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'Degrassi' stars and creators talk this season's drama -- and what's coming next

DEGRASSI

Image Credit: Stephen Scott/Epitome Pictures

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?
Annie: Yeah!
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–
Cristine: Sad!
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

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