Heartland celebrated its 250th episode, bringing global audiences together. 

“I love that we can share what we do across the world,” said Michelle Morgan, who plays Lou on the show.

Heartland, known for its family-friendly content, premiered its 17th season opener at the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) on Sept. 28, 2023, making it the longest-running one-hour Canadian drama. 

Chris Potter (Tim), Amber Marshall (Amy), Shaun Johnston (Jack) and Michelle Morgan (Lou) on the red carpet at the world premiere of Heartland’s 250th episode on Sept. 28, 2023. PHOTO BY CARL RODRIGO

Arely Zavala, alongside her mother, Santa Olmedo, said that they’ve been fans since they started watching the series in its first season when they lived back home in Mexico. After moving to Calgary in 2008, their love for Heartland only continued to grow. 

“When we moved here, we watched every time [a new] season comes out,” said Zavala. 

Zavala and Olmedo have attended similar Heartland events since moving to Calgary, but their most memorable Heartland experience was when Olmedo ran into Morgan at Costco. 

Santa Olmedo and Arely Zavala at CBC’s Heartland 250th episode world premiere hosted at the CIFF on Sept. 28, 2023. PHOTO BY CARL RODRIGO

Olmedo said that she was surprised to learn that Morgan came from a Latin background and has had many warm exchanges with the actress since. 

“When we attended other events, [Michelle] expressed herself like my family,” said Zavala. 

On the red carpet, Morgan recognized the family immediately and spoke greetings to them in Spanish. 

“My family is Latin American and I love that the show is embraced in Latin America,” said Morgan. “It’s huge for my parents, it means so much to them that their family can enjoy it.” 

Capturing the true essence of Albertan ranch life and family commitment, Heartland has always stayed true to three core values.

‘Love, family and the world of ranching.’

Shaun Johnston

Shaun Johnston plays Jack Bartlett, the grandfather of Amy and Lou on the show. Jack is often referred to as an iconic character but Johnston said that the true icon is the show itself. 

“The message that we send is universal. It transcends all these different cultures [and] all these different languages,” said Johnston. “The fact that it’s as popular in those places as it is here is a monumental undertaking… I think it is a testament to how good we make the show.” 

What has kept the show running for 17 years?

“The people on the show are like my family, the cast and crew are like my family,” said Morgan. 

Not only does Heartland convey a family-orientated message on screen, but it can also be seen in the personal relationships of cast members off-screen. Johnston said that his favourite memory from 17 years of filming has been watching the cast grow up. 

“I got to watch these people go from youngsters into young adults and beautiful people,” said Johnston. 

“I protected them from the business while we were working together and now they protect me because I’m old and I need protection,” said Johnston laughing. 

Morgan also explained that the show has given her to opportunity to grow in the film industry as she has taken on roles behind the camera, directing for the past four seasons. 

What to look forward to in season 17

Both Morgan and Johnston said that fans can expect to see some beloved character return to the screen but most of all, “You get all the good things about Heartland… all the characters in their glory,” said Johnston. 

Those who didn’t attend the CIFF World Premiere will be able to watch the first episode of season 17 on CBC Gem and CBC TV on Oct. 1, 2023 at 7 p.m. 

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Isabella West is a fourth-year Journalism student at MRU. She completed her work term over the summer of 2023 at LiveWire Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Journal.