Degrassi meets its match: Cast of cult-favourite TV show back to launch next generation

Degrassi meets its match

Degrassi meets its match: Cast of cult-favourite TV show back to launch next generation

Journal: The Halifax Daily News
October 13, 2001 pg 29
Authors: MARLA CRANSTON; The Daily News
Special Features: Photograph
Publication Date: 011013
Word Count: 655
Accession Number: HD200110130037


It’s hard to believe, with the reruns still on TV, but the Degrassi kids are all grown up now. Joey Jeremiah with love handles and no hair?

In tomorrow night’s followup to the beloved hit series from the 1980s, the former class cutup — now a morose single dad grieving over his wife’s death — doesn’t want to attend his high school’s 10-year reunion, or put that trademark hat on his shiny head. Joey, played by Pat Mastroianni, still meets up with his old pals and even feels a few sparks for his old flame Caitlin (Stacie Mistyshyn), now a famous TV star.

The reunion special also introduces the pre-teen stars of Degrassi: The Next Generation, a new half-hour series tackling the highs and lows of adolescence in the year 2001. It revolves around Emma Nelson — fans will remember her as the baby of teenage mom Spike (Amanda Stepto). Now 12, Emma is smart and sassy but an Internet romance gets her into trouble on the initial episode.

Fourteen-year-old actress Miriam McDonald passed up a scholarship at Toronto’s Children’s Dance Theatre to play Emma. She can’t really call herself a fan of the show’s award-winning predecessors: The Kids of Degrassi Street, Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High.

“I didn’t watch it when it was on the first time because I was … well, not alive yet,” says McDonald, born in July 1987. The producers gave her some old tapes to get a feel for the show before she started.

“I thought it was good, but this Degrassi is going to be different. It’s more modern,” she says.

The clothes and hairstyles may be more hip, but the plotlines indicate today’s young teens face similar pressures: self-esteem problems, bullies, hurtful gossip, cheating on tests, and experimenting with sex, alcohol and drugs. There are some issues for the new millennium too — blended families, aggressive corporate marketing in schools and Ritalin abuse.

The new show seems realistic, McDonald says, and the young cast offers input to make the dialogue more believable.

“During the read-throughs, we tell the writers if there’s something there that we wouldn’t really say. Sometimes they put in strange words from the ’80s, and we just tell them to scratch those words out,” she says.

Stepto finds it a bit weird adjusting from spike-haired rebellious youth to worried mom, but she’s delighted to reprise the role of Spike, who now uses her given name Christine.

“I’m pretty content with the way she’s turned out. It’s pretty much how fans would have suspected,” says Stepto.

The new show lives up to the charm of the cult classic, “but everything in the original was done on location and this one is pretty much all in the studio, so that’s a big difference.”

Spike’s classmate Snake (Stefan Brogren) also returns, as a Grade 7 teacher at the technologically advanced Degrassi Community School. But the kids are the main characters: rich and athletic Jimmy, his perfectionist girlfriend Ashley, her nerdy stepbrother Toby, brooding bad boy Sean, chubby and insecure Terri, class clown J.T. and many more.

The show only lasted five seasons, but attracted a million viewers per week, scooped up many awards, including a couple of international Emmys, and was shown in 100 countries around the world. There are dozens of fan sites on the Internet.

“When we finished 10 years ago, we had no intention of bringing it back,” says producer Linda Schuyler, of Toronto’s Epitome Pictures. “But the old (Degrassi) never seemed to die; it kept running in reruns and seemed to keep finding new audiences.”

WHAT: Degrassi: The Next Generation is a fresh version of the half-hour hit series from the 1980s. It kicks off with a one-hour reunion special, uniting the original cast with the new stars.

WHEN: Tomorrow, 7 p.m. on CTV.

Copyright The Halifax Daily News 2001 All Rights Reserved


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