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When the 'unbashedly Albertan' TV drama Heartland debuted on CBC

As the family drama went to air in 2007, its creators said they hoped to spur on the Alberta film industry.

Show was based on a book series about a teen 'horse whisperer' who takes over the family ranch

Actors Graham Wardle (left) and Amber Marshall, stars of the CBC show 'Heartland', pose for a photo in the stables at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto on Nov. 9, 2009. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Since it ended in 1990, The Beachcombers has stood tallest among CBC dramas for longevity, logging a remarkable 19 seasons on the air.

But it's got competition racing up behind it in the form of Heartland, a program now in its 15th season on CBC-TV.

Back in August 2007, reporter Lorna Sandberg visited the set of the new show, which is produced by Seven24 Films of Calgary. 

"It's about a young girl named Amy, who takes over the family ranch after her mother dies," explained Sandberg.

The show, set southwest of Calgary, was based on a series of bestselling books by Lauren Brooke.

"It's about her coming to terms with her mother's death," said producer Tom Cox. "But also coming to terms with the fact she has inherited her mother's gift as a horse whisperer."

Upon its debut, the Globe and Mail called Heartland a "very family-friendly" show in which "the horses are the stars." The first episode aired on Oct. 14, 2007.

'Unabashedly Albertan'

An 'unabashedly Albertan' drama

14 years ago
1:56
Heartland, a new program on CBC-TV about a young woman who takes over her family's horse ranch, gives opportunities to Alberta film crews in 2007. 1:56

Sandberg, who was reporting for the Calgary edition of CBC News at Six, noted Heartland's setting in the "spectacular foothills of southern Alberta."  

"This one is so clearly southern Alberta, unabashedly Albertan," said Cox. "That makes it special as well."

Sandberg also spoke with the show's actors.

"It's not so much a story about a girl and a horse," said actor Shaun Johnston. "A lot of the moral issues that these teenage characters are going to encounter during the course of the series are really reflective of our own world."

Amber Marshall, who was seen holding a kitten as a hairstylist touched up her hair, explained why playing Amy was "the perfect role for me."

"I work at a veterinary clinic, and I've also volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation centre," said Marshall.

Heartland also offered a boost to the province's film industry.

"It means continuity of employment for crew and cast. It means you can train new people, you can build the infrastructure," said Cox. "It's an economic heartline."

Actor Nathaniel Arcand had the final word.

 "It's heartwarming," he said. "If you love horses, this is a great show."

"If you love horses, this is a great show," said actor Nathaniel Arcand, who played the character Scott Cardinal on Heartland from 2007 to 2018. (CBC News at Six/CBC Archives)

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