Episode 2002 - Choices, choices, choices
It’s Monday, December 8, and today marks Day #2 of production on Episode 202, and a script we are calling “Heart and Soul,” written by one of our fabulous new senior writers and executive producers, Robin Bernheim. Some pretty cool new wrinkles and “choices” are at the heart of our story work on this one. It’s a theme I’ve thought a lot about. So many things in this world are a product of our choices, but many of us like to blame our circumstances, or other people, or their feelings, or fate, or even luck for what happens to them in life. The truth is we always “choose” how to respond to our challenges. That’s not just Brian Bird speaking. All the great sacred texts teach this. And it was as true back back in the early 1900s as it is today.
One of the big goals for Season 2 has been to expand our painting canvas by introducing some new characters and new relationships and broadening the world to include “Elizabeth Thatcher’s” hometown of Hamilton. The goal is an important one because by expanding this canvas we are setting ourselves up for lots of new story possibilities, which we hope will be the fuel of dozens and dozens of new episodes if our growing and loyal fan base stays with us (a guy can’t hope, can’t he?). But as we broaden the story arena, we are confronted with choices at every turn, and we have to live with the consequences. One obvious example of the consequences was what to do with the name of our beloved town in our season premiere. I’m hoping our “Heartie” fans will understand our reasoning for this. When we were brainstorming closing down the mine in the trial verdict, we then discovered we needed to introduce new work opportunities for all the men in town. Hence, our wonderful new lumber entrepreneur “Leland Coulter” played by the fabulous Kavan Smith. But in doing that, we suddenly realized our town was no longer a coal town. But it was called “Coal Valley.” That’s what everyone fell in love with in Season 1, but it doesn’t make sense going forward. Choices have consequences, remember?
So we began to brainstorm new names. One idea was “Silver City.” That seemed to stick for awhile, but it just wasn’t right. This is not a silver mining town now, it’s a timber town. But then, as is always the case in a writers’ room, we got back to the core idea of this series – the idea that Michael Landon Jr. and I had from the beginning. This needs to be a show about hope. Robin Bernheim then put to the two ideas together brilliantly: “Hope Valley.” It was perfect. And as our “Jack Thornton” arrives back on the stage today from Hamilton, he’s going to learn that his town has a new name, just like hopefully a couple million (fingers and toes crossed) Hearties will learn in the season premiere.
Choices have consequences. We are all responsible for our choices. They are not involuntary reflexes, like when a doctor taps your knee and your leg flexes on its own. Anger is a choice. Criticism is a choice. Hate is choice. But so is hope and so is the love. Hope and love are an act of the will. That is the Coal/Hope Valley. And Elizabeth and Jack will need to hold onto both those choices all season-long. As do all of us.