Netflix’s Virgin River Launches a New Season

Vancouver's own Sarah Dugdale previews a fourth season of TV comfort food, complete with love triangles, baby drama and hope during tough times

Vancouver’s own Sarah Dugdale previews a fourth season of TV comfort food, complete with love triangles, baby drama and hope during tough times 

When it comes to idyllic small towns on television, there is no place quite like Virgin River. “In Virgin River, everybody knows each other and everybody cares about each other,” says actress Sarah Dugdale, who, like the show itself, is a native of B.C. “It’s the kind of place where you can knock on your neighbour’s door and ask them for a cup of sugar. I feel like it’s a place where everybody feels like family.” Virgin RiverNetflix

It is also the kind of place where people come to escape their complicated pasts. Take nurse practitioner and midwife Mel Monroe (Alexandra Breckenridge), who in season one left L.A., and a past full of painful memories, to start over in the remote Northern California town. In Virgin River, Mel has forged a new life, working for local physician Vernon “Doc” Mullins (Tim Matheson) and finding her soulmate in war veteran and bar owner Jack Sheridan (Martin Henderson).   

In the third season, Mel’s past and present collided when she found out she was pregnant but not entirely sure if the baby was Jack’s or the result of implanting embryos from her marriage to her late husband Mark (Daniel Gillies). “This season, they navigate being together, not knowing whether the baby is Jack’s or Mel’s late husband’s,” Dugdale previews. “It’s a really cool thing to watch how Jack deals with not knowing that information and how their love prevails through that. It really shows the strength of their relationship.”  Virgin RiverNetflix

Being faced with fatherhood from two different women, not to mention the pending mystery of who shot him in the second season, Jack is spinning a lot of plates in this fourth instalment. “I feel like it’s a hard season for him,” says Dugdale. “You do see him stumble and get back up again. I think that’s what people love about Jack, the fact that he isn’t perfect. And the fact that he shows up for the people that matter to him.” 

Theirs is not the only relationship going through a transition. At the end of last season, Ricky (Grayson Gurnsey) finally found the courage to tell Lizzie, played by Dugdale, that he has enlisted in the military. “Their relationship is fractured at this point, mostly because Ricky has signed up for the Marines behind her back,” Dugdale explains. “She feels like the trust has been broken between them. At the end of season three, she really has this decision, whether to stay in Virgin River and whether she even wants to be there anymore.” Virgin RiverNetflix

The new season forces the young couple to face questions about the nature of their relationship. “Can they be a couple anymore? Will they be friends? Will there be no relationship at all?” Dugdale ponders. “They both have a lot of life decisions to make, and it’s not like either one of them is ready to settle down yet.” Now, enter a cute third party, and this relationship gets even more complicated. “A good old love triangle,” laughs Dugdale. “This newcomer is a welcome distraction for her and he brings this new energy and a welcome shift for her, because she is in this hurt place, even if she’s not showing it. This new energy allows for her to have fun and get out of her head and really just enjoy being a young woman.” 

While Lizzie might be struggling romantically, the former Angeleno is forging a strong personal relationship of a different kind in Virgin River. “Having Hope [Annette O’Toole] back, and Lizzie being involved with Doc and Hope’s world, gives Lizzie a bit of purpose, which is something that she is looking for,” says Dugdale. “Getting to be around someone like Hope, who is so headstrong and such a powerful woman who speaks her mind, is really important for Lizzie. They do have similarities and you do see the parallels between the two of them, so I think it’s really exciting that they get to be put together again in this upcoming season.” 

Virgin RiverNetflixAs viewers continue to flock to Virgin River, with the series regularly ranking as one of Netflix’s most-binged, Dugdale is not entirely surprised that they’ve been able to draw in such a diverse crowd. “I feel like there’s something for everybody in the show—drama, romance, mystery—and I feel like there’s a love story for every generation,” she says. “You have Doc and Hope, Mel and Jack, Lizzie and Ricky. You have someone on the show that you can relate to, someone that you see yourself in.” And, in a world that can be dark and cynical, Virgin River provides people safe harbour, both on screen and in real life. “Virgin River is this beacon of joy and love, an idyllic place where I feel like anyone would love to go visit,” says Dugdale. “Going to set and being around those people does feel like this joyous place. I really love what I do and I feel so lucky to get to be part of something that people love and that brings people joy.” 

Virgin River returns Wednesday, July 20th on Netflix