Irish actress Amybeth McNulty's performance in Anne with an E is winning critical acclaim as the show moves confidently through its second season right now on Netflix.
Still only 16 and still living in Letterkenny, County Donegal, the young Irish actress is currently enjoying the best of both worlds, growing stardom and a typical Irish upbringing.
Do you remember what it was like to be 14? Do you shudder at the memory? Would you find yourself back in high school with odious teachers and backstabbing students? No one in their right mind would volunteer for a gig like that, right?
Well, think again. Think about all the discoveries you were making, as you took your first tentative steps toward your adult life. The biggest discovery was likely yourself. There was a whole big world out there, and it looked shiny new.
That the-world-is-my-oyster feeling fills young Anne Shirley-Cuthbert's soul in Netflix's hit show, Anne with an E. She's a romantic with a capital R and practically everything she sees leads her toward another huge adventure of discovery.
Anne's the kind of girl who embraces the world with wide open arms and an open heart, which makes her either one in a million or an insufferable nerd, depending on where you stand and what you want your world to look like.
As played by Amybeth McNulty, 16, Anne's really a hero for our own times, because she approaches people entirely without prejudice, a lesson that we all need to reminded of in these divided times.
Although Anne with an E has now moved on from the events of season one, which were based on the beloved book Anne of Green Gables, the progression couldn't feel more natural.
The writers of the new season are, remarkably, all women and the focus is no longer just on the world as seen though Anne's eyes but also as seen through the eyes of all the people she encounters.
McNulty, the up and coming new Irish actress, still lives very happily in Letterkenny, County Donegal for the half of the year when the show isn't filming, which means she's enjoying the best of both worlds, newfound stardom and a fairly normal Irish upbringing. No one is more grateful for the the fact than the actress herself.
“We film all of our stuff in Canada and when we're done I'm at home in Donegal,” she tells the Irish Voice. “Donegal been a huge help for me toward finding Anne's character. I think that a lot of people will agree that Donegal is the countryside, it's trees and fields, but especially when you're a kid you can make so much out of that. It's such a beautiful area to live in and right now my two best friends Poppy and Daisy are here upstairs in the house I'm in right now.”
When you're a teenager your best friends are the biggest part of your life, so for Anne and for Amy its synchronicity. “We created out own little world when we were kids and that's what's so special about Donegal. You can create whatever you imagine here. There's so much nature to let your imagination take flight.”Anne's imagination in the show is so powerful that at times it actually frightens her. Equally, her insistence that “a girl can do anything” is an unmistakably feminist message for our own times.
“We have a lot in common, we're both bookworms, we both enjoy nature, we appreciate everyone around us and we both never stop talking,” McNulty laughs. “It was very easy for me to get into character because I had a lot of her in myself anyway. I brought a lot of myself into her because we're basically the same person. To grow up with her, at her own age, has been such a joy.”
Season two of Anne with an E is more about Anne's involvement in other people's lives and how their issues affect her personally and how she can help them, McNulty says. “I think because of what she's gone through in the past, in her traumas and her heartbreak, the fact that she's finally with people who she loves and who love her, she know finds a way to help others.”
In fact it's beautiful to see how her friendships are blossoming with other people on the new season. Now she's taking on challenges that she didn't before. It seems completely inevitable too, because people who traditionally get pushed to the side, who's stories don't get told, are the main focus of Anne with an E. Add to this the kind of perspective that comes from the shows all female writing team and it's a show unlike any other on television.
“The there things in the show that are not just political issues but rights issues,” McNulty explains. “They're issues that every human should be involved in worried about and participating in and I'm very happy to help give a voice to that. We're not just there for entertainment, we're raising topics and creating conversations.”
Anne's an ally, in other words. Because she has been through the mill in her own life, and has seen a lot of the back of the hand, she uses what she's learned to help others. But Anne with an E has come in for sharp criticism from conservative Christian websites, who are offended it has introduced a young gay character to the series, taking a sympathetic view of the homophobia that he endures in the late 19 century.
“There are so many people out there struggling with racism, or their sexuality or where they're brought up or how wealthy their family was ans these issues are not hidden, they were in the late 19 century and they're still important today. I think it's really interesting to see these issues addressed in the late 1800's because though we have moved forward things haven't changed a lot. I think for kids to see it and see their issues represented on television is not a common thing and it should be. I am very happy to see these issues addressed and I completely agree with it. I'm happy to give a voice to it at such a young age.”
McNulty was 14 when she was cast and she's 16 now. She's spent quite a bit of time playing the character and getting into her shoes. “Now I feel more confident going to the director and saying hey, can I improv a little here, can I play around a bit more?” she says.
And the future after Anne? “I'm really excited to see what the future hold for me in terms of work. It's going to be hard, but it's going to be good hard work, and I'm really excited for the challenge that awaits me.
Are there classic Irish roles she'd like to tackle? “I'd love to play a character that is unknown, that hasn't been played before. That would be really interesting. There's so much Irish literature I'd love to conquer. There are so many Irish actors I'd love to work with too like my number one Saoirse Ronan, which would just be such a joy and I'd learn so much.”
Anne with an E is now available on Netflix.