Heartland fans first met Jade Virani, played by Madison Cheeatow, in season 7, episode 8, titled “Hotshot.” Throughout the seasons, and the years, Jade lands herself into heaps of trouble, just like any young adult. However, more recently Jade has shown a more responsible side, as she gets hired on as a waitress at Maggie’s Diner and also takes up bronc riding.
It has been an interesting to watch Jade – and Madison herself – grow into her character. Heartland airs on CBC on Sundays at 7:00 p.m./7:30 p.m. NT.
1. How did you get involved in Heartland? (What was the audition process like, etc.?)
It was the same as any other audition process. It took place in Toronto, where I am located, and I believe there was one scene. When I originally booked the role, it was supposed to be for a one episode spot, with the possibility for a second episode. Now it’s been four seasons since my first episode and I’m still here.
2. Did you have any riding experience before Heartland?
Pretty much zero.
3. How has Jade’s character grown/evolved over the past three years?
In so many ways! When I first came on the show Jade was 16, and just so lost, and had a lot of anger, and confusion about herself and just, no real path. And now in season 10, I mean she is by no means perfect or even close to it, but she has goals, she has a place where she really thrives and belongs (the rodeo), and she has at least one real friend (Georgie). I think their relationship has really been beneficial to both characters and has given each of them someone to depend on and keep each other in check. It’s kind of unconventional given that there is a real age difference between them, but I really love that about it, because it gives it a bit of a sister vibe. I think Jade will always have insecurities and a feeling of having been a bit abandoned by her family, and having characters like Georgie, Tim and even Amy at times be there for her and show her some tough love, has been really essential to her growth.
4. What do you enjoy most about playing Jade?
Well I love that she’s a bronc rider. It is definitely not a path I expected her to go down, but it’s super badass, and for me it’s so interesting because it’s a whole world that I never knew anything about. I will be honest, in real life you could not pay me any amount of money to get on a bucking bronc, the amount of skill and strength that these stunt people have is just brilliant to get to see.
5. How is Jade different from Madison?
She’s pretty different from me in terms of situation. I am very close with my family, unlike Jade. I’m certainly not as rebellious and impulsive as Jade, I’m for the most part much quieter and more reserved than her. One thing that I really admire about Jade is her courage, which is something I love about her and that I get to learn from her.
6. Tell us about learning how to bronc ride.
Well I absolutely have never ridden a real bronc. I understand the theory behind it and what you are supposed to do while riding, but all the real riding is done with stunt doubles. I actually have two stunt doubles and they both have years of experience in various rodeo events. What I get to do is ride a fake horse that is powered by one guy pulling a lever up and down, which mimics the motion of a bronc. I get to sit on that and make all the faces and sounds and pretend I’m riding a real bronc. And that is as close as I will ever get to riding a real bronc.
7. Do you ride outside of filming?
Yes, not super regularly, but on set they give us lessons, which are awesome and so much fun. And I’ve also spent a bit of time with Alicia at the barn that she rides at. She let me ride her horse a few times, which was amazing, and she gives me little lessons. She rides English so it’s a bit different than a lot of the riding that I get to do on the show. I wouldn’t go as far to say that I am a great rider, but I really love getting the opportunity and I will say, I’m definitely not bad, if I do say so.
8. Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories to share?
I’m sure there are many, I think the biggest things is that everyone on that set is so nice, and there are some real comedians, and pranksters. I think one of my favourite moments this year was one of my last days on set. It was November so it was freezing out, and I was doing a scene with Chris Potter and Amber, and just as they were finishing the set up I was standing with Chris and he was going on about how this was his last outdoor scene of the season, and somehow he had made it all year without any snow, and he was really pleased about it. Then they yell action and we start the scene and probably about two seconds in, it starts snowing so heavily we had to stop the scene and rearrange the whole day. And so it was that Chris got his untimely Alberta snow day after all.
9. What do you enjoy doing on your time off?
I am a huge homebody. I have a few pets (dog, cat and a snake). I love spending time with them and caring for them; they can be a handful but I just love them. I read a lot and have been doing a bit of writing actually, which is pretty new for me. I love to travel. I am planning a trip right now to go to Peru in a few months, which is exciting as I’ve never been to South America. I also really love to cook!
10. Is there anything that you’re currently working on (that you can talk about)?
Yes, actually at the end of January I started on a miniseries. I don’t know how much I am able to say about it now so I won’t give any details, but I will say that it is SO different from Heartland. It is going to be quite terrifying and I guess it would be categorized as a suspense thriller. Hopefully when we start shooting I can give more details about it. I don’t expect there will too many Heartlanders who will be into it, but it would be so cool if there were. For me as an actor I just find it so exciting to get to work on projects that vary so much from each other, it’s what makes this job feel so unique and fresh.
Readers can enjoy other profiles of Heartland actors; meet Graham Wardle, CBC Heartland’s Ty Borden, and meet Shaun Johnston, CBC Heartland’s Grandpa Jack, and meet Michelle Morgan, CBC Heartland’s Lou Fleming and meet Miranda Frigon, CBC Heartland’s Janice Wayne, and meet Torrence Combs, CBC Heartland’s Chase Powers, and meet Cindy Busby, CBC Heartland’s Ashley Stanton