The Gazette (Montreal)
July 19, 2010 Monday
The pains of being the new kid in school; Degrassi star received hate mail after his first season
BYLINE: ERIC VOLMERS, Postmedia News
SECTION: ARTS & LIFE; Pg. A22
LENGTH: 849 words
Landon Liboiron found out early on that there’s a downside to joining the cast of an established TV show, particularly one that is put under severe scrutiny by its devoted fan base.
The 19-year-old actor had just settled into his gig playing Declan for Season 9 of Degrassi: The Next Generation, when he decided to visit an online fan forum for the show. While Degrassi fans are a lively, participatory bunch, their views on the characters, plot twists and life-lesson sermonizing at Degrassi Community School can at times be witheringly frank.
“There was a promo that they did last year to introduce the new characters,” says Liboiron, on the line from a coffee shop in Vancouver. “I was like ‘You know what? I’m going to read these comments and see what people are saying.’
“The very first one I read was, ‘Eyebrow tweezers. Ever heard of them?’ I was like, ‘Screw this, I’m not reading anymore of these.’ I’m going to let it all sit out there and not worry about it.
So I try to avoid reading it as much as possible.”
Fair enough. But the obsessive fans have a tendency to track down the Jenner, Alta., native just the same. Followers of the show know that Declan Coyne didn’t enter the Degrassi universe as a saint.
The conceited, rich and bushy-eyebrowed son of a diplomat, Declan’s first order of business in Season 9 was to humiliate a fellow student at a posh party, which sends the boy spiralling into a crystal-meth addiction, for some reason.
So Liboiron admits he isn’t too surprised by some of the feedback he receives from those devotees who have a hard time separating the actor from the role.
“My character definitely started out unpleasant,” he says. “I definitely get hate mail. I get messages on my YouTube (channel) every once in a while, stuff like, ‘You’re such scum. You’re pathetic. You should just go hang yourself.’ They get pretty vicious, and those are the ones I keep, because those are the most hilarious ones -the people who have the time to cuss out a character that doesn’t actually exist.”
Naysayers aside, Declan will be back tonight for Season 10 of Degrassi (the show has since dropped “The Next Generation” tag) MuchMusic is Degrassi’s new home, where the drama will now run four nights a week in telenovela format, allowing the writers to journey deeper into the show’s dark world of suicide, rape, drug abuse and school shootings.
It’s this laundry list of topical teenage concerns, combined with the soap opera-ish romantic entanglements, that has won Degrassi fans on both sides of the border. The long-running drama, one of many offshoots of the CBC’s earnest 1979 series The Kids of Degrassi Street, is one of the few Canadian shows that has developed a following in the U.S. Liboiron discovered this first-hand while on the New York set of the TV movie last year.
“It’s actually more famous there than it is in Canada,” says Liboiron. “I could walk around Canada naked and all people would say is, ‘Oh, there’s a crazy naked guy.’ Down in the States, especially in New York, when we were down there, there were kids everywhere saying, ‘Oh my God, it’s the Degrassi kids!’ It just has this huge following in the States.”
Being recognized in Times Square may seem worlds away from Liboiron’s early days as a farm kid in the small town of Jenner, Alta. But Liboiron credits his artist mother for supporting his eccentric leanings and his ambitions to act.
“I was always the kid that would play with action figures for days and have plot lines and I’d dress up in costumes,” he says. “I went to church as (Batman villain) Two-Face, once. My mom and my dad just sort of nodded and said, ‘OK, he’s going to be one of those kids. He’s going to be a weirdo.’ And they embraced that and helped me embrace it myself. When I was 13, I met this acting coach who, really, I owe everything to. She introduced me to an agent.”
He eventually landed stage roles and parts in Canadian movies. In the First World War epic Passchendaele, he was the baby-faced German soldier who gets a bayonet plunged into his forehead by Paul Gross. He had a six-episode run as a green-minded teen in the short-lived Calgary oilpatch drama Wild Roses.
In 2008, he won a Rosie (an Alberta film award) and good reviews for his role as a teen terrorized by Mountie killer James Roszko in the 2008 docudrama, Mayerthorpe.
All of which didn’t leave a lot of time for him to spend at St. Joseph’s Collegiate in Brooks, Alta., where he officially went from grades 10 to 12. He was on TV and film sets for a good part of his studies.
But he spent enough time in the halls to know that Degrassi’s take on teenage life is more dramatic than your average day at a Catholic school in Brooks.
Degrassi “is basically a high school on crack,” says Liboiron, who moved to Vancouver in November.
“It’s about all those kind of issues that you know about in high school, but they’re dramatized to an extreme. It’s pretty accurate, but there’s just a lot more of it going on. If you were to look at the ugly part of high school, that would be Degrassi. You don’t see a lot of the normal parts of high school.”
LOAD-DATE: July 20, 2010
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