Ottawa actress lands principal Degrassi role [Ottawa Citizen]

Ottawa actress lands principal Degrassi role
Orlans teenager moving to Toronto

Tony Lofaro, The Ottawa Citizen

Published: Friday, June 27, 2008

Melinda Shankar’s move to Toronto to appear in Degrassi: The Next Generation means she’ll probably have to give up two of her favourite passions: karate and ballet.

The 16-year-old Ottawa actress and model has landed one of the principal roles in the CTV series currently being filmed in Toronto. She’s already taped a few episodes in season 8 of the series, and is in the process of moving with her family.

A busy shooting schedule and her move away from Ottawa are curtailing her karate and ballet classes, which she’s taken since the age of three.

“Karate is fighting, aggressive and not so graceful, and then ballet is the complete opposite, being graceful and dancing to the beat of the music,” said Shankar, whose father runs a martial arts school in Orlans. “I don’t know how they’ve been put together but somehow they balance each other out.”

Shankar won the role after auditioning in Toronto, where producers were impressed by her enthusiasm and good looks. “They said I was the first person picked for the show who was outside Toronto.”

She plays the role of Allia Bhandri, a new character on the series. “They were looking for a girl to play a Grade 9 student, and she has a brother in the show already, so she’s the younger sister coming into Degrassi. And she comes from a strict household but she is a little rebellious.”

She said producers saw a resemblance between her and the actor who plays her brother in the series. “I think our personalities worked well together and sometimes that counts more than experience.”

It’s her first television series after appearing mostly in TV commercials, print ads and some theatre work in Ottawa.

“This is what I always wanted to do. It’s my big break and I’m so happy to be a part of the Degrassi team,” said Shankar, adding she’s a big fan of the show, and watched past seasons religiously.

The series will be taping episodes in Toronto until October. The Grade 11 student at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School plans to stay with a cousin until the rest of her her family moves this fall.

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