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Anne of Green Gables goes dark — no, really

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables has long been celebrated as one of the most beloved young adult novels of the 20th century, and the classic Canadian tale about a red-haired orphan who comes to live at the Cuthberts’ farm on Prince Edward Island is being adapted for television again — but this time, it’s going to have a dark twist, thanks to CBC TV.

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The series, entitled Anne, has a Season 1 commitment of eight episodes, and producers are currently on the hunt for the next Anne Shirley. Award-winning writer Moira Walley-Beckett (who brought us hit AMC series Breaking Bad) is at the helm of the project, and according to Global News, she knows just what she is looking for in a star: “a 12-year-old female Bryan Cranston.”

This role will be incredibly demanding — and it won’t all be flowers and rainbows, because the series is going to be portraying the dark aspects of the novel, too.

“Anne is damaged; she never wasn’t. I’m not reinventing the wheel here in that regard,” said Walley-Beckett. “There’s this one line that she says: ‘Am I talking too much? Everybody always tells me that I do. It seems to cause no end of aggravation.’ When you look at that, what does that mean? What’s happened in the past?”

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Walley-Beckett notes that lines like that allude to a tumultuous past. “What’s happened in the past… is that she’s been smacked across the face for talking too much or she’s been punished,” she explained. She wants to dig deeper into the story to find out why these characters are the way that they are, and it’s these complicated and flawed features of the story that will help produce a more diverse, modern Anne.

And because the series will explore a new angle, the producers are looking for an extraordinary girl to portray her. Producer Miranda de Pencier told CBC News, “We are looking for a certain unique quality, a girl that can help define Anne for a new generation.”

“She’s a modern girl with a massive heart,” said de Pencier. “She is also a deeply wounded kid — she bears the emotional scars of the abusive life she’s led so far. Anne is full of contradictions.”

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Of course, diehard Anne Shirley fans still fondly remember Megan Follows in the 1985 adaptation of the book, and hers will be a hard act to follow. The series was nominated for a slew of awards and took home a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program. Follows herself enjoyed critical recognition, winning a Gemini Award in 1986 for Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Single Dramatic Program or Miniseries.

Follows depicted Anne as a classic heroine, but the new Anne will be all that and more: “contemporary: smart, quirky, fierce and spirited, but also insecure and wildly emotional,” de Pencier said.

If you’re wondering if Anne of Green Gables has relevance to today’s audience, the answer is yes. According to Mental Floss, while the sales of the book have declined over the years (it was published in 1908, after all), Anne of Green Gables remains big business across the globe.

Cavendish (re-imagined as Avonlea in the books) has over 125,000 fans visit it on pilgrimages each year, with an estimated 20 percent of those fans coming from Japan (yes, the novel is massive there). The Green Gables farmhouse is a National Historic Site, and Prince Edward Island remains a popular tourist attraction. In addition, the novel has been adapted for the screen multiple times and has served as inspiration for Canada’s longest running musical, Anne of Green Gables: The Musical, which in 2015 enjoyed its 51st season — making clear that it’s a timeless story that still resonates with Canadians. But in order to appeal to a new generation, producers and writers of Anne have cleverly thought to add new dynamics.

Production is expected to begin this summer, with a debut in 2017, and the hunt is now on to discover a talented young girl who can bring this diverse character to life. According to The Anne Search, girls between the ages of 11 and 14 are invited to simply “sign up and show up.”

Those trying out will be expected to try to make the lines sound natural, feel the emotions and “imagine the real circumstances of each scene.”

Casting will be held in Toronto on May 7 and May 8, in Vancouver on May 14 and May 15, and in Halifax on May 29 and May 30. If you’re a hopeful (or if you know someone who may be perfectly suited to fill this role), then head over to The Anne Search to find out more.

Before you go, share your thoughts with us: Is this a TV adaptation you’re looking forward to?

Before you go, check out our slideshow below.

books turned movies 2016 slideshow
Image: Amblin Entertainment

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