Degrassi is known for tackling the complex issues that high school students face. Subjects such as teen pregnancy, drugs, school shooting and rape are all showcased, although usually handled in a conservative way. The creatives of the show, Linda Schuyler (Creator & EP), Stephen Stohn (EP), Stefan Brogren (Director & Cast) and Sarah Glinski (Writer & EP) were on hand at today’s TCA to speak about tackling those issues on Netflix’s less restrictive platform.
“We’ve always strived to be completely authentic,” said Stohn. “But over the past few years in particular, on the air we were getting pressure from executives to play it a little bit safer. Now this year we can tell stories of female masturbation. We can just go where the stories are.” He continues “our motto really is ‘if they are talking about it in the hallways of the schools around the nation, we have to be talking about it.”
Degrassi has been around for well over 20 years in different forms and when asked about telling stories of teens today versus in the past, Glinski offers, “Many of the stories are very similar; we’re just talking about them in the way that teenagers talk about them today. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s different.” Brogren added, “the drugs have changed but the problems are still the same.”
On the new approach to Degrassi as a Netflix series, Brogren said “[the cast] can see we changed our script… We’re allowing kids to find messages inside the story that’s bigger than just an issue. We’re basically telling them ‘Do the Netflix version’, which he explained is about keeping it real as possible. Along those lines, Schuyler spoke on the “importance of always trying to cast with as much diversity and cast age appropriate” in order to maintain a level of honesty in the show and have the audience be able to relate to the character.
Degrassi: Next Class is now streaming 10-episodes on Netflix with a second batch of episodes to air at a later date.