master. Have you figured out what that third item is? If not, try rewatching the When Calls the Heart Christmas movie. The answer is there.
Part 3 of 4 coming soon…