'Degrassi' star weighs in on shocking finale

Tyrone Warner, CTV.ca News Staff

In typical “Degrassi” fashion, the two-part season finale is going somewhere the series has never been before – onto the stage of a sleazy downtown strip club.

The controversial episode, called “Don’t You Want Me,” follows Alex (Deanna Casaluce) who takes a job as a waitress at a “gentleman’s club” in order to make ends meet and help her mother pay the rent.

But she soon learns that there’s far more money to be made on stage than off, and tries to hide her double-life from her best friend Paige while her schoolwork slips.

This is Deanna’s third full season as Alex on “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” She was previously a series regular in “I Was a Sixth Grade Alien.”

The first part of the “Degrassi” finale airs tonight on CTV, and the second part airs next Monday immediately after “Dancing with the Stars.” The episodes will also be available online at CTV.ca after their airdates.

CTV.ca talked to Deanna about her role and when she’s going to finish her run on the series.

CTV.ca: So how does it feel to wrap up another season of “Degrassi?”

Deanna: It feels good. I felt wrapping up for this season was very productive for me, and I’m excited to start next season, which we are filming right now. As soon as I was done the finale I wanted to go back into the studio!

CTV.ca: The finale is based around Alex taking on a job at a strip club. How did you first feel when you were approached about doing this particular storyline?

Deanna: I felt fine. It’s “Degrassi,” so I knew I wouldn’t have to show any of my bits and pieces or anything. I felt challenged with the idea; because I knew I would go through with it without ever having to do the act itself. It was more about the emotions that happened to her while she was going through this.

We always have a read through before we shoot the episode just to check the script. Sometimes the actors know their character better than anybody else. It felt true to Alex and everything that was going on in her life. It was a really well written script, and I didn’t have much to say about it besides being excited to shoot it.

CTV.ca: Were you comfortable wearing some of the revealing outfits?

Deanna: I was very, very comfortable. It was lingerie but it wasn’t very revealing. It was the equivalent of being in a bathing suit, and I think it actually covered more than my bathing suits usually do!

The crew members are just so great and I feel at home with them, and I’ve been working with them for years, so it’s all quite comfortable.

CTV.ca: Alex’s arcs in these episodes are much darker than anything else she’s faced. What was the most difficult part about this storyline, for you?

Deanna: I had to find a place where I would have to find a person which I would do just about anything for, including you know, taking off your clothes in front of a bunch of strangers for money. For some people that could be quite humiliating. I think it was for Alex.

I just went to a time and place in my life where I would think I could do something similar to that. It’s tough mentally getting in a situation like that. That was the hardest part prepping for the episodes.

CTV.ca: What were you envisioning?

Deanna: It was a combination of things; my family is very, very important to me and I would do just about anything for them. My mother, my father, my brother, and my grandparents – I’m very close to my extended family as well.

I think Alex was trying to save what she has, and she doesn’t have very much. She has her Mom and she wants to save her relationship with her. She’s going to do whatever she can to help her out.

CTV.ca: Has this been your most challenging role as an actress?

Deanna: Definitely, it was the juiciest part I’ve ever had to work with. It was the most I’ve ever had to sink my teeth into. I would say the episode “Lexicon of Love” in season five, that was challenging as well.

CTV.ca: You had many scenes with Lauren Collins (Paige) in these episodes. How was it working with her as an actress?

Deanna: I love working with Lauren. I feel more comfortable working with her than anybody else.

CTV.ca: What kinds of qualities does she bring to the show that you appreciate?

Deanna: She’s really down to earth and easy to get along with. We’ve worked with each other so much now. We know how each other works. If we have a scene together and I have to be mad at her, I won’t talk to her the whole day. She gets it.

CTV.ca: What kind of thoughts do you have about Alex and Paige’s relationship and how it changes over this arc?

Deanna: I think it’s a great example of how young adults, when they fall in love with somebody, it’s really for who that person is and not where they are from or how much money they make. They fall in love with that personality.

A high school teacher told me once that whenever she hears one of her students saying they’ve fallen in love with anyone that she would feel nervous. That love can be a lot stronger because it’s not restrained.

That’s what’s cool about the Alex-Paige relationship. If it was 10 years later and they were adults, I don’t think they would find each other. And if they did find each other they wouldn’t really go for each other.

CTV.ca: What is your favorite part about playing the role of Alex?

Deanna: Just being able to do what I love. It’s great that I’ve been given lots of challenges on this show. I’m exploring what I can do as an actress, and I’m learning my own personality as an actress.

CTV.ca: What’s next for you in your acting career?

Deanna: This is the very tip of the iceberg; at least I hope it is. I think after this season, season seven, I’ll be leaving the show. I’m planning on moving to Los Angeles in September.

I’m halfway done a degree in philosophy with a minor in social psychology, and I’m leaving that behind for now. I would like to finish my degree because I love learning. But I’m too busy right now.

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