Visiting the set of YTV’s L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars is, literally, a step back in time. Minutes from the busy highway 401 just west of Toronto is Country Heritage Park, an 185-year step back in time thanks to 80 acres of historic buildings and exhibits. It’s easy to imagine what life was like back then as you walk over creaky wooden floors, fighting off the chill of a late-fall downpour.
The torrent of water didn’t dampen the spirits of Ella Ballentine, Sara Botsford or Martin Sheen. On the contrary, the trio—who play orphan Anne Shirley and sister and brother Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert—was thrilled to be given the chance to complete the story begun last February in Anne of Green Gables. Airing Monday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. ET/PT on YTV, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars, advances is the second instalment of three (Fire & Dew airs July 1) bringing the first novel in Montgomery’s Anne tales to the small screen.
“It’s fun. It’s sentimental,” Ballentine says of returning to film. “When we first came back it was kind of weird, but I was happy because it meant the fans liked it. I hope this one is good too and that everybody likes it.” Written and directed by John Kent Harrison, The Good Stars marks many milestones in Anne Shirley’s life while showcasing the carrot-topped character’s zest and unrelenting imagination. A sleepover at Diana Barry’s (Julia Lalonde) is fraught with ghosts, making toffee turns into a smoky affair and her ongoing battle of wits with Gilbert Blythe (Drew Haytaoglu) is downright comical.
“The first one was really sweet,” Botsford says. “They’re such rich characters; they are all well-drawn. Particularly for a female character of a certain age, it’s great to have a complex role to sink your teeth into. They don’t come along that often. The girls are all still pigtails and very young. It’s fun to go through these phases of their lives.”
“What we learn by the end of the first movie is really just the beginning of the story,” says executive producer Kate Macdonald Butler, real-life granddaughter of Montgomery. “We were really excited that two more movies were ordered. Now we get to tell the story from the entire first book.”
The Good Stars has plenty of heart and sensitivity to contrast the humour. A hunt for puffballs with Matthew turns into a scary adventure for Anne, who gets a hint of the mortality to come. And though Anne only had time for Diana, she learns to get along with and accept Gilbert after an experience in the classroom with Mr. Phillips (Kyle Gatehouse).
Anne of Green Gables was published in 1908, but its themes have never gone out of style or been more important.
“Anne of Green Gables is all about belonging,” Butler says. “She never really fits in anywhere in the years before she comes to Green Gables. When she comes to Avonlea and Green Gables, it’s all about belonging.”
L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars airs Monday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. ET/PT on YTV.
Images courtesy of Corus.