Preview! Degrassi: The Next Generation Makes a Bold Move
by Damian Holbrook
Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Lauren Collins
If Degrassi: The Next Generation is the Canuck 90210, then creator Linda Schuyler is Canada’s answer to Aaron Spelling. More plugged in to the youth culture than most youths, the lively and delightful Schuyler has been telling the stories of kids, tweens and teens since unleashing the original The Kids of Degrassi Street back in 1980. Almost three decades and as many Degrassi incarnations later, she’s ready to take D:TNG into the great unknown adulthood. And it all starts this Friday at 8 pm/ET, when the show returns to wrap up Season 6 with new episodes and a far-reaching story line for fan-favorite Paige.
TV Guide: This first episode back seems to be setting up something very big for Paige (played by Lauren Collins).
Linda Schuyler: Mmm-hmm. [Laughs]
TV Guide: Care to share?
Schuyler: Have you seen it yet?
TV Guide: I’ve seen the first part. And let me tell you, whenever you cut to a “to be continued” with someone setting fire to their books, it can only be bad news. It looks like Paige is headed down a dark road.
Schuyler: Yeah. I think that it was a real interesting choice we made this year to allow ourselves to follow some of our graduates as they left Degrassi. Now, Degrassi as a series is still about first-time experiences and we were intrigued by the idea of a young person who has always been the alpha dog in high school and what happens when they get to [college] and you don’t have that throne anymore. With Lauren being such a fantastic actor, we thought, “What a fantastic story for Paige!” She finds that she’s really just one of many, which is really hard when you’re used to being the top dog. To then lose that…
TV Guide: And the kids you reigned over.
Schuyler: Exactly! And she’s not even at the university house, where a gang of them are living together and giving each other support. She’s at a dorm. And we’ve made [the fictional] Banting sound like a very prestigious school, and we know that her parents are very proud of her going there. She has a lot of pressure on her. This happens to so many young people when they leave high school. They feel that they have to get all of the answers in life immediately and know exactly where they should be going. And more often the truth is that they find they have more questions than answers at this time of their lives.
TV Guide: I know countless friends who fell apart when they got to college.
Schuyler: It’s interesting you say that because I’ve talked about that, too. One of the big differences between your high-school experience and your college experience is that if you’re in high school and don’t show up for class, the teachers are calling your house and your parents are on your case. It’s a serious matter. In college and you don’t show, nobody cares. A lot of people find it difficult to cope with the fact that it’s up to them. You go or you don’t.
TV Guide: Which seems to be Paige’s struggle.
Schuyler: She’s obviously gone to this university for all the wrong reasons. There’s an expectation from her parents, her mom was a Banting girl, but she hasn’t really thought about why she wants to be there. And she has to come to terms with that herself.
TV Guide: How bad will it get before she realizes it’s time to start over?
Schuyler: By the end of the second-parter, we will know that she is not going back to Banting.
TV Guide: With her being such a proud young woman, how will Paige handle coming home?
Schuyler: At first she’s going to keep it a secret and hide it from her family. But it is going to have to come out, obviously. She flames out and it’s going to take until next season before she finds a new direction in her life.
TV Guide: A lot of Degrassi fans want Paige back with Alex. Bringing her back home would make that much easier, right?
Schuyler: [Laughs] And who knows, that might happen by the end of the season!
TV Guide: Because it’s not Degrassi without Paige around to make trouble.
Schuyler: We love her because she is one of those characters that we can put out there in a lot of different situations, and as an actor, Lauren makes it all very believable. We hate Paige for some of her choices, but we love her character.
TV Guide: Because your cast is so good, as they get older, was part of your decision to go beyond the high school so that you could keep them around?
Schuyler: Yes. This was a discussion we had with both The N and our Canadian distributor. It was a rather seminal moment for Degrassi to make the choice that we were actually going to follow some of these students as they go into postsecondary. And with the exception of Paige, who’s at Banting, we have the rest of the graduates sharing a house together. What we do in our subsequent season, which we’re shooting now, is that we’re still at Degrassi and we’re still in the university world, but our balance is probably two-thirds Degrassi/one-third university.
TV Guide: Are you thinking of a possible spin-off? Splitting between the two groups, or setting a season during the summer when nobody would have to be in school?
Schuyler: All of those are possibilities! [Laughs] We’re just so thrilled to be in production for our seventh season, because we know for any television show to make it seven years is amazing. So we’re going to take it one season at a time and if people want us back next year, which we certainly hope they do, we will come up with some great stories, and who knows? But I can’t even predict what they would be.