Degrassi star's on home ground

Degrassi star’s on home ground::[Toronto Edition]
Jack Kohane. National Post. Don Mills, Ont.: Nov 15, 2003. pg. PH.04

For Pat Mastrioanni, home is his wife and a giant TV in a 2,400- square-foot bungalow in Markham

There are times when Pat Mastrioanni feels like he is living in a fish bowl: After all, television audiences have watched him grow from the adolescent confidence man, Joey Jeremiah, he played on CBC’s Degrassi Junior High (which premiered in 1986), to used-car hustler and single parent on Degrassi: The Next Generation, which began its third season last month.

“The kids on my street enjoy chatting with me about the show. Even though I’m 31 now, it’s like we’re teenage buddies,” Mr. Mastrioanni says. “When I go out to mow the lawn, someone will drive by and yell ‘Hey, Jeremiah, how ya doing?’ or they’ll knock on the door to ask ‘Is Joey home?’ That’s how closely I’m identified with the character.”

Home is a 2,400-square-foot Tudor-style raised bungalow on the east side of Markham. “This is the centre of where I’m at right now,” he says. “My wife Carmela [his high school sweetheart] and I searched for months to find this oasis. Both of us had grown up in the suburbs, but that’s not what we envisioned as our first choice.”

The Mastrioannis were renting a small apartment in the core of Toronto, where they began their search for a starter home. The housing prices, he says, quelled that quest. “They’re outta sight. There were so few properties we saw that offered all the attributes on our must-have list: a significant parcel of land for our Golden Retriever Bosco to romp through, in a quiet established neighbourhood with mature trees and many young families, at an affordable price for a newlywed couple.”

The Mastrioannis next scoured the Internet’s homebuying search directories, focusing primarily on the Multiple Listing Service (www.mls.ca). “It sure saves miles of wear and tear on you and your car,” he says. Eventually, they found the house of their dreams. The 30-year-old home they chose was structurally solid, but needed oodles of upgrading. “But that’s what I love to do — to truly make it ours,” Mr. Mastrioanni says.

The prospect of long-term renovations do not intimidate him — it is in his veins. “My family came to Canada from Italy in the 1960s and Dad immediately went into the construction field, buying old homes and meticulously restoring them. We lived in them for a while and then Dad would sell and we’d moved on to the next project. As a youngster, I enjoyed helping him. Had I not fallen into an acting career, I’d happily be driving a dump truck today.”

At the age of 14, Mr. Mastrioanni was selected from among 500 youth auditioning for the part of Joey in Degrassi Junior High. During the series’ six-year run, he received two Gemini nominations for Best Actor in a Continuing Dramatic Series, winning one in 1988. He was also the star of Liberty Street, hosted an Ottawa-based variety music series Music Works, and guest-starred in films and television, including PSI Factor, John Woo’s Once a Thief, FX The Series, and Blue Murder.

In fact, he’s so busy there is not much spare time for remodelling his home. “I’ve got lots of plans. I’ve recently found that landscaping is a blast, so I’ll be doing plenty of digging and planting for some time to come.”

In the year since moving in, the Mastrioannis have already left their mark on the structure of the house. “First we wanted to create a family room spacious enough to accommodate our oversized couches, wing chairs, and Indonesian teak coffee table. But we also wanted it to be welcoming, embracing for family gatherings and friends,” Mr. Mastrioanni says.

Most importantly, it had to house his earth-shaking 7.1 surround- sound stereo arsenal, which is tethered to a colossal receiver atop a 61-inch television console, and piped through nine speakers hung like holiday lights on wall mounts around the room.

“We replaced the original drywall and strung the wires out of sight under the crown moulding,” he says. Although he hasn’t cranked the volume up all the way, he worries constant vibrations will damage the walls. But that has not happened, he says.

The couple painted the interior in cranberry, lemon yellow and olive green: “Carmela chose the colours, using our Santa Fe rugs and Mexican-style couch patterns in the family area and living room as the base.”

Mr. Mastrioanni says their home is gradually taking shape as a tranquil hideaway from life as a star of the small screen. “It’s a place where Carmela and I can cuddle and hug to our heart’s content out of the public eye.”

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