Road to Avonlea spanned 7 seasons and a Christmas Movie, and throughout the eight years of production there was a plethora of famous guest stars, some of whom even the most avid of RTA fans might not be aware of! With that said let’s dust off the Road to Avonlea history book and look at some of the memorable guest stars:
Famous for her campy roles in films like Paper Moon, Blazing Saddles, Clue and A Bugs Life, Madeline Kahn was the perfect choice to play Sara’s over the top actress relative Pigeon Plumtree in the Road to Avonlea season two episode, “It’s Just a stage”. Kahn was somewhat of a kook, but she never intended to have that reputation: “In Hollywood I thought I was large and klutzy, like the characters I played. I never acted kooky, but I did fill a time slot slated for a woman who was expected to display interesting neurotic behavior.”
Did you know that before he became a heart throb and all around acclaimed actor in hits such as The Notebook and LaLa Land, Ryan Gosling starred in a number of Canadian TV shows, including Breaker High and Are you Afraid of the Dark? Gosling guest starred in Road to Avonlea as an orphan named Bret McNulty in the season 7 episode “From Away”. Gosling has said he is choosy in the role she takes now, “I try not to make too many movies. I get sick of myself, so I can imagine how everyone else feels”
Michael York rose to fame with his portrayal of Tybalt in the 1968 film Romeo and Juliet but is probably best recognized for his roles as Logan in Logan’s Run and as Basil Exposition in the Austen Powers films. York started out his career on stage and his thespian flare made him a natural to play Ezekiel Crane-the eccentric Lighthouse Keeper who takes Gus Pike under his wing. York guest starred as Ezekiel Crane in season two episodes 8 and 9, "The Sea Ghost "and "All That Glitters". He says that he has always had a unique perspective on acting in film and TV, “Cinema, it has always seemed to me, is essentially a filmed thought.”
Despite acting since the 1940’s, John Neville’s career didn’t really take off until he was in his early 60s and got cast as the title character in the now cult classic The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Neville appeared in the Road to Avonlea season 3 episode "A Dark and Stormy Night", as Percy Methley and he also appeared in By Way of The Stars as Professor Billby. He has said about the types of people who watch his work, “What I like and love about them is their trust in me. Even if I put on something - it might have a few swear words in it - they think I'm a naughty boy, but they will be coming back.”
Diana Rigg’s career has spanned decades, from stage (where she has won Tony awards for her portrayals) to screen and her lists of credits is prolific. She is perhaps best known for role in the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and for two of her Television roles, first as Diana Smyth in the series Diana and second as matriarch Olena Tyrell on Game of Thrones (who could ever forget “Tell Cersi. I want her to know it was me.”) Rigg guest starred in the hilarious Avonlea season 4 episode "The Disappearance" as the aristocratic Lady Blackwell. Rigg is now in her 80’s and says she will continue acting for as long as she can, “I don't want to retire. I never want to retire. What's the point of it?”.
You may not know Robbie Benson on sight, but his voice is iconic if you are child of the 90's. Benson is perhaps most recognizable as the voice of Beast from the classic Disney film Beauty and the Beast, but he has contributed his voice to many series and films, including The Legend of Prince Valiant, The Magic School Bus, Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas and Dragon Heart A new Beginning. Benson guest starred in season 4 episode 11 “The Disappearance” as Jonathan Ravenhurst Blackwell, a character who leads a double life as an heir and antiques dealer and teams up with Sarah to solve his own “disappearance.” Benson has said that he feels acting is his life’s calling, “I was into show business straight from the womb.”
Diane Wiest’s big break came in the 80's film, The Purple Rose of Cairo, but she is probably best known for her Oscar winning role in Hannah and Her Sisters and for her role as the kind, but naïve Avon Lady, Peg Boggs in Edward Scirssorhands. Wiest guest starred in the Road to Avonlea season 7 episode “Woman of Importance” as Izzy Pettibone’s cosmopolitan aunt Lillian Hepworth who comes to Avonlea in order to get away from her money troubles. Wiest often is cast as a fragile or neurotic character and she has said that she would like to break that mold, “"I'd like to play a real cold, mean mass murderer. Some cruel,hard-bitten women, like the roles Glenn Close gets, just to show that I am capable of not being vulnerable and not being fragile onscreen."
A close friend of Lally Cadue, who played Janet King in Road to Avonlea, Stockard Channing was the perfect choice to guest star in two episodes of season 5, “Enter Prince Charming” and “The Minister’s wife.” Channing played a Minister’s wife, Viola Elliot, who sends Avonlea for a tailspin with her modern ideas, exuberant personality and drinking habits. Channing also starred in Sullivan’s film The Piano Man’s Daughter. She is perhaps best recognized for her role as Rizo in Grease and as Abby Bartlet on The West Wing. She has said that she is particular about the roles she takes on, “I want to go working with good people on something that's good, because otherwise it's a big waste of time. I don't have that much time.”
Best known for his roles as Dr. Emmett Brown in the three Back to the Future Films, Uncle Fester in The Adams Family films and Reverend Jim Ignatowski in Taxi, Christopher Lloyd has made his career on playing eccentric, sometimes wild, characters. Lloyd guest starred in the memorable Road to Avonlea season 3 episode “Another point of view” as disgraced actor Alastair Dimple who comes to Avonlea and lies his way into a position as a substitute teacher. Llyod is proud that throughout his career he has been able to be part of shows and films, like Back to the Future, that have become classics“ It's a wonderful thing to be a part of something that means so much to so many people and that just keeps thriving.”
It’s been said that Faye Dunaway portrays an air that is icy, elegant,complex and strong willed. Her professional persona made her the perfect choice to play the Countess Polenska in the Avonlea season 6 episode “What a Tangled Web we weave” who comes to the White Sands hotel for her nephews wedding. Dunaway is probably best known for her roles as Bonnie, in Bonnie and Clyde and Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. “I love films, I love television - I like to do anything if you don't have to sacrifice quality. That's the key.”
Best known for his role as Superman, Reeve’s acting career was halted for several years due to the spinal injury that paralyzed him after a fall from a horse. Reeve loved riding and so was a natural on set, when the character he portrayed in Road to Avonlea season 3 episode “A Dark and Stormy Night” where he played the potentially dangerous mystery man Robert Rutherford who is frequently on horse back throughout the episode. Reeve was an advocate until his death in 2004, and did not let his injury hold him back, “Your body is not who you are. The mind and spirit transcend the body.”
For the past five years Eugene Levy has played the over-the-top character of Johnny Rose on Schitts Creek, but he is recognizable for his work on SCTV and in the movies of the American Pie franchise. Levy guest starred in the Road to Avonlea season 7 episode “King of the Great White Way”, where he played Broadway composer Rudy Blaine who comes to Avonlea and is immediately bowled over by Alec King’s singing. Levy has said that he always aims to be funny in his roles, but never offensive, “I can't do comedy that is cutting and vicious. If I knew I'd said something that was going to make someone feel bad,well, that supersedes everything.”