With more than 500 episodes under its belt, the Degrassi franchise has said goodbye to many graduating characters over the years, and Degrassi: Next Class season 4 saw the school year end for a few more.
Zig (Ricardo Hoyos), Maya (Olivia Scriven), Tiny (Richard Walters), Winston (Andre Kim), Grace, (Nikki Gould), Jonah (Ehren Kassam) Tristan (Lyle Lettau), Miles (Eric Osborne), Zoe (Ana Golja), and Goldi (Soma Bhatia) all graduated in the season finale — some a little later than others.
But for the latest batch of seniors, the show did something a little different from previous seasons. As Maya’s original song, “Last Exit to Freedom” played in the last few minutes of the finale, the show offered a glimpse of what became of the recent graduates: Tiny left for Caltech, Grace got the lung transplant she needed so badly while Jonah waited by her side, Miles and Winston went on that European vacation (while Tristan stayed back and worked on his therapy), Zoe and her girlfriend Rasha hung out as did Winston and Goldi, and Maya and Zig drove off into the sunset together.
EW spoke to executive producer Stephen Stohn about the inspiration for those final moments of the season 4 finale — and whether we’d see any fan favorites return.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: At the end of this season, we see where everyone ends up, which we’ve never really seen in previous seasons. What inspired that?
STEVEN STOHN: That was an editing choice. It was actually written that way. How it was written was: Zoe gives her final speech, and we see everybody at the party. And I don’t think there was much more, other than roll the credits. It was in the editing room, I forget who it was that said, “We could reprise.” And I was in favor of reprising the “Last Exit” song. And over that, we could put these possible shots. And it just worked like gangbusters. We didn’t know if it would work.
Did you have ideas for where each character would end up, or was it an improvised thing?
Well, we all had our own ideas. I’ve always been a Zig and Maya fan, so for many years, I wanted them to end up together. And I know it’s a little bit ambiguous, but for me, it’s not. They end up together and deservedly so. And with the others, I really liked how Miles and Tristan ended up. I know there are a bunch of people who wanted them to be together, going off into the sunset, and they could end up together. But they’re becoming their own people. They’re being who they need to be. And we’ll see what the future can hold.
When you are coming up with these characters, do you have an idea of where you might want them to end up, or is that something that’s crafted during the final season?
The characters tend to create themselves as they go along. It’s partly the writers seeing what works with the characters and seeing how the actor is portraying them, and what the strengths and the weaknesses are. At the beginning, they don’t know where the characters are going to end up. As you get to know them, you’ve got some thoughts as to what you may want, but sometimes you’re really surprised. But there is a bit of momentum that builds up, where the characters build up.
We see Grace eventually get that lung transplant. Is that something you’d planned when you planned her diagnosis?
We didn’t know up until the end how that would transpire. Even in the past, some of the iconic moments we didn’t know right up until the end. For example, Cam’s suicide. He was such a beloved character. We had planned that he would [die by] suicide. But as we got closer, we loved the character so much, and Dylan Everett, who played him so well, loved portraying the character, and we had some serious discussions. “Well, maybe he attempts suicide and isn’t successful.” So there was a lot of discussion around it. Of course in that case, in the end, we decided it was too important to the story, we have to follow through on what we said. But there can be a debate right up until the end.
When it comes to popular ships like Tristan and Miles, and even Zig and Maya, do you feel any pressure to have them end up together?
What we’re trying to do is figure out authentically what they would do. So it’s not, “Oh, let’s have a Hollywood ending.” One of my favorite pairings was Eli and Clare. It would have been so easy with them, to give them a great send-off where they love each other and go off to New York together. But the truth was, they were finally settling into who they were. I think they did end up together. But we don’t know. They both have to go off and be themselves and explore life for a little bit before it’s sure. To me that’s just more authentic and a better way to do it.
Have you talked to the actors about possibly doing an in-show reunion where we see what happened to a lot of those characters, or will it be something a character might just refer to down the line?
It’s more the latter. We do talk about creating some kind of special or some return moments. But during the course of the season, maybe something will come up where we’ll go, “Oh, Jake is in town. Maybe we can have him return and see what’s happening in his life.” I would love to do a reunion at some point in the future and just see where a whole bunch of the characters, some of the current ones, but also where some of the ones from earlier on in The Next Generation have ended up.
We had that slight reunion last year during the 500th episode.
Yeah. That was partially there. [Laughs]. But I think at some point in the future, maybe it’s a few years down the road, we could do a really nice reunion.
Degrassi: Next Class is currently available to stream on Netflix.