As Season 6 of Hallmark’s beloved When Calls the Heart was set to debut, we talked with lead actress Erin Krakow about filming in her home away from home.
There’s a reason Vancouver is called Hollywood North. This British Columbia gem is home to the fourth-largest film and television production industry in North America, behind Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto. It’s also the home away from home of Erin Krakow where she has been filming the hit Hallmark western television series When Calls the Heart, along with several other high-profile Hallmark films over the last five years.
In the popular family drama inspired by the Janette Oke book of the same name and developed for TV by producer Michael Landon Jr., Krakow stars as teacher Elizabeth Thatcher, a wealthy East Coast transplant who moves to the fictional frontier town of Hope Valley in the Canadian Rockies during the early 1900s. As she takes on the duties of her first classroom, her frontier life is fraught with challenges, which Thatcher must learn to overcome.
A classically trained actor and graduate of the Juilliard School, Krakow first came into the public eye in a big way when she was cast in the recurring role of Spc. Tanya Gabriel in the Lifetime television series Army Wives. She has guest-starred on such L.A.-based series as NCIS and NCIS: Los Angeles while working out of Vancouver and continuing to star in Hallmark projects — including the movies Finding Father Christmas, Engaging Father Christmas, 2018’s Marrying Father Christmas, and multiple seasons of When Calls the Heart — filmed in and around the city.
On hiatus from the series before its February 24 Season 6 premiere, Krakow was enjoying some sunny downtime in Southern California, where we caught up with her for a chat about her beloved Vancouver.
Cowboys & Indians: You’ve been filming When Calls the Heart and a slew of Hallmark movies around Vancouver for more than five years now. What has surprised you the most about the city?
Erin Krakow: It’s been a lovely surprise to have made some lifelong friendships there, especially while filming When Calls the Heart. More specifically about Vancouver itself, I was surprised that I didn’t want to pull out my hair during the cold winter months. There’s something kind of nice about curling up with a good book or visiting a favorite coffee shop, specifically on the weekends when we’re not filming. But I do have to say that I like filming in Vancouver much more during the warmer months.
C&I: We’ve read that Vancouver is quite the foodie destination. What are some of your favorite places to eat?
Krakow: Vancouver does have great food, and I’ve been a bit spoiled, growing up in Florida and living and working in Los Angeles and New York, as well as being around my mom, who is a fantastic cook. The city has some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted. One of my favorite places is Minami in Yaletown, and do try the aburi-style sushi. My favorite is the ebi oshi — pressed prawn. Trust me, it’s delicious! Of course, it didn’t hurt that when I went to Minami for the first time I saw George Clooney. I also love Heirloom Vegetarian and the downtown Mackenzie Room, a delicious adventure for your palate! I tried things I wouldn’t usually eat and was so pleasantly surprised.
A favorite place to stop for a cocktail is the Botanist, featuring a live pianist and specializing in really creative drinks. They serve a Pretty Bird [$31] from their “cocktail lab,” where you drink out of the tail of a blown-glass bird. The cocktail is made with gin, seeds, berries, bubbly, and a bird’s nest! Another cocktail there is Smoke on the Water — rum and mezcal served in a wooden box filled with aromatic smoke.
C&I: Vancouver is like a second home to you, but are there any special hotels where you’ve either stayed or had friends and family stay?
Krakow: I typically stay at an apartment when I’m filming, but I really enjoy both the Sutton Place and luxurious Shangri-La, which goes above and beyond to make their guests feel pampered. The Shangri-La is also home to the acclaimed restaurant Market and the beautiful Chi spa. The wonderful Sense spa at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia features a lovely pool and lounging area, and I’ve enjoyed their Georgian Revival Massage, a Swedish massage that uses essential oils. The Georgia also has a very cool bar downstairs called Prohibition, where they craft really unique drinks.
C&I: We like to head to Stanley Park to bike or hike the scenic Seawall; hit the trails, beaches, and aquarium; see the totem poles; have a bite to eat; and take in the views at the Teahouse. Tell us about your perfect day in Vancouver.
Krakow: Well, it depends on how I’m feeling on a particular day. I love having a lazy breakfast, perhaps at Small Victory for a great homemade pastry, or Café Medina, which is known for their waffles and caramel sauce. Next might come a movie, perhaps a bit of shopping at the Cross Decor & Design in Yaletown, which features beautiful home décor and gorgeous jewelry. Another favorite is the Latest Scoop in Gastown, a really interesting historic area with cobblestone streets and twinkly lights in the trees.
My evening might be as low-key as ordering dinner in and reading my script. However, if I’m more energetic, I might hike Lynn Canyon Park, Cleveland Dam, or even Google an area to try a new hike such as Grouse Grind, which I still haven’t done yet.
C&I: What are some favorite things to do when friends or family come to town?
Krakow: There are so many great things to do as a tourist in Vancouver, [such as] hiking in and out of the city, including the Lynn Canyon and the Capilano suspension bridges — it’s like nothing else in the city, where you feel like you’re in a giant treehouse. For a less-active day I suggest visiting the Vancouver Art Gallery, where they have some very interesting traveling shows.
C&I: You’ve ridden extensively on When Calls the Heart. Do you ride in Vancouver?
Krakow: I don’t really know of any riding stables in the area, as the wranglers on location have been very generous and let me ride whenever I want to on weekends. There have been a few scenes in the upcoming Season 6 where I ride my dear Jack’s [Daniel Lissing] horse, which was gifted to me from the Canadian Mounties after he died. Jack’s horse is a bit of a more spirited and faster horse than my horse, Scooter, who I was riding earlier in the season.
C&I: When Calls the Heart is set in the fictional mining outpost of Hope Valley. Can visitors visit the set?
Krakow: As far as tours of Hope Valley, we don’t really allow for visitors when we’re working on the set, but we do host a Hearties Family Reunion, a fan convention for When Calls the Heart. Last year the convention was held in October. During part of the weekend, fans can go in and out of the sets and walk down Main Street to get the lay of the land. We will also host a Saturday Q and A panel with cast members. The Hearties are an incredibly passionate and loyal group of people, all ages, from all over the world, who have really rallied around our show.
Photography: (Lead Image) Melissa Coulier/Courtesy Erin Krakow, (Middle Image) Courtesy Tourism Vancouver.
From the April 2019 issue.