Mississauga’s Deanna Casaluce kept a low profile as a student at the University of Guelph.
The 21-year-old, who plays one of the characters on Degrassi: The Next Generation, said when students or professors did recognize her, they didn’t make a huge fuss.
Casaluce took two years of classes at the university before her acting schedule forced her to switch to distance education courses last fall.
She’s not a celebrity, she says. Rather, she’s just a typical girl raised in a Mississauga neighbourhood.
“I don’t think your success comes with the publicity around you,” Casaluce said, while taking a break from studying at her Mississauga home yesterday.
In its sixth season, Degrassi: The Next Generation revolves around the lives of a group of students in Grades 7-12 who deal with issues such as abortion, drugs, dating, rape and sexuality.
Casaluce plays Alex Nunez, a rebellious teenager at Degrassi Community School who grew up in a broken home, came out of a bad relationship and recently entered into a lesbian relationship.
“She is a black sheep,” Casaluce said. “She alienates herself from other people.”
Casaluce said she can’t exactly relate to Nunez’s family background or her relationship troubles, but she can relate to the experience of falling in love and feeling isolated.
Casaluce was juggling six courses at the university and her acting until last fall when she snagged a role in an as yet unnamed film shot in Hamilton, starring opposite another Canadian actor, Mia Kirshner.
She continued her studies through online courses because she wanted to complete her degree.
Casaluce chose to go to the University of Guelph because of the co-op program offered along with a psychology degree. Her filming schedule, however, didn’t give her the chance to pursue the co-op program.
She chose psychology because she wanted to know how people think and figured it paired well with her passion for acting. Eventually, she switched her major to philosophy and chose to minor in social psychology.
Kelly Low, 20, who was friends with Casaluce in high school and went on to the University of Guelph with her, said Casaluce has learned to manage her time well.
“When she’s here (at school) she is completely focused,” Low said. “Just because she’s so busy, she’s good at getting focused on what she needs to get done.”
Casaluce said she always intended to go to university because she wasn’t certain where her acting career was headed.
“I didn’t know whether (Degrassi) was going to pick me up next season,” she said. But she wanted to continue with her education even when her character remained on the show.
“It’s not a backup plan,” Casaluce said. “I love learning. I really value my education.”
She hopes to finish her degree and then take a leap of faith by moving to Los Angeles to pursue a film career.