Degrassi’s Hottest Stars Speak Out!
by Angel Cohn with Daniel Manu
Miriam McDonald and Cassie Steele, Degrassi: The Next Generation
In anticipation of the sixth season premiere of Degrassi: The Next Generation (Friday, Sept. 29, at 8 pm/ET), The N threw a huge party in New York City for the cast and fans, even previewing the heart-pounding first episode. TVGuide.com caught up with many a Degrassi star (including the show’s creator; see Q&A) backstage at that event and even got to tag along on a shopping trip with two cast members. Here’s a bit more about the upcoming season and what you can expect from the show that always promises to “go there.”
Miriam McDonald (Emma)
TVGuide.com: You have a huge role in the first episode.
McDonald: I do! It is really exciting to have the kickoff episode.
TVGuide.com: How hard is it to have your adolescence documented?
McDonald: Honestly, I don’t know any other life, so I’ve been loving it. There are so many experiences that I’ve gotten because of this show.
TVGuide.com: Did you know it was going to be such a huge success?
McDonald: Each year, when it gets bigger and bigger, we’re kind of shocked. We think we’ve maxed it out and we come back and the writers bring it and the actors bring it and the whole production team brings it, and it is just like, “Wow.”
TVGuide.com: Who does Emma end up with?
McDonald: I don’t know if I can tell you that, but I can tell you that Emma ends up in the middle of Peter and Sean. I think Emma is ready to be a bit more of a risk taker. She wouldn’t normally find herself in the middle of two guys. She’s very grounded and very moral, but hey, as people grow up they change a bit and I guess she is kind of testing her boundaries.
TVGuide.com: Were you surprised by the eating-disorder story line?
McDonald: I was a little surprised by it because the writers kind of sprang it on me, but I think it really made sense from where the character was coming from. She was just looking for some sense of control in a chaotic life. It is her personality type; Emma’s a perfectionist, and I think it made sense.
Cassie Steele (Manny)
TVGuide.com: In the past, Manny has been the wild one and Emma’s been stable, but in the season premiere, things seemed switched. What happened?
Steele: Manny and Emma are best friends, and like best friends, you fall on each other when you need to fall. Manny has had a lot more intense experiences and she doesn’t learn quite as fast as Emma does, but when Emma needs her, she’s there. That’s how a friendship works.
TVGuide.com: Are there boys for Manny, too?
Steele: Does Manny get boys this season? I can’t really say, but let’s say that Manny’s love life is still intact and she’s a boy-crazy kind of girl. So trust me, there will be a lot in store.
TVGuide.com: How hard is it to have your whole adolescence captured on film?
Steele: I’m so used to it because I am the youngest on the show. I went through Grades 7 and 8, and then into high school. A lot of people we’re already in high school and it was easier for them to kind of adapt. I didn’t know anything about work and the schedule and how you have to hold yourself and act, and the crew was so much older than me. I think it helped me mature faster and helped me realize myself.
TVGuide.com: Your sister, Alexandra Rose, was on the show for a few episodes. Is she going to be the “Next, Next Generation”?
Steele: [Laughs] That’d be funny. We put her into acting, and hopefully she’ll like it and pick it up, but she’s really into horseback riding. We’re very different, but very supportive of each other. If she does want to do acting, then she’s got a step up; if she doesnt, she doesn’t have to.
TVGuide.com: You and Emma are best friends, but how do you and Miriam get along?
Steele: Miriam and I go back to Season 1, so honestly, we’re like sisters.
Lauren Collins (Paige)
TVGuide.com: Do you feel the pressure to be a role model for the young girls watching?
Collins: There is definitely a lot of pressure knowing how many young kids are watching and getting so attached to these characters and making decisions based on what the characters do.
TVGuide.com: Tell us a little about what’s going on, with Paige going to college this season.
Collins: I wish I knew. I’m still waiting to find out.
TVGuide.com: Oh, really? I was going to ask how early you know the story arc for your character.
Collins: Not very early. We sometimes have an idea of where the character might go. Like, I know I’m sort of dealing with this whole new life, going to university…. I think there’s going to be some drama because it’s Degrassi and, well, there’s always drama, right?
TVGuide.com: As your character was entering her final year of high school, were there any fears on your part that maybe they were going to write you off because the show’s never gone to college before?
Collins: We were all thinking that. There was a real sense of finality when we wrapped last season. Then we got the word that they wanted to follow the graduating class, and we were all ecstatic. I think it makes sense because our fans are growing up and they can really grow with these characters and see where they go after high school. Life doesn’t end there, that’s for sure.
TVGuide.com: What was your first reaction when you read the scripts that had your character having a bisexual or lesbian relationship with Alex?
Collins: I had an idea that that was coming, but when I heard the actual story, I didn’t buy it at first because I thought, “Paige is boy crazy, how can this be happening?” But once I read the script, it was so perfectly and organically done. It made absolute sense, because it wasn’t about a guy or a girl or two girls; it was about two people who were just falling in love with each other. I thought it was beautiful one of the most beautiful relationships that’s ever come out of the show, really.
Shane Kippel (Spinner)
TVGuide.com: Were you upset that Spinner had a fifth year of high school?
Kippel: Yeah, my character had to be held back. But I wouldn’t ask for anything else.
TVGuide.com: Will you be working with the younger characters, like Emma and J.T.?
Kippel: No, not as much. I thought I would…. Wait, I can’t be telling you who I am hanging out with. You can’t trick me. I’ve done this before. [Laughs] I see through your act.
TVGuide.com: But you are still hanging with Jay….
Kippel: I can’t say that. I can’t really be saying anything that will get me in trouble. I like my job.
TVGuide.com: Are you working on anything else outside of Degrassi?
Kippel: I have some ideas that I’m developing for other TV shows that I can’t get into. [Interrupted for a bit of taunting by Beyond the Break’s Michael Copon] I’m doing that and a comedy stand-up act that is kind of Dane Cook-style because he’s my idol when it comes to comedy. He’s actually Michael’s boy. When I told [Michael] that, he was like, “Oh, I used to be roommates with him, I’ll call him right now.” I’m going to university next year, I’ve been taking some time off while I still have free time. And I have my band. Music is very, very important to me.
TVGuide.com: You could sing with Michael.
Kippel: No, I don’t want anything to do with him. [Laughs] I didn’t say I could sing.
TVGuide.com: How hard is it growing up on TV?
Kippel: It is a journey; all of my teenage years were documented. I have a live-action yearbook that I can go back and consult. I want to remember what I looked like when I was bigger “Oh, there it is.” I want to look back to when I was skinny and had blond hair “Oh, there it is.” I want to remember when I had a flock of seagulls haircut…. But I don’t watch that season.