‘Anne of Green Gables’: Megan Follows’ Hair Was Never the Right Shade of Red

Well before Netflix’s acclaimed Anne with an E, there were various adaptations of Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 1908 novel, Anne of Green Gables.

Perhaps the most infamous adaptation was the 1985 Canadian made-for-TV movie, Anne of Green Gables directed by Kevin Sullivan and starring Megan Follows as Anne Shirley. The movie was the first of three parts which also included Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel, Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story, and Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning. It took a lot for Sullivan to get the movie to the small-screen, and getting Follows’ hair the right shade of red was especially challenging.

Megan Follows in 'Anne of Green Gables
Megan Follows in ‘Anne of Green Gables’ | CBC

It took one year to find the right actor to star in ‘Anne of Green Gables’

After getting the rights to Montgomery’s novel, Sullivan took on the harrowing task of trying to find the right actor to play Anne. In the end, the director auditioned over 3000 girls for the titular role.

“I quickly realized through the process that I was not going to find Anne of Green Gables sitting in a field in Saskatchewan—that I really needed someone who was a seasoned performer that would have the ability to play Anne,” he said in an interview for the Anne of Green Gables DVD.

He actually saw Follows for the part early on in the audition process but overlooked the then-17-year-old because she looked a bit too old for the role. “I brought Megan back to do another audition, and this was a real screen test in costume, and the first test that she did really was mediocre.”

However, when she was asked to audition again, Follows was determined to snag the role. “I kept thinking, ‘If they’re going to make Anne of Green Gables, then I really want to play her,” she explained on the DVD extras. “I started writing down on paper all these declarations: … ‘I am Anne of Green Gables’ … and I stuck them all over the house. … I was determined to get this part.”

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Megan Follows often had to play a 12-year old and a 16-year old on the same day for ‘Anne of Green Gables’

Follows did nab the part, and it was a tall task. On some days, the 17-year-old was required to play both a 12-year-old and a 16-year-old within hours. “It isn’t a huge age difference … but it is in terms of an attitude—it’s a little girl to 16 and a half, which in those days was already a young lady,” Follows said. “I remember a couple days where we’d have five different age changes. I’d go from 12 to 14 to 16 back to 12, and they were all out of sequence, and at first, it was difficult.” 

In order to help her shift her mindset, Follows focused on her makeup and wardrobe. She explained,

The funny thing was that I’d find even when my hair would go into the braids and I’d put the orphan dress and the shoes and all of a sudden I just felt younger, and I’d walk differently.

Megan Follows hair was never the right shade in ‘Anne of Green Gables’

However, no matter how brilliant the hair and makeup team were, they struggled to color Follows’ naturally light-brown hair into the perfect red shade that Anne was supposed to have. In fact, in the first three films, where she stars as Anne, Follows’ hair is never quite right.

“You can see it almost looks gray,” Sullivan said in the DVD commentary. “We had to tweak it afterward when we were making the film to enhance the green so that it would look distinctive.”