Mallory Wells was a fictional character in the long-running Canadian family drama “Heartland,” which made its television debut on CBC in 2007 and aired its 16th season in 2022. She was a young girl who was quite nosy, very much into everyone’s business, but who meant well. She had been portrayed by Jessica Amlee since she was 12, and many were surprised when she left the series after season seven, only to return briefly in its 10th season.
From Season 10 of Heartland (aired spring of 2017): Amber Marshall as Amy Fleming (left) and Jessica Amlee as Mallory Wells.
Background on “Heartland”
The show was based on the best-selling 26-novel series “Heartland” by Lauren Brooke, pen name of authors Linda Chapman and Beth Chambers. It started with the novel “Coming Home,” published in 2000. Michael Weinberg, an investment banker, was in a discussion with a friend about how many of the shows on TV were embarrassing to watch with children, when his friend recommended the “Heartland” book series as something that would make a great TV show. He read it and saw its potential, but knew that changes had to be made so that it would cater not just to the young audience, but to the whole family. With that in mind, he bought the rights in 2004, and pitched the idea for a TV series to CBC.
A pilot was made, and then it was given the greenlit for season one, with Michael as the creator and executive producer. According to writer and showrunner Heather Conkie, the novel series, particularly the first eight books, provided them with the storylines for its first season. They gave some of the characters different backstories to make them more riveting for a TV audience, and by its second season, it had turned into a world of its own, but Michael said that as it evolved over the years, the heart and soul remained the same, as it was still a character-driven show.
The story was about healing both horses and lives, set on a ranch called Heartland in Alberta, Canada. 16-year-old Amy Fleming (Amber Marshall) moved in with her widowed grandfather Jack Bartlett (Shaun Johnston) at the ranch, after her mother Marion (Lisa Langlois) died saving a horse named Spartan. With the ability she shared with her mother as a horse whisperer, and with her older sister Lou’s (Michelle Morgan) expertise in handling the business end of things, they worked together in reviving the bankrupt family ranch. Ty Borden (Graham Wardle) was hired by their mother before her death as the ranch hand, and he eventually became part of the family.
Ratings and reception
Its TV premiere in 2007 drew more than half a million viewers, beating the most-watched Canadian series. “Da Kink in My Hair,” in their time slot at that point, and with an average of over 700,000 viewers for its first season, it became CBC’s second most popular show that year. Its loyal fan base grew, and by its ninth season, each episode had an average of a million viewers, and the series remained strong in the ratings game in the succeeding seasons.
— Heartland (@HeartlandOnCBC) June 1, 2022
Indirect responsibility for its entry into the US TV scene was the Writers Guild of America, as they went on strike from November 2007 to February 2008, and with no new American shows being produced during that time, network executives started looking at Canadian TV series. In 2010, “Heartland” began airing on CBS, and by 2016, it was being broadcast in over 100 countries, the show obviously striking a chord with people of all ages around the world. According to some reports, the series contributed over $200 million to the economy of Alberta, as the province became a favorite tourist destination as well as a filming location. As the series’ 125th episode aired in October 2016, it became the longest-running one-hour TV drama in the history of Canadian TV.
Get to know Jessica Amlee, the actress
Jessica Kelsey Amlee was born on 17 July 1994. She started acting at a very young age – while other kids were urged by their parents to audition for commercials or shows, Jessica’s case was different, as she was the one who told her mom about wanting to do what the actresses Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen did. Apparently, she watched the ABC sitcom “Full House” from which the Olsen twins made their debut in acting, as they took turns playing the role of the baby Michelle Tanner, as well as making their mystery movies.
At that time, Jessica was involved in competitive dancing, and the dance studio was right next door to a talent agency. Her mom made inquiries about the possibility of Jessica getting into the entertainment industry, and the agency sent the aspiring young actress to auditions, which she found to be exciting and fun to do; before they knew it, she was doing lots of TV commercials. As she became busy with work, the head of the dance studio asked her to choose between acting and dancing – she chose the former, and was glad that she did. She said that as young as she was, she knew that acting was the right bet for her future.
By the time she was 10, she’d already done around 60 commercials, but came a time when she was filming for a TV commercial, and realized that she was done with it. She knew her mom was watching the monitor, so she gave her a look through the camera, which her mom correctly interpreted that it would be the last one her daughter would do; after that she retired from doing commercials.
She was six when she first acted in a TV show, playing the role of Annie Owen in the “Dead Dog Walking” episode of NBC’s science fiction series, “Mysterious Ways” in 2001. That same year, she made a guest appearance in Syfy’s “The Outer Limits,” Fox’s “Dark Angel,” and the WB’s “Smallville.” Jessica made her film debut in 2002, in the supernatural horror “Wes Craven Presents: They.”
She continued with several TV and movie projects, and didn’t have acting lessons until she was 16, when her co-star Graham Wardle recommended that she took one at the acting studio Cucumber Satellite based in Vancouver. When she was 18, she moved to Los Angeles and continued her formal training, believing that it was crucial for her growth as an actor, because she wanted to play various roles; she only wished that she’d started earlier.
About Mallory Wells
Mallory was a close neighbor of the Bartlett-Fleming, and was often at the Heartland ranch prying and meddling in their lives; she could be sarcastic and borderline annoying at times. She had no filter, and so ended up insulting people, but it was nothing malicious. Mallory genuinely cared about them, and wanted to get to the bottom of things, so was constantly pushing people to be upfront about their feelings, so gttting into a lot of shenanigans, and revealing people’s secrets. As an only child and with her parents always away on a tour, it had become her way to integrate herself into the Bartletts and the Flemings, and get close to them.
Jake, her love interest
Mallory and Jake Anderson (Jake Church) first met at a Hudson show, when he introduced himself as her fan. When Amy won the competition, in his excitement, Jake jumped off the bleacher and tried to hug Mallory, who shoved him off her causing him to fall. Later, at a party, Jake tried talking to her again, and she finally gave in and hung out with him. He spared no effort in getting her to like him, but she was becoming annoyed by it. She tried to avoid him, but when that didn’t work, she told him outright that she didn’t like him, and that he should leave her alone. Later, she told grandpa Jack that she didn’t want him to go away, but to just not pay her too much attention; he slowly won her over, and they became friends. It took her a while to develop feelings for him as she’d become smitten with another boy named Badger. However, when it appeared that Jake was interested in another girl, she became jealous of her.
On playing Mallory
Jessica found her Mallory character to be very fascinating, as she was full of mischief. She was only around 12 or 13 when she began playing that role, and upon reading the script, she would often take personally whatever Mallory said that she didn’t like, so a lot of the character’s emotions were hers. She said that perhaps this was how Mallory became more empathetic to young teens – Mallory was outspoken, while Jessica was reserved and polite.
Her character wasn’t in the book, so she wasn’t originally in the pilot episode. She was only added in before it aired, because they needed someone in the younger age group, particularly in the 10 to 12 category. Heather, one of the writers, created Mallory, and patiently worked with Jessica to help her understand the character; once she nailed it, she got the part. Her first scene was standing on the porch in her big orange bubble vest, as she gave Amy and the rest a hug as they came home. Jessica felt it was a great introduction for her character, and remembered being so excited to see them, and being part of the show.
On her love for horses
In the TV series, she had a horse named Copper. Riding horses wasn’t a problem for Jessica, because she practically grew up around them. Her parents had horses, and her first time riding one was with her mom as she was sitting on her lap. The horse was just walking when it suddenly bucked, throwing her mom off. As her mom landed on the ground, she was holding Jessica up with arms outstretched, similar to how the cub Simba in the movie “Lion King” was lifted up and presented to the pride by a shaman; Jessica could only laugh as she told this story. Also, when she was 11, she and her three best friends worked at a barn for a year so that they could get free vaulting lessons.
On kissing her love interests in the show
Jake Church was always on the set, because his grandfather was John Scott, the owner of the horses used in “Heartland.” When Jessica learned that he was cast as Jake Anderson, the love interest of Mallory, she made the producers promise that she and Jake would never kiss. It turned out that it would be the least of her worries, as her character had a huge crush on Ty, and she kissed him before she left for boarding school. Jessica was 12 at that time while Graham was much older than her, so she was understandably terrified and mortified at the same time. The actor assured her that it was no more than a peck, even if he was also uncomfortable with it. She also had to kiss Badger later on, and then Jake.
Fans were saddened when Jessica left the show, as her character provided comic relief from all the drama in the storyline. Her exit wasn’t controversial, because the main reason for her decision was to explore new opportunities, and broaden her experience as an actor. She wanted to challenge herself, as she said, ‘Heartland was very stable, which was great, and it was a great job for a young person but I needed to expand myself and see what I’m made of.’,
In season seven, Mallory lost her job at Maggie’s Diner when it closed down. However, she became its manager after she convinced the new owner, Lou, that she would be a good one. Meanwhile, Jake found work at a wild west show in Paris, France. She was in denial that she liked Jake, and it took Ty to make her analyze her true feelings for the young cowboy. When Jake said goodbye to her, he asked her to go to Paris with him, but she was non-committal, but hugged and said how much they were going to miss each other. Later, Lou fired Mallory as she felt that the latter was too young to be tied down to that kind of job, and encouraged her to do something crazy and adventurous. Much to Lou’s surprise, Mallory didn’t become annoyed with her, but was grateful that she was given the boot.
Mallory was scared of making a wrong decision and regretting it for the rest of her life, but grandpa Jack shared his wisdom about how the things that people regretted the most in life were the ones they didn’t do, rather than the ones they did; she then went to Paris with Jake.
Mallory came home
Returning to the show, even if it was just for a couple of episodes, made a lot of fans happy as they got to see Mallory who was all grown up. The actress shared that it felt like coming home to a safe, fun, and wonderful environment. She had come to realize after doing other projects how lucky she was to have worked with the cast and crew of “Heartland” when she was in her teens.
In season 10’s “Home Sweet Home” episode, Mallory surprised everyone when she came home for a visit. She had been living in London and working at a posh clothing store by day, and taking classes at night. Despite all appearances that everything was fine with her, the people at the ranch knew there was more to her visit than just attending Amy’s baby shower. Amy tried to get Mallory to share what was really going on with her, but all she wanted was to be left alone.
As usual, it was grandpa Jack who got her to confess. It turned out that for the past year, her life was a complete mess – she flunked out of school, had annoying roommates at her flat, and her salary wasn’t enough. She thought that by being back at the place that she loved, she would find her old self. While all these might be true, the main reason for her returning to the ranch had something to do with Jake. Apparently, Jake proposed to her in Paris two weeks prior, and she needed time to think, and believed that being back home would put everything in perspective. After she had a serious talk with Jake, who followed her to the ranch, they made plans for the wedding. However, Mallory got cold feet, as it dawned on her that, unlike Jake, she wasn’t ready to settle down and start a family, although Jake said that the reason he wanted to marry her was just so he could be with her.
As Mallory remembered how she and Jake had been best friends for a decade, and how much she loved him, she wanted to marry him, but Jake wasn’t convinced. It seemed over between them, but as she was on her way to the airport, Jake was coming to see her and ask her to marry him one last time. He said that despite her flaws of talking too much, failing to make up her mind on everything, and sticking her nose into everybody’s business, he couldn’t imagine life without her. The wedding ceremony took place at the ranch, with the Bartletts and Flemings in attendance, after which they left for Montana in a motor home.
The story of Mallory continues, as she returned briefly in season 16 of “Heartland.”