‘Anne with an E’ fans use billboards in campaign to revive cancelled show

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TORONTO — Like the fearless protagonist on “Anne with an E,” fans of the cancelled show aren’t giving up.

The CBC/Netflix drama series was not renewed for a fourth season in late November, and creator Moira Walley-Beckett has said on Instagram that “there is just no way to revive” it anywhere at this point.

But viewers are still holding out hope the show can find a new life, and they’re continuing their campaign to make that happen.

Earlier this week, a viewer-created group that calls itself AWAE Fan Projects spent $1,000 on five digital “Save ‘Anne with an E'” billboards in Toronto’s downtown Yonge-Dundas Square.

The campaign ran four days and featured fan-created artwork depicting the heroine from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic novel “Anne of Green Gables,” which inspired the series.

Now, they’re hoping to get similar digital displays in New York’s Times Square.

“A lot of us are willing to wait it out and see if anything happens,” says Lisa Elksnitis, a senior financial administrator in Toronto who is part of the fan group and helped get the billboards.

“We understand it’s not something that would happen overnight. Most people are going to keep trying for several months at least.”

The third and final season of “Anne with an E” finished airing on the CBC in late November and hit Netflix on Jan. 3.

Irish-Canadian actress Amybeth McNulty starred as the Prince Edward Island orphan, who is taken in by aging siblings, played by R.H. Thomson and Geraldine James.

The series was shot in P.E.I. and Ontario and was a co-production between the CBC and Netflix.

While the show was inspired by the novel, Walley-Beckett and co-executive producer Miranda de Pencier added new elements, including LGBTQ and Indigenous storylines.

A post on Instagram this week showed Walley-Beckett visiting one Toronto billboard, which featured an image of Anne with a tear running down her cheek beside a list of words including “racism,” “feminism” and “gender bias.”

“They have injected modern themes and storylines into this show but in a really successful way, and that’s what kept me interested in it,” says Elksnitis.

The 37-year-old Elksnitis admits she didn’t initially realize the show had such depth and didn’t become a huge fan until after it was cancelled. Spurred by the online uproar, she binged it online and was blown away by the production value and acting.

“I just never got into it at the time, which annoys me, because if there are others like me then maybe there would have been more viewers back then,” Elksnitis says.

Elksnitis says the AWAE Fan Projects group has about 12 members who came together on social media and whom she hasn’t met in person. They hail from countries including Canada, Germany, France, Portugal and the United States.

The group started two GoFundMe campaigns — one to pay for social media advertising and another for billboards.

Elksnitis is now working to get digital billboards in Times Square.

She says the group also sent fan letters to the producer, Northwood Entertainment, and the CBC.

Elksnitis knows of another fan group that plans to send white rags to TV studios — a nod to a season 3 episode in which some Green Gables residents wave white rags at a freedom-of-speech protest.

There are also fan petitions calling on Netflix to renew the show.

Elksnitis hopes any new “Anne” incarnation would have the same cast and creative team.

“They did such an incredible job with the show, I would hate to see it fall into the wrong hands.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press