By Kat Angus, Calgary Herald, Canwest News Service
TELEVISION: Paradise City: Degrassi Goes Hollywood
When and where: Sunday night at 8 on CTV
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In the freezing of the Great White North, there is not a single Canadian who hasn’t dreamed of ditching the cold, wet snow for sunnier climates down south.
So it was really just a matter of time before the Canadian institution of Degrassi actually went for it with their new TV movie, Paradise City: Degrassi Goes Hollywood, in which the Next Generation kids trade in their Toronto drama for the beaches, shopping and show business glitz of Los Angeles.
In such a setting, it’s no surprise that Lauren Collins is at the centre of it all, reprising the role of Degrassi’s resident mean girl, Paige Michalchuk.
Although Collins officially left Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2008, starring in feature films like Charlie Bartlett and landing recurring roles on shows like The Best Years, the 22-year-old actress was eager to step back into Paige’s catty-but-impeccably-styled shoes.
“I think it’s so much fun,” Collins exclaims. “It takes me back to the earlier seasons of Degrassi when Paige was such a huge bitch all the time. I always had the most fun playing that.”
In Degrassi Goes Hollywood, Paige has gone from Queen Bee to disgruntled drone, reduced to fetching coffee and walking the toy dog of an idiotic reality TV star in Los Angeles.
“I think that’s always been Paige’s problem: she can’t deal with the fact that she might have to start at the bottom and work her way up; she wants everything to come easy,” says Collins, laughing. “Nothing ever seems to really work out for her.”
But Paige doesn’t have time to learn much about humility, as a whirlwind sequence of events lands her the lead role in a big-screen musical directed by Jason Mewes (playing himself). Before long, other members of the Degrassi crew follow Paige to sunny California, only to be faced with Paige’s rapidly expanding ego.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Degrassi without a few heavy issues — Ellie (Stacey Farber) goes to California to escape her family problems while Manny is running away from her verbally abusive boyfriend — but it’s still a lighthearted romp in the same vein as Crossroads or Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style.
But even with all the personal drama, a movie set in Hollywood needs a few celebrity cameos, and Degrassi Goes Hollywood does not disappoint, featuring stars like Degrassi favourite Kevin Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Pete Wentz (“He was on set literally a day before his wife gave birth,” says Collins) and even infamous gossip blogger Perez Hilton.
“I was nervous about (acting opposite Perez), as I’m sure any young actor would be,” Collins admits. “But he was amazing! He was really nice, not at all what you’d expect. Very quiet and shy, and very well-prepared.”
Still, it wasn’t the Hollywood glamour or the celebrity run-ins that made Collins love filming Degrassi Goes Hollywood; it was returning to the role that she grew up in.
“I think it was everyone being together again,” says Collins. “Obviously, going to L.A. for a few days was really fun, but shooting at home with our old crew and studio and dressing rooms, it just brought back a lot of memories. It was like a real high school reunion.”
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