Thursday, 16 October 2014

Back to Green Gables with Jonathan Crombie

I stepped off the boat, it had been many years since I had been here, so many wasted years since I enjoyed the majesty of Prince Edward Island. 

The grass was as emerald green as I remembered, the houses were as picturesque, the vistas were as beautiful and in the air hung the sweet smell of apple blossom. It was as if time had been kept in a box and that box had only been reopened as I, once again stepped onto its soil.

I closed my eyes and imagined myself in a floating white cotton dress with a crinoline  underskirt,
the biggest puffed sleeves and a matching parasol, sauntering around the island, meeting friends for a glass of currant wine or enjoying high tea with a gentleman... when suddenly 'whoosh' I was nearly knocked off my feet by two boys on skateboards. Luckily I was wearing rubber soled trainers I thought, prompting me to take stock of my choice of outfit, jeans and a striped T-shirt, not exactly the romantic vision I had had for today, I sighed, things do change, I suppose... Time does move on. 

I wandered on, still 
I thought with a smile, however much things had changed a great deal has stayed the same; the road - although now covered in tarmac - was still tree-lined and flanked on either side by enchanting, white-washed wooden houses, with swing seats and painted gables. That bridge in front of me... That bridge could have just leapt out of a Claude Monet painting and that man leaning on the bridge... Well he could have, quite literally just walked out of a romantic storybook, for goodness sake that man could have just walked out of the romantic storybook, that man could have walked out of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s 'Anne of Green Gables'... That man could have... I stepped a little closer... That man actually really could be... I was only a few feet away from the bridge now... Oh my, that man was the image of Gilbert Blythe, the man who stole Anne Shirley's heart... Another step... I was at the foot of the bridge now and I could see the man quite clearly and oh my goodness it was... It really was! It was Jonathan Crombie, it was Gilbert Blythe!
I tried to hide my excitement, but unlike Jonathan I am not a good actor and my face betrayed me, he turned and smiled, such a friendly, welcoming smile that, as such a fan of the series and an admirer of his work, was so familiar to me. Jonathan ushered me to his side and was more than happy to chat...

So, Jonathan, what is it like playing a character from youth to maturity in a matter of a few years? You changed a bit, but always looked a little older, but Megan Follows managed to pull off child and woman so smoothly… Was this a bit freaky to watch her and yourself ‘grow’ 
"First of all, thanks for letting me know I always looked older!!  Megan indeed pulled off the different ages of Anne with such aplomb.  Hair, make-up, and wardrobe helped of course, but it is a testament to her acting that the transitions were so smooth and believable. "

What is it like to be so associated with a fictional character that you are even referred to as Gill? Did you find the transition to other jobs easy? Or where you judged on your performance in Anne of Green Gables? "I think at first the Gilbert connection was strong, but I made sure to quickly take on roles that were different, and it’s never really been a problem, particularly in theatre. "

Your portrayal of Gill has left such an indelible mark on fans of both the book and series, do you get people believing that you are actually Gill?  
"A few odd letters, but nothing bordering on scary.  I imagine Megan has dealt with some stranger fan mail stuff than I have."
You star with such a fabulous cast, Wwhat was it like filming with Megan and the rest of them? 
"The cast was amazing, and particularly during the first two ‘Annes', we hung out a lot off set." 

It must have been so hot and stuffy in those clothes? 

I was fine in the costumes (but then again, I never get too hot—I like it scorching!)."

Talking of the costumes, you cut a dashing figure in your suits but were there any modern ‘adjustments’ made to the clothes to make them easier and cooler to wear?  
"I’m not sure of any little tricks wardrobe had to keep costumes cool or more comfortable.  From costumes to props to sets"

So... how authentic was the whole experience? (apart from the film crew!)

"All the components were incredibly authentic and very true to the period and story."

Did anyone occidentally bring modern items on set? I’ve never spotted any, I have to admit.
"Of course this was all before smartphones, but as far as I know all digital devices, modern magazines, coke cans, etc. were pretty much off set when cameras were rolling."

Were there any diva tantrums on set? Did anyone threaten to storm off? 
"If there were, I didn’t see them.  Too bad—I love watching that kind of stuff!"

Now it was set on Prince Edward Island, but where was it filmed? Did you even go to the Island? 
"Most of it was shot in rural areas and ‘pioneer villages’ outside Toronto.  There were a few days in PEI [Prince Edward Island], but I believe just with Megan and Schuyler (the stuff on the beach, showing off that beautiful PEI red sand). "

Well every location looked lovely
"Even though we weren’t in PEI, the locations they found were pretty awesome, and had wonderful histories of their own. "

So how did you get into character? Did you read the books to create you're Gilbert? 
"I did read the books and managed to collect some great information.  But ultimately, the script served as my main source—and I tried to remain faithful to that.  If I had worried about trying to portray the “definitive” Gilbert from the books, I think it would have really messed me up. "

Were there any goofs? (It’s not exactly the kind of series to have a blooper reel!) 
"Tons of goofs!  Forgetting lines, falling off horses, tripping over cables, you name it.  The blooper reel would be longer than the films.  I remember one day, Megan and I were so tired and giddy, we could not stop giggling,  and could hardly get through the scene."

I sneezed, the air was full of pollen... Hmm I wonder...

 Did anyone have Hay-fever during filming?! 
"Don’t remember hay fever, but I’m sure there were a few allergies going around."

You starred alongside the fabulous and charismatic Richard Farnsworth, what was like? He always played such quiet characters, was he actually that quiet? 
"I only met him on set once—and yes, rather quiet, but very sweet and very supportive of the younger cast members. "

And yo dou still see Megan Follows? 
"I just saw Megan in a play in Toronto not too long ago (she was of course incredible in it) and we went for a drink afterwards and ended up spending a couple hours catching up."  

So do people stare when they see you? 

"Don’t remember too many stares, but some of her castmates were teasing us as we left."

This did make me smile, I imagine I would probably burst into tears if I saw them together...

Why do you think that both the books and the series was so endearing to children and grown -ups, then and now,  I mean there are no robots, guns or special effects! 
"I think the character of Anne is so attractive because she is so empowered by her imagination.  It allows her to see the world in a way that transcends circumstances.  She is always armed with hope, determination, and an inexhaustible appreciation of beauty. "  

Was there any doubt in your mind that you orMegan would do the ‘The Continuing Story’ How do you think it compares with the originals? Is it true about Megan’s nose job? 
"Megan was already attached when they approached me.  I was set to go back to Stratford, but decided if they were going ahead, and Megan was a part of it, I should be as well.  I know it departs from the Montgomery stories, but Megan and I worked very hard to remain faithful to the original characters. 
Nose job?  Are you kidding? "

Andif another book was discovered would you ever consider reprising the role of Gilbert? 
"guess it would depend on the script itself, and of course whether Megan was involved."

How do you think it would have differed if Katherine Hepburn had accepted the role as Marilla? How would have that been for you? What an experience!            "It would have been very exciting, of course, but no more so than working with the amazing Colleen Dewhurst.  Not only was she sensational in the role, but one of the warmest, friendliest and most interesting people you could ever meet." 

I know Megan follows beat of 3 thousand girls to get Anne, how did your audition process go? 
"The casting agent saw me in a school play, and asked me to audition.  I did a couple of reads with the director and got the role (I think my curly dark hair at the time may have helped). " 

Now you’ve had a lot of very different roles since doing Anne (Excuse the pun), but what is your favourite?  
"Gilbert will always be special, since it was my first professional role, and part of such a wonderful experience.  But I gotta admit, playing ‘Man in Chair’ in “The Drowsy Chaperone” in NY and on tour was a total blast. " 

So, you created the perfect Gilbert but if you could play any other fictional character, who would it be? 

"The list is pretty long—there’s so many wonderful characters that I would love to do.  Yepihodov from ‘The Cherry Orchard’ has always been a particular favourite (but I’m perhaps a little too old now)."

And do you think you could have lived back then? I’d love to think I could, but without the net and TV I would probably go insane!  
"I think I could have managed—just sit me down with board games and I’m fine. "

I smiled at Jonathan, he had been so kind as I gushed over his stories, I could have stood chatting all day, but I knew I'd taken so much of his time, plus checking my watch my ferry was leaving soon and I had to be on it, so I had to just say one more thing, I said 'and lastly, thank you for giving me, my friends and now my daughter hours of enjoyment!' to which he replied kindly...
"Completely and utterly my pleasure! "

For more information on Jonathan and Anne of Green Gables go to:



  1. Thank you for this wonderful interview with Jonathan Crombie! He was a perfect Gilbert Blythe and will always be remembered for this role (especially by the millions of girls who have a crush on him ;)). Great job! I am so happy to see this.

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  2. Did my comment disappear? Ugh lol

    I'll wait a bit to see

    1. Yes it did.

      I'll redo. This was a great interview. Loved the questions and wonderful answers. I learned so much. This was so kind of you Jonathan.
      I do hope another movie is made that is true to Mauds words and taped here on PEI :)
      A girl can dream, eh?

      Thank you both so much :)
      Denise of Ingleside

  3. Born in 80's grew up watching films; loved first- watched it whenever it was on PBS (know own it). Just read books last year. All set to go to PEI LAST year (bus tour from Boston)- got cancelled due ti not enough people. Parents took me this year ( I don't drive) and I saw so much more. Dad got Anne package at Kindred Spirits; we went to shows, Green Gables, museum, Maud's birthplace & homestead. Just as Megan is my ideal Anne; you are my ideal Gilbert (if only I could find one)! Mom says since she's seen movie (my introduction of Anne to my parents) and the shows- she's not going to read it. Told her she was missing so much. Thanks to Youtube I can get snippets of movie when in mood- looking back to the 80s- that hair of yours with slight curl was so cute!

  4. I was just watching Anne of Green Gables today with my baby. I can't begin to think just how many times I must have watched it over the last 20 odd years. I love the books and the show. LM Montgomery wrote such a beautiful story. I adore all the characters - perfect casting by Sullivan Movies. Megan Follows and Jonathon Crombie were fantastic in it and they will remain as Anne and Gilbert to me forever! :-)

  5. Thank you, it was so nice reading this interview and what a fortunate one you are for meeting Jonathan Crombie in person. I have read all the AOGG books the 8 of 'em and have watched the trilogy movies for so many times (I think I'm obsessed). Thank you to Kevin Sullivan for filming the trilogy movies, the casting was superb; Jonathan and Megan are perfect match, they're such a lovely couple and their love story is the best one that I have ever watched. No one can excellently play the role of Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley except these two great Canadian actors Megan and Jonathan. Wishful thinking that these two should do a movie together regardless of their ages. I do hope.

  6. RIP Jonathan, there will never be another Gilbert Blythe xxx

  7. I treasure this interview all the more now ♡♡

    Rest In Sweet Heavenly Peace Jonathan

    Forever Gilbert ♡♡♡

  8. So saddened by Jonathan's passing... It truly feels like losing a family member. The world will never be the same but we are very lucky that we had a chance to see him as Gilbert Blythe. He was Gilbert for many - he was Gilbert for me.

    I think he would not be pleased by our tears, so when the news sinks in a bit we have to go on enjoying the movies we thankfully still have. He will be missed but he will not be forgotten. Forever Gilbert!

    My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who was dear to him. I hope you will find strength to cope in these difficult times. You are not alone in your sorrow.

  9. I have always been obsessed with the Anne of GG movies since I first watched them as a young girl. I watched them repeatedly - partially because I had a giant crush on Gilbert Blythe! I remember buying a used video at Blockbuster called Café Romeo - simply because Jonathan Crombie was in the cast!

    So imagine my surprise when I was at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis for a show I hadn't heard anything about - "The Drowsy Chaperone." It was amazing! So much better since I had no expectations. And imagine my greater surprise as I looked at the cast list at intermission and realized that the narrator was none other than Jonathan Crombie! It made the performance that much more special, and he was amazing!! The fangirl in me almost waited outside the theater door for an autograph! Now I wish I had!!

    I am so saddened by the news of his sudden passing. Way too young! He seemed like a sweet man, and watching the Anne movies now will never be the same! He will always be my Gilbert!

  10. So sad when I heard of Jonathan's death. There will never be another Gilbert for me. Love him and Megan together. My grandmother named my Father Gilbert after her beloved novel "Anne of Green Gables". May he rest in peace and I pray my Grandmother meets Gilbert in heavenđź’—

  11. So sad when I heard of Jonathan's death. There will never be another Gilbert for me. Love him and Megan together. My grandmother named my Father Gilbert after her beloved novel "Anne of Green Gables". May he rest in peace and I pray my Grandmother meets Gilbert in heavenđź’—

  12. I think this is a really good article. You make this information interesting and engaging. You give readers a lot to think about and I appreciate that kind of writing.
    "nose job Boston"