AN American audience will get its first glimpse of a young Donegal actress this evening as she takes the lead role in a new Netflix series.
Letterkenny teenager Amybeth McNulty saw off competition from almost 2,000 auditionees to clinch the part of Anne in the eight episode drama of the same name.
Based on Lucy M Montgomery’s novel classic tale Anne of Green Gables, Anne follows the story of a young orphaned girl in the late 1890’s who, after an abusive childhood spent in orphanages and the homes of strangers, is mistakenly sent to live with an ageing brother and sister.
Over time, Anne transforms their lives and eventually the small town in which they live with her unique spirit, fierce intellect and brilliant imagination.
While still only 15-years-old, Amybeth McNulty has been a regular on Irish stage and screen for several years. Her career started with ballet recitals and amateur performances in Letterkenny’s An Grianán Theatre before several appearances in musicals by multi-award nominated writer and composer, Paul Boyd.
It was though an audition for a part in Matilda in London in 2011 that helped properly launch the young actress towards stardom. The Donegal teenager made the final for the role of the gifted but ill-treated schoolgirl twice but was ultimately turned out. Spotting her potential though, producers urged her to take on an agent.
That decision led to her picking up the part of Martha in a stage version of The Sound of Music in London’s Regent Park followed by roles in Annie, Les Miserables, White Christmas and Oliver.
Television quickly followed and her first on-screen performance came in the RTE four part mini-series Clean Break.
More recently she has appeared on television as young Morgan in Luke Scott’s Morgan for 20th Century Fox, Agatha Raisin in ‘Agatha Raisin: The Quiche Of Death’ for Sky and as Sputnik in ‘The Sparticle Mystery’ for CBBC.
With that wealth of acting experience, Amybeth McNulty’s audition must have been manna from heaven for producers searching for a fiery spirited redhead to play the lead in a new Netflix version of Anne of Green Gables.
In keeping with Montgomery’s original storyline, Anne was filmed on Canada’s Prince Edward Island.
And while it was a first time in Canada for the Donegal schoolgirl, it was still something of a homecoming as her mum hails from the Albertan city of Calgary.
Today, May 12, the young actress as Anne will be seen battling the odds in her fight for love, acceptance and for her place in the world.
“Anne is very talkative and I can relate to that. She is such a free spirit and a lovely person and I grew to really love her,” Amybeth said ahead of the first Netflix instalment of the show.
In casting Anne, the team behind it conducted an exhaustive global search that saw 1,889 actresses put themselves forward for the role.
“I auditioned in Toronto and I had to do three auditions in two days,” Amybeth said.
“On my last audition I felt I had done a terrible job and not as good as I could have. So I said to myself ‘that’s fine, I didn’t get the part’ and then I got the call to say I had. I was crying I was so happy and it was just pure and utter shock, but I loved it.”
Having previously been knocked back, not once but twice, for Matilda, Amybeth McNulty said that she was prepared if things didn’t go her way again with Anne.
“You just never know what they are looking for,” she said. “You could walk into an audition and automatically they will say no. But you won’t know that and it is just about keeping going and keeping trying.”
Filmed over two months, Anne meant ten hour days on set. It was hard work but great fun, according to its youngest star.
“Right now I’m taking a break and staying at home here in Letterkenny because it was hard work. But it was all worth it. It was an amazing experience and a lot of fun.”
When not acting, Amybeth can be found hanging out with her friends in Donegal, dancing or just strumming on her ukulele.
Her days of being able to keep a low profile may be numbered though as exposure to an American audience will almost certainly open the flood gates.
But she is taking nothing for granted and should it not work out, the 15-year-old says she would be perfectly content to step behind the scenes.
“I want to keep doing this as long as I can because I really enjoy it,” the actress said.
“But I would be happy even behind the scenes and prop work is something I have become interested in lately.
“But you just never know and if this is the last thing I do, it’s a good high to go out on.”