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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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Poll: Which three returning Canadian shows will you be watching this fall?

The fall television season is here, and we couldn’t be happier. With the crisper weather comes the traditional time of year when networks’ new and returning favourites hit the airwaves.

In particular, the CBC jumps into the next few weeks with longtime faves in Murdoch Mysteries and Heartland alongside soon to be classics in Anne with an E and Frankie Drake Mysteries. Not to be outdone, Corus series like Carnival Eats and Property Brothers are back and Citytv’s newbie, Hudson & Rex returns with new episodes. In short, there is a lot of television coming our way.

To celebrate, we’re asking you to check off the three returning television series you’re most looking to watching in the coming months. Have fun, and please feel free to leave a comment below regarding why you chose which shows you did. (After you make your selections, make sure you hit the blue “Vote” button just below and to the right of The Nature of Things.)

Also: wondering when your favourites return? Check out our handy calendars.

Which three returning Canadian shows will you be watching this fall?

  • Heartland, CBC (39%, 1,133 Votes)
  • Murdoch Mysteries, CBC (13%, 392 Votes)
  • Anne with an E, CBC (8%, 228 Votes)
  • Property Brothers, HGTV Canada (6%, 169 Votes)
  • Frankie Drake Mysteries, CBC (6%, 165 Votes)
  • Still Standing, CBC (6%, 162 Votes)
  • The Great Canadian Baking Show, CBC (4%, 126 Votes)
  • Hudson & Rex, Citytv (4%, 111 Votes)
  • The Nature of Things, CBC (3%, 87 Votes)
  • Highway Thru Hell, History (3%, 84 Votes)
  • Battle of the Blades, CBC (2%, 57 Votes)
  • Marketplace, CBC (2%, 53 Votes)
  • Dragons' Den, CBC (2%, 47 Votes)
  • Letterkenny, Crave (1%, 43 Votes)
  • Carnival Eats, Food Network Canada (1%, 29 Votes)
  • Baroness von Sketch Show (1%, 21 Votes)
  • First Contact, APTN (0%, 8 Votes)
  • CBC Arts: Exhibitionists, CBC (0%, 8 Votes)
  • Eyes for the Job, AMI-tv (0%, 6 Votes)
  • Bajillionaires, Family (0%, 6 Votes)
  • In the Making, CBC (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,464

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Jann: Deborah Grover on Nora’s journey and the “universal story” of Alzheimer’s disease

“Just breathe.”

That was the advice Deborah Grover gave Jann Arden when they began filming CTV’s Jann in Calgary last fall.

Singer-songwriter Arden is an experienced stage performer with enviable comedic ability, but toplining a TV series—and all the line memorization and mark-hitting that goes with it—is new to her. Grover, who plays Arden’s mother Nora in the series, is a veteran actress with a long list of credits, including films Agnes of God and Where the Truth Lies and TV shows Night Heat and Anne with an E, so she knows exactly what to do when someone has acting jitters.

“When you start to panic and go, ‘I don’t remember a single thing, I don’t even remember my first line,’ it’s like, breathe,” Grover says during an on-set interview last October. “Because it’s all sitting inside of you. You’ve done all your work, so just breathe. So [Jann and I] would start a scene, and just breathe, and boom, it’s there. And if it isn’t there, then we start again. Not a big deal.”

Of course, that approach only saves actors who have done their work, and according to Grover, no one arrived on set more prepared or more committed each day than Arden did.

“She came prepared to work, and every day she’s working on her lines and her scenes and her nuance of the scene,” Grover says. “She’s come at it with everything she’s got, and it’s been fascinating to watch. You know, she’s a Canadian icon, so you want this to succeed for her, because man, what we have to give in this journey is personal, but it’s a universal story. It’s so human.”

In the series, Arden plays a mostly fictional version of herself, a version who is on the declining side of fame and struggling to get back on top—which leads to lots of hilariously unflattering scenarios. However, the show also deftly mixes in Nora’s struggles with dementia, which are based on Arden’s real-life experiences caring for mother Joan Richards, who suffered from Alzheimer’s before passing away in December.  

Grover read Arden’s 2017 memoir, Feeding My Mother: Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as a Daughter Lives with her Mom’s Memory Loss, before auditioning for the part.

“I read the book, and during my screen test with Jann, I think she felt I had the right feeling, a certain sensibility, and that seemed to work for her vision of her mom,” says Grover.

The connection between them is evident onscreen, counterbalancing the show’s spot-on bits of entertainment industry satire with moments of emotional depth and familial tenderness.

“It is a fictionalized version, there’s no question,” says Grover. “And I think the more we explore the scenes, the more I discover about her mother.”

Grover’s family was also touched by Alzheimer’s when her mother-in-law was diagnosed with the disease. 

I got to experience that on a first-hand basis,” she says. “But it’s totally different with every individual, and people have been very open about sharing their stories with me, going, ‘Well, my mom was this,’ or ‘My grandmom was that,’ so you receive it all, and it all adds to the mix.”

It isn’t a spoiler to say that Nora moves from simply being forgetful—as in a scene from Wednesday’s new episode, “Weeknd at Charley’s,” when Jann loses her patience with her mom for misplacing her phone—to suspecting something more serious is going on as the season progresses.

“As the journey gets more pronounced, you’re seeing a little bit of forgetfulness, the dementia is there, and then there will be the diagnosis at the end of the six-part series,” Grover says. “Hopefully, if there is a second season, there will be an exploration of the journey with mom and what that means and how the family deals with it through humour, through the heartbreak of it all. But you’ll hopefully get all those colours because Jann wrote about it all in her book.”

While a second season of Jann seems like a good bet, thanks to strong early ratings, Grover is also thankful for her recurring role as Aunt Josephine on the CBC/Netflix series Anne with an E, which started filming its third season in March.

“What a lucky actor I am,” Grover says. “I’ve got two amazingly different things on the go, and hopefully, other things that will fill in the cracks. I feel extremely blessed in these character years when you go, ‘Well, isn’t it over?’ No, it’s just beginning. Man, it’s just beginning. I’m having more fun than I’ve had.”  

Jann airs Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

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Cameras roll on Northwood Entertainment’s third season of the award-winning Anne with an E

From a media release:

Principal photography has commenced on the much anticipated third season (10×60) of CBC and Netflix’s Anne with an E. From Miranda de Pencier’s Northwood Entertainment and Emmy®-winning showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett, Season Three continues the coming-of-age story of Anne Shirley-Cuthbert, an outsider who against all odds, fights for acceptance, for her place in the world, and for love. After an extensive cross-Canada search, Walley-Beckett and de Pencier cast 12-year-old Kiawenti:io Tarbell, a Mohawk from Akwesasne, who portrays Ka’kwet, an independent, resilient Mi’kmaq girl who befriends Anne. The third season airs on CBC and Netflix in 2019.

Returning cast include Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James, R. H. Thomson, Dalila Bela, Corrine Koslo, Lucas Jade Zumann, Aymeric Jett Montaz, Dalmar Abuzeid, Cara Ricketts, Joanna Douglas, Kyla Matthews, Cory Grüter-Andrew, and Miranda McKeon. Directors Norma Bailey, Paul Fox, Amanda Tapping, and Anne Wheeler return for Season Three as does the entire all-female writing team led by Walley-Beckett (Kathryn Borel, Jr., Shernold Edwards, Amanda Fahey, Naledi Jackson, and Jane Maggs, with the addition of Tracey Deer). New directors this season include Kim Nguyen and Michelle Latimer.

In addition to Kiawenti:io Tarbell and Brandon Oakes (Through Black Spruce; Arctic Air; Saving Hope) new Indigenous cast members include Dana Jeffrey (Heartland; Teenagers). To find the perfect ‘Ka’kwet’, Anne with an E producers and casting team conducted an open-call search across Canada. Two hundred and thirty candidates auditioned in person or via tape, from coast to coast. Shortlisted actors were invited to take part in an acting workshop in Toronto, where the producers and casting team landed on Kiawenti:io Tarbell.

As the world of Avonlea continues to expand, Anne turns 16 – a momentous occasion which cements her desire to discover more about her birth parents and family history. But this new quest isn’t comfortable for everyone, as Matthew and Marilla grapple with the fact that Anne may have a life outside of Green Gables. Meanwhile, the residents of Avonlea interact with a camp of members of the Mi’kmaq nation, causing tensions to rise – and deep bonds to be forged. The future looms large as the kids enter their senior year of school – some prepare for their college entrance exams, while others set their sights on more exotic shores. But first, everyone must survive the perils of romance, friendship, first love, first kisses, and much more. Sebastian and Mary settle into domestic life, while Gilbert dreams big about his future as a doctor. As Anne matures, she’s increasingly forced to grapple with difficult topics — from gender equality to Indigenous rights — and learns that the fight to make the world a better place never ends. As the characters prepare to enter the twentieth century, some continue to look forward while others cling to more traditional ways, but one thing is clear – nothing will ever be the same again.

While Anne with an E continues to honour the foundation of L. M. Montgomery’s novel, this reimagined series explores identity, racism, feminism, friendship, bullying, gender parity, and empowerment through the lens of its fierce, starry-eyed, irrepressible 16-year-old protagonist.

A CBC and Netflix original series, Anne with an E is produced by Northwood Entertainment and created by Moira Walley-Beckett. The executive producers are Miranda de Pencier, Moira Walley-Beckett, Tina Grewal, Debra Hayward, and Alison Owen. Anne with an E is inspired by the timeless Canadian novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

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