Virgin River cast on baby mamas, mental trauma, and Renaissance drama

·6 min read

Warning: This article contains spoilers about Virgin River season 4.

It's time to return to our favorite small town (in spite of their absurdly high number of medical emergencies).

On Wednesday, Virgin River season 4 hit Netflix, offering up more romance and drama, including further exploration of who shot Jack (Martin Henderson), who the real father of Mel's (Alexandra Breckenridge) baby is, and how Hope (Annette O'Toole) might recover from her traumatic brain injury.

We gathered the cast together for an EW Around the Table to discuss all things season 4.

The cast was eager to get back to it, with Breckenridge particularly antsy to find the answer to the question of the paternity of Mel's baby. "I was on pins and needles to find out how Jack and Mel were going to deal with the pregnancy," she says. "I was really interested how Jack was going to react to the fact that it may or may not be his child. But I was pleasantly surprised with his upbeat attitude toward the whole thing."

VIRGIN RIVER (L to R) MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN and ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE in episode 3010 of VIRGIN RIVER Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021
VIRGIN RIVER (L to R) MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN and ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE in episode 3010 of VIRGIN RIVER Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

NETFLIX MARTIN HENDERSON as JACK SHERIDAN and ALEXANDRA BRECKENRIDGE as MEL MONROE

"There was a lot hanging on that cliff at the end of season 3," quips Henderson.

There are plenty of couples on Virgin River, and while Mel and Jack's daddy issues are a throughline of the season, so too is the health and wellbeing of another beloved pairing, Hope and Doc (Tim Matheson). Hope ended season 3 barely surviving a car crash that resulted in a traumatic brain injury, but season 4 finds her struggling to cope with the impact of her injury and trying to jump back into her old life too quickly.

"A traumatic brain injury is such a huge thing that happens not just to the person, but to the people around them, and in her case, the community, since she's the mayor," O'Toole says. "But the brain is such a miraculous organ and it can go any way. We're opting for less rather than more in terms of her function and how much she can do."

"I loved coming back and having a lot to do and something that was that organic and that I could play within the bounds of because a brain injury is unique to each person," she adds. "But it can't be all about that. Or just about that. It has to be bits of seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Each scene was different; each person I was dealing with was different."

Another complication this season is the arrival of a hunky new doctor, Dr. Cameron Hayek (Mark Ghanimé), who clearly has a thing for Mel. Still, Breckenridge assures fans they don't have too much to worry about. "I'm still unclear on whether or not he's set up and poised to take over the practice in case Doc can't work anymore," she explains, side-stepping the fact Cameron seems determined to leave Virgin River by the season's end. "He comes to town. He's charming and attractive, and the audience might worry that might pose a threat to the Mel and Jack of it all. But Mel's very loyal, so I wouldn't worry about that too much."

But while Breckenridge might be cool with Dr. Cameron's not-so-secret yearnings for her, Tim Matheson decidely is not. "Doc has very strong feelings about the improper way that Cameron reacted toward Mel and caused a little bit of trouble for Jack," he says. "He went where he shouldn't have, in my opinion. So he'll have to overcome that before I buy him lunch."

All the drama wasn't reserved for on screen either. Not to be outdone by season 3's Lumberjack Festival, season 4 features a Renaissance Faire complete with ornate costumes and gowns for the whole town. The coup de gras of the entire proceedings is a sword fight between Preacher (Colin Lawrence) and Jack — which scrambled Henderson's head as much as it does Jack's.

Virgin River. (L to R) Colin Lawrence as Preacher, Lucia Walters as Julia in episode 406 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022
Virgin River. (L to R) Colin Lawrence as Preacher, Lucia Walters as Julia in episode 406 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022

Netflix

"Martin did a backflip over this hay bale and landed on his head. I heard it," O'Toole shares, before Henderson adds, "That was not coordinated. That will be the last stunt I ever do myself. Tom Cruise sets the bar so high and then I come in and land on my head."

Breckenridge says Henderson was practically concussed, while Lawrence notes, "Martin looked a little starry-eyed when we were going through that scene but he was a trooper and pushed through it."

Still, both guys praise their stunt team for choreographing the fight and making them look good, citing it as one of their favorite experiences on the show, ever. "That stuff is so much fun to get to dress up in costume and prance around," Henderson says. "Colin, you were awesome. I know you were freaked out about us accidentally hitting each other, which I may have done in rehearsal."

Concludes Lawrence: "It was a lot of trust. We were wielding some heavy armor and we were looking in each other's eyes, checking in, making sure we weren't getting caught up and swinging that blade a little too fast, so definitely we did a lot of rehearsals."

Still, in spite of all the relationship drama and medical trauma, Henderson stresses that season 4 really captures the heart of what has endeared Virgin River to audiences: its celebration of community.

"The show of course is about romance, but a lot of what appeals to people is the idea that all these people are broken," he reflects. "Everyone's got a past, everyone's got trauma, everyone's got something they're trying to deal with. And it's coming out awkwardly in the present moment. It's challenging their relationships or their ability to do their job well. They need to heal from these wounds and they do that by leaning on one another and voicing their darker tragedy and coming to terms with it."

"We all have the stuff that the characters are dealing with whether it's Doc's aging, Hope's recovery, Mel's traumatic past — we all have something to heal from," he concludes. "We're not just seeing heroes and people saving the day. They're also carrying these deep wounds and they need each other and their relationships are the lens through which we get to see them grapple with their demons and their hurts, and the things that make them human and make them vulnerable."

Watch the video above for more. Virgin River season 4 is now streaming on Netflix.

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