TORONTO - Jackie Blackmore is a big hit with bronies these days.
The Vancouver actress voices one of two new lesbian characters in an episode of the animated series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" and says she's felt an "explosion of love" from fans, who include a large contingent of adults — many of them men — known as "bronies."
"The Last Crusade" episode, which is making international headlines, has already aired in the U.S. and Europe and will be available to TV viewers in Canada on Sunday on Treehouse.
"There have been a lot of people reaching out just expressing their love for the characters and excited that there is some lesbian representation on TV," Blackmore said in a phone interview, noting she's also received fan artwork depicting the two characters.
"They're so proud of the show, presenting these characters in a really loving way."
Now into its ninth and final season, "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" was created by American animator-writer Lauren Faust and is acclaimed for its clever scripts full of horse puns and strong, fleshed-out female characters. The show, based on the Hasbro toy franchise, revolves around six main ponies known as the Mane Six, and is recorded in Vancouver with many local actors, animators and directors.
"It's a show that espouses tolerance and equality," said Vancouver-based cast member Peter New, who plays several characters on the show, including Big Macintosh and Doctor Hooves.
"It has brought together people of all sorts, including many people from the LGBTQ community, and it's provided a safe place for so many people."
Blackmore made her debut on the show in just the one episode as Aunt Holiday alongside Vancouver actress Saffron Henderson as Auntie Lofty, a same-sex pony couple who become guardians to their niece Scootaloo when her world-traveller parents go away on an adventure.
Aunt Holiday is quirky, fun and caring, with an Australian accent, ginger hair, blue scarf and blue daisy on each side of her head. Auntie Lofty is more emotionally grounded and an avid quilt maker with shorter blue hair, a purple turtleneck sweater and raspy voice.
While the scripts stated they're lesbian aunts, the episode doesn't explicitly say as such and some viewers may not even realize it, said Blackmore.
Instead the story is about a sweet relationship between two cool aunts "who love each other, are there for each other, live together, are great guardians to Scootaloo, and are a lovely people," she said.
"They're just showing the love between these two ponies and declaring their life by representing it and just having it be normal," Blackmore said.
"I like the way that they did it. I think that's more powerful in the long run, because it is just about humans being humans and making their own choices and loving who they love. I think that's how it should be represented more, so that we get used to it and it's a more regular thing."
"The Last Crusade" episode marks the first time the show has revealed the sexual identity of any of its characters.
However, according to New, some fans have also thought of best-friend characters Lyra and Bon Bon as lovers.
"I am and always have been proud to be a part of a show that represents women so well," New said.
"I have a daughter and I was always very happy that I could be part of a show that I was proud to show her. I think of it a kind of an inevitability that they would do this in the end and I'm glad that they did."
For Blackmore, who has dozens of screen credits and an extensive background in theatre in sketch comedy, the episode marked her first time doing voice work for animation.
She hopes the aunts will turn up again one day in another "My Little Pony" incarnation.
In the meantime, she has legions of fans hoping she'll attend BronyCon 2019 in Baltimore in August, an annual convention for fans of the franchise.
"I just think it's really important that the work that's out in the world reflects the world that we live in — and what better place than a kids' show?" said Blackmore.
"The show is so much about love and about friendship and about accepting everyone for who they are, and finding a place for everyone and their talents, and everything being OK and that you'll get through things together."