Over the course of seven seasons, “Road to Avonlea” evolved into one of Canada’s most beloved family dramas. Based on a series of novels penned by Lucy Maud Montgomery (who is also responsible for “Anne of Green Gables”), “Road to Avonlea” told the story of a privileged young girl sent to live with her family in Prince Edward Island during the early 1900s.
Most notably, “Road to Avonlea” served as the launching pad for Sarah Polley’s career, while also featuring a young Ryan Gosling and established stars like Faye Dunaway, Christopher Reeve, Ned Beatty, Christopher Lloyd and others.
However, one continual and enjoyable fixture of “Road to Avonlea” was actress Mag Ruffman (as Olivia King-Dale). Appearing in all 91 episodes of the series, Ruffman was a true audience-pleaser.
During a recent interview with our friends at EverythingZoomer.com, Ruffman spoke about what it was like for her to play such a treasured character.
“I had no formal training as an actor so I had to feel my way into it. I didn’t make any intellectual choices when playing Olivia,” recollected Ruffman. “What I liked the most was being able to feel my way into it and not having any preconceptions of how to play the role. I just used my actual feelings to create the character and her relationships.
“I liked that Olivia was so quirky and a little unpredictable,” continued Ruffman. “I loved her warmth and her awkwardness; her way of really believing in other people and not ever holding a grudge or being self-centered – I loved that she was so altruistic. For the most part, Olivia was just an admirable character and I probably could have played her with more depth and a bit of a darker side, but I didn’t know how. Remember, I was Phys-Ed major.” [laughs]
Although Ruffman didn’t have any formal acting training, her time spent participating in musical theatre is ultimately what led her to “Road to Avonlea.” You see, Kevin Sullivan (a producer and writer for the series) had worked with Ruffman in the past and asked her to audition for “Avonlea.” Ruffman impressed him so much that she was soon cast to play Olivia.
“Well, it’s the classic human penchant for going back to an idealized past when life was more simplistic,” offered Ruffman when asked about what has made ‘Road to Avonlea’ such a timeless classic. “None of the characters had truly confusing choices to make—it was either moral or immoral. Back then you had very little stimulation outside of the sewing circle and town meetings, so people became very self-reliant and I think it’s fun to watch that.
“My 87-year-old dad used to watch the show and he’d always get teary,” added Ruffman. “There was a lot of emotion in the stories – it had a lot of heart and people really respond to that. You got welcomed into the fold as a viewer.”
Through June 28, “Road to Avonlea” can be seen Monday-Thursday at 2pm ET/11am PT on VisionTV!