A group of girls at a turn-of-the-century party.

Anne with an E expands its world with Indigenous characters in Season 3

In Season 2, Anne with an E creator Moira Walley-Beckett introduced black characters into her storylines. In Season 3, she does the same with Indigenous characters.

It’s all been part of Walley-Beckett’s plan to take L.M. Montgomery’s source material and expand it to be both inclusive and historically accurate. In Episode 1—returning Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBC—we meet Ka’kwet (played by 12-year-old Kiawenti:io Tarbell, a Mohawk from Akwesasne), an independent, resilient Mi’kmaq girl who befriends Anne. The addition of Tarbell, Brandon Oakes and Dana Jeffrey to the cast further enriches the Anne with an E world and makes it even more enjoyable.

We spoke to Moira Walley-Beckett ahead of Sunday’s return.

Did you always happen to have it in the back of your mind that in the Anne journey you would introduce First Nations characters?
Moira Walley-Beckett: Yes. It was always in the back of my mind for sure. In the same way that I’ve been wanting to diversify L.M. Montgomery’s novels. It was one of my mission statements.

A First Nations man and girl smile into the camera.It’s why I sent Gilbert away on at the end of Season 1. So that the show could expand its horizons and that he could gain a fresh perspective and that I could introduce people of colour and bring someone home. When we talked last year I talked about when we were in our research and discovering The Bog. And that The Bog was a place that is not in any of the history books, but that actually existed in our time period on PEI. So that was a terrible, wonderful goldmine for us and further populated our world with diverse people of colour. I’ve always tried to open up the pages of the book and I have strayed so far from it right out of the gate. The Mi’kmaq people were very much part of the community of Prince Edward Island. And so there is every reason to include them and tell their story.

The first thing that I noticed, aside from the First Nations characters, was the fact that your cast is starting to get taller. 
MWB: I know, it’s unconscionable. I’ve asked them repeatedly to stop and they just won’t heed me.

Does that affect your writing at all? Does that impact on anything with regard to the kids getting older naturally?
MWB: For sure. Yes, it’s inevitable and so it has to affect me. It’s a very interesting experience for me, actually. This is the first time I’ve done a show with kids. And because season after season on a regular series, time is kind of fluid if you need it to be. But working with kids, they’re growing and there’s nothing I can do about it. Their maturation is dictating the story for sure. But again, part of my master plan, I didn’t know that was going to happen. This season is the season where we shed childhood. Last season was the end of childish wonder and this season is the teenage years and stepping into young adulthood.

It’s crazy to see this version of social media where the notes are going up on the wall in Episode 1 and people are letting their intentions be known.
MWB: The take notice board.

A boy looks up from eating, smiling.I’m not sure if I’m ready for the intentions being known to everybody.
MWB: You know, I’m always looking to contemporize this world and make sure that it’s accessible in a meaningful way to our audience. And there is a take notice board in the book and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, that’s just Instagram for the Victorian era.’ I was super excited about that. It’s a very fun platform. We get a lot of mileage out of it.

What was it like having Tracey Deer in the writers’ room? I’m assuming that she was a big part of making sure that the Indigenous storyline stayed true.
MWB: Yes. That is why I hired her. Aside from the fact that she’s an awesome writer and producer. I set out to find an Indigenous female voice to include in my room this season, because writing an Indigenous storyline is, A) so sensitive and B), not my lived experience. It was absolutely essential for me to make sure that I had an Indigenous voice in my room. It’s been wonderful working with Tracey. Just wonderful.

What else can you say about the storylines this year?
MWB: Well, there’s multiple pertaining to the essence of these people, their hearts and the very fabric of their being. I’m sure it may have been stated that Anne goes on a quest this season to search for her identity. She’s looking for her image. She’s looking to discover who she is, where she came from, who she came from. And that scene intertwines with every character’s story, including our new character Ka’kwet who knows her identity all too well and has it taken from her. So there are some very big important things this season that are woven together into the fabric of these episodes.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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