Anne Shirley may be one of Canada’s most beloved literary creations, but Amybeth McNulty says there’s more to the icon than just her signature red hair and freckled face.
“She was a feminist before feminism even existed,” says the Irish-Canadian actress, who plays the iconic Anne of Green Gables on the CBC show Anne with an E. “She didn’t know what it meant. No one else knew what it meant, she just knew she had these views. She is 100 per cent a feminist icon, and I love that about her.”
McNulty, who dyes her naturally blonde hair red for the role, says viewers will see a slightly different Anne on Season 2 of the show, which premieres Sept. 23. The second season is currently streaming on Netflix outside of Canada.
“Anne is growing up. She is definitely becoming more comfortable in her family and she is secure. She knows she’s not going to be sent away at the drop of a hat. That brings a lot more emotion as she figures out who she wants to be and what she wants to do.”
The 16-year-old bested 1,800 other actors for the role of the orphaned girl adopted by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert.
“I’m just a wee girl from Donegal [Ireland],” says McNulty. “I was just here doing my own thing and, all of a sudden, I was whisked away to Canada. It’s mad.”
She describes her audition as a bit “mad” as well. “They handed me a photo of lions and an archway of flowers and said, ‘Talk about that for as long as you possibly can.’ I had to make up stories. I have no idea what came out of my blabbering mouth, but it seemed to work.”
Both seasons of Anne with an E were partly filmed in Prince Edward Island, where the novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery is set. “When I originally went there to shoot the first season we couldn’t tell anyone what we were doing,” she says. “I went into the Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Shop and they said, ‘With your red hair you could be Anne Shirley.’”
McNulty has fallen in love with P.E.I.—and it appears some locals have also fallen in love with her. “There have been a few people who have come up to me since the first season and said how much they like the show, and that just makes my heart so happy. It’s their story. I just get to help tell it.”
Amybeth McNulty’s best of Prince Edward Island
The landscape: “We shot both seasons at The Cliffs of Cape Tryon. There are magical clover fields and gigantic red cliffs there. It’s a stunning place to be.”
Anne attraction: “The Anne of Green Gables Chocolate Shop was the first place I ever visited, so it has a special place in my heart.”
Outdoor activity: “Let’s just say that swimming in the Atlantic Ocean in October was… unforgettable.”
Shopping trip: “I’m going to go back to Anne for this and say The Anne of Green Gables Store. There are so many sweet little trinkets in there.”
Island beach: “Thunder Cove Beach in Darnley on the north side is famous for its Teacup Rock, [a teacup-shaped rock formation]. It’s stunning.”
[This story appears in the September 2018 issue of WestJet Magazine]