Degrassi: Next Class returns for “darker” Season 3

Degrassi: Next Class executive producer Sarah Glinski has a warning for fans: things get dark in Season 3. The teen drama returns with new episodes on Monday, Jan. 9, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel (and Netflix around the world) in dramatic fashion, as we find out who survived the Season 2 bus crash and how the experience affected them.

Add to the mix storylines involving Syrian refugees, abortion and mental health, and high school has never been more challenging. We spoke to Glinski ahead of Monday’s return about where the show is headed in the next 10 episodes.

How long have you been with the Degrassi franchise?
Sarah Glinski: I started on Season 8 of The Next Generation.

How do you feel this upcoming season of Next Class stacks up against the Degrassi seasons you’ve worked on?
Oh, they’re all so different. I would have trouble picking my favourite. There are some seasons when we did 45 episodes and there are some seasons when we did 28, some when we did movies of the week; they all have different personalities. But Season 3 of Next Class is a little bit darker than we have done for awhile. We have the combination of great stories and incredible actors performing in those stories that makes this season pretty special.

You’re right. Things start out very dark. What’s been the support like from your Canadian broadcaster, Family Channel? 
The have been wonderful and have encouraged us to tell the stories we want to tell the way we want to tell them. They trust us to talk to teens about the things teens are talking about.

I thought going to high school when I was a kid was tough, but nowadays because of social media, it’s even more difficult due to online bullying and instant messaging. In Episode 1 you have the issue between Lola and Shay; it’s a real problem.
There used to be a separation between home and school and now there isn’t. Everyone has their phones and they’re the first thing you grab when you wake up. You don’t really get a break from it, and your entire history is online, so it’s hard to move on and reinvent yourself.

You start Season 3 with the repercussions of the bus crash from the Season 2 finale, Syrian refugees, abortion and mental health. Anything else you want to let fans know about?
Another thing we look at is gender. We’ve gone into it a little bit before, but we look at gender fluidity and what’s a girl or a boy and when you don’t feel like what society defines them as. We look at that from a couple of different perspectives. What if you don’t want to wear a dress and makeup? What does that mean to you as a girl? Also, one of our characters is a lesbian and more feminine. What does that mean? Is it harder to come out when you wear lipstick, have long hair and wear dresses?

Degrassi has always covered today’s topics. When something like Syrian refugees pops up, does the writers’ room get excited?
Season 3 explores different ways of dealing, post-trauma. For a number of characters, that’s the opportunity to see something really positive. Having Syrian refugees come into the school seemed very natural.

Let’s talk about Tristan and how the bus crash affected he and Miles. Can you discuss anything to do with that storyline?
There won’t be closure on that storyline until Episode 10. There are a lot of twists and turns along the way. We explored the physical trauma of the bus crash [with our characters] and the mental trauma.

Can you talk about the new characters that are joining Degrassi this season?
We have two new characters and they’re Syrian refugees in Rasha and Saad. Rasha is very cosmopolitan, from the big city, speaks English and is very well-educated. She missed out on high school because of the war and wants to grab high school by the reins and is excited to be here, wants to be part of every club and make new friends. She lives her life vicariously through movies and TV.

Saad is from a smaller town and his English isn’t as good. Life is a little bit harder for him and we take a look at his experience as well.

When Zoe and Rasha are introduced, Rasha gives her a little look. Can you comment on that?
They are going to become very, very close friends.

In the beginning of our chat you said this was a darker season. What can fans expect when they tune in?
Even though it’s a bit of a darker season, there is hope and optimism. If you have friends and family, you can make it through. Making it through is the theme of the season.

Degrassi: Next Class airs Monday to Friday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel until Jan. 20.

Images courtesy of DHX Studios.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and owner of TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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