Pop quiz: What's the most important aspect of successfully executing a show based on the classic 1908 novel Anne Of Green Gables? If you said, "Casting the perfect Anne Shirley," then you'd be spot on. So who plays Anne on Netflix's Anne With An E? Which lucky young actor gets to don the trademark red pigtails dreamt up by Canadian author Lucy Laud Montgomery over 100 years ago?
In the case of the new series, the performer in question is 15-year-old Irish-Canadian actor Amybeth McNulty. (Presumably no relation to The Wire's Jimmy McNulty.) According to Deadline, McNulty won the coveted role on the Canadian television adaptation — which aired in that country earlier this spring prior to its debut on Netflix this weekend — over a staggering 1,889 fellow auditionees from all over the world.
When McNulty's casting was first announced in October of last year, Anne With An E showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett (Flesh And Bone, Breaking Bad) said in a statement about her leading lady that, "Amybeth is a wonderful and sensitive actress who embodies all of Anne's qualities," as reported by Deadline. "She's soulful and inquisitive, mercurial and passionate. Her ability to convey pain and joy is breathtaking. Amybeth is Anne for a new generation."
Another quality that McNulty shares with her character is a profound love for reading. In an interview with CBC News, the actress described herself as a "bookworm" who read Montgomery's Anne novels when she was nine years old. She also expanded on what else she and Anne Shirley have in common: "She has so much love for the world, which I think I share with her. And her curiosity about everything, how she can be so fierce and so bold but so gentle and so loving."
So where might you have seen her before? According to her IMBd page, Amybeth McNulty had four credits to her name before winning the role of her young career. Most of those credits were on Canadian television series, appearing in various episodes of Agatha Raisin, The Sparticle Mystery, and Clean Break. Likely the only place American audiences would have seen the actor before is in a small role in last year's sci-fi horror movie Morgan, in which McNulty briefly portrayed a younger version of the title character played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Split).
Netflix's Anne With An E also stars R.H. Thomson (who previously starred in the 1990s CBC series Road To Avonlea, based on other books by Montgomery), Geraldine James (Sherlock Holmes' Mrs. Hudson), and Lucas Jade Zumann (20th Century Women) alongside McNulty as the elderly Mr. & Mrs. Cuthbert and young Gilbert, respectively. You can check all eight episodes out on Netflix now.