'Heartland' star riding high

Canadian Amber Marshall’s familiarity with horses has been a boon to her role as Amy on the coming...

Canadian Amber Marshall’s familiarity with horses has been a boon to her role as Amy on the coming CBC series Heartland.

BILL HARRIS - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 4:40 AM ET

Amber Marshall not only has found the perfect summer job, she hopes it will last a lot longer than a summer.

Next month the 19-year-old Marshall, who already is a veteran actress, will leave her home in London, Ont., for the big skies of Calgary, where she’ll be taping the new CBC series Heartland.

Marshall will be handling horses in virtually every scene. Well, how convenient is that for Marshall, who is a life-long horse person?

“Obviously, when I saw this role, I went, ‘Wow, this is so perfect for me,’ ” Marshall said. “I have two horses myself and I’ve been heavily involved with horses from a young age.

“And you know, some (actors), they say they can ride when they actually have been on a horse only once or twice. That’s the truth. When I first went out there, and we did our first scene for the pilot, I got on a horse and they said, ‘Oh thank God, you can ride.’ It’s so hard to tell, because some people will say they can, just to, you know, try to get the part.”

Marshall said the writers actually altered several scenes when they became aware of her riding abilities.

“My character is dealing with horses for pretty much the whole show,” Marshall said. “When they found out I could ride, they added a lot more of the actual riding. If you’re dealing with an actor who is a little bit timid around horses, obviously you’ll want to try to have as few horse scenes as possible, right? But no, they were happy to add that in.”

Marshall first caught the attention of the entertainment world on a widespread scale with her award-nominated portrayal of a famous kidnapping victim in The Elizabeth Smart Story (CBS). She also has earned regular and recurring roles in a number of TV series.

Speaking of TV series, there actually is another series called Heartland that is scheduled to air on TNT in the United States later this year, and Marshall acknowledged that has caused some confusion. Her Heartland is set on a horse ranch, and has nothing to do with human heart operations.

“I hope they don’t get the scripts mixed up,” Marshall said with a laugh. “One day I’ll be handling a horse and the next day I’ll be performing open-heart surgery.”

The CBC’s Heartland is a multi-generational one-hour family drama set in the fictional town of Hudson, located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. Adapted from a series of best-selling novels in the U.K., Heartland chronicles the comings and goings of the Fleming family on a ranch that specializes in healing abused or neglected horses and finding them new homes.

The ranch is deeply in debt, and young Amy (Marshall) is the one who is most keen on keeping the place functioning as an animal-rescue centre. Again, this is right up Marshall’s alley.

“I always have wanted to be a veterinarian (in addition to being an actress) and I’ve worked part-time in a vet clinic for four years now,” Marshall said. “I also volunteer at an animal rehabilitation centre for wildlife.

“There always are different paths, but for right now acting is my true love. I always can surround myself with animals.”

That’s where Heartland comes in, again. For Amber Marshall, calling Heartland a summer job just doesn’t do it justice.

“It’s my dream job,” she said.

Heartland will debut on CBC this fall.


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