Back to reality: 'Degrassi' goes dark in season nine premiere

Tyrone Warner, CTV.ca

As “Degrassi’s” go-to bad boy, Peter Stone has always been waist-deep in trouble — but he’s never gone off the deep end like this before.

During an interview with CTV.ca, Jamie Johnston, who plays Peter, reveals that in upcoming episodes his character “Develops a little bit of a drug problem.”

When audiences last saw Peter in the “Degrassi” movie, “Degrassi Goes Hollywood,” his life was looking good: His band Stdz was destined for fame, dating the hottest girl in school and leaving his problems behind.

But as Peter realizes he can’t seem to fit into the high-fashion world Mia (Nina Dobrev) inhabits, an unlikely guest offers him a chance to escape.

The two-episode season premiere, “Just Can’t Get Enough” begins Sunday, Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. ET.

In order to portray such a massive shift in character, Johnston says he did his homework before attempting to portray a drug-addicted Peter.

“Thankfully there are shows like ‘Intervention’ and ‘Dr. Phil,’ where you can see what people are thinking when they go through experiences like that. I even travelled downtown to the more sketchy areas of Toronto to see how people move and how they act when they are on drugs,” says Johnston.

“I just took every piece of information I could get, mixed it all together, put it in the oven, took it out, and now I have Peter on meth.”

Despite taking on the challenge of taking Peter to a dark place, he also says he’s grateful for the opportunity.

“The juicier the storyline is, the better it is. The craziest thing that can happen is the best thing that can happen, and as bad as your character is, that is how good you are as an actor, basically,” says the young actor.

“I’m a nice guy, so it’s fun to play a messed up person.”

Unlike most teen dramas, “Degrassi: The Next Generation” has never shied away from complicated and controversial storylines that deal with problems most young people face. When it comes to a storyline like Peter’s, Johnston hopes viewers use it as a chance to learn.

“I hope that when people see how bad even just a little bit of meth can mess up your life, that people will know to just not do it,” says Johnston.

“There’s been a lot of stuff going around recently about the horrors of meth, the before and after pictures of their faces… its one of the worst things you can put in your body.”

Along with the stark change in Peter’s life, his mother Daphne Hatzilakos, played by fan favourite Melissa DiMarco, will return as the principal of Degrassi Community School.

Johnston, 20, was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, and joined “Degrassi” in 2005, during the fifth season of the series. Outside of acting, his passions also include playing the guitar, which he’s recently featured both on the show and in his personal life.

After being tasked with singing in his on-screen band, Stdz, he eventually introduced his guitar playing to the group. Between takes, the band immediately noticed they had chemistry, and with the addition of another guitar player, went on to form heir own off-screen group, “Sound Speed.”

Explaining the band name, Johnston says “It’s an actor joke. When we’re on set, and we’re about to film, they say ‘Roll sound, roll camera,’ and then the sound guy says, ‘Sound speed!’ and another guy says ‘Frame’ and then the director says ‘Action.’ (‘Degrassi’ co-star) Raymond Ablack pitched the idea we should be called ‘Sound Speed,’ and all of us, except for Shawn, who’s not an actor, giggled and thought it was a good idea.”

Johnston says the band has already played a few shows, and is currently writing songs for an upcoming album.

Full episodes of “Degrassi: The Next Generation” will be available online in the CTV Video Player at Watch.CTV.ca.

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