Smith to appear as ‘Silent Bob’ on Degrassi
Miya Djuric, CTV.ca News Staff
American filmmaker Kevin Smith remembers being smitten the first time he watched an episode of the original teen drama Degrassi Junior High.
Growing up in New Jersey, Smith started watching Degrassi to help escape the drudgery of working as a cash register clerk at a local convenience store.
“The first time I watched it, I thought this is insanely melodramatic and by the end of the episode I was weeping.”
Ever since then, he’s been hooked. He’s even fallen head over heels for the Degrassi: The Next Generation, which airs on CTV Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET.
But Smith is taking his love of the show much further. He’s signed up to appear in a three-episode storyline featuring “a fictionalized version of myself,” and Jason Mewes, better known as Jay from the ‘Jay and Silent Bob’ duo Smith popularized in his films.
Smith, 34, says he introduced the show to Mewes years ago when it appeared on PBS. “It was one of those bonding opportunities. I had just started hanging out with Mewes a year before that.”
“The show that was on right before it was Silver Spoons with Ricky Schroeder. No one could identify with that, not then, Smith said. “This show was a window into a more pleasant version of a world he (Mewes) was from that he could recognize and identify with.”
Smith said he fell in love with Degrassi because “I love story arcs and I also love challenging material. Stuff that they’re doing they’d never do on American TV.”
“Even the abortion episode on the old show was fab. All the issue shows were great, but I’m also a fan of continuity shows, there was a lot of continuity. It’s kind of like a soap opera, but a really good soap opera.
Out of the blue Smith called Epitome Pictures, who produces Degrassi, and offered to direct an episode but was told he couldn’t because the show is a 100 per cent Canadian production. He then offered to write an episode but was again told no, because of the Telefilm funding condition.
Instead, Linda Schuyler, the co-founder of Epitome, approached Smith about doing a cameo. “I said I don’t do cameos, but could I do a three-episode arc? She was cool with that. So here we are.”
Smith has a lot of praise for the show’s staff, saying Executive Producer Aaron Martin and Story Editor and Writer Shelley Scarrow did a great job “writing my little world into their little world.”
In the three-part story arc, Jay and Silent Bob are introduced to the series as directors looking for locations to shoot their new film, called Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?
Smith also hinted he may get the chance to live out an adolescent fantasy. He’s long had a crush on the Caitlin Ryan character (played by Stacie Mistysyn).
“I want to get in between Joey and Caitlin,” Smith joked with reporters.
“We can make that work,” Schuyler said.
Smith made a name for himself on the indie film circuit with Clerks, based on his own life as a convenience store clerk in New Jersey. The movie heralded Jay and Silent Bob’s first major motion picture appearance. They play drug dealers who loiter outside the store.
He followed that up with another cult classic, Chasing Amy, in which Joey Lauren Adams plays a woman who comes between two comic book artist friends. The movie was a smash hit among young adults in the late 1990s. It also starred a young Ben Affleck, who has remained friends with Smith.
Smith joked that he might try to get his Hollywood pal to join him on Degrassi. “Affleck, honestly, could use the work right now. What better way to reboot your career than starring in a Canadian melodrama?”
Perhaps Smith could bring Affleck to Toronto, a city he calls his “adopted home planet.” Smith says he feels a kind of kinship here.
Smith told reporters he’s also a huge fan of the way Degrassi’s producers revived the show. “At first, I thought, ‘Don’t mess with perfection.’ I liked the show so much I thought it was a mistake.”
But Smith says he likes the new version of Degrassi even better than the original. “They took all the best parts of the old show, some of the old characters, and updated it. I didn’t think I’d get into the young kids in the new show, but I did.”
Smith said when he re-discovered the show, he started watching “religiously.”
Even though his involvement in the show isn’t exactly what he had in mind at first, Smith is delighted to take part.
“This show is truly a soft spot for me,” he told reporters. “There are very few fascinations I’ve been able to carry with me to adulthood.”
Even so, he may have a hard time convincing other adults to watch the show. “I was trying to get my wife into it, but she was like, ‘They’re 14, these people. Watch a different show.'”
The last three episodes of the show’s fourth season will feature Smith and Mewes. They’ll be aired on CTV in 2005.