After 1,889 girls from all over the world auditioned to become one of literature’s most beloved characters, one 15-year-old Irish-Canadian actress won the coveted role. Amybeth McNulty believes she was practically born for the part.
“My mom gave me ‘Anne of Green Gables’ as a present so that was my first introduction to Anne, little did I know,” the star of Netflix’s “Anne With an E” told Fox News.
The novel, which was written by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, was published in 1908 and explores the impassioned orphan’s tumultuous years attempting to navigate everyday life.
The Donegal, Ireland, native immediately identified with the heroine.
“I liked that she was fiery and she didn’t really care what people thought,” explained McNulty. “As a 9-year-old bookworm I kind of sped through it. I loved the story and I loved that she got into trouble a bit. She was quite like myself, I find.”
While the story takes place 150 years ago, the new series dives into Anne’s teenage years and explores themes that still remain relevant to today’s viewers.
“Anne was an accidental feminist,” explained McNulty. “She was a feminist before feminism really existed, which I find really intriguing. And we’re dealing with prejudice, exclusion, bullying, sexuality and just all kinds of very relatable topics today that Lucy Montgomery wrote in her book.”
McNulty was determined to take on the role. After sending in an audition tape from Ireland, she was placed on a list for a couple of months, until the list of potential girls to play Anne was narrowed down to five. McNulty was then flown to Toronto where she got the part. Soon, the naturally blonde actress was transformed into a fiery red head to film in Prince Edward Island, where the story takes place.
“I love it,” she said of the hair transformation. “Sadly, I’m not a natural redhead. But, I prefer my red hair to my blonde hair. So that’s a really good thing.”
She also enjoyed getting into costumes from the 1890s, a far cry from the casual jeans and T-shirt she wears off-camera.
“They’re my favorite!” she said. “I think the boots were my favorite part of the costume. But we had bloomers, we had big pouty dresses. Luckily, I didn’t have to wear a corset, but I know a couple who did in the cast, so I felt bad for them.”
McNulty was also aware of the great responsibility she was given to play a character many grew up with from their childhood.
“I think because [Anne] is so iconic and so beloved, I was just so honored to be able to have my portrayal of her out there, especially on such a great network like Netflix and CBC,” she said. “So that was a real honor for me. And I think, as soon as I got into my head that this is just my portrayal of her - if people like it, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s fine. Once I said that to myself, I was fine.”
And although some audiences may assume that “Anne with an E” is strictly for females, McNulty insisted that it’s a series for families to enjoy together. She also added it it might inspire future shows aimed for young girls like her to focus more on their own everyday lives.
“Luckily, this show is also a family show,” said McNulty. “It’s [for] boys, girls, old, young; it’s for anyone. It’s a family show…Definitely I think recently there has been quite a few shows that are designed towards teenage girls. But perhaps …I think they should be more empowering and less about makeup and clothes and [instead be] more realistic and authentic to who we are.”
The future for “Anne with an E,” is uncertain though. Viewers can currently stream the first eight episodes on Netflix, but McNulty admitted that it’s still unknown whether fans can expect more.