Ben Rosenbaum – When Calls The Heart
By: Ruth Hill
If you are a zealous fan of “When Calls the Heart,” (WCTH) you may have seen the hashtag #HickamsHearties and marveled about the man who plays this docile, but stalwart character. It was with great joy that I discovered the dashing man who breathes life into this small but integral character–Ben Rosenbaum. He has been incredibly supportive of my work this season and I was so honored when he took some time from his busy schedule to answer some questions about his work with WCTH and provide some insight into the particularly intriguing man he has played for three seasons.
What inspired you to become an actor?
When I was six years old, my parents took me to see a play in Minnesota that included a backstage tour at the Children’s Theatre Company (Tony Award winning! Minneapolis has an incredible theater scene) and I was hooked. I asked my parents then and there to audition for the CTC’s training program. I trained from that young age and participated in all my school plays right up through high school. From there, I auditioned for college programs and when I was accepted to every program I auditioned for I started taking the idea of acting professionally much more seriously. Ken Washington, one of the founders of the college program I attended (University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theatre BFA Actor Training Program), was so invested in his students that it was impossible not to feel inspired and empowered.
What are the pros and cons of acting on the stage versus TV/film? Do you have a preference between the two?
Nothing quite compares to the energy and immediacy of performing live in front of an audience. In theatre, we commonly refer to the audience as the final character in a play—one that changes every night and directly affects the show. At every show, the actors are making a direct connection with the people watching so there isn’t any chance for a director or editor to make changes, rearrangements or select between different takes of a scene. So, the actors are collectively in charge of the final product. On camera, the actors and their performances become material that the directors/editors use to create the final product. When you get a great performance on camera, it feels great to know that it is preserved and will be exactly that good for every audience no matter when they see it. On stage, the performances are ever changing in subtle ways. Neither is better or worse, but they are different so I’ll always want to continue with both.
How did you get the job for “When Calls the Heart?”
I was considered for several roles throughout Season One, but it was important to me to find a character who had room to grow and would be a member of the Coal Valley/Hope Valley community. So when Hickam came around, I auditioned for the role and he quickly became a character I loved for his helpful and earnest nature. I saw potential for comedy in the man the writers created and they kept giving me more of those fun lines/scenes to play with!
How is Hickam like you? How is he different?
Hickam is a great guy–he’s honest, loyal, kind, and helpful. He’s the kind of guy who wouldn’t hurt a fly but would never run from danger. His only flaw is that he is at times too generous with his time and too selfless in his pursuits. I can’t say enough good things about him. In conclusion, we are exactly the same person…okay, so obviously that’s not the whole story…[laughs]
What’s great about WCTH is that in Hope Valley people can be the best versions of themselves if they choose to be. So, I think Hickam is the kind of man I would aspire to be in a less complicated world, hopefully, while being just a bit more assertive.
What is the atmosphere like on the set?
The cast and crew of this show are so welcoming and gracious with one another. It is an absolute joy to be there. It felt very comfortable very quickly. On a TV set, we’re always under pressure to get things done quickly, but everyone on set handles that pressure admirably—you barely notice it! I also have the envious position of spending most of my time on set with Pascale [Hutton] and Kavan [Smith] so there’s a lot of laughter in the green room.
If there is a Season Four, what do you hope to see for the future of your character?
I’d like to explore what motivates Hickam when he’s not on the clock or helping Rosemary (Pascale Hutton) with odd jobs. We’ve had glimpses of this when Hickam volunteered to defend the town and when he made a friend in Wade (nobody’s perfect), but I’d like to see how he handles a romantic relationship of his own or see him put his engineering/design talents to use. I could go on imagining different paths forward and more facets to Hickam’s character, but the truth is that the writers have a great capacity to surprise us (which is fantastic) and ultimately it’s up to them and the network to decide. I will be delighted to explore more of Hickam’s story in any way that helps WCTH as a whole!
Could you ever see yourself cast as a lead in a Hallmark film?
I think the question is can Hallmark and can you, the Hallmark fans, see me as a lead in a Hallmark film?! I, of course, would love to dive into a romantic lead!
What is the best part of working for Hallmark? And what do you think of the Hearties?
I think the Hearties are a force to be reckoned with and a major part of what makes this show such a rewarding experience. They really help to bridge the gap between live theatre and TV by giving us their energy, reactions and support when we air each episode! And the fact that Hallmark listens to its fans and consistently delivers such high quality family-friendly content for them exemplifies what is special about Hallmark Channel. It feels like a family at Hallmark.
And I’d like to give a special shoutout to #HickamsHearties for being perhaps the most dedicated of all the Hearties—only matched by Brownie supporters as the biggest fans of the smallest characters!
Did you attend the Hearties reunion earlier this year? Would you be open to going to an event like that again next year?
I did attend! It was amazing getting to meet and interact with the Hearties! I’ve never met people who are more passionate about a show or series and it was a very humbling experience. I’d love to do it again!
In your view, why is WCTH so popular with fans?
It’s the kind of show that transports its audience fully to another time and place: one that can thrill you, tug at your heart strings, make you laugh and maybe even teach you something. It’s all of that while maintaining a level of ethical integrity that allows the whole family to gather around and watch together and that’s pretty rare on TV right now.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ben is a prolific, intelligent actor with a heart that only knows kindness and consideration for all. It was a true delight to gain some insight into him as an actor and a person. In my professional opinion, it is only a matter of time before Hallmark (and other networks) ascertains the gem and unmitigated artist that Ben is and gives him a role of veritable substance so that more may experience his exceptional talent. And if you’re of the same mindset as me, I invite you to take it upon yourself to begin the momentous task of campaigning for Ben Rosenbaum to be featured as a lead in a Hallmark film (#HickamsHearties, I throw the gauntlet down!) In the meantime, be sure to follow him on social media lest you miss out on any of the updates of this suave, talented gentleman. Additionally, don’t miss the season finale of “When Calls the Heart” on the Hallmark Channel Sunday, April 10.