The beloved television series Heartland pulled at the heart strings of devoted fans with the Season 14 opener in which – SPOILER ALERT – longtime character and leading man Ty Borden, played by actor Graham Wardle, dies. The cause of death is an undiagnosed blood clot after Ty was shot saving Amy during the finale of Season 13.
Fans are gutted. One longtime viewer, who is an active dressage competitor in her fifties, told me she’s “never missed an episode.” After the season premiere, she sent me the following message, “OMG!! Just watching now. Ty died!!! That was a hard episode to watch.” For this adult fan, wine proved the appropriate balm.
But she wasn’t the only fan who had strong opinions about Ty’s long goodbye; another fan took to Twitter to say:
Another fan is done with the show for good. “I wish #Heartland cast the very best. But I’m out for S14. We are in the middle of a pandemic. I really don’t need additional sadness.”
For series star Amber Marshall, it was a secret she kept close to her heart for the better part of two years. In an interview with the Calgary Herald she said, “He wanted to let me know before he told anybody else… He and I have a very close relationship, we’ve been great friends for a number of years since the show began. And I was hurt. When he first told me, it stung a little bit. But then, as I had time to process it, I understood it. I understood the journey he was on and that nobody should stand in the way of someone who wants to pursue what their true heart’s desire is.”
Since the episode aired, Wardle released a video-taped message to fans explaining his decision to move on from the series, which is the longest-running show in the history of Canadian television. In the interview he says, “I’ve been feeling this call to move on and trying to bargain with it and I have not made this decision lightly… the long and short of it is I’m following my heart and I don’t know where it’s leading me but that’s what life’s about.”
Unlike many character departures of series past (David Caruso anyone?) Wardle apparently left to pursue passions other than acting. Last year he launched a podcast called Time Has Come . The blurb says, “What life exists for you outside your comfort zone? How does one cultivate the strength, courage and faith to move beyond the fears that hold us back? Graham Wardle explores the personal journeys of his guests and how they have stepped beyond what is familiar/safe and into the unknown.”
Wardle makes it clear that he’s on a journey of personal discovery and his fans no doubt wish him well. But it won’t be easy, and that’s a fact the actor understands. “I know this is tough because people have grown up with the show,” he says. “But I think there is also a really good story, a really good truth that everything come to an end, everything dies. Make the most of what you have.”