Degrassi's Diva: Cassie Steele

Degrassi’s Diva: Cassie Steele

The Canadian teen soap star aims for Angelina heights and dishes on the cult show

FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2006 02:00PM EST

By Brian Orloff

The kids of Degrassi have grown up all the way into Degrassi: The Next Generation. The issues-oriented brand of Canadian television may be best known for its take on the awkward teen years Degrassi Junior High was a PBS staple, braces and all, in the ’80s but as the sixth season of the latest incarnation runs (Fridays, 8 p.m. ET on cable’s the-N), the drama is more race cars and miniskirts than missed tests and student council elections. Among the new players: Cassie Steele, 16, who portrays Degrassi’s infamous Manny Santos, best known for stealing boyfriends, getting pregnant and having an abortion. PEOPLE.com recently caught up with Steele, who gave us a glimpse of her real teen life: the set, career ambitions and A-list celebrity crushes.

You’ve been on the show for five years. What’s it like to be a senior, so to speak?
I’m not playing the same girl anymore. I’m playing a young woman. Manny’s been through a lot over the last six seasons, but I think this year she’s really comfortable with herself and very settled in.

Tell me some similarities between you and Manny.

Our attitudes, because we’re both really bubbly, optimistic. We’re loyal and good friends.

And the the major differences?

Manny sometimes doesn’t learn from mistakes she’s made. She makes the wrong decisions at times. Everybody does. But I think Manny has been pretty intense. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything as extreme as Manny has.

Can you reveal any issues that you’re exploring this season? What’s going to happen to Manny?
I can’t really divulge, per se (laughs), but as Degrassi characters get older, you’ll notice things get more intense and there’s more temptations. It’s sexy, and that’s what’s going on this season. It’s the best season yet.

Both you and Manny are pretty stylish. How would you explain the difference in your looks?
Manny has been a hoochie mama over the years, and it’s kind of different from me. I’m more into the rocker scene. We are two different people, but when I go to wardrobe I do pick out things and say, “You know, this isn’t really her. I think she’d wear this,” and we just work to make the character perfect.

Apart from growing up with the character, you’re growing up on television. What are your thoughts about that?

We always have to watch what we do. Working with adults on set helps you understand [how to act in the spotlight], and you mature a lot faster than someone in high school would working on set. Then again I’ve never been to a real high school. I’ll probably never go to prom. I haven’t ever been to a high school dance.

What are you career ambitions?

I’m also into music, and hopefully I can work on it on my off time and hopefully get a record deal and make my new CD. I already have one out, by the way. I do want to move to L.A. when I’m a bit older.

Do you have celebrity role models?

Angelina Jolie, but that’s because she’s dating Brad Pitt (laughs). I loved her in the movie Gia. But I really like action-dramas like The Professional or La Femme Nikita. I’d really like to be in a movie like that. I just recently saw Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Lucky Number Slevin and they are amazing! Like, Val Kilmer geez, love that man!

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