The CBC television production Heartland, is a sprawling drama centred around a family business, which aids injured horses. Linked by the tragedy from her mother’s death, Amy Fleming is gifted with the ability to train and listen to the animals she encounters. Throughout each season, audiences can follow the lives and relationships of the characters living on the ranch. More recently, Season 10 has revealed to be a massive cliff-hanger for Heartland fans, as (*spoiler*) Amy Fleming and her fiancé Ty Borden navigate pregnancy, with the final episode being baby Borden’s birth.
We spoke with Canadian actress, Amber Marshall, about her role in playing the character of Amy Fleming.
1. Heartland has been a huge success, and viewers are desperately waiting in anticipation for Season 11! What has it been like playing the role of Amy Fleming over the 10 seasons?
As an actor, being able to develop one’s character is an incredible experience. To have a decade to do so is even more rewarding. However, with the longevity of this specific role comes challenges. My character Amy is very much like myself. We are both horse crazy girls living on ranches in rural Alberta, Canada. It’s easy for me to get into a routine of playing Amy. The main challenge lies in keeping the character new and fresh. I find inspiration in many areas of my life and allow Amy to grow and mature as any person would.
2. Does Amy Fleming have similar parallels to your personal life? Have you learnt any life lessons by playing this role, especially as Season 10 focused on Amy’s pregnancy?
My character and I follow many parallels in our daily lives. I would say that Amy has always been a little more dramatic than myself since that is what creates tension on screen. In the horse world, I personally have broadened my equine knowledge through being a part of Heartland, and have had the opportunity to try many different disciplines that I may not have without being connected to this role.
3. On the set, have you been injured or had any close calls working with the horses, or has your prior experience assisted with your acting?
We have an excellent team of people who ensure that all the horses on set are well broke. Our stunt coordinator makes certain that everything the actors are required to do matches our skill level and has no risk of injury. I believe that my prior knowledge has really helped the character be more believable, since we don’t require a stunt double for the majority of the work. Those who are not comfortable around horses are doubled for each scene involving the equine co-stars.
4 Has any of your own horse companions starred on the Heartland series?
The majority of the horses on Heartland are owned by John Scott Productions. He runs a business leasing out the “set friendly” equine stars to the film and television industry. Many, like Stormy who plays Spartan, have had years of on set experience and therefore we know they have already been exposed to the sights and sounds of a hustling television set. Since the majority of John’s herd are Quarter Horses, when Heartland requires a “specialty breed,” they need to look elsewhere. When the role for Amy’s new friend “Monty” came along I sent in a photo of my little Miniature Horse Talon. They were happy to include him into the show.
5. How much time and effort is put into producing one episode for Heartland? Have you had any disputes over the scripting of your character?
We film 2 episodes at a time (called a block) spanning over 14-15 working days. There is a lot of time and preparation that goes into each block prior to filming. Any changes in the scripts are made in that time. Typically I will go in a few times prior to filming to discuss the horse scenes. I add any personal knowledge to how a scene might play out as well as shape the horse stories to be as realistic as possible.
6. Behind the scenes, do you have any stories that you can share with us from Season 10?
In Season 10 we get to experience Ty in Mongolia. This was such a neat experience for us as actors as it was fresh and new. We filmed these scenes in Drumheller, a desert like area within a 2 hour drive from our Calgary studio.
7. How do you find working with different directors and writers for the Heartland episodes? Are there any issues with plot consistency?
I believe having different writers and directors keeps the show from becoming stagnant. New ideas and visions help motivate all of the cast and crew from being complacent.
8. Will the new baby take after Amy or Ty in the next season? Which do you hope for?
Since we only see Baby Borden as an infant it is really hard to see her personality develop. I love working with her and believe the fans will love seeing Amy and Ty as parents.
9. What do you think your plans are for the future after Heartland? Do you wish to continue to pursue similar acting roles or move more into major film productions?
I would never slam a door before it has opened but I have no plans to pursue acting in any shape or form. I love my time on Heartland and I am so fortunate this role presented itself at just the right time in my life. I can’t wait to see what life brings when Heartland has written its final chapter.
Interview by Danica Streader