British Columbia native Amanda Wong joins the season nine cast of “When Calls The Heart” as “Mei Sou.” “Mei” is a newcomer to “Hope Valley” with a mysterious past. She immediately catches the eye of mountie “Nathan Grant” [Kevin McGarry].
Amanda has accomplished a lot in her career thus far. She graduated top of her class from the University of Hong Kong with a master’s in journalism and she speaks multiple languages.
Some will recognize her from appearances on the NBC drama “Debris” and the ABC drama “A Million Little Things”. She also has appeared on Hallmark previously in “Mystery 101” and “Raise A Glass To Love.”
Amanda feels like the desire to act was planted in her long ago.
“It’s funny because I kind of thought the opportunity for acting only came up after I kind of left my career in journalism, but now racking my brain in anticipation for this interview, I actually feel like the bug was planted a long, long time ago and I just didn’t realize it,” she said. “In school Productions I was ‘Mary’ in the Christmas play or “Ophelia” in “Hamlet” but I never really clue in that the seed was planted a long time ago.”
Amanda credits her Mom with pushing her to do something she loves now.
“I don’t want to reinforce stereotypes, because my mom didn’t really pushed me in a way that the ‘tiger mom’ stereotype kind of implies, but I was put in a lot of things growing up,” she said. “At the time I kind of felt like it took me away from socializing with friends, but now looking back, I’m so grateful for it!”
After receiving an email from her agent, Amanda’s journey to joining the “When Calls The Heart” family began.
“So I got an email from my agent and in the breakdown it said they were looking for an Asian woman to join ‘Hope Valley,’” she said. “I was just so excited about it because this is the first Asian character on the show and it’s not just like a couple of lines or something, she’s got a whole [story] arc and I feel so honored just to be playing her. I’m super grateful she’s been added and she’s a full fledged character with so many attributes.”
The honor of portraying an Asian character is very special to Amanda and something that’s been a long time coming.
“Growing up, I didn’t really see myself represented in the media much, especially in period dramas. I think even for myself, when I was thinking about ‘When Calls The Heart,’” she said. “I mean every actor and actress in Vancouver knows about the show and would love to be on it but I guess I never really thought it was an opportunity that I could pursue.”
Just as “Hope Valley” became more inclusive last season by welcoming the “Canfield’s,” the first black family on the series, season nine sees that expanded even more with the arrival of Amanda’s character “Mei Sou.”
“You look at these type films and it seems Asian people don’t have a place in the narrative, even though that’s not true, there were Asian people at that time but they are never really highlighted in any type of way,” she said. “To play this character that’s just so well written and to get to share a little about my culture with the fans, is such an honor and I’m so grateful for it.”
COVID-19 has had a significant impact on numerous industries and the acting world is no exception. It’s changed the process for actors seeking roles in film and TV.
“Back before Covid-19, we would go into the audition in person but because of Covid-19, a lot of it was moved to virtually and a lot of it is over email,” Wong stated. “Actors will get the breakdown, which is a quick description of the character, and then you’ll get the scene. I believe I had three scenes and you perform it and then I got a call back and I did things to the best of my abilities and thankfully that paid off.”
Amanda has found the cast and crew very welcoming.
“I got a call from (director) Peter [DeLuise] and John Tinker, who’s the showrunner, and they are just so welcoming and warm and Peter was like what are your talents and what can we incorporate in the show and I was just so grateful that the narrative is so organic on the show,” she said. “It can add flavor and characteristics of the actors into the show.”
It’s been reported in numerous interviews with cast members from “When Calls The Heart” that when an actor comes onto the show, they are made to feel welcome right away. Amanda found this to be the case right away.
“Everyone knows what it feels like to be the new guy,” she said. “The show has been around for so long that everyone experienced being new except for like Loretta [Walsh], Hrothgar [Matthews] and Erin [Krakow] of course, there’s Pascale [Hutton], and Johannah [Newmarch] but a lot of them came in from the start and have stayed throughout, but I think half of us have experienced being new. Everyone has been so receptive and so kind.”
This marks the first-period piece that Amanda has been cast in.
“This is the first period piece I’ve been in,” Wong said. “I’ve had a couple of auditions but this is the first one I’ve been cast in. It’s so fun because you get to come into a different time and I think you really romanticize a century ago or other times. We forget that things like plumbing, as nice as it is now, they didn’t have that. The hair and makeup really help me get into the feel of the character. I post a picture today on Twitter of my Grandmother and she was born in 1920 which would be when season 10 would be if we get a season 10.”
The set of “Hope Valley” is similar to other sets like “Walnut Grove” on “Little House on the Prairie” in that it’s an actual town that was built.
“It just looks and feels like a storybook,” said Wong “It’s like that feeling of walking through Disney Land, it’s just so happy and I feel like it’s a period at Disney! Everything is so cute and quaint. A lot of the props are from that time as well.”
The show designs specific looks for each character based on the character’s traits and personality.
“When we started filming it was in late July to early August,” Wong said. “In Vancouver we got a heatwave and these outfits are quite warm. Barbara [Gregusova] is so good at what she does (costume designer) and she’s so talented. She does try to replicate the clothing of that time so these clothes are super heavy duty and made to last. That means they are really warm and you’re sweating all the time until November and then it gets really cold so then you’re grateful for the thick layers.”
Amanda’s character, Mei Sou, has unique aspects to her costumes just like the rest of the cast.
“If you will notice, my skirts are slightly shorter than everyone else’s because I’m from the city and I’m a modern girl. That was kind of a fun take,” she said. “It’s nice to compare our clothing and even the color schemes we have. My color scheme is in the blues, the purples and the whites. ‘Rosemary’ [Pascale Hutton] is obviously the rosemary red , Erin [Krakow] is in the whites and it’s so nice to see the comparison of our colors and how it kind of defines each person. Thankfully, since I’m from the city, I don’t have to wear a corset like other girls do.”
Episode one of season nine saw “Mei Sou” arrive in town. There wasn’t much revealed yet about the character but Amanda shares some info on her.
“Mei is very educated and she is very capable,” she said. “I would say she’s very courageous and she stands up for herself. She’s got tenacity, courage and conviction but it’s also within that time. There were certain things that limited women, especially Asian women, but mostly, women in general that she has to overcome. She’s not without flaws. She’s a warm individual who loves animals and children but she’s not without flaws.”
Amanda immediately gets to share screen time with Kevin McGarry’s character “Nathan Grant.” This has prompted fans to speculate on a potential love interest between the two characters. While not at liberty to disclose too much, she did share some.
“Everyone knows that ‘Nathan’ is the most eligible Bachelor, but there are also other Bachelorette’s in town,” she said. “I can say that they work closely with each other and that’s all I can say but I don’t want to rule anybody out.”
As far as season nine as a whole for the show, Amanda shares a little insight on what fans can expect.
There’s going to be a lot of growing, romance and love,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of changes and some developments. There will be crime that needs to be solved. Our leading man, Kevin [McGarry] is going to help us solve the crime.”
Oftentimes in shows like “When Calls The Heart,” scenes are not shot in chronological order for various reasons. Amanda’s first scene with Kevin McGarry was when the two characters first meet and it called for instant chemistry to be shown between the two. No easy task but both pulled it off beautifully in the episode.
“It was absolutely the first scene we had to do and it was only minutes after I had met Kevin [McGarry] actually for the first time,” Wong said. “A lot of season nine I got to experience with Kevin for the first time just as ‘Mei’ experiences it with ‘Nathan’ for the first time. It’s no big secret that Kevin loses the ‘stache later on in the season and that’s the first time I’ve seen Kevin without his mustache as well. It’s so easy working with Kevin. He’s such a charming guy. He’s charismatic and funny. It’s easy to have that chemistry.”
Amanda shares that “Mei Sou” arrives in town on business.
“She does arrive on business but whether she stays I can’t say but we can expect to see her in a lot of season nine,” she said. “I was kind of worried the fan base wouldn’t want ‘Mei’ to be a potential love interest for ‘Nathan’ but they have been so receptive and kind so far.”
It was easy to see after just one episode that Amanda is a very talented actress whose character will make an immediate impact on the show and she is grateful for the opportunity to share that with the fans.