Nathaniel Arcand to play 10th season as beloved veterinarian Scott Cardinal in Heartland

Brandi Morin
APTN National News
Celebrated First Nations actor Nathaniel Arcand will be reprising his role for the 10th season of the hit Canadian TV series Heartland.

His character, Scott Cardinal, is described as being “a good Native Canadian friend of the Barlett/Fleming household who is also Heartland’s only vet.”

“I’m just happy to be back and hopefully there’s more to be done in this season,” said Arcand.

Cardinal is a rugged, cowboy character beloved by many fans and has been a steady presence on the show since the beginning.

“He (Cardinal) was brought in by the mother (Marion) who passed away in the first episode after dying in a vehicle accident from saving a horse during a storm. Her character took him in off the streets and took him under her wings, became his mentor, then he became a ranch hand,” said Arcand.

As the seasons played out Arcand’s character ended up forming a love interest with Marion’s daughter Lou but that relationship went south when she moved away for college.

Cardinal remained in High River and became a veterinarian who now mentors the new cast members on the show.

But over the last few seasons Cardinal hasn’t had too much face time on the show, which Arcand is hoping will change this season.

“As an actor I would hope so. I don’t like going in for just one or two lines say, ‘Hey’ and then I’m out of there. I’d like to have a conversation, maybe be involved with something,” he said. “But that’s the style of Heartland these days. If you’re not the main star they just give you a couple of lines and throw you in there just to break it up a little bit.”

Arcand, 44, has been acting since a young age after being inspired from watching Bruce Lee at the drive-in theatre performing in Chinese Connection. He said he enjoys portraying a character and having fun with it. The most exciting part of his job, is the travel, meeting new people and never knowing quite what to expect.

Recently his eyes have wandered from his first love of acting to directing and producing.

“I will always stay in the acting business as long as they’ll have me. But I also have been trying to get more on the production side of directing and more active that way behind the camera,” he said.

Last year, Arcand wrote and directed his own film about missing and murdered Indigenous women based from a male perspective. The film, called Sister Daughter, currently in editing, is about a man who loses his wife and then falls into alcoholism and eventually almost loses his daughter. He then realizes the wrong in his ways and decides to turn back to his culture and community to overcome, said Arcand who is hoping to have it finished by next month then ride it out in the film festival circuits.

“If anything it might air on APTN as well. It’s a touching movie, all I have to say is maybe bring a box of tissue if you’re going to watch it,” he said.

He also directed six episodes of a kids TV show aired on APTN called Coyote Science. Another TV show he’s been working on, Wild Food, also aired on APTN is up for a LEO Award with one of the episodes that he appears in.

Last month, he was nominated for best actor by the Alberta Motion Picture Industry Awards for an Alberta-made film called The Northlander.

In his spare time, and sometimes getting paid at a bar or corporate gig, he enjoys belting out songs while playing guitar. It’s a passion that he’s carried since singing in a shower as a youngster and with a karaoke machine his mother bought the family in the late 1970s. It’s only been as of late that he’s taken it seriously.

“I decided to take music seriously. For the past couple of years I’ve been playing music gigs. I don’t drink anymore so it’s nice to go to a bar and just play music for people,” he said. “I like all sorts of music…mostly old country and rock ‘n roll.”

As much as he loves playing Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings there’s not too many similarities between the country man character of Scott Cardinal and Arcand in real life, he said.

“I think the only thing similar to myself and Scott’s character is that him and I both love horses,” he said. “Other than that I know nothing about being a veterinarian other than what I read off of the script. I don’t own a truck…He’s a great character though. I think Scott deserves his own spinoff.”

The feedback he gets from fans (mostly female) from the age of eight to 88 is always positive and Cardinal is seen as a role model.

“I have a lot of young girls tell me they want to be just like me when they grow up as a veterinarian (and males too). I’m glad I inspire people to become something. It feels good to me because of what I do,” he said.

As for his role on Heartland, Arcand said he if it wasn’t for his fans he probably would have given up on the show already to focus more on other projects.

“Like I said I don’t know what’s going on in the story line and it will be just as surprising to everybody else out there when I go to work and see what’s going on. You never know with these guys (in production). I’m mainly back for the fans. Otherwise I don’t know if I’d want to go back,” he said. “I keep getting told from my fans that they love me on that show and that I’m the only reason they watch it a lot of times…so I’m just a character on the show and I enjoy playing my character as the doctor and then being able to have an adventure or two once in a while. That’s the extent of it.”

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