When Calls the Heart is returning for Season 8 on Sunday, Feb. 21 at 9 p.m. ET on the Hallmark Channel. It is the second full season without Lori Loughlin, who was charged for her role in the 2019 college admissions scandal. Loughlin was charged just before the show's sixth season debuted, and her scenes were edited out of the show. When Calls the Heart is based on the book by Janette Oke and stars Erin Krakow.
Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither took part in the sport. The couple first pleaded not guilty to the charges but eventually agreed to plead guilty. Loughlin spent two months in a federal prison in California and was released in December 2020. Giannulli was sentenced to five months, and his attempt for an early release was denied last month. Loughlin was also ordered to pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli will have to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
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After her release, a source told PEOPLE Loughlin hoped to return to acting. "She previously expressed that she would love to act again at some point," the source explained. "She always loved her career. She loves filming and creating movies. The only focus right now though is to reunite with Mossimo." However, after the scandal broke, Netflix said she would not participate in the last episodes of Fuller House and Hallmark fired her from When Calls the Heart and all other projects.
Since Loughlin was just released from prison and When Calls the Heart is filmed in Canada, it is clear that she was not involved in Season 8. She is not seen in the promotional art on the Hallmark Channel website or listed among the show's actors. Aside from Krakow, the show also features Pascale Hutton, Jack Wagner, Kavan Smith, Kevin McGarry, Chris McNally, and Paul Greene.
In Season 8, When Calls the Heart will grapple with the love triangle between Elizabeth (Krakow), Nathan (McGarry), and Lucas (McNally). "I hope we don’t wring our fans into knots, but I think it’s an enjoyable and interesting, truthful pursuit of Elizabeth, and her trying to parse her feelings for these two men," showrunner John Tinker told the Gainesville Times. "But, early on, she does make a choice."