SC: Being involved with When Calls the Heart since the first season, what have you enjoyed the most about being part of this show?
BR: That’s an easy one! It’s the people I get to work with on set, cast and crew. I don’t have as much experience as some other actors on our show, but they have confirmed for me through their experience what I could feel intuitively, which is that our set life is exceptionally friendly and fun. I feel very lucky to be a part of it.
SC: When you are not working, how do you enjoy spending your down time?
BR: I enjoy spending my time with family and friends. I enjoy travel. I enjoy getting outside and exercising. I enjoy binge watching TV shows and seeing movies in the theatre. I enjoy trying new restaurants and exploring Los Angeles. I enjoy going to open houses. Whether I’m working or not I enjoy visiting craft coffee shops in whatever city I’m in!
SC: What characteristics do you share in common with Hickam? How would you describe your differences?
BR: I’m not as fully selfless as Hickam can often be, but I do think I am a good and loyal friend and I’ll jump in to help out when needed. I would say Hickam and I are both very polite and try to have a gentle approach to the world.
SC: Hearties took note on social media the first time Hickam was referred to by his first name. How do you think of your character (Hickam? Mike? Michael? Mike Hickam? Michael Hickam?) and why do you think this caused quite a stir?
BR: That’s very true! I was pretty surprised by the outcry I saw on Twitter, but I think it was due to the fact that “Hickam” hadn’t even been defined as a first name or last name until “Mike” was added a few seasons into the series. I still think of Hickam as a one-name entity in the company of Sting, Madonna, Beyoncé… I’m joking of course, but I do think of him as “Hickam.”
SC: Since Hickam’s past has not yet been explored in a storyline, do you have any thoughts about his history that you’ve created and use to help you get into character?
BR: I did think about it quite a bit early on and I created my own back story for the character, but it was really just for me and my development of the role. I am hopeful that we will learn more about Hickam in future seasons, so I wouldn’t want to contradict those ideas by sharing my own. What I can say pretty comfortably is that Hickam was never a mysterious out-of-towner who moved into Hope Valley with a criminal history… or was he? He wasn’t. Or was he?
SC: Would you consider Hickam to be the Where’s Waldo in Hope Valley?
BR: 100% yes. There is a thriving community of Hearties who participate in an on-going game of “Where’s Hickam?” and although I hope I become easier to spot in the future I also hope the game never ends.
SC: Hickam saved the day by creating the rocking horse in WCTH: Home for Christmas. Do you have any special skills that the Hearties might not know about?
BR: I told the Hearties during one of the Hearties Family Reunions that Hrothgar [Ned Yost] and I occasionally juggle together on set, so that cat is already out of the bag. I don’t think anyone knows that I grew up loving origami (the art of paper folding). I don’t see that being super useful to me now though!
SC: Hickam is versatile and has many gifts. He’s worked in the Mercantile, for Lee Coulter, was an architect and builder for the dollhouse, and also works for Henry Gowen. Since you walk in his footsteps, what do you think Hickam does with all of the money he earns?
BR: I think Hickam lives a fairly simple life as is evident in his unchanging wardrobe over the past several seasons. However, with the introduction of the oil money he has a few new items of clothing in season 7 and does a lot of dining out at the saloon, so I guess he’s loosening his grip on his wallet.
SC: Hickam often helps others on their projects but rarely receives credit. Why do you think Hickam is so selfless? How do you think Hickam quietly impacts the town?
BR: I think Hickam is very often the embodiment of the Hope Valley spirit. He helps people out of a genuine desire to do so with no expectation of anything in exchange. I think the less charitable view is that he just doesn’t know how to say “no,” and I have to admit there’s probably some of that in the mix as well. He’s still human!
SC: The image of “It’s a gusher” Hickam running towards town covered in oil is a scene that won’t be soon forgotten. What was that scene like to prepare for and then film? Did you have to remain in that “oil” for long?
BR: I basically spent a full day covered in various food-grade oils. I’m a guy who doesn’t like having the oils from a messy sandwich on my hands, so being covered head to toe in oil all day was miserable. But the crew was tremendous about keeping things moving quickly and making sure I was as comfortable as possible, and ultimately, I knew what a fun bit it would be on the show so it was totally worth it. I’m pretty much game to try anything, and I love having new experiences for a role.
SC: Hope Valley wouldn’t be the same without all of the horses. Hickam is no stranger to riding them. Can you share more your riding experience and working with the horses in scenes?
BR: WCTH is the only time I’ve ridden for a job, other than that it has been controlled trail riding on vacations or at childhood camps. The horses we ride on set are some of the best trained horses you’ll find, and they are incredibly well handled by the wranglers in charge of them. In general, I think it’s fun to have another character or element in the scene who is less predictable than the humans; it means we have to stay even more aware and present in the moment!
SC: How do you think Hickam has changed or grown over the seven seasons? Do you feel your skills as an actor has also developed through this character?
BR: Hickam has become a much more grounded character over the years. As you pointed out, he has worked in just about every job a citizen of Hope Valley can have, and his experiences with other people in town have made him more sure of himself over 7 seasons. That’s really evidenced in his move over to Gowen Petroleum, which was the right move for him at the time. It’s really the only time we’ve seen Hickam put himself first. As an actor I’ve just become much more relaxed on set and in front of the camera through my experience on WCTH, it’s a gift to have this much time to work on the same set and become more comfortable there.
SC: Your presence on social media means a lot to the Hearties. What do you enjoy most about being part of a show with such a huge following around the world, and how does social factor into that?
BR: It may sound trite, but social media is at its best when it is used to spread positivity and kindness. I love when we’re able to make each other laugh and participate in celebrating birthdays or offer support to people experiencing hard times. It’s great when it is used as a tool to bring people together.
SC: The Hope Valley band would not have been the same without Hickam playing the trumpet and being directed/corrected by Rosemary. Can you play any instruments, or do you sing?
BR: I played the viola growing up, which really is an orchestral instrument so not a lot of opportunities to play it solo… I chose it when I was young because my best friend played viola, and I have regretted it ever since! Why didn’t I choose piano or guitar? I guess it fits generally with my desire to collaborate with others so I can’t be too disappointed with my choice. And yes, I can sing.
SC: What do you enjoy most about filming in Canada?
BR: I have fallen head over heels in love with Vancouver and Canadians in general. I feel very much at home there now and I miss it when I’m not up there for the show. I think the people are familiar to me because I grew up in Minneapolis, MN and the temperament of Minnesotans is similar to Canadians: generally good-natured and polite.
SC: Is there anything else that you would like to share with the fans?
BR: Just to say thank you again for all their support!
SC: With an abundance of gratitude and entertaining posts, it is easy to realize why Hearties enjoy interacting with Ben online throughout the year. While waiting to see his story unfold in season seven, whether he’s called Hickam or Mike, Ben will surely continue to bring joy to his beloved Hope Valley character. Be sure to let him know on social media when Hickam is spotted on screen, so that his enjoyment of the “Where’s Hickam?” game never has to end.