Don't confuse Cassie with Manny says 'Degrassi' star

Don’t confuse Cassie with Manny says ‘Degrassi’ star

Updated Thu. Mar. 27 2008 12:21 PM ET

Tyrone Warner, CTV.ca

Cassie Steele, who plays Manny Santos on “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” says she hates being mistaken for the character she plays.

Following the infamous “thong” episode, when Manny decided to dress in ultra tight clothing in an attempt to attract attention from boys, Steele recalls hearing people whispering about her during a trip to the mall.

“What they said was hurtful, so that’s why I have to motivate myself to be a good influence, and to differ myself from my character,” says Steele.

“I think it’s come to a point now that I’m old enough and I’ve showed people I’m not like my character. I think if somebody meets me, it’s easy to decipher Manny from Cassie.”

Manny has had her own share of ups and downs on “Degrassi;” from having a drunken video of her taking her top off circulating through the school, to having an abortion, in what is considered to be one of the more controversial moments in the show’s history.

The 18-year-old Steele has been with “Degrassi: The Next Generation” since its debut in 2001.

Now that “Degrassi” is gaining considerable popularity south of the border thanks to exposure on “The N,” Steele finds herself being more aware of the public image she presents.

“Now that we’re recognizable, we can’t just go out and act crazy,” says Steele. “We have to set an example because most of our viewers are young girls.”

In season seven of “Degrassi,” which airs Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. on CTV, Manny decides to become an actress, despite her parents’ wishes.

Manny even hired resident “Degrassi” bad boy and bully Jay Hogart (Mike Lobel) to be her boyfriend. Her plan to have him wreck her “debut” (coming-of-age party) backfired and she now finds herself in a quasi-relationship with Hogart.

But unlike her character, the Toronto-born actress says her parents have always been supportive of her career choice.

“My dad was a stock broker, very high up in the banking industry, and he quit his job to help me. I really, really wanted to go to auditions and acting classes, and he basically took me to all of them and supported me 100 per cent,” says Steele.

However, the actress admits that she uses inspiration from events in her own life as motivation for her character.

In an upcoming two-part “Spring Break” episode (March 31 and April 7), Manny and the gang heads to Smithdale College for an audition to get into the school’s acting program.

While the girls had fun on their road trip, Steele remembers shooting the episode was anything but a good time.

“This episode was probably one of the most pressed-for-time episodes we’ve ever had,” remembers Steele.

“It was boiling hot, but we were playing it as spring, so we were wearing black, and jackets, and that kind of stuff.”

Steele says she took her frustration out at end of the day when she shared a screaming match in a scene with Lobel.

“I’m not really a method actor, but that scene was purely my stress and tension from the entire day,” Steele says with a laugh.

The episode also features Shirley Douglas in a special guest starring role as one of the school’s instructors.

“She was really cool. All the guest stars we’ve had on the show have been really nice, and she was really interactive,” says Steele.

“We only had a few short scenes, even though everyone was stressed, she made it seem like lighter work.”

Steele is now currently at work in Los Angeles on a follow up album to her 2005 musical debut, “How Much for Happy.”

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