Nearly six years after Degrassi: The Next Generation wrapped in 2015, co-creator Linda Schuyler and stars Stefan Brogren, Aislinn Paul, Shane Kippel, Luke Bilyk, Munro Chambers, Lauren Collins and more reunited to celebrate the series’ lasting impact.
The Degrassi: The Next Generation reunion kicked off this year’s ATX Television Festival on Friday. For many of the cast members, reuniting with their on-screen classmates was just like meeting with longtime school buddies as they reminisced on favorite moments from the teen drama.
“What a joy it is to be reminded of those scenes we’ve done together over the years,” Schuyler told her team.
From scenes about sexuality and abortion to mental health issues, Schuyler and the Degrassi cast reflected on how the series unapologetically tackled controversial topics, which often caused more of a stir in the United States than in Canada when they first aired. Today’s shows like Euphoria, Generation and Sex Education tackle sex, sexuality, drugs and abuse. However such shows would not have existed if it weren’t for the impactful stories of Degrassi, Collins said.
While the newer series speak to a younger generation raised on social media and unafraid to speak openly about topics that were traditionally taboo, the cast agreed that Degrassi used its platform to inform and educate viewers. Chambers, who acted as Eli, reminisced on transgender representation in the series’ Adam Torres. Jake Epstein remembered how Craig’s bipolar diagnosis helped open up a conversation about mental health. Additionally, Christina Schmidt reflected on how Terri’s experience with an abusive boyfriend opened her eyes to that side of relationships and helped viewers identify their own struggles with abuse.
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Schuyler believes that behind Degrassi’s lasting social impact is the “authenticity and vulnerability” of its age appropriate cast. Unlike American productions, Degrassi featured younger actors as the high school friends, she said.
“What I found is that if you had a 15-year-old playing a 15-year-old, they bring 15 years of experience to the scene,” she said. “The fact that as an actor you, too, were trying to figure out where you stood on these issues – it gave you such authenticity and vulnerability.”
Being “mindful of the times” and being “respectful towards young people” was also a througline for all iterations of Degrassi, Schuyler added.
Though no official Degrassi: The Next Generation reboots, reunions nor revivals are in the works, the creative team and cast toyed with what a return could possibly look like. Kippel said he’d like to see some “closure” for Spinner and Emma, Daniel Clark added that he’d like to know what exactly happens with Sean in the army and Borgren shared that he believes Snake will be the Degrassi High’s janitor while Bilyk’s Drew takes over as principal.
“We all had compelling stories and I think it could happen,” Clark said.
The ATX conversation, moderated by Louis Peitzman, also featured exec producers Stephen Stohn and Aaron Martin, and Andrea Lewis.
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