New 'Degrassi' series still tackles tough issues

New ‘Degrassi’ series still tackles tough issues [The Daily Herald. Everett, Wash]

By Victor Balta
Herald Writer

In case you were wondering, the “Degrassi” franchise is alive and well. And it’s coming to Lynnwood today.

It started with a little show called “Degrassi Junior High” back in the late 1980s.

The Canadian-produced show first aired up north in 1987 before landing on public television stations in the United States the following year.

Now entering its fourth season, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” is tackling the same hard-hitting issues faced by adolescents and teens as its predecessor did.

“Degrassi” is the highest-rated show on The N, a digital cable network within the MTV family that typically airs on Channel 120.

Two stars of the show, Jake Goldsbie and Cassie Steele, 16 and 14, will be at Alderwood mall from 1 to 6 p.m. as part of “The Scene,” a back-to-school shopping event. Members of the show’s cast have been attending similar events at malls across the country throughout the summer.

“I was in Atlanta about a month ago and the popularity of the show in America was really what surprised me,” Jake said in a phone interview this week from his home in Toronto.

“I know (the show) was known in Canada, but I had no idea it was so huge in the States,” Jake said. “When I got down there and saw the reaction, it totally blew my mind.”

With a handful of the original show’s characters and actors returning, now as parents and teachers, “Degrassi” continues to tackle topics such as drinking, drugs, sex and peer pressure. The fourth season’s premiere, which airs Oct. 1, follows up on a date rape incident from last season as the trial begins.

“It’s so hard to just express yourself when you’re a teenager,” Cassie said Tuesday in a phone interview from her home near Toronto. “To ask people about these things, to go to your guidance counselor, or especially to your parents. … This show is like a secret way of helping yourself and choosing the right path.”

Cassie, who is the same age as her character, “Manny,” said she learns a lot of life’s lessons from her work on the show.

“Sometimes I need to learn things for myself and because of ‘Degrassi,’ I can watch myself for future reference; not picking that path or that fork in the road,” she said. “It does help me along the way.”

Jake and Cassie said they’re looking forward to meeting fans of the show and thanking them for making it a success.

“I don’t know if the fans like my character or not, but (either way) people can relate to the show,” Cassie said. “It’s helping people every day. That’s what I love about it. That’s why I do it.”

Reporter Victor Balta:

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