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

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]

READ FULL STORY

'Degrassi' react: All's fair in love and beauty pageants

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Due to a Sandy-related snafu, this week’s Degrassi react will be a bit shorter than usual. But really, there isn’t a ton to discuss here. As anyone with eyes could tell, Mo does, in fact, have diabetes rather than a ridiculous drug habit; Adam lies about joining the volleyball team, but gets rewarded with the promise of testosterone. (Only on Degrassi.)

And then there’s the ever-complicating quadrangle of Maya, Zig, Tori, and Cam. It’s been a while since Degrassi gave us a juicy, tangled romantic plot, and I’m excited to see how this one unfolds — especially after learning that Maya, not Zig, is the one who’s putting the breaks on their potential relationship. Score one for friends before boyfriends; as much as I’m looking forward to watching further drama, it’s nice to see a female friendship given priority over a possible romance.

How did you like tonight’s episode? Who are you rooting for in the Niner Love Polygon? And is anyone else interested in a spinoff that goes behind the scenes at cutthroat Canadian beauty pageants?

Read more:
‘Degrassi’ react: Happy 300th episode!
A school shooting! A trans teen! Kevin Smith! ‘Degrassi’ creator shares her top 10 episodes
300 episodes? ‘Degrassi’ goes there. Creator Linda Schuyler shares the secret to its success

A school shooting! A trans teen! Kevin Smith! 'Degrassi' creator shares her top 10 episodes

degrassi-shooting-2.jpg

(Or “favourite,” if you’re feeling Canadian.)

In honor of the teen drama’s 300th episode — which airs tonight on TeenNick — we asked Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler to name her 10 favorite Degrassi installments ever. Her list is a welcome trip down memory lane for longtime fans — as well as a great primer for those who have no idea that Drake’s real name is Aubrey Graham.

1. “Mother & Child Reunion” (season 1)
The first-ever episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation — now known as simply Degrassi — acted as a bridge between the new show and Degrassi High. It both caught viewers up with old friends — Caitlin! Lucy! Spike! — and introduced several new kid cast members, including Spike’s daughter Emma and her friends, J.T., Toby, and Manny. The drama: As Degrassi’s classes of ’91 and ’92 reunite, Emma discovers that a boy she’s been chatting with online is actually a full-grown, would-be rapist. Yep; Degrassi went there from the very beginning.

2. “Shout” (season 2)
In part 1, mean girl Paige is date raped at a party. In part 2, she sings a super intense song about rape during a Battle of the Bands with her girl group, PMS… as her rapist watches from the audience.

3. “Accidents Will Happen” (season 3)
Fourteen-year-old Manny discovers that she’s pregnant after having unprotected sex with two-timing Craig — and, after thinking long and hard, decides to get an abortion. Due to its sensitive content, the episode aired in the U.S. over two years after it was first shown in Canada.

4. “Pride” (season 3)
After Ellie refuses to continue being his beard, Marco finally comes out to the rest of his friends — only to be ostracized by Spinner and beaten up by a group of homophobes while en route to a hockey game.

5. “Whisper to a Scream” (season 3)
Poor Ellie’s got a father in the army and an alcoholic mom. She starts coping by cutting herself. Luckily, Paige is there to nudge Ellie into getting the help she needs.

6. “Time Stands Still” (season 4)
After being doused with paint and feathers at a quizbowl game, bullied Rick finally snaps and brings a gun to school. He shoots Jimmy in the back, paralyzing him — and is killed when Sean tries to disarm the shooter. Degrassi‘s most intense episode, or Degrassi‘s most intense episode?

7. “Lexicon of Love” (season 5)
A two for one special! Kevin Smith reappears for the premiere of his new (fake) movie, Jay and Silent Bob Go Canadian, Eh?, while Paige discovers that she’s got more than friendly feelings for her gal pal Alex.

8. Degrassi Goes Hollywood (season 8)
Originally shown as one two-hour movie, this four-parter follows Manny as she pursues her dream of being an actress (and, of course, clashes with Paige along the way). There’s also some juicy stuff with star-crossed Craig and Ellie, who just can’t seem to ever get their timing right.

9. “My Body is a Cage” (season 10)
Say hello to the next next generation. Degrassi learns that new kid Adam is actually transgender, transitioning from being female to being male. He struggles to find acceptance from his classmates and his family, even briefly reverting to dressing as a girl. Eventually, Adam finds friends who embrace him for who he is. This is the episode that won Degrassi a Peabody last year.

10. “Never Ever” (season 12)
Quirky Imogen discovers that her father isn’t just eccentric — he’s suffering from early onset dementia. She also reconnects with her estranged mother.

Which episodes would you add to Linda’s list?

Follow Hillary on Twitter

Read more:
300 episodes? ‘Degrassi’ goes there. Creator Linda Schuyler shares the secret to its success
‘Degrassi’ react: Things fall apart
Drake graduates from high school

300 episodes? 'Degrassi' goes there. Creator Linda Schuyler shares the secret to its success

Degrassi is a wonderful anomaly among TV’s high school-set dramas, and not just because its stars apologize by saying “sore-y.” Most of its peers either transition to entirely new settings or die slow, painful deaths after their principal cast members graduate. But for 11 years and 12 seasons, Degrassi has stayed rooted in Toronto’s Degrassi Community School — an institute that’s seen more than its share of totally intense drama, from a traumatic shooting to a mini-outbreak of oral gonorrhea. (And that was just season 4!)

Even as the show has tackled issue after issue — drug use, date rape, teen pregnancy, what to do if your boyfriend’s a hoarder — it’s somehow managed to avoid pure sensationalism. Maybe that’s why Degrassi boasts celebrity fans including Kevin Smith (who got his own guest arc in seasons 4 and 5), Ellen Page, Sarah Silverman, and Quentin Tarantino. Either way, we were thrilled to discover that our favorite Canadian import airs its 300th episode on Friday — and even more excited when creator Linda Schuyler took half an hour to chat with us about the show’s legacy, its future, and its talented young cast (“such lovely, polite Canadian kids!”).

I have literally been watching this incarnation of Degrassi since it premiered — I’m the same age as Spinner and Ashley and everyone from the first cast, so we sort of went though high school together.
Oh my gosh, that’s so awesome! When we graduated that bunch of kids — Ashley, and Ellie, and Paige, and Marco — we actually thought,”This is going to be the end of our show.” And it’s been quite a learning curve to realize that our audience has stayed with us.

So what’s the secret to the show’s longevity?
The show set out to be an authentic — and I use the word authentic very carefully; I don’t use the word realistic –- an authentic portrayal of teenage years.  READ FULL STORY

'Degrassi' react: Things fall apart

So why haven’t they interacted in, like, a billion episodes? Shouldn’t they be turning to each other for support in these trying times — and why hasn’t their mother, Audra, considered asking Adam to talk to his brother about Drew’s impulsive engagement? I know that this show isn’t always the most consistent — remember Spinner’s disappearing sister, Kendra? — but still, it’s pretty weird that the Torres boys appear to be suffering from familial amnesia.

Anyway: “Building a Mystery: Part 2″ picked up pretty close to where Part 1 left off. Becky worked up the courage to tell her parents the truth about Adam and was thrilled when they seemed supportive — only to be devastated when her dad sat the teens down and advised them to consider “reparative therapy,” colloquially known as “praying the gay away.” Though Becky was initially horrified by her father’s actions, his words — and her discovery of Adam’s tampons — led her to listen to him, rejecting Adam for a therapist’s chair.

As tough as it was to watch Becky cave, I think this was the right choice for Degrassi to make. Nobody who’s been indoctrinated with anti-gay rhetoric her entire life could fall so easily into a relationship with someone who’s trans. Having Becky enter therapy instead means giving her character a longer, more complex journey — and I can’t wait to see how the show depicts a conversion practice. At the very least, this is a storyline that’s never been done on Degrassi before — no small feat, considering the “next generation” has now aired 299 (!) episodes.

Meanwhile, Bianca and Drew have decided to throw common sense to the wind by getting married over their spring break in Las Vegas — or “Veh-gus,” as Jenna calls it. It’s always fun when Degrassi goes on field trips, so I sort of hope these kids make it all the way to the altar. But I also wish Bianca had realized that when Audra was trying to talk her down, she wasn’t saying that Bianca’s not good enough for Drew — she was saying that Drew shouldn’t be enough for Bianca, who’s clearly a lot smarter and more driven than her intended. Even if she did murder someone that one time.

As for Eli — am I the only person who thought his new, improved second movie wasn’t really that much better than his disastrous first attempt? No matter; that Important Director who randomly showed up to teach a class at Degrassi liked it, and will now be writing Eli’s ticket to NYU. If nothing else, I appreciate getting to see him and Clare enjoy a little bit of happiness together — before their next breakup, which is really going to be a doozy. Unless they, too, get married in Veh-gus.

Thoughts?

Follow Hillary on Twitter

Read more:
Drake graduates from high school
‘Degrassi’ premiere: The Ballad of Adam and Becky
‘Degrassi’ new episodes trailer: ‘This is gonna be the best term ever!’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Tonight: 'Degrassi' premieres, and so do our weekly reacts

Will Drew and Bianca go through with their engagement? Will Clare be able to move on after bringing the writer who harassed her to justice? Is Fiona and Imogen’s relationship as solid as it seems? And what, exactly, is the deal with Becky and Adam — are they just friends, or could they be something more?

We may not get answers to all of these questions when the second half of Degrassi‘s 12th (!) season premieres on TeenNick tonight — but we will be able to celebrate the return of everyone’s favorite Canadian high school soap. Bonus: Starting now, EW will be posting reacts to each episode after it airs on the west coast.

So join me, Degrassi fans, in welcoming back television’s most intense teen drama. (Take that, Hollywood Heights!) I’ve got a feeling that this season, this show is totally going to go there.

Read more:
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‘Degrassi’ new episodes trailer: ‘This is gonna be the best term ever!’ — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO
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