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15 things you probably didn’t know about ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’

Summary List PlacementSEE ALSO: "Degrassi: The Next Generation" cast where are they now FOLLOW US: INSIDER is on Facebook "Degrassi: The Next Generation" is part of a larger franchise that's been on the air since 1979. "Degrassi: The Next Generation" is actually part of a TV franchise that ran for nearly 40 years.  In 1979, Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood started creating educational programs for kids and teens, which sparked the idea for a "The Kids of Degrassi Street" miniseries focusing on elementary-school students.  When all of the characters reached sixth grade, Schuyler and Hood's production company started working on a new series, "Degrassi Junior High," which...

degrassi cast drake Cassie Steele Shane Kippel Shenae Grimes

Summary List Placement

SEE ALSO: “Degrassi: The Next Generation” cast where are they now

FOLLOW US: INSIDER is on Facebook

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is part of a larger franchise that’s been on the air since 1979.

“Degrassi: The Next Generation” is actually part of a TV franchise that ran for nearly 40 years. 

In 1979, Linda Schuyler and Kit Hood started creating educational programs for kids and teens, which sparked the idea for a “The Kids of Degrassi Street” miniseries focusing on elementary-school students. 

When all of the characters reached sixth grade, Schuyler and Hood’s production company started working on a new series, “Degrassi Junior High,” which featured seventh- and eighth-grade students and aired on CBC in 1987.

The third spin-off series in the franchise, “Degrassi High,” aired in 1989 and followed the students into high school. The series ended with the TV movie “School’s Out” in 1992.

The series wasn’t revived again for nearly a decade when Schuyler and Stephen Stohn created “Degrassi: The Next Generation” in 2001. The show introduced new seventh- and eighth-grade students to follow and eventually expanded into high school.

After running for 14 seasons, the franchise moved to Netflix and launched “Degrassi: Next Class” in 2016. The show premiered its fourth and final season in 2017. 

The show was almost canceled after season nine.

According to Stohn’s memoir “Whatever It Takes: Life Lessons from Degrassi and Elsewhere in the World of Music and Television,” in 2009, Bell Media, who owns CTV, told the creators they weren’t going to renew the show for a 10th season. 

But US broadcaster TeenNick, who’d been airing the show in America, stepped in to save the day.

The network wanted Stohn to create a nightly teen soap opera, but instead, he pitched a prime-time telenovela-style reformatting of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

The show was rebranded as simply “Degrassi,” and season 10 spanned 44 episodes broken into two chapters: “Degrassi: The Boiling Point” and “Degrassi: The Breaking Point.” 

Archie “Snake” Simpson appeared in more “Degrassi” episodes across the franchise than any other character.

Stefan Brogren started playing Archie “Snake” Simpson on “Degrassi Junior High,” and he returned as Mr. Simpson — media-immersion teacher, Emma’s stepdad, and the eventual principal of Degrassi Community School — on “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

He also continued his role on “Degrassi: Next Class” and became the longest-running character in the show’s history. 

But fans may be surprised that the character in the second highest number of episodes isn’t an original “Next Generation” star like Paige or Spinner.

Aislinn Paul, who played Clare Edwards starting on season six, is second, with credits in 231 episodes. 

You might recognize some former “Degrassi” stars from other things.

The show realistically cast junior-high and high-school-aged actors, so many of the stars were relatively unknown before landing their roles.

But since then, a few of the main actors have gone on to make it big.

The first megastar most people think of is rapper Drake, or Aubrey Graham, who played Jimmy Brooks on “Degrassi.”

Other notable alumni include Nina Dobrev, who played Mia Jones and went on to star on “The Vampire Diaries” and Shenae Grimes-Beech, who played Darcy Edwards before making it big on “90210.”

Emma’s name has a special meaning.

Miriam McDonald starred as Emma Nelson on the starting half of “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

Her character was the child of Spike from “Degrassi Junior High,” and according to “Degrassi Generations: The Official 411,” her name was chosen because the show won an Emmy for the “Junior High” episode where Spike finds out she’s pregnant. 

Drake may be a big name now, but he’s still making a little money off of “Degrassi.”

Drake starred on the series for eight seasons before making it big as a rapper.

But according to a 2017 Instagram post, he’s still getting residual royalties (in very small amounts) for playing Jimmy Brooks.

He posted a photo of a check for $8.25 with the caption, “Degrassi money still coming in don’t sleeeeeeeep.”

A significant plot point was originally removed from the US broadcasts of the show.

The Canadian show aired on a prime-time network aimed at audiences of all ages and portrayed heavy topics, including drug use, rape, and teen pregnancy.

But according to The New York Times, because the show aired on The N (later TeenNick) in the US, which was aimed at younger audiences, certain scenes were edited out of the broadcast.

On one of the most groundbreaking two-part episodes in the franchise’s history, “Accidents Will Happen,” 14-year-old Manny gets an abortion. The episode didn’t even air in the US until two years after it premiered in Canada. 

Complete, unedited episodes of the series are available on the official “Degrassi” YouTube channel.

“Degrassi” cocreator Schuyler received one of the highest civilian awards in Canada for her work on the series.

According to Toronto.com, Schuyler was appointed to the Order of Canada in 1994 and the Order of Ontario in 2012 for influencing Canadian culture through the “Degrassi” franchise.

The national award is granted to trailblazers “who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.” Similarly, the province honor is awarded to an “Ontarian who has shown outstanding qualities of individual excellence and achievement in any field.”

Even though the show advertised its diverse cast and content, an early character said she felt tokenized as a woman of color on “Degrassi.”

“Next Generation” star Andrea Lewis, who played Hazel on the first six seasons, opened up about her time on the show in a 2013 blog post

Although she said she appreciated the opportunity, she also said that apart from one major plotline, she felt like a “token dose of color or a glorified extra” on set. 

Her post continued with an anecdote of her conversing with a Canadian filmmaker who worked on the show and confirming that “‘Degrassi’ had an issue with [her] race.”

“He told me how the writers and producers had no intentions of developing the story lines of my character unless it was to enhance the story of one of their other white characters,” she wrote. “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 color 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.”

Actor Adamo Ruggiero said that he figured out his own sexual identity as he played his openly gay character on “Degrassi.”

Actor Adamo Ruggiero, who played Marco Del Rossi, told The Globe and Mail in 2008 that he felt like a fraud for receiving fan mail thanking him for helping fans come out to their families and friends when he was still figuring out his own sexuality in real life.

But during an interview with CTV’s eTalk the next month, Ruggiero publicly came out as gay and discussed how his journey paralleled Marco’s on the show.

Kevin Smith wasn’t allowed to write and direct episodes of the show, but his cameos “changed the f—ing course of Degrassi history.”

American filmmaker Kevin Smith, known for his “Jay and Silent Bob” franchise, appeared as himself on season four episodes 21 and 22 alongside his frequent screen partner Jason Mewes.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Smith was a huge fan of the series growing up, and he originally wanted to write and direct an episode arc during which “Degrassi Junior High”-turned-“Degrassi: The Next Generation” characters Joey and Caitlin would get married. 

But the show had a strict rule about only hiring Canadian filmmakers, so instead, they offered him a role on the show, and he ended up coming between the longtime on-again, off-again “Degrassi” couple.

“I broke [Caitlin] and Joey up. It was awesome,” he said. “I changed the f—ing course of ‘Degrassi’ history … These two were heading toward a marriage, and I ruined it.”

Smith and Mewes also returned for the “Degrassi Goes Hollywood” TV movie at the end of season eight.

Season 10 introduced the first transgender teen character on a scripted series.

When Adam Torres joined the ever-growing list of “Degrassi” characters on season 10, he became the first transgender teen character to be a regular on a scripted TV show.

To help ensure the portrayal was as accurate as possible, the show consulted with GLAAD on scripts for the groundbreaking two-part coming-out episode, “My Body Is A Cage.”

The episode won the series a Peabody Award in 2010.

Adam quickly became a fan favorite, and many viewers were devastated when his arc came to an untimely end on season 13

Several musical guests made cameos on “Degrassi.”

Several famous musicians appeared as themselves on “Degrassi,” including Natasha Bedingfield on season seven, Pete Wentz and Cassadee Pope in “Degrassi Goes Hollywood,” and Keke Palmer on season 11.

Additionally, Billy Ray Cyrus played an eccentric limo driver on season three and Alanis Morissette was part of Smith and Mewes’ movie on season four.

Alex Steele played two separate characters on “Degrassi.”

Not only is Alex Steele the real-life sister of “Degrassi” star Cassie Steele, who played Manny, she was also the first person to play two different characters in the franchise. 

She started on the show as Joey Jeremiah’s daughter, Angie, on the earlier seasons, and she returned as Tori Santamaria on season 11. 

Drake reunited many of his “Next Generation” costars for his “I’m Upset” music video in 2018.

In 2018, there was an impromptu “Next Generation” reunion when Drake asked a number of his former costars to appear in his “I’m Upset” music video.

The six-and-a-half-minute video took place on the “Degrassi” set and featured actors like Brogren, Shane Kippel, Lauren Collins, and McDonald. 

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