Check out our interview with hit drama series “When Hope Calls” actor Neil Whitely.

When Hope Calls centers around sisters Lillian and Grace who open an orphanage in the 1916 Western town of Brookfield. As the two are caught between the traditions of cattle ranchers and the ambitions of a growing town, they strive to find romance and happiness while overcoming the challenges of helping the children in their care.

Neil plays Harley Lawrence, a wealthy rancher who regularly supplies local merchants with produce for their stores.

Follow Neil @neilwhitely

Hi Neil, please tell us a little about you?

Well, I’m a Husband, Father, Entrepreneur and Actor. Not necessarily in that order. I was born in Sheffield, England and raised in Toronto, Canada.

Describe yourself in 3 words

Ambitious, Competitive, Happy

How did you get started with acting?

It’s crazy. I knew I wanted to be an actor from the time I was seven years old but kept it a secret from everyone including my family. Then one day my daughter Nicki (who was nine at the time) came up to me and told me SHE wanted to be an actor, having no idea about my secret desire. Being with her on set made me realize all these years later that I STILL wanted to do it myself. So, after a 25 year career in the fashion industry I embarked upon this new journey at the age of 46. Best decision ever!

How has this changed your life?

Being an actor forces you to be really in touch with your emotions. You have to be able to access them on command. This has definitely made me a more emotional person in my private life. That can be good and bad but mostly good.

What is the best and also most challenging part of being an actor?

For me the best part is the fact that I’ve dreamed of doing this job for a long time, so every day that I am at work is literally a dream come true. I never take it for granted. The most challenging part is the constant ebb and flow of this business. You can be hot one year and ice cold the next. You have to be very strong mentally to deal with the lack of stability in this job.

How do you prepare for a role?

That’s a little tricky ’cause every role is different. The obvious answer is to make sure I know the dialogue backwards and forwards and that I understand the story the writer wants to tell. But just as important for me is to be totally relaxed and present so I can be fully engaged with my scene partner(s). That’s what makes a scene work.

Tell us about your work on the hit drama series “When Hope Calls?” And about your character Harley Lawrence?

Man, I’m so excited about this one. I get very few offers to be in period pieces. When Hope Calls is set in 1919. Harley is a successful Rancher who just happens to be African American. One can only imagine what obstacles and challenges he would have encountered back then to attain this position. To me he is an extraordinary individual with a special set of skills. I’m thrilled to have the chance to explore Harley and continue to bring him to life as we reveal more of him in upcoming episodes. Just you wait!

What kind of roles do you like or would like to play and why?

It’s funny how things like that can evolve over time. Early in my career I played a lot of intimidating authority figures. Lately I’ve been playing more nurturing Father figures. I have no preference. I love all of it! Each role has its own challenges.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

There’s so many but if I have to pick one I would have to say getting to work with actors whose work you have admired for years is very cool. Being on set with Morgan Freeman falls into that category for me.

What’s your advice for newer actors?

Understand that this is a BUSINESS. Take care of your body. Take care of your mind. Take care of your money.

What would you say are the greatest lessons you learned so far in this business?

The number one quality an actor needs to be successful is perseverance. You have to be willing to stay ready until it is your turn. It could be tomorrow. It could be five years from tomorrow. Learn to enjoy the process.

How would your best friend describe you?

Funny but also very driven.

What book should every entrepreneur read?

The Alchemist

What’s next for Neil Whitely in 2022?

Wow. 2021 was such an amazing year for me, I’d be thrilled to have more of the same in 2022. As I said I’m super excited to see where Harley takes us too.

What is your favorite healthy food?

I’m a big smoothie guy. I like to put lots of fruit in them, especially blueberries. That’s a superfood for me. Love them!

And your favorite cheat food?

Ha! Probably French fries. I’d eat them everyday if I could get away with it.

What is your own definition of happiness?

Having the freedom to live life on your own terms. That sounds simple but it’s not. It takes courage to be happy.

If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?

When I was growing up Muhammad Ali was my greatest hero. Not only for his athletic prowess but also for his willingness to give up everything to stand up for his beliefs. I would love to spend some time with him. Maybe later!

Where do you see yourself and your career in five years from now?

Well, at my age I don’t make a lot of long range plans. I just hope I’m still doing what I love and still growing as an artist.

What do you think of Social Media?

It’s a double edged sword for sure. It’s a great communication tool but it can be dangerous when it becomes a news source because users can be so easily influenced. It can also be destructive for young impressionable users. It needs to be more tightly regulated.

Where can we follow you?

I’m online at neilwhitely.com and on IG @neilwhitely

Book: The Secret

Quote: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Movie: The Wizard of Oz

TV Series: 24

Favorite Food: Curried Chicken

Travel Destination: Jamaica

Sports Team: Chicago Blackhawks