- Degrassi isn’t afraid to try something new all the time – tackling important issues like Islamophobia, gender identity, and various sexualities on a regular basis.
- One of the most important episodes Degrassi ever did was originally not aired on TV in the US – but eventually made it into a marathon on the network two years after its original air date in Canada.
- Most of the cast of “Degrassi: The Next Generation” reunited for Degrassi alum Drake’s “I’m Upset” video in 2018.
Those in the US might not know it, but Degrassi has been running in Canada in one form or another for nearly 40 years.
Part of the magic is age-appropriate casting – and a cast who grows up and graduates to make room for a new cast. As long-running Degrassi star Stefan Brogren – who is also a director on the show – told the Hollywood Reporter in 2017, “the drugs have changed, but the problems are still the same.”
We rounded up some fun facts about this beloved show.
You might recognise some former Degrassi stars from other things.
Of course, the first Degrassi megastar everyone thinks of is Drake. But the show also brought the world Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries” fame,Shenae Grimes-Beech from “90210,” Munro Chambers of the indie sci-fi/horror film “Turbo Kid,” model Christina Schmidt, and Cassie Steele who does the voices of Tammy Gueterman and Tricia Long on “Rick and Morty.”
Speaking of Drake, he still gets checks from Degrassi today.
Although he left the show in 2007, the residuals are still rolling in – enough for something small at the Dot, perhaps?
As of November 2018, there are five different series in the Degrassi universe.
It’s a Canadian institution that started as a miniseries in 1979 and continued through five separate series: “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” “Degrassi Junior High,” “Degrassi High,” “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” and “Degrassi: New Class” – which is also the first Degrassi series to be available internationally on Netflix.
If you watched Degrassi on TV in the US, some significant things were edited out.
While the show was prime time viewing in Canada – on a major network, no less – it was relegated to PBS, and then the N – which later became Teen Nick – in the US.
So when the show covered loaded topics like abortion, drug use, and rape, certain things were either edited out for US TV – or in the case of arguably the most groundbreaking episode in the entire show’s run, which tackled abortion, not aired at all until two years after it aired in Canada.
Complete, unedited episodes are available in their intended order via the DVD box sets of each season – or, for everything from “Degrassi Junior High” through “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” via the official Degrassi YouTube channel.
“Next Generation” star Andrea Lewis — who played Hazel — appreciated the opportunities she had on the show, but believes the show had some serious blind spots regarding its characters of colour.
In an entry on her blog from 2013, Lewis spoke openly about her experiences:
“Recently I had a conversation with a filmmaker in Canada who had worked with me while I was on Degrassi and he, unfortunately, confirmed to me the feelings that I had always had but never wanted to admit to. Degrassi had an issue with my race.
“He told me how the writers and producers had no intentions of developing the storylines of my character unless it was to enhance the story of one of their other white characters. They had some plans for some of the other black characters on the show but their ideas were only to cover the usual stereotypes that we see of people of colour on television: teen pregnancy, petty theft, basketball, broken family homes, etc., and he usually had to fight with them to think out of the box with those characters to not have them go down the road of the usual cliches.”
Even so, Degrassi has had such a powerful social impact that in 1994, co-creator Linda Schuyler received one of the highest civilian awards in Canada.
One “Degrassi: Next Generation” character came out as gay before the actor who portrayed that character eventually also came out as gay.
Actor Adamo Ruggiero told the Globe and Mail that he didn’t realise his character, Marco Del Rossi, “was a gay role until I signed on.” He went on to say that he felt like a fraud for receiving fan mail thanking him for helping fans come out to their families and friends when he – the actor – was still figuring out his own sexuality.
Kevin Smith is a huge fan from way back — and even guest-starred in a couple of “Next Generation” episodes along with longtime collaborator Jason Mewes.
The season four episodes “Goin’ Down The Road” parts one and two featured Smith and Mewes essentially playing alternate versions of themselves – and there’s also a guest appearance from Alanis Morissette as well. Smith and Mewes also showed up again in the “Degrassi Goes Hollywood” movie.
As anyone familiar with Smith’s work can attest, he is extremely vocal about his loves and hates – so it’s no surprise at all that his love for the show (and the character of Caitlin Ryan) also saw him write the introduction to the series companion volume, “The Official 411: Degrassi Generation.”
In season 10 of “Next Generation,” Degrassi introduced the first-ever transgender teen character in a scripted TV show — Adam Torres.
To make sure they got their portrayal right, the show consulted with GLAAD on scripts for the groundbreaking two-part episode that introduced Adam, “My Body Is A Cage.”
Adam quickly became a fan-favourite – and many fans were devastated when his character’s storyline ended tragically.
A bunch of musical guests have shown up on Degrassi over the show’s run that you may have missed.
Some musical guests were hard to miss, like Natasha Bedingfield performing as herself at a school dance in season seven, or Keke Palmer also showing up as herself in the season 11 premiere. Others were blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fast, like Billy Ray Cyrus showing up as a limo driver in the season 3 TNG finale.
Back to non-undercover guest stars, Pete Wentz and Cassadee Pope both made appearances as themselves in the movie“Degrassi Goes Hollywood.”
“Degrassi: Next Class” introduced the school’s first gender non-binary character in Yael Baron.
If you have Netflix, you can find Yael chatting with their friend Lola about their genderqueer identity in season four, episode seven of the series.
An informal “Degrassi: The Next Generation” reunion happened in 2018 — all thanks to Drake.
By now, you probably know that before he was Drake, he was Aubrey Graham – and a star of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.” You’ve probably also seen the video for “I’m Upset” that he dropped in June 2018.
But you may not have fully realised what you were seeing when you watched this video if you weren’t a Degrassi fan. This six-and-a-half minute piece of magic reunited most of Drake’s fellow Next Gen stars – along with Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, back again with their favourite cast.
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