New cast member, Chris McNally, arrived in the flesh and alive and kicking on “When Calls the Heart” Sunday night in the March 3 Episode 2 of Season 6, “Queen of Hearts.” Faithful fans of the Hallmark Channel’s most beloved drama have had several months to anticipate the arrival of Lucas Bouchard in Hope Valley, and the dashing saloon owner did not disappoint in making a very distinctive impression.

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In real life, his castmates have seemed very excited and welcoming to Chris McNally, and the Vancouver home for the “When Calls the Heart” production is like home to the star. McNally has particularly praised leading lady, Erin Krakow, for her concern to make him “comfortable” as a newcomer. For his character of Lucas Bouchard, however, there was already some bad blood to overcome even before he was seen. Bouchard was revealed as the “out-of-town buyer” at the close of “Phone Rings and Heartstrings,” laying down $10,000 cash in 1916 terms to take Hope Valley’s only saloon out from under Sheriff Bill Avery (Jack Wagner) and Henry Gowen (Martin Cummins).

Chris McNally gets a mixed reception as Lucas Bouchard on When Calls the Heart. [Image source:TVPromos-YouTube]
Chris McNally gets a mixed reception as Lucas Bouchard on When Calls the Heart. [Image source:TVPromos-YouTube]

Almost everyone in Hope Valley already has ideas about Lucas Bouchard, whether they have met him or not, and the mystery of the character bodes well for Chris McNally.

Elusive encounters

Bill Avery doesn’t like anything he sees, and even less that he hears, from Lucas Bouchard. The sheriff even tries to deduce from the cities of the shipments coming in where the handsome stranger has made his fortunes. Lucas will only answer in phrases like “here and there” or “this and that” regarding his past life, which perks every suspicion.

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Chris McNally utterly captures the charm of the mystery man, who calls himself “a bit of a tumbleweed” to local residents. Elizabeth Thornton has an impromptu job interview with the new proprietor before he realizes who she is, and it's clear that she is already an object of his attention. He later makes a blunder at his extravagant opening celebration, asking about her husband.

There are sure to be more, and deeper, conversations ahead as he tries to make amends to the new mother.

Already, he shows that he values strong, confident women who can make decisions, such as Lori Loughlin’s Abigail Stanton. She has some issues of mistrust, too, but she is always willing to grant someone a chance to start again, as she did with Henry, Bill, and more who suffered past stumbles. For now, she is on a first name basis with Lucas, who already has charmed her son Cody (Carter Ryan Evancic) with his magical sleight-of-hand.

Rosemary (Pascale Hutton) doesn’t hit it off so well with Mr. Bouchard, either. He doesn't recognize her stage name, and doesn't warm to the idea of building a stage in his new saloon, either.

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She also pushes a touch too hard to speed along the budding relationship between Dr. Carson Shepherd (Paul Greene) and Faith (Andrea Brooks).

Bill begins to conduct a clandestine investigation of the new arrival, with the help of another new spy in town, telephone technician, Fiona Miller (Kayla Wallace), who also interprets Bouchard’s conversation in French, after he has told Rosemary that he doesn't speak the language.

The real secret is the money that Lucas stows away in a safe at the close of the episode. There's more to the story of where that cash, and the intriguing man himself, came.

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Already a warm reception

Chris McNally is already at home with the Hallmark Channel, having done several movie features, most recently starring in the regal winter offering, “Winter Princess” with Natalie Hall.

In an interview last week (February 26) on Cheddar.com, the actor praised the network as “awesome to work for” and elaborated on the “niche for positivity” that it has fulfilled for viewers. Every story is “uplifting” and carries a message of overcoming challenges, according to the star.

When he was asked which of his characters most speaks for the “When Calls the Heart” newcomer in real life, he relates that his character, Jesse, in “Winter Princess” is probably the closest, but adds that the spirit of Lucas Bouchard is much like his own. He feels honored and proud to be part of storylines that feature “strong women,” not only on the drama but essentially “in every movie.”

The Canadian set of “When Calls the Heart” is especially comfortable for McNally, who is from Vancouver. The drama’s historical setting of 1916 may require more adjustment, as Chris is known for his roles on futuristic, sci-fi series, such as “Altered Carbon.” He is quite at home wherever his dogs are.

Chris McNally will take on quite a different role in the Lifetime TV adaptation of “Heaven,” based on the books by VC Andrews.

After that creative departure, is sure to have his place in Hope Valley for a long time to come, no longer just a handsome stranger, and perhaps, someone who becomes special to Elizabeth. No man can steal her heart like her precious baby son, Jack (Lincoln and Gunnar Taylor), with smiles straight from heaven. For now, Lucas Bouchard has to wait far down on her list, but he already knows she is a lady with wit and spark.

More action will soon stir, as Kevin McGarry makes his arrival as Mountie Nathan Grant on March 17.

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