Everything about Anne of Green Gables, eh?

CBC’s Anne with an E blooms in Season 2

Moira Walley-Beckett and Anne with an E are on a roll. The former landed the Showrunner of the Year award at the 2018 Rockie Awards gala at the Banff World Media Festival earlier this year while the latter was feted with individual awards and Best Drama Series at the Canadian Screen Awards.

With Season 2 of Anne with an E returning to CBC this Sunday at 7 p.m., we spoke to Walley-Beckett in Banff about what’s to come for Anne Shirley (Amybeth McNulty), Marilla Cuthbert (Geraldine James), Matthew Cuthbert (R.H. Thomson), Gilbert Blythe (Lucas Jade Zumann) and newcomer Sebastian (Dalmar Abuzeid).

There are some new characters in the second season, but the most important question that I want to ask is … the Season 1 finale, the two guys that came into the house … do we catch up with Season 2 right in those moments after? Do we find out what these guys are plotting? Because it would appear that they were plotting nothing but bad things.
Moira Walley-Beckett: They’re bad, bad, bad grifters. Season 2 picks up nine months later, and they are still there at Green Gables, pretending that they didn’t know each other before. We’re going to see how they’ve integrated into the household, what their master plan was in being there in the first place, what transpires, and how it affects everybody and the town.

It isn’t like there is this quick revelation that these guys are grifters and that they may be bad, and let’s get rid of them. They are part of life.
MWB: It’s a long game. It’s a very long game.

How much fun is it to do that to the audience?
MWB: It’s so fun.

You’ve got some diversity in characters in Season 2. I recorded a podcast with Dalmar Abuzeid. Now, we didn’t specifically talk about Anne with an E at that time. What can you tell me about his character Sebastian?
MWB: I’ve been chagrined by the fact that the story of Anne of Green Gables and Avonlea does not culturally reflect the diversity in Canada and the colour in the world. So, my master plan at the end of Season 1, which was my plan from the beginning, was to earn Gilbert’s exit, and put him aboard a steamship, and send him out into the world. It afforded me an opportunity to introduce this new character, played by Dal, who’s a person of colour, who becomes a very, very good friend of Gilbert’s. They travel to exotic ports of call, where we see a whole other part of the world and certainly a whole different cultural experience through the eyes of Gilbert.

Dalmar Abuzeid as Sebastian

That explains the filming in Port Dalhousie.
MWB: Yes. Which is unrecognizable. My art department and my production designers … I brutalized them this season. Because it’s a huge season they just did phenomenally detailed work. I mean, you’d have no idea that you weren’t actually there. Then we have our steamship and the interiors and exteriors of the steamship that we built. It’s just an incredible season.

When did you picture this big season? Was it in your grand plan from the very beginning?
MWB: Yes. From when I was first conceiving of the show and how I not only could go deeper emotionally with all the characters, and Anne particularly, her backstory, but certainly Matthew and Marilla too. But also, how do I want this series to grow? How do I want to expand the world? How do I want to foster conversation in families who are watching? So, it’s always been part of the master plan to expand the story and expand the world.

It must have been really great to get the Season 1 feedback, first from the fans watching on CBC and then the Netflix fans telling you how much they love these characters and your version of it.
MWB: It’s been really exciting to see how excited fans around the world are by this beloved Canadian story and how embracing they’ve been of the departures that I’ve taken from the book, which are, as you know, enormous departures. Basically, by the end of the first episode of the first season, we were off [the book]. I was like, ‘We’re doing this instead,’ and purposefully doing so, because it’s a beautiful template, but for me to have wanted to engage with it and develop it, I wanted it to be more, and deeper, and expansive.

The writer’s room for Season 2, what was dynamic? The female to male ratio, the veterans to new people? 
MWB: Interesting question. Well, I’ll just start by saying I didn’t have a writer’s room for season one, and I wrote every episode myself. I mean, I’m such a control freak. I so loved that experience, but I had the luxury of time to do it that way, and I didn’t have that for Season 2. When I imagined how I wanted to undertake Season 2, I decided to have an all female writer’s room for the show. So, I hired five Canadian writers and one U.S. non-writing writer to break story with me in the room. It was an extremely invigorating experience, and intimate, and safe, and I think corrective for some of the female writers. It’s a diverse room, which was also super important because it’s … why limit? I want all the voices. I want different perspectives. It was a great crucible.

What can fans expect from this second season? You’ve already said big. We’re going to have diversity in the cast, going to places that the books have never gone before. What else can you say?
MWB: I guess I can say it’s a challenging season. I’m exploring some topics and themes that are very challenging, and very topical, and very relevant right now. We’re diving deep into bullying, and prejudice, and racism, and intolerance, and gender issues, and sexuality. It’s a major, major season, and it’s 10 episodes.

How is Matthew doing?
MWB: Matthew’s doing OK.

Because that’s got to happen. Well, I guess it doesn’t.
MWB: This is the thing, I’m an unreliable narrator of the book.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 7 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Links: Anne of Green Gables

From Victoria Ahearn of The Canadian Press:

Link: Martin Sheen on relating to ‘Anne of Green Gables’
Martin Sheen has a great affinity for the classic Canadian story of “Anne of Green Gables” and his introverted character, Matthew Cuthbert.

The Golden Globe-winning star of “The West Wing” is reprising the role of the adoptive father of Anne Shirley in YTV’s “L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars,” debuting Monday. Continue reading.

From Chris Jancelewicz of Global News:

Link: Anne of Green Gables TV movie back for Part 2, and Anne has grown up
Canadians can head back to Green Gables before February is finished.

In L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: The Good Stars (Part 2 of a three-part TV movie), the beloved Anne Shirley (Ella Ballentine) turns 13 and faces a host of new milestones: first sleepovers, culinary misadventures, and shifting relationships with her “bosom” friend Diana and academic rival/love interest Gilbert Blythe. Continue reading.


Anne of Green Gables grows up in The Good Stars

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.”

Martin Sheen and Sara Botsford as Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert

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.


Corus greenlights second and third instalments of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables

From a media release:

Corus Entertainment announced today it has commissioned Good Stars and Fire & Dew, the second and third instalments of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series of films produced by Breakthrough Entertainment. Ella Ballentine (Anne Shirley), Martin Sheen (Matthew Cuthbert), and Sara Botsford (Marilla Cuthbert) return for the sequels. L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Good Stars and Fire & Dew have begun production and will premiere on Corus Entertainment’s YTV, the #1 Kids channel in Canada (K6-11)*, in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Following the successful world broadcast premiere of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables on YTV, Breakthrough Entertainment’s Joan Lambur, Peter Williamson, and Ira Levy are back to executive produce the next two movies, along with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler. Award-winning director John Kent Harrison, who also wrote Good Stars returns, as well as Susan Coyne who wrote Fire & Dew.

In Good Stars; our beloved Anne Shirley turns thirteen and faces a host of new milestones: first sleepovers, culinary misadventures, and shifting relationships with her bosom friend Diana and academic rival Gilbert Blythe. Through all this, Anne strives to strike a balance between becoming an upstanding, sensible young woman, and embracing her inquisitive and free-spirited nature.

In Fire & Dew; Anne heads to Charlottetown to attend accelerated classes as she continues to work towards her dream of being a school teacher. While there, she is forced to adapt quickly to her new surroundings and classmates as she navigates her way through her first school experience outside of her beloved Green Gables. Anne finds herself facing daunting choices for her future, the stirrings of romance, and tragedy unlike anything she’s ever known. Meanwhile, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert contend with advancing age as they deal with financial challenges and creeping ailments.

Originally published back in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the tale of Anne Shirley and her adventures in Green Gables span over 8 novels and has reached readers in over 20 languages.The first film in the series has been watched by families worldwide through broadcasters Corus Entertainment in Canada, PBS in the United States, ITV in the UK, ARD in Germany, and a recent theatrical release in Australia and New Zealand.

The first film in the series has been watched by families worldwide through broadcasters Corus Entertainment in Canada, PBS in the United States, ITV in the UK, ARD in Germany, and a recent theatrical release in Australia and New Zealand.