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The Stars of 'Degrassi,' Then and Now
The next installment in the Degrassi franchise is finally here, guaranteed to provide more crazy storylines and multifaceted characters. To celebrate its return, take a look back at the original stars of Degrassi: The Next Generation, then and now.
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THEN: Before Drake made it big as a rapper, he was simply Aubrey Graham, the Canadian teen who played Jimmy Brooks. Jimmy was a basketball star who was shot by another student in season four. Paralyzed from the waist down, Jimmy stays at Degrassi until graduating in season seven.
NOW: The end of Drake’s time on Degrassi marked the start of his successful music career. He’s released three studio albums — each of which hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — and won the Grammy for Best Rap Album for Take Care. He’s also popularized the term “YOLO” and become an Internet meme many times over.
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THEN: Nina Dobrev joined the cast as a regular in season six, playing Mia Jones, a single mom who embarks on a modeling career.
NOW: Dobrev went from Degrassi right to her most high-profile role as Elena Gilbert in the CW hit The Vampire Diaries. Dobrev starred on the show for six years before departing in 2015. The TV actress has also had roles in films like The Roommate (2011), The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), and Let’s Be Cops (2014).
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THEN: Shenae Grimes played Darcy Edwards, first introduced in season four as a conservative, Christian girl. Her storyline took a dramatic turn in season seven, when she’s raped at a party. She becomes depressed and tries to commit suicide, but eventually gets better and moves to Kenya to help build schools.
NOW: Grimes left Degrassi after being cast in The CW’s 90210, where she played Annie Wilson, a character partly based on Brenda Walsh from the original Beverly Hills, 90210. The show aired for five seasons and shortly after filming the series finale, Grimes tied the knot with musician Josh Beech.
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THEN: Miriam McDonald portrayed Emma Nelson, the daughter of Degrassi Junior High’s Spike and Shane McKay, and therefore the “next generation.” She’s introduced as the “cause girl,” taking on many social causes and organizing protests. As the series goes on, she deals with issues like cyber danger, sexually transmitted diseases, and eating disorders.
NOW: McDonald has a few small credits outside of Degrassi, most recently appearing briefly in Orphan Black in 2013 and the 2014 horror movie Wolves. She currently works as a real estate agent and remains active on Instagram.
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THEN: After appearing in shows like Goosebumps and Are You Afraid of the Dark? in the '90s and playing the little brother in Model Behavior (2000), Daniel Clark was cast as bad boy Sean Cameron. Sean has an on-again off-again relationship with Emma (McDonald) throughout many seasons, but leaves the show when he joins the army and is shipped to Afghanistan.
NOW: Clark’s most notable role after Degrassi was as Steve in 2007's Juno. Soon after, he quit acting and attended NYU. He's worked in several media jobs and is now the managing director for eFresh Meals, a meal-delivery service based in Canada. Recently, he reunited with Drake, Lauren Collins, and Adamo Ruggiero at the Toronto premiere of We Are Disorderly.
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THEN: For nine seasons, Cassie Steele played Manny Santos, who’s best friends with Emma Nelson. In season three, Manny is the focus of a notable two-part episode, in which she learns she’s pregnant at 14 and decides to have an abortion.
NOW: Steele’s next big project after Degrassi was the CTV show The L.A. Complex, which also briefly aired on The CW in 2012. Recently, she voiced the character of Tammy on Rick & Morty. Steele has also pursued a music career, releasing her EP Shifty in 2012, followed by Patterns in 2014.
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THEN: Early in the series, many girls had their eyes set on musician Craig Manning, played by Jake Epstein. In season four, he’s diagnosed with bipolar disorder and a few seasons later, he struggles with drug abuse.
NOW: Epstein transitioned from TV to theater, where his notable credits included touring for Spring Awakening in 2009 and American Idiot. He also had a brief stint as the alternate for Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. Immediately following that, he originated the role of Gerry Goffin in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical on Broadway in 2013.
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THEN: When Lauren Collins first appeared on Degrassi, she portrayed Paige Michalchuk as the popular mean girl, but the superficial label left as her character developed. In season two, she’s raped by Dean Walton, and after struggling in the aftermath, decides to press charges.
NOW: During her time on Degrassi, Collins also took on film roles in Take the Lead (2006) and Charlie Bartlett (2007), and had a recurring role in the Canadian sitcom Life with Derek in the late 2000s. Recently, she guested on Comedy Central’s Kroll Show, where she appeared in a Degrassi parody. She also co-created and starred in Zero Recognition, a satirical short film about a young actress who joins the world of Internet dating. She remains close with several of her Degrassi co-stars, in particular Adamo Ruggiero.
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THEN: Adamo Ruggiero first tried out for the role of Craig Manning, but later was cast in season two as Marco Del Rossi. A major storyline early on revolved around Marco’s sexuality and his coming out.
NOW: Ruggiero guested on Canadian shows like Being Erica and Saving Hope in recent years, and also acted in a few short films. In 2015, he appeared in several episodes of the web series MsLabelled. He also hosted Degrassi’s web series Straight Talk with Adamo Ruggiero, where he sat down with Degrassi alums and chatted about the show. And speaking of Degrassi alums, Ruggiero occasionally posts throwback photos or mini-reunions with his former cast members on his Instagram account.
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THEN: Shane Kippel played Spinner Mason, whose bullying of another student leads to Jimmy getting shot in season four. Later in the series, Spinner was diagnosed with testicular cancer, but goes into remission. He leaves the show in season nine after marrying Emma Nelson.
NOW: Like his costar Lauren Collins, Kippel was a recurring character on the sitcom Life with Derek in the late 2000s. In 2010, he appeared in the drama-thriller film Dog Pound, where he played a juvenile inmate. Soon after, he put acting on hold to pursue music. He’s currently the drummer of the Toronto-based rock band Dear Love. Kippel, Lauren Collins, and Adamo Ruggiero recently had a mini-reunion at one of his Dear Love shows.
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THEN: Stacey Farber joined the cast in season two as Ellie Nash, the goth girl. She later grows out of that phase and when she attends university, she becomes more involved in journalism by joining The Core, the student newspaper.
NOW: In real life, Farber followed a similar path by attending The New School and interning at Teen Vogue. After that, she starred in the short-lived Canadian sitcom 18 to Life, about a teen couple who get married after high school. Following its cancellation in 2011, Farber appeared on the CW show Cult — which lasted one season — and recently guest starred on Rookie Blue and Saving Hope.
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THEN: As J.T. Yorke, Ryan Cooley played the class clown of Degrassi for six seasons before leaving in one of the most memorable moments of the show, when J.T. is stabbed to death outside a party.
NOW: Cooley had a few roles before starring in Degrassi, but took a break following the show to attend the University of Toronto. In 2013, he played Louis in the Canadian series Oh No! It's an Alien Invasion.
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THEN: Christina Schmidt stayed on Degrassi for only three seasons as Terri McGregor. Terri was in a relationship with Rick, but he becomes abusive. When he pushes her one day, she falls and hits her head and goes into a coma. She wakes up, but does not return to Degrassi.
NOW: In season two, Schmidt’s character becomes a plus size model, and in real life, Schmidt pursed a modeling career after Degrassi. She’s active on Instagram, where she often posts her modeling shots, along with photos of her son.
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THEN: Jake Goldsbie is introduced in the first episode as Toby Isaacs, J.T. Yorke’s best friend, and stays on the show until the Degrassi Class of 2007 graduates in season seven.
NOW: Like many of his co-stars, Goldsbie has mostly stayed out of the public eye. He’s the co-founder of the Toronto-based production company Not Bad Pictures and co-hosts the sports podcast Sportsfeld. He’s set to return to acting with the Montreal Centre Segal’s production of Bad Jews in May.
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THEN: As Liberty Van Zandt, Sarah Barrable-Tishauer portrayed the smart overachiever. In season five, she becomes pregnant with J.T. Yorke’s baby, and the two decide to give the baby up for adoption.
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THEN: Melissa McIntyre was introduced as the popular Ashley Kerwin, who dates Jimmy until the season one finale when she takes ecstasy, kisses Sean Cameron, breaks up with Jimmy, and calls Paige a hag.
NOW: Degrassi was McIntyre’s last on-screen project, and for the most part, she’s kept a private life. She briefly reappeared in 2012 as a singer in former INXS frontman J.D. Fortune’s band.
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THEN: Stefan Brogren has been part of the Degrassi franchise almost from the beginning, appearing as Archie “Snake” Simpson in various iterations. He returned as the principal in The Next Generation for all 14 seasons.
NOW: Brogren will return once again as Snake in Degrassi: Next Class. In addition to acting, he’s also serving as a producer and director.