Last week on When Calls The Heart we were introduced to a new character named Shane Cantrell. Shane, a widower, came to town with his young son to work at Hope Valley’s sawmill and try to make ends meet. It’s obvious right from the beginning that Shane and his son Phillip (played by Liam Hughes) have had a pretty rough past. Shane’s wife has passed away, how recently we don’t yet know, and he doesn’t have a very nurturing relationship with Phillip. Shane looks to be an interesting addition to the When Calls The Heart cast and we are looking forward to watching his story play out.
Shane is played by Canadian actor Niall Matter, who viewers may recognize from his other Hallmark roles including playing opposite Erin Krakow in this past winter’s Finding Father Christmas. We had the chance to talk with Matter about his new role on When Calls The Heart. Read on to see what he has to say about joining the show and what’s ahead for Shane.
The TV Junkies: I first met you back at the Hearties Family Reunion in December, along with about 500 other people. What did you think of your first introduction into the Hearties fandom that weekend?
Niall Matter: I thought it was amazing. It just showed the kind of support that the show had. My baby girl was born the day before, and I knew the fans for the show were all showing up, so that’s why I wanted to make sure that I kept my word and came out to meet everyone. I though it was amazing and there was such a great turn out.
TTVJ: I can imagine it was a little overwhelming for you.
NM: It was especially because I didn’t get much sleep the night before, but it was awesome.
TTVJ: What’s it like coming in to an established show like WCTH? We’re there any challenges that came with it?
MN: In the past I’ve done that quite often with shows — so I’ve come in to a few established shows — and I’m kind of used to that now, but it’s not like I was coming into a show without knowing anybody. I knew Daniel Lissing very well before coming on board and I worked with Erin the summer previously, so I had some very familiar faces on set. And I am really good friends with Paul Jackson, one of the writers on the show. He was one of the writers that ended up giving me my first series lead on a show called The Best Years, so Paul and I are friends. So I was coming on board to work with friends and that’s what I like to do now.
TTVJ: Were there any challenges with it being a period piece?
NM: Yeah for sure because generally I get hired for very contemporary work and I’m usually playing some sort of science fiction genius or something like that, so doing a period piece was definitely a nice change. It’s also what attracted me to When Calls The Heart because I like to take on different roles and challenge myself as an actor and do different things that I haven’t done before. When Calls The Heart definitely fit that bill.
TTVJ: Tell me a little about your character.
NM: Shane Cantrell is his name and he is a widower. He has a young son named Phillip and he struggles quite a bit with the relationship between him and his son, and fans will find out why he struggles with that. I don’t want to give away too much but Shane is a hard working, blue collar guy that comes to town looking for a way to just make a living and get by at the moment.
TTVJ: He seems like a bit of a sad guy with a little bit of a complicated past. Are we going to get any more hints into his back story and what’s made him the way that he is?
NM: Yes, absolutely. The fans will definitely see a window into Shane’s life and the backstory will definitely unfold in this next episode.
TTVJ: When I spoke with Brian Bird at the Hearties Family Reunion he hinted that one of the reasons they were bringing in some new guys this year is to give all the widows of Hope Valley a few more relationship options. Is there a chance for romance this season for Shane?
NM: You know I don’t know. I’m not sure if we’re going to see that for him right away. He’s got a lot of work to do on himself before he’s ready for that, but there’s definitely a lot of other single women in town who like Shane have been through losing a loved one, so I definitely see parallels with some characters that are around town. I’m hoping that the future will wind up exploring that. But I think Shane has to go through his own journey first before he’s ready to explore another relationship.
TTVJ: When Calls The Heart has a fairly large cast, so who did you end up working with most this season?
NM: My son, Liam Hughes. I worked with Liam every time I was on set. We have a really great relationship. Right away right out of the gate I just kind of clicked with Liam and he clicked with me. We just kind of knew what each other was about and we worked really well together.
TTVJ: Casting on When Calls The Heart has an unbelievable ability in finding all of these amazingly talented and super cute kids to work on this show. What’s it like working with so many kids all the time? Were there ever any added challenges with it?
NM: Well there is that old saying in the film industry that ‘if you want to make your day hard you film with pets and kids,’ but the kids around the set were like an anomaly because they don’t stand true to that saying. I found it really enjoyable to work with all of the kids and the kids on set are so well behaved and are just little professionals. They feel like more of an adult than I am. Especially Liam who plays my son, he’s such a little pro. I was very impressed by him.
TTVJ: Is there anything else that we can expect to see with your character this season?
NM: The most exciting things about Shane this year is seeing the strides he makes with his personal relationship with his son. I think it’s hard for men to be emotionally available sometimes, especially in that time period. The men of the household didn’t necessarily connect all that well with their children, but this instance is sort of forcing him to because there’s no women’s touch in his life. He has to find a way to emotionally connect and dig deeper and give his son some form of nurturing. In the beginning there’s really none of that, so that’s the journey that you get to see Shane go on this season. It’s really heartwarming to see a man like that open up.
TTVJ: Is there anything else you’re working on right now?
NM: I am and I cannot talk about it. It’s a very big feature film and I’m not allowed to talk about that until I’ve been cleared to so I can’t give that away.
TTVJ: Well I know all of the fans are really looking forward to seeing you on When Calls The Heart this season. There were a lot of great reviews of the movie, Finding Father Christmas that you did with Erin so they were all pretty excited to hear that you were joining the cast.
NM: You know I’m glad to hear that because they are currently trying to sort out a sequel. Erin and I would love to do that. We’d love to bring those characters back to the screen for Hallmark because we had a lot of fun doing that. Working with Erin is fantastic and that’s really when I got to work with Erin the most was filming that. She’s a good friend and hopefully we get a chance to do that.
Were you excited to see Niall Matter join the cast of When Calls The Heart? Are you looking forward to what his character might bring to the show? What do you think his backstory might be? Drop a few words in the comments section below and let us know what you’re thinking.
When Calls The Heart airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Hallmark Channel.
Christy is a self proclaimed and proud TV Junkie. Her love for TV began at an early age with shows like Degrassi, Alias, ER, Buffy, The X-Files & Friends. You can now find her watching, ok obsessing over, shows like When Calls The Heart, Saving Hope, Arrow, Outlander, Grey's Anatomy and many many others. You can catch Christy on Twitter at @ChristySpratlin where she will likely be live tweeting her favorite shows and talking about everything TV.