Teen actors find drama in ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’
By Rachael Mason
Aubrey Graham and Mike Lobel enjoy high school, possibly because they’re only pretending to be students. The actors star in “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” a television show set at a Canadian school.
Storylines address teen issues, such as school violence, alcohol, drugs, sex and peer pressure.
“It’s got this real authentic feel to it,” Graham said. “It’s almost like a cool way to learn something.”
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is based on a series that began in the late ’80s. “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High,” which focused on a group of teens, was produced in Toronto through 1991.
In 2001, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” debuted. The show includes characters from the original show, who are now adults, but focuses on a new group of teens.
“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is shown at 8 p.m. Fridays on The N, which is part of the MTV Networks. Its summer season ended this weekend. New episodes will begin airing in October.
Although it’s filmed in Canada and features Canadian actors, “Degrassi” still has a lot of fans in the United States.
“They’re very into the show and so wrapped up in it. We get a lot of U.S. love,” Graham said.
Graham plays Jimmy Brooks, a popular guy whose life changed after he was shot by a fellow student. Since the shooting episode, which aired in December 2004, Graham’s character has been in a wheelchair.
“I’ve had to dig deeper,” Graham said. “Before, I could really relate to the character. Ever since the shooting, I’ve done a lot of research for my role.”
Graham has been part of the show since its first season. Lobel joined the “Degrassi” cast last season when he began playing Jay Hogart. He originally auditioned for a character that was only going to appear on one or two episodes. He didn’t get that part, but producers liked the idea of adding a new bully to the show.
“They really liked the bad guy angle,” Lobel said.
He said he relates to his “Degrassi” character but doesn’t have too much in common with Jay.
“I’m really not a bully. I never was,” Lobel said.
As the show is being produced, the actors are asked for their input. “We have that opportunity to speak our minds and voice our opinions,” Graham said. “They always take what we say into consideration.”
Typically, the actors get together to read and discuss the script before filming starts.
“The writers will always ask for our opinions because the storylines are closer to us, the cast,” Lobel said.