Why Bai Ling Should Join the Main Cast of ‘When Calls the Heart’

When I accepted The Sunshine Blogger Award and The Blogger Recognition Award back in February, I said I wanted to see Bai Ling join the main cast of When Calls the Heart, portraying Hope Valley’s first female Mountie. I also mentioned wanting to see this happen in my list of Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated. However, these explanations were brief. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Out of all the actresses you’d want to see star on one of your favorite TV shows, why Bai Ling?” Well, that is a very good question, and I’m about to give some very good answers! In this editorial, I will provide four major reasons why Bai Ling should join the main cast of When Calls the Heart. Before I thoroughly explain these reasons, I want to bring up three disclaimers. This editorial is meant to be a suggestion to the creative team of the show. So, any casting decisions are up to them. Bai’s career is her own, which means that whether or not she wants to star on When Calls the Heart is a decision only she can make. Whenever I refer to the main cast of the show, I am talking about the actors and actresses who appear in the opening sequence of each episode.

Here is a screenshot from Bai’s Asian Voices interview from 2018. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, AsianVoices Tv.

Bai Would Represent a Series of Firsts for the Show

Since 2014, many characters have come and gone throughout the overall story of When Calls the Heart. Whether these characters have made short appearances or claimed Hope Valley as their permanent residence, each individual has had an important role to play. In the seven and a half season lifespan of the show, there have been no Asian characters featured in any part of the story. Also, no female Mounties have arrived in Hope Valley or any area of Canada. Just in Hope Valley alone, several female characters have been portrayed and written as independent individuals who lead successful lives. From season six to season eight, Fiona Miller has evolved from a telephone operator to a small business owner. Though she has had her obstacles along the way, Fiona has overcome each one in order to achieve her dreams. Having a female Mountie would fit the narrative When Calls the Heart’s creative team has carried since the very beginning. As fans have heard and seen from other on-screen Mounties, this particular job has its challenges. However, I know this new character would prove that she is just as important as the others in Hope Valley!

When Lori Loughlin was removed from the cast due to her involvement in the infamous College Admissions Scandal, When Calls the Heart’s main cast was left without an actress over the age of fifty. The main cast has also not featured any actors or actresses who weren’t white. Because Bai Ling happens to be in her mid-50s, she would become the first actress over fifty to join the main cast in two years. Bai would be the first Asian cast member not only in the main cast, but in the entire show’s history as well.  If Bai’s character chose to form a romantic relationship with either Bill Avery or Henry Gowan, they would become the first prominent interracial couple on When Calls the Heart. Up until this point, the show has had only one interracial couple, which were Robert’s parents. But they only made a brief appearance in the 2017 movie, When Calls the Heart: The Christmas Wishing Tree.

When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. 

New Storytelling Opportunities

In the seven years that When Calls the Heart has stayed on the air, many stories have been included in the script. Each story has explored a different character’s background or a different component of the town. If Bai Ling were to join the main cast of the show and portray Hope Valley’s first female Mountie, that would call for a new story to be told. What would it look like to have a female Mountie in the 1910s, when female Mounties were not as common as they are now? What obstacles would this new character face? These are questions that would be answered if this story were introduced. Since When Calls the Heart has never had a female Mountie before, it would be interesting to see her dynamic among the other characters. Would she be friends with those who have appeared on the show for a long period of time or get along better with those who have been on the show for less than three years? Bai is Chinese, so the screenwriters could find ways to incorporate her culture and heritage into her character’s story. Hallmark has never acknowledged the Chinese Lunar New Year in any of their programs. Having one episode revolving around this holiday would be a good place to start.

Here is a screenshot from Bai’s Artist TV interview from 2014. Screenshot taken from the Youtube channel, Szina1000

Bai is an Underrated Actress with Years of Acting Experience

When Calls the Heart has seen many actors and actresses make their appearances on the show. Some of these actors have household names, such as Brooke Shields. Others have been underrated, like Max Lloyd-Jones. But no matter what status an actor has, the majority of the show’s actors have had at least some acting experience before they starred in an episode. For these points, I’ll bring up Jack Wagner and Pascale Hutton as examples. For thirty years, Jack starred on the soap opera, General Hospital. Within that timeframe, he gained acting experience as well as notoriety. When Jack joined When Calls the Heart’s main cast, his fanbase and notoriety grew, giving him a “standing ovation.” Before she became a series regular, Pascale was given small to supporting roles in two Hallmark productions: 2010’s A Family Thanksgiving and 2014’s Recipe for Love. After making her first appearance toward the end of the first season as Rosemary, Pascale made a household name for herself in the Hallmark community. During her time on When Calls the Heart, Pascale has starred in ten Hallmark films! On June 5th, she will star in her eleventh movie from the network, You Had Me at Aloha!

According to IMDB, Bai Ling has 132 acting credits. While I haven’t seen all of the projects listed, I have watched a few of them, with two of those projects being covered on 18 Cinema Lane (a review of The Crow and a review of an episode from the television show Homicide: Life on the Street). Out of Bai’s projects I’ve seen, two of them have been television show episodes from Homicide: Life on the Street and Lost. However, she was given guest-starring roles in those episodes, working with a limited amount of material. In an interview from 2009, Bai Ling said the following in regards to her career:

“On the other hand, there’s one thing I hope even though I’m grateful: I think other roles I have been offered are not near the level of my talent as an actress. I’m hungry for those great magical roles like Kate Winslet gets. Like my role in Red Corner. I also won an Asian Academy Award, but here, those roles don’t come along for me. I can make magic. Magic is a beautiful gift as an actress to play all these different characters. Those opportunities, I am open for.”

The creative team behind When Calls the Heart has a beautiful opportunity to grant Bai’s wishes. Placing Bai in the main cast would give her more acting material than she has received from other television shows. It would also allow her to receive the recognition she deserves.

This is a page from The Crow: The Movie about Bai Ling that was featured in my review of Homicide: Life on the Street. I thought it would be appropriate to include it in this editorial. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Casting Bai Would Force Hallmark to Address Some of Their Hypocrisy

In my list of Hallmark’s Top 10 Missteps From the 2010s That Should Not Be Repeated, I brought up how Hallmark has become blatantly hypocritical since 2019. Their stance on diversity is one area where Hallmark’s hypocrisy has been obvious. Last year, George Zaralidis, Hallmark’s network program publicity vice president, said, “Diversity and inclusion is a top priority for us.” But the network’s actions have been much louder than their words. I will bring up the Canfield family as an example for this point. Season eight has seen the introduction of the Canfield family. Now that the show is about halfway through the season, the Canfield family has appeared in less than ten scenes total. They also haven’t received a major storyline yet. When they do face a conflict, it is resolved in the episode after it was introduced. Meanwhile, Elizabeth and her love triangle have been covered for two and a half seasons. It also has been heavily promoted in the show’s marketing, even when an episode has little or nothing to do with the love triangle. On a recent cover of TV Guide, the only cast members that were featured were Erin Krakow, Chris McNally, and Kevin McGarry. The cover’s caption read “Who will Elizabeth choose? The irresistible love triangle of Hallmark’s When Calls the Heart.” The Canfield family or any other character were not only absent from the cover, but they were also not referenced. Emphasizing one character or storyline is hypocritical, as it undermines the other characters and stories the show has to offer. When Calls the Heart was never meant to be about one character, but about the town as a whole. If Bai Ling were to join this show’s main cast, Hallmark would have no choice but to address some of these hypocrisies. This means When Calls the Heart’s creative team would have to give Bai a significant amount of screen-time and a significant number of lines in the script. She would also have to be significantly featured in When Calls the Heart’s marketing.

This is the cover of TV Guide that I referred to in my editorial. Cover created by TV Guide.

Auggie Pullman, from Wonder, once said “Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcometh the world.” For seven years, When Calls the Heart has given many people their “standing ovations” both in front of the camera and behind it. The show’s creative team has created a place where various talents and skills are celebrated. A lifetime of stories have been told because of the show’s desire to give as many people the recognition they deserve. While a ninth season has not been announced yet, fans have already been making requests for the next season. But these requests have revolved around which suitor Elizabeth will choose. What makes my suggestion different is that it is more meaningful than Elizabeth’s decision, and that it will outlive the hype surrounding the love triangle. At the end of day, it’s about bringing a new voice and perspective to Hope Valley’s table. As I bring this editorial to a close, I have to ask: What makes Bai Ling any different from the other cast and crew members on When Calls the Heart? Doesn’t she deserve a standing ovation too?

Sally Silverscreen

Here are the links where quotes or information came from:

Bai Ling lives the high-voltage life

https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/a35879351/when-calls-the-heart-season-9-renewal/

https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/news/hallmark-will-include-lgbtq-storylines-in-christmas-movie-lineup-diversity-and-inclusion-are-top-priority-for-us/ar-BB16Py6W

Sally Watches…Homicide: Life on the Street

Recently, I purchased The Crow: The Movie, a book that explores the production of the 1994 film. While reading that book, I learned that Bai Ling, who portrayed Myca in the movie, guest-starred on an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. The Crow: The Movie also revealed that Jon Polito, who portrayed Gideon, was a regular on the aforementioned television show. As of November 2020, I haven’t seen much from either actor’s filmography. Until a few days ago, I didn’t even know this show existed. Fortunately, I was able to find Bai and Jon’s episode online, which is one of the reasons why I’m reviewing it. Like my other television episode reviews, I will write about what I liked about the episode, what I didn’t like about the episode, the story itself, the other factors from the episode, and my overall thoughts. But similar to my episode review of Touched by an Angel, I won’t be sharing my thoughts on Homicide: Life on the Street as a series, as I’m only focusing on one episode.

Screenshot of Homicide: Life on the Street‘s title card taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Episode Name: And The Rockets Dead Glare

Season 1, Episode 7

Premiere Date: March 17th, 1993

What I liked about this episode:

As I mentioned in the introduction, I have not seen much from Bai’s or Jon’s filmography. In fact, the only projects of Bai’s I’ve seen is The Crow and the Lost episode, “Stranger in a Strange Land”. Her roles on those programs, Myca and Achara, are presented as mysterious individuals who convey a sense of mysticism. This is portrayed through the characters’ actions and choices. Because Bai’s character on Homicide: Life on the Street, Teri Chow, is not mysterious in the same way as Myca or Achara, this forces her to rely on emotion instead of actions. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” shows Bai effectively using emotion when interacting with Jon Polito’s character, Steve Crosetti, and Meldrick Lewis, Steve’s detective partner. In the beginning of the episode, Teri tearfully reveals the identity of the murder victim and the likely cause of his death. Bai’s performance not only shows how murder can affect those surrounding the victim, but the battles some people may face as well. I also found her to be the stand-out actor in this episode!

What I didn’t like about this episode:

Just like The Crow, Jon and Bai share only one scene on their episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. However, a major difference is the aforementioned scene was Bai’s only scene in the entire fifty-four-minute episode. Teri is referenced by Steve and Meldrick long after her initial introduction. But aside from that first scene, she doesn’t make any further appearances. While Bai receives more lines in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” than she did in her and Jon’s scene from The Crow, her character is not as significant in the overall story as I hoped and expected. It also doesn’t help that the mystery in this specific storyline is overshadowed by Steve and Meldrick’s sightseeing adventure in Washington D.C. Because of this, the mystery remained unsolved. For almost an hour, a guilty party was not revealed, no clues were found, and there were no suspects being questioned.

The story itself:

When I first read the synopsis for “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I felt there was too much going on in the episode’s overall story. After watching the episode, I still stand by that belief. “And The Rockets Dead Glare” features four storylines; Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery/Washington D.C. trip, another murder mystery involving drugs, a court case featuring two of the series regulars (Beau Felton and Kay Howard), and a member of Baltimore’s police unit, Frank Pembleton, receiving a promotion. With four plots competing for screen-time, all of them ended up underwhelming. Even the one story I was the most invested in, Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery, was not fully engaging because of the story’s misfocus. The plot that received the most attention, Beau and Kay’s court case, revolved around events from the show’s previous episode. Because of this and because “And The Rockets Dead Glare” is the only episode of Homicide: Life on the Street I’ve seen, I found the story to be uninteresting. Had this storyline been the main focus of a two-part episode, it might have worked better from a story-telling perspective. Every plot in “And The Rockets Dead Glare” lacked a sense of urgency. It seemed like the characters spent more time having casual conversations with one another than actually doing their jobs. This screenwriting decision takes away the suspense and intrigue that is usually found on mystery/crime shows.

The other factors from this episode:

  • Pieces of media from the past can be viewed one of two ways: as products of their time or standing the test of time. Parts of “And The Rockets Dead Glare” were reflections of the ‘90s that felt exclusive to that time period, with no room to expand beyond the decade. While waiting in the hallway at the court house, Beau asks Kay if she’d like to watch Oprah, referring to Oprah’s day-time talk show. Because that show has been off the air for almost a decade, as of November 2020, it doesn’t hold the same amount of relevance it did when “And The Rockets Dead Glare” first premiered. Another example is a conversation Steve has with a government official that has aged poorly, where Steve compliments the official for his use of English.
  • I really liked Homicide: Life on the Street’s introduction! All of the shots were filmed in black-and-white, with hints of red appearing on the screen. This reminded me of The Crow, where the film’s color palette shared similar hues throughout the story. In the introduction, mysterious music could be heard in the background. This sets a tone that indicates a suspenseful outcome of what will unfold.
  • As I said in the introduction, I had never heard of Homicide: Life on the Street before reading The Crow: The Movie. Therefore, I did not see “And The Rockets Dead Glare” when it originally aired. When I watched this episode for this review, I noticed how all of the on-screen text was backwards. I doubt this happened in March of 1993 when the episode first premiered on television. However, I’m wondering if the person who uploaded this episode online made this decision for copyright related reasons?

My overall thoughts:

Now that I have seen Homicide: Life on the Street, I understand why it isn’t well remembered. The episode I watched, “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, was one of the most mundane programs I’ve ever seen. While it had a strong start and promising potential, the stories themselves were not as interesting as they could have been. Despite having seen only one episode of this show, it felt like Homicide: Life on the Street was desperately trying to ride the coat-tails of a show like Law and Order without fully grasping what made a program like that work. Going against Homicide: Life on the Street’s favor is featuring four main storylines in the overall episode instead of one mystery case. The focus on characters having casual-style conversations with each other negatively impacted key areas of these plots. As stated in this review is how Steve and Meldrick’s trip to Washington D.C. overshadowed the murder mystery they were required to solve. If you are a fan of The Crow and are interested in seeing “And The Rockets Dead Glare”, I’d recommend watching the scenes involving Steve and Meldrick’s murder mystery for Bai’s and Jon’s performance alone. Everything else can be skipped, as it’ll just lead you to disappointment.

Rating: A very low 3 out of 5

This is a screenshot I took of my copy of The Crow: The Movie. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Bai Ling. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
This is a screenshot I took from The Crow: The Movie‘s page about Jon Polito. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Have you watched The Crow? If so, what TV show episode featuring a star of this movie would you like to see me review? Please let me know in the comment section!

Have fun on television!

Sally Silverscreen