The do-gooders of Degrassi : The new kids at school lend a helping hand

The do-gooders of Degrassi

The new kids at school lend a helping hand

SHANDA DEZIEL

The teen actors from CTV’s Degrassi: The Next Generation endure 6:45 a.m. call times, juggle school and work, and shoot 22 episodes a season, double the number of other TV shows. But they’re not complaining. In fact, on a recent day off, they were back on set — volunteering their time. After being approached by UNICEF, the cast members agreed to make a five-minute public service video, about HIV/AIDS in Africa, to be distributed to schools across Canada.

As well as sending an important message, the video showcases some of the actors’ hidden talents. Jake Epstein, who plays Craig, wrote and performed a song for the project. “I just wanted to talk about how it’s kids our age who are dying,” says the 16-year-old. “It’s kids like us, only in different communities, who are going through terrible things compared to the great life that we all get to live.” Other cast members contributed songs, poems and raps. “We want it to be realistic and to the point,” says Lauren Collins, 17, who plays Paige, “not corny.”

That’ll be the goal for Degrassi: The Next Generation itself as it begins a third season on Sept. 17. This year the show will tackle serious issues, including unwanted pregnancy, as well as silly situations, like going to school in low-rise jeans and a visible thong. But whatever the trial or tribulation, Degrassi characters will no doubt acknowledge there are others out there with problems bigger than theirs.

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