It’s been 20 years since Degrassi: The Next Generation premiered, reviving the beloved ’80s teen drama for a new audience.
In honor of the hallmark anniversary, members of the cast and crew gathered Friday for the opening night of this year’s ATX Television Festival to reflect on the groundbreaking show that gave us so many memorable moments — Emma’s encounter with an internet predator, Manny’s defiant thong display and Craig’s bipolar diagnosis, to name a few.
The hour-long panel included series co-creator and executive producer Linda Schuyler, executive producer Aaron Martin, executive producer Stephen Stohn, actor/producer/director Stefan Brogren (Snake) and cast members including Jake Epstein (Craig), Aislinn Paul (Claire), Shane Kippel (Spinner), Luke Bilyk (Drew), Lauren Collins (Paige), Munro Chambers (Eli), Daniel Clark (Sean), Andrea Lewis (Hazel) and Christina Schmidt (Terri).
See below for highlights from their conversation.
* Stohn hopes there is another Degrassi reboot to address Emma marrying Spinner in Degrassi Takes Manhattan. “That was one storyline that I just never quite got,” he said, adding that he wanted to bring back Emma, Sean and Spinner back to revisit that story.
* Clark hoped his character hadn’t died while serving in the military. As you’ll recall, Sean last appeared in Season 7 when he left to serve in the military in Afghanistan. He was never seen or heard from after that, leaving many fans wondering if he was killed in action while overseas: “I doubt it. I don’t think he did. [I’m sure] he’s home safe,” Clark said.
* If you’re still wondering whatever happened to Spinner’s sister Kendra, who mysteriously disappeared after Season 3, you’re not the only one. “I don’t know,” Kippel joked. “We’re more like pen pals now. My mom never told me. She just never came home from school one day, but she’s safe.”
* Aaron Martin weighed in on the possibility of Craig being bisexual after Marco kissed him. “Craig was just such a good friend to Marco, he didn’t care what Marco did,” he explained. “He wasn’t attracted to Marco, he was just there to support him.”
* Epstein doesn’t think Craig’s relationships on the show have aged well. “Looking back at some of the episodes, part of the reason why I sometimes find it hard to watch is that there’s a lot of toxicity, you know, the way that Craig treats women,” he said. He also wondered if Craig would face higher consequences if they were to redo that story in the present day.
* Brogren weighed in on Degrassi’s ability to adapt with the times, like Next Class revisiting a Next Generation story in which Manny was slut-shamed for showing off her body. “If you look back to Manny flashing her boobs and Peter [posting it on the] internet and how she was chastised for it, she was dealing with the slut-shaming,” he said.
“Ten years later, and we’re dealing with how a high school kid deals with selfies, nudity and d–k pics and how we had to look at how a generation growing up with social media has now. We had to treat it with a sensitivity that didn’t exist when Manny got in trouble. We’re dealing with a whole generation that probably have done this. I think that shows how well Degrassi changes with the times yet keeps true to its center.”
* Paul said she was proud of how the show handled sensitive storylines for its young audience: “It’s a huge responsibility on our shoulders, making the show and making it honest but also not dangerous. I was very vocal when 13 Reasons Why came out because I felt like they did not carry that responsibility the way Degrassi did, and that’s something that I’ve always been really proud of, the way that the show took its time and was very thoughtful with our stories.”
* Collins wants to see the show rebooted for her son to enjoy. “I hope the show gets another reboot for him to watch,” she shared. “So many teen shows feel so aggressive, and Degrassi doesn’t feel like that.”
Do you want to see Degrassi rebooted again? Which storylines would you want to revisit? (And yes, there’s a correct answer here: Paige and Marco never resolving their big fight.) Share your thoughts in the comments below!