When Calls The Heart’s Daniel Lissing Talks Playing Legendary Outlaw Jesse James on Timeless

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Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

NBC’s Timeless has been keeping us on the edge of our seats since it premiered in October, showing no signs of letting up any time soon. It follows an unconventional team of time travelers, Lucy (Abigail Spencer), Wyatt (Matt Lanter) and Rufus (Malcolm Barrett) as they travel through time in an attempt to stop Flynn (Goran Visnjic) from changing American history.

In each episode the team ventures to another iconic time in American history and this week’s “The Murder of Jesse James” sees the team headed to the Wild West. Flynn will team up with legendary outlaw Jesse James (When Calls The Heart’s Daniel Lissing) and together they cut a bloody swath across the American frontier. Hot on Flynn’s trail, Lucy, Wyatt and Rufus enlist the help of an iconic Marshal to help bring the fugitives to justice.

The TV Junkies recently spoke with Lissing about his guest role, including how it felt to take on such an iconic role, what it was like to switch things up from his role on When Calls The Heart, and what it was like to work with Visnjic.


The TV Junkies: So tell me a little bit about the character you’re playing on Timeless

Daniel Lissing: I’m lucky enough to play iconic legendary outlaw Jesse James and with a role like that comes a bit of responsibility. Some great actors have portrayed Jesse James before so it’s a lot to live up to. The writers on Timeless are so great and gave me so much fun material. I did my research on Jesse James, I was familiar with him before I got the part anyway and the story kind of tells itself. But for me it was just having fun with the character because he really gets out of his element dealing with people from the future. It was just so much fun to play.

TTVJ: That’s obviously a little different from Jack on When Calls the Heart. What’s it like to switch it up a bit?

DL: It was great. I love playing Jack but it’s a different show, it’s a different audience and it’s a different genre. This kind of show and this particular character, well he’s not a good guy at the end of the day. For me it’s really interesting to have to change my psychology a little bit playing Jack as opposed to playing Jesse James. And that for me was a nice break. And when I’m not working on When Calls The Heart I do like to explore characters that are very different to Jack Thornton, but it was just great. I really enjoyed playing a bad guy to tell you the truth.

TTVJ: Is it more fun to play a bad guy?

DL: In some ways, and I say bad guy pretty loosely because no one ever thinks they’re bad, they all think they’re on the side of righteousness or whatever their cause is, but yeah. It’s interesting to explore different parts of yourself as well. You get to say the things that in reality no one really says. It’s all those really badass one-liners and those smart aleck comments. I really enjoyed the way they wrote Jesse James for Timeless. It was just easy to play.

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Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

TTVJ: And what’s it like working with a different cast? Does it compare with the WCTH cast or is it totally different?

DL: Well this is a really big show for NBC and when you come on as a guest star, and anytime that I work with a new cast or certainly when I come onto a show that’s already established as a guest star, there’s obviously a different dynamic there. I really have my professional hat on. I go there and I do my job every day and I happen to be working with great people on this show. You know sometimes as a guest star it’s like ‘hey, how are you doing? All the best. See ya! Have a nice life,’ but in this instance I got to work with, well I hung out with Matt and Abigail a couple of days and they’re lovely. We didn’t have a lot of scenes together but we got on well as actors.

I spent a lot of time with Goran, I had the bulk of my scenes with him, and he’s just a great guy. We bonded over being foreign actors. He’s from Croatia originally and I’m from Australia, and so we sort of bonded over coming here to the States and working here and we had a lot in common as well, some music stuff. It was really nice to hang out with him. He’s just a lovely guy and I actually learned a lot as well because he’s been in the industry longer than I have, and over here in the States longer than I have and he’s really built a nice body of work. It was interesting to see how he handled himself on set and how he treated the cast and the crew and approached his work. It was nice to be around someone as good and as seasoned as Goran.

TTVJ: So how does it work when you’re filming one show and you book a guest role on another show? Did they block shoot all your scenes on WCTH because they were still filming WCTH when you were shooting this?

DL: That’s right. So because I have such a good relationship with the network and the producers on that they’re really open for me to do whatever I want to do if we can fit it in when we’re shooting. So yeah, I spoke to them, I said I wanted to do this part and they were very accommodating. We have a good relationship. I work very hard for Hallmark and they return the favor for me when I want to do things outside of Hallmark. That’s one thing that I can say about the Hallmark Channel is that they really look after their talent. And also working for the very first time with NBC I had nothing but a tremendous experience with all the producers and all the team that they had there.

In fact, they had to be very accommodating for me as well because after the Hearties Family Reunion I was supposed to shoot a couple of days later in Vancouver and got so sick. I was so sick that I couldn’t leave my hotel room. I managed to get to set on that Tuesday but they then sent me home and sent a doctor to my room. I had to be on a drip, they had to postpone shooting for me for three days, which is no joke. And they ended up saying ‘we love you but if you can’t shoot by this Friday we’re going to have to recast.’ And they’d already delayed three days so I was like, ‘no you’re not going to recast. This role is mine. I’ll be fine.’ So I go to set and I shoot that very first scene, and in fact it will be the first scene you’ll see of my character. I could barely stand up but I managed to get through that scene.

And then over the weekend as I was recovering back to 100 per cent it snowed and it snowed, and then when I went back to shoot on Monday and Tuesday the following week the sun came out. So it was blue skies and snow everywhere where we did all our outdoor scenes. So it kind of worked out cinematically because the shots look unbelievable. The shots look like a big budget movie. We’re riding horses through the show. So that delay, even though it was very unpleasant for me and everyone waiting for me to get well, I think the episode is going to look beautiful as a result. So that’s one bonus out of it.

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Sergei Bachlakov/NBC

TTVJ: Did your ability to ride a horse help you in getting this role?

DL: No it didn’t actually. They didn’t even ask if I could ride a horse. I went in for an audition for it and after the fact, after I booked the job, they said ‘oh by the way, how well can you ride a horse?’ And I’m like ‘I can ride, I’m OK.’ So they had a stunt double there in case but what the beautiful thing about this was is that Goran is a tremendous horse rider as well, he’s really really passionate about riding horses, as am I. And playing these characters we both thought it was important for the actors to be doing all the horse stunts and all of the horse riding. That way our director, John Showalter, can use these beautiful wide shots of the men on horses and then coming close into camera you see it’s actually the actors. So you’re not taken out of the story and we’re really doing that stuff. So Goran and I were really adamant about doing all our own horse stunts. So everything you see in this episode is us on the horses.

We just had such a good time. Goran would be on set in the morning at like 7 a.m., the sun’s just rising, we’ve been there since 5:30 or whatever and it’s blue skies. It’s minus 10 outside but it doesn’t matter. We’re on our horses, we’re riding through the snow and he just laughed and said ‘brother we are not getting paid for today.’ He says that every day and that appreciation for the work that we do was really nice to be around.

TTVJ: I have to say that I loved the When Calls The Heart Christmas movie. You guys did such a great job with it. 

DL: Thanks very much. The ratings are the highest rating for the Hallmark network for an original series ever and we’re really proud of it. It’s a beautiful family show and we hit the nail on the head with this Christmas movie. And I have to tell you the season coming up is a big season for all the characters and I think that the ratings are going to be big throughout Season 4. I think that this is our best season yet. I say that every year but it just keeps getting better because people just keep investing more and more into it and the bigger the audience gets the more we put into it.


Are you looking forward to seeing Daniel Lissing play Jesse James on Timeless? Are you curious to see how he handles this different role? Sound off in the comments section below.

Timeless airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Global in Canada and on NBC in the US.