Kayla Wallace was born to perform and entertain. She grew up dancing and that remained her focus when she was younger, but she would soon discover her love for acting.
“I started to really love musical theater. I loved sort of telling a story through my dancing,” she said “I kept on with that and started some singing on the side. My high school then did a film and TV workshop. It was done by two actors who came from Vancouver to my high school and I was just so intrigued on the difference from theater acting to film acting. It’s much more detail oriented. That was what started it! I was just so interested! I had that as my focus from then on out!”
She discovered she loved acting in theater for different reasons than her love for film and TV.
“I really loved being onstage as a kid,” Wallace explained “Just the excitement of being backstage and then running out onto the stage to do your thing and sometimes getting a reaction from the audience. So from the adrenaline of the theater, that was really fun. With film and TV though, you have to recreate real life. The camera is right in your face so if you push it or you’re overdoing anything, the camera sees it. I found that to be difficult for me because I grew up on the stage where everything is super big and showy. I love the idea of recreating human life and looking at how everyday people talk to each other and learning how to do that within a script and making it a real thing that’s sort of happening for the first time, which is a scene.”
In 2019, Kayla joined the season 6 cast of Hallmark’s hit series, “When Calls The Heart.” The show was co-created by Brian Bird and Michael Landon Jr. and is based upon Janette Oke’s books of the same name from her “Canadian West Series”.
Cast as the feisty and independent “Fiona Miller”, Kayla’s character arrives in the early 1900’s town raising eyebrows with her shoes and helping connect the west through telephone service and teaching the town how to operate the newly installed switchboard.
“Coming into season 6, I was kind of nervous because a show that’s been around for that long, you’re sort of jumping into a family where everyone knows each other and I didn’t watch the show before I auditioned for it, so then I had to binge watch it to sort of figure out who everybody was,” she said. “I was a little nervous but then everybody was so welcoming, all of our cast are such lovely people, we are so lucky. Same with the crew as well. Coming onto an established show like that, it was like the best way it could have gone because everybody was just so nice. I remember Erin [Krakow] was just so lovely and any question I had she was open ears. You come across all kinds of people in this industry and she is just so lovely.”
The role has also brought the added challenge of being a period piece. Not only was she having to learn about her character and her coworkers, she was also having to learn how all of that fit into a very different time period.
On Jan. 28, 1916, Manitoba became the first province in Canada to extend the franchise to women voters. With “When Calls The Heart” being set in 1910, this period piece was before women could legally vote which makes Kayla’s strong, independent woman character even more special.
“As far as period pieces, this is my first one, so when I was in wardrobe trying on all these long skirts, well not as long as everyone else, because ‘Fiona’ shows her ankles as we all know,” Wallace stated. “It was really cool to try on the wardrobe and as soon as I hopped on set for the first time, it was so cool. Our set is so well done that you feel like you have stepped back in time because it’s a little town. You can walk into the buildings and the props that are all around you, it really brings you back. Well, not that I have ever spent time in 1918, but our designers and wardrobe do such a great job so that really helped.”
Kayla’s character, Fiona Miller, isn’t just smart and independent, she pushes the boundaries in various ways.
“You look at how people dress today and it’s sort of anything goes and everybody really celebrates originality today so I really love that,” Wallace said. “I like that ‘Fiona’ is pushing those boundaries. It may be considered risqué for that time period, but I really like that she’s pushing those boundaries and likes to have fun with her fashion sense and sort of makes a statement with her shoes.”
Getting to portray such a strong woman during a period when it wouldn’t have been very acceptable to many, is something Kayla has relished doing.
“That’s what I love about playing ‘Fiona’. She questions things and she’s not afraid to stand up for herself in a time when things weren’t exactly equal for a man and a woman,” she said. “It was sort of a man’s world and I like that she has that modern way of thinking just rooted in her. She feels things are fair that a man can do this, and this, and this while a woman has to fit in a certain world. That’s one of the things that attracted me to ‘Fiona’s’ character the most at the beginning my audition scene was actually where Fiona is at the switchboard and she is giving a piece of information to Bill [Jack Wagner] and she brings him over and is giving him this information and he questions her, doubting that she speaks French and she stands up for herself and answers back in French. So that was my audition scene and I was like oh great! I love this part of her! I remember this particular audition scene because I kept mispronouncing the French words. I don’t actually speak French and I find the language super hard for me to actually pronounce right so that was one thing funny about my audition.”
Coming into the role, Kayla didn’t realize that it would be a series regular casting.
“I thought maybe I’d be on for a couple of episodes and I didn’t know how it would go,” she explained. “I’ve been so lucky because we have three seasons with ‘Fiona’ down now and I’m excited for what is to come.’
Heading into season 9, fans have hopes for what they would like to see for ‘Fiona’ and Kayla does as well.
“We got to see a little bit of romance in season 8,” Wallace explained. “Fiona exploring that side of her. When she starts making closer relationships, well particularly one closer relationship with Hickam. She mentioned in one of the later episodes [season 8] that she had dealt with her past and went back home and ended for good what she had back in San Francisco. She was previously involved in a relationship and was engaged so the fact that she’s permanently closed the door to whatever romance was happening in San Francisco, I would like to see her explore that side of her in Hope Valley a little more. I think a lot could happen. So we’ll see. I have a feeling her and Hickam might see where things go.”
The actors don’t always have advanced knowledge on where the plot will go for their character’s story arc and, unless the actor happens to also serve as a producer of a series, they don’t always have much input into those decisions either. Sometimes the actors are waiting for the scripts to reveal the story as it’s unfolding as well as the audience.
“Sometimes at the beginning of a season, the showrunner will be like ‘this is kind of where I want to take your character,’” she said. “Sometimes things stick and sometimes things get changed. That’s how every script is. You’re never locked in until you film the scene and even then with every show I’ve done, changes are always being made. We are really lucky that our showrunner, John Tinker, is awesome and always open to hearing our ideas. It’s really great that he has open ears to hear our ideas if we have them.”
With the character of ‘Fiona Miller, her fashion style is a big part of who she is and the series does allow some input from the actors.
“In our costume fittings, Barbara [Gregusova], who is our costume designer, will pick certain things and she’s totally open if a shirt doesn’t really feel right. She and I will decide what we feel is best for Fiona and maybe we try on a certain skirt and will feel it isn’t her character and maybe we let it go and try on a different skirt,” Wallace said. “Barbara is so great at what she does, so mainly it’s her deciding the look but she will definitely make sure we feel comfortable in everything. Same with our hair and makeup. Our team is also so lovely and they check in and make sure we are good. They do their best to make sure everybody is happy.”
Given the fact ‘Fiona’ has arrived in Hope Valley and immediately turned heads with her fashion sense and impressed with how smart and driven she is, picking a favorite moment for the character in her three seasons would probably not be easy, but Kayla does have some scenes that stood out for her.
“I love that she jumped in with the fire and helped,” Wallace continued. “[Season 8 episode 3 “From The Ashes”] All the men pushed the dynamite into the oil fire. When I read that script, I was just so excited. That was like the most you could have pushed the boundaries back then. The men were protecting the town and the women. ‘Fiona’ essentially risks her life to go in and help because she was like, what’s the difference between her and a man. That was such a fun scene to film. To jump off that carriage that brought her in as well, it was just exciting.”
“When Calls The Heart” follows various character arcs and subplots. As a result, viewers don’t always get to see interaction between all the characters on a regular basis. Kayla has some other characters she would like to see Fiona interact with more in season 9.
“I would really love to see her interact more with the kids in Hope Valley “I got that little scene with Allie [Jaeda Miller] where I’m helping her with her hair [season 8 episode 10], but I think it would be fun if she still has the barbershop next season if she gives some of the kids haircuts or teaches them how to style hair or something. I love working with kids. There’s something about acting with kids that keeps you on your toes. Sometimes you can receive unexpected things in a scene which is fun as an actor.”
Many actors will tell you that they always put a part of themselves into every role. Kayla feels there are aspects of Fiona that are definitely like her and other traits in her character that she admires
“I can be sassy at times,” she elaborated. “I definitely don’t have that confidence. She has a confidence about her in confrontation that sometimes I wish I had. If somebody is telling her a certain something, right away she will stand up for herself and tell whoever the way that it’s going to be or the way she wants it to be. There’s a bit of that in ‘Fiona’ I wish I had. I can get kind of shy in those situations but I can get sassy sometimes and I also love fashion. She and I share that. I’m also pretty driven when it comes to my work ethic which I think she’s got that.”
Season 8 didn’t have the Christmas episode that fans look forward to each year. Kayla is hoping that tradition is revived for season 9.
“I used to watch it with my family on Christmas day. Nobody in my family knew about the series before I joined it,” Kayla said. “I don’t think they had the channel on their TV packages. Since I joined, let me tell you, my Grandmother watches ‘When Calls The Heart’ every single day. That’s probably not an exaggeration. My Grandma loves the show and she loves when they play reruns. My Mom does too. She’s always up to date on what’s happening. Now that they know about it and especially with my Grandma, it’s such a blessing when I can’t be there in person, she can turn the TV on and watch me there.”
In a world where people have struggled with the pandemic along with life’s pressures and fighting to survive and care for their families, “When Calls The Heart” offers a chance to escape to a simpler time. A chance to experience the touching and heartwarming moments the series is known for. Kayla Wallace’s character has found a fresh new start in a town named Hope Valley.
Hope is something we can all use more of.
Featured photo Courtesy of Crown Media, LLC.