Faithful fans of “When Calls the Heart” can well remember when Elizabeth Thatcher, came to what was then Coal Valley, disheveled from the ordeal and misfortune of her journey, but willing to brave the harsh elements to fill the minds and hearts of the children of the community. Erin Krakow has endeared herself to legions of fans of the Hallmark Channel’s best-loved drama through her portrayal of the resilient teacher who forsook her high society privilege to find greater purpose in the Northwest Territory. It was Lori Loughlin’s wise and perceptive characterization of Abigail Stanton who gave encouragement and true friendship to the young teacher.

Literally sharing all she had, Abigail personified strength and selflessness, and she and Elizabeth forged a bond deeper than sisters by blood, and their relationship was proven again through the tragic loss of the newlywed bride’s husband, Jack, necessitated by the departure of Daniel Lissing from the drama. At its heart, “When Calls the Heart” is about far more than a sweeping love story-- it is about community, and the willingness and courage of an entire community to rise from the mining ashes of Coal Valley and become Hope Valley.

The news came July 11 via Deadline Hollywood and International Business Times that two newcomers will be making their way to Hope Valley in Season 6, and Elizabeth Thornton, Abigail, Rosemary (Pascale Hutton [VIDEO]), and Lee (Kavan Smith), along with the other well-known residents, will greet two handsome newcomers.

Chris McNally will portray Lucas Bouchard and Kevin McGarry takes over law and order duties as Nathan Grant.

The new man in red

In early May, “When Calls the Heart” executive producer, Brian Bird, teased fans that “the red serge [VIDEO]” (the traditional Mountie uniform) had already been ordered. Everyone involved in the rugged, family-friendly drama, from cast to producers and writers, realized that there could be no recasting of the role of Jack Thornton. The noble character and sacrifice of that Mountie will be passed down through the stories, history, and personal effects from Elizabeth and friends of Jack Thornton to their soon-to-be-born child. Kevin McGarry will play the new Mountie in town, but he in no way is meant to replace the memory or the impact of Jack Thornton. One thing that the two characters share is a common passion for their work, as Nathan Grant is said to take “all his responsibilities to heart,” and that resemblance is welcome.

It’s yet to be seen what the reception for Chris McNally's character of Lucas Bouchard will be.

His character as a gambler and saloon owner who “is hiding more than a card up his sleeve” does not preclude him from succumbing to the contentment and simple values of Hope Valley citizens. Everyone has a past, and the personal transformations of former mine boss, Henry Gowen (Martin Cummins), Bill. Avery (Jack Wagner), and Dr. Carson (Paul Greene) certainly bode well for building a whole new life in the town.

Both McNally and McGarry are well known in Hallmark Channel circles. Chris McNally starred opposite Julie Gonzalo in the network’s 2018 movie, “The Sweetest Heart,” and Kevin McGarry had leading roles in “Love at First Bark” and “A Song for Christmas,” which is airing this week on the run of Christmas in July movies on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel. Both are familiar with family-favorite television, too. McNally starred in the sci-fi series “Supernatural” on CW, and McGarry portrayed Mitch Cutty on the Canadian series that also won over American audiences, “Heartland.” The new cast members will have to hit the ground running, but they are sure to have a warm welcome, with filming already underway since last week.

Nothing but the best

About two weeks ago, “When Calls the Heart” co-stars Pascale Hutton and Kavan Smith spoke publicly for the first time about the departure of Daniel Lissing to International Business Times per MSN on June 28. Both had nothing but deep admiration and respect for the professional decision of the Australian star who Smith called “a very good friend.” Hutton stressed that the theme of community is what prevails on “When Calls the Heart,” and held high hopes for the season to come.

Crown Media Family Networks’ Executive Vice President for Programming and Network Publicity, Michelle Vicary, was “thrilled” with the addition of the new cast members in her announcement, and described that their characters “will add another layer to the already rich and compelling storytelling” of the drama so loved by its fans.

The “When Calls the Heart” premiere may still be months away, but clearly, Hope Valley has its arms wide open to welcome two new residents, pasts and all.