By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press | The Canadian Press
TORONTO – For the creators of the Canadian cross-border high-school hit “Degrassi,” it’s like getting a ticket to the Academy Awards.
The series has been nominated for a best-drama award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation in the U.S. for a groundbreaking season that introduced a teenage transgender character.
“For the people in this building, it’s almost like getting nominated for an Emmy or an Oscar,” Stefan Brogren, who acts, directs and produces on the series, said Thursday in Toronto.
“It’s big news around here. We do pride ourselves on trying to tell really truthful stories.”
“Degrassi,” which airs on MuchMusic in Canada and TeenNick in the U.S., is up for a GLAAD Media Award against “Brothers & Sisters,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “True Blood.”
This is the third GLAAD nomination for “Degrassi” after nods in 2008 and 2004.
The competition increases every year as more TV series touch on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, said Brogren, who’s been with the “Degrassi” franchise since the 1980s and now plays the principal, Mr. Simpson.
“I think there’s no doubt that more and more shows are introducing gay characters and I don’t think for any other reason except that there’s a large part of the audience that wants to relate to something,” he said.
“I think the shows are aware as well that people need to see themselves on these shows.”
Of course, “Degrassi” has touched on LGBT issues for many years.
In its current 10th season, viewers have met transgender character Adam, played by Jordan Todosey, and watched football player Riley (Argiris Karras) struggle with being openly gay.
In 2004, Adamo Ruggiero’s character, Marco, came out of the closet, the character Paige (Lauren Collins) questioned her sexuality and viewers learned that Alex (Deanna Casaluce) was a lesbian.
And in an episode in 1988, the brother of Snake (Brogren) returned home from college, announced he was gay and quickly fled back to school.
“Back then that was considered a bold show,” said Brogren. “There was no way back then that we would’ve considered, or at least I think the producers would’ve considered, having a regular character on the show come out as gay.
“It was just too much, I think, at the time for people to sort of wrap their heads around, as far as how to produce it.”
These days, telling truthful stories with young LGBT characters is a “big part” of the show and always will be, he added.
“As many characters that we have that are straight, we definitely want to make sure that we’re representing everybody. It only means we’re going to get more fans so it’s good for us.”
GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in New York on March 19 and in San Francisco on May 14 and in Los Angeles.