Lori Loughlin was nowhere to be seen in the season premiere of “When Calls the Heart” on Sunday, not even in the credits.
The actress was written out of the Hallmark Channel series after she and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were named among a group facing federal charges in a college admissions cheating scheme.
Prosecutors say the couple paid $500,000 to a fake charity to get their two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California, falsely designating them as crew team recruits.
Loughlin and Giannulli have both pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each of the charges is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
On Sunday the drama began its two-night Season 6 premiere.
The episode included Erin Krakow’s Elizabeth Thatcher writing a letter to a friend about all the changes in Hope Valley. Those changes included an update on Loughlin’s character of local cafe owner Abigail Stanton and her adopted son Cody (played by Carter Ryan Evancic) with Thatcher revealing, “It’s been a week since Abigail got word that her mother had taken ill back East.”
“True to her nature, Abigail wasted no time in rushing off to care for her,” Krakow’s character said in a voice over. “Abigail is much more than a friend, she’s family.”
Thatcher notes that she will “miss her and Cody deeply, we all will, but we must get by as best we can … “
“We all keep Abigail and her family in our prayers in her absence and wish her godspeed,” the character said. “In her absence we must soldier on and we will. We are a community, we are strong, we are Hope Valley.”
The series was among a group which broke ties with Loughlin and her social media influencer daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli soon after the scandal broke.
In March, producer Brian Bird and his team released a statement on social media.
“#Hearties, thank you for your love, support, and patience these last several days as we have all been preoccupied with the news about Lori Loughlin and her family, and the decisions our colleagues at the Hallmark Channel USA needed to make,” the statement began. “As you can imagine, everyone involved with When Calls the Heart was surprised by these developments, so we hope you can forgive us for initially staying silent while we sorted through how to respond.”
The statement also addressed viewers concerns that the show would be ending without Loughlin.
“As for the show itself, we know millions of fans are on pins and needles wondering what will happen now. Let us reassure you, When Calls the Heart has always been bigger than the sum of its parts, and it HAS NOT BEEN CANCELED. With the full support of the network, we have gone on a creative hiatus to do some retooling on the remaining Season 6 episodes. That process has already begun. Hope Valley will return to your TV screens as soon as we can bring the episodes to you.”