'Degrassi': Annie Clark, Cristine Prosperi, Linda Schuyler talk
In the drama-filled halls of Degrassi Community School, it can be tough to find a lasting relationship. Especially if you make too many trips to the ravine.
Thankfully, seniors Fiona Coyne and Imogen Moreno have managed to stay paired for an impressive 35 episodes — despite the leering jocks, mean girls, and family tragedies that have threatened to tear them apart. The girls’ stable, realistic coupledom is one of the factors that helped Degrassi snag its 5th GLAAD Media Award nomination this year.
Can “Fimogen” keep their streak going, even as prom and graduation loom? We sat down with actresses Annie Clark and Cristine Prosperi — as well as Degrassi executive producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn — to find out. Also on the docket: The girls’ favorite old Degrassi characters, their love of Degrassi alum Drake, and season 12’s heart-wrenching suicide plotline.
Entertainment Weekly: Though your characters have been in a relationship for a while, both of them started out straight. Was it tough to wrap your head around being involved with a girl?
Annie Clark: I kind of equate myself finding out to how Fiona found out, when she finally realized that she was a lesbian. Fiona came out and didn’t really have much of a struggle, which I think was really important to portray. Of course it’s important to show the people who have had difficulty coming out — it’s equally as important to show the times when everyone’s cool with it.
Cristine Prosperi: And for me, with Imogen, I feel like it’s really cool that we don’t really know if she’s lesbian or bisexual. She’s just connected with someone. That’s what teenagers need sometimes, just to connect with someone.
Annie: To not have the labels.
Linda Schuyler: It’s interesting that you say you didn’t know your character was going to be gay, because neither did we. [laughter]
How do you decide something like that?
Linda: It’s funny, it happens in different ways. We introduced Declan and Fiona together. Every season, we try to shake up Degrassi in one way or another, and these rich children of diplomats, that was their job. And as we got to know the character of Fiona more, we realized that she was sort of in the shadow of her brother. She was a bit damaged goods. It seemed like a natural evolution for the character. Sometimes we know from the get-go — like when Tristan joined, we knew he was gay right from the top. And he came in gay and proud of it.
Linda and Stephen, whose character do you think has changed the most over their time on the show?
Linda: I actually don’t know how to answer that. One of the things I’m really proud about is that we absolutely allow characters to evolve and change. There are so many shows where the actor is pigeonholed. We’re dealing with that incredible time in kids’ lives when they’re sort of straddling from being a child to being an adult, and we cast pretty much age appropriate. We have to be really elastic, and we have to allow for evolution.
Stephen Stohn: Personally, I’d go with Ellie, who started out really, really goth and by the end, she was so vulnerable — she almost takes her own life.
Cristine: My first read-through, I remember I was talking to Luke Bilyk, who plays Drew, and he was saying, “You have no idea what your character’s going to go through this year. You might be the stalker creepy girl at the very beginning, but you have no idea.”
What would you have predicted for Imogen?
Cristine: Being involved with Eclare stuff. I was kind of nervous to see if I was actually going to break them up, or if I was going to get killed by fans. I got some pretty good tweets: “You better watch out for Eclare!” But no, it’s all in good fun, and I’m really happy that Imogen found Fiona, because I feel like they connect on a good level.
Do you think their relationship is realistic?
Cristine: We might be biased because we love Fimogen so much. We could talk about it for hours. But no, I really like them together, and I think they bring out the best in each other.
Annie: Also, we’re really close, and I feel like it’s just us, but you have zany hair–
Cristine: –and glasses.
Annie: We became friends through having scenes together, and I had no idea that we were going to be so close.
Changing gears a bit — Stephen, your bringing up Ellie reminded me of this season’s biggest plot point: The suicide of Dylan Everett’s character, Cam.
Linda: The storyline of suicide is probably the most scary topic to approach. Are we going to set it up so that it looks too glamorous? Are we going to have copycats?
Is that why you decided not to reveal how he killed himself?
Linda: Exactly for that reason. We’d been very careful through the scripting process not to do that, and then the director came in. We were sitting in a meeting, and he was saying that he wanted a shot of some feet dangling into the top of frame. I said, “What are you talking about?!” And he said, “Well, I think that that’s how Cam committed suicide.” I said, “You can think that all you like, but we’re not showing it.” And it wasn’t his fault — he hadn’t been party to the initial discussions. But it was so important for us not to say how it happened, and it was really important that we allowed the honest emotions ranging from anger to guilt to grief to really play out.
Your characters are on the periphery of that storyline, Annie and Cristine. What has that been like?
Cristine: I think that was the most important thing, that other people were affected in the school as well. Fiona might have not known Cam, but still it affects her. That’s what does happen when death comes.
Annie: Yeah, someone who you just pass in the hall and you don’t really think twice about — all of a sudden you’re planning their candlelit vigil. In the read-through, for all of us, it was really emotional. We didn’t see it coming. I think it was important to see his struggle with depression, and get to know him because it was just that much more affecting. But for us as actors, it was–
Annie: Sad to see Dylan go.
Stephen: In most table reads, the actors have had the script in advance. With ours, the script is face down on the table.
Linda: Dylan did know. [laughter] That would have been pretty unfair!
Annie: He knew the whole time and nobody else did.
Linda: He knew he was going to leave the show partway. He didn’t know exactly how.
What have been the most emotional storylines for your characters, Annie and Cristine?
Cristine: For me, it would definitely have to be Imogen struggling with her dad’s dementia. In that read-through, I remember, it completely hit home for me. I was bawling. People were like, “What is wrong with her?”
Annie: Fiona’s had a lot of emotional stuff. [laughs] But the abusive relationship with Bobby, that was one of my favorite storylines to shoot. It made sense with Fiona’s character, too, because she is so vulnerable and dependent on people. So I think it was cool to see her overcome that. Over the seasons, Fiona’s had these things thrown at her, and she’s just slowly becoming stronger and stronger.
NEXT: Prom, graduation, and Fimogen’s future
What about the most fun you guys have had on the show?
Cristine: We just shot prom and graduation, and that was amazing.
Did it feel like an actual graduation?
Cristine: We’re all like, bonding, and dancing in the back.
Annie: It’s better than actual graduation. Way better. [laughter]
Did you watch Degrassi before you were on it?
Cristine: I think every Canadian teenager watches Degrassi.
Annie: I have every season on DVD.
Cristine: You should see us in read-throughs. We’re like fans.
Annie: Iain [the show’s publicist] has sometimes come to me for Degrassi trivia. He’ll be like, “Annie, what season did this happen in?”
Who were your favorite characters in the show before you came on?
Annie: Craig and Ellie.
Cristine: I love Jimmy, but I also just love Drake. So it’s probably because of that.
Have you met him?
Cristine: No. Soon, though! It’s in the cards.
Annie: But we’re going to see Jake Epstein, who played Craig, in Spider-Man [on Broadway] on Sunday.
Linda: He’s going to take us backstage. He’s so excited we’re coming.
Annie: I’m so excited. I’m going to be so starstruck. I’ve met him before, but I’m just always so nervous any time I talk to him.
Do you guys feel ready to leave the show?
Annie: I never feel ready.
Cristine: Obviously we’re going to stay friends, but it’s just sad that we’re not going to be working together every day.
Annie: It’s such a family. It’s going to be hard not being there all the time — but that being said, they’re always so open for us to come back and visit whenever we want.
Do you hope your characters will reappear someday?
Annie: I definitely wouldn’t turn it down, but I really like how Fiona’s wrapped up.
Cristine: But you never know!
Any hints about what we can look forward to in the finale?
Cristine: Well, a lot of drama. [laughter] Like, a lot of yelling.
Annie: We fight, yeah. Which is cool, because you always just see them all happy.
Cristine: It was fun to shoot, too. It was the last episode we were shooting in the season, so we were actually emotional. We were screaming at each other. The director’s like, “Okay, take it back a bit. Maybe not so much crying.”
Where do you see your characters five years from now?
Annie: I could see Fiona in Europe or somewhere fancy and extravagant, probably working in fashion — in design, or working on the business side. I think she could take her student council knowledge and bring that to the business world.
Cristine: I think Imogen’s more of a homebody, so I can see her being in Toronto still. Maybe [as] an architect of some sort — she loves art and drawing.
Annie: Maybe trips to Europe to visit Fiona.
Are there any storylines you wish you could have been a part of while you were on the show?
Annie: When Fiona was always causing trouble and being drunk, [she] missed out on a lot of dances. Everyone’s having fun dressing up, and Fiona would always be passed out somewhere.
Cristine: I guess with Imogen, exploring new friends — I’ve only had real interactions with Eli and Fiona. Her also being in a band is great, meeting new friends there. I got to learn how to play the drums, which was amazing.
Do characters who play instruments on the show usually play them in real life?
Linda: It depends. Sometimes we are aware that they have special talents, and if they do, we try to utilize them. But sometimes, the writers would say, “Oh, it would be really great if we could put these characters together for a band.”
Cristine: Yeah, I remember looking [at the script]: “And Imogen plays drums.” I’m like, “What?”
What are some other talents you’ve written in?
Linda: Well, we actually did have Drake rapping. That was way back!
Annie: He stole Ashley’s song!
Linda: Certainly Olivia [Scriven] with the cello.
Stephen: Jessica [Tyler]’s a real singer. She’s got an album that’s being produced by Nelly Furtado’s husband.
Annie: I was a cheerleader in a mini once. I was on the spirit squad for one day. Thank God it was only a day.
Do you think anyone on the show now will be the next Fiona, or the next Imogen?
Annie: Maybe ones coming up in season 13. I don’t know — I don’t know if anybody could replace Fiona.
Cristine: The younger characters, they rock. Their storylines are amazing. Olivia is a rock star — her episode coming up, I think she did fantastic in it.
Annie: It’ll be really interesting to see where her character goes.
Cristine: And also how they grow. It’s just exciting for us as fans to watch.
So you’ll keep watching the show?
Cristine: Um, yeah!
Annie: I’ll keep watching it ’til I’m 80.