By Diane Wild
Article first published as A Chat With Paula Brancati of Degrassi and Being Erica on Blogcritics
Paula Brancati is taking on New York Friday, when her character Jane Vaughn plays a major role in the two-hour television movie Degrassi Takes on Manhattan. And she’s taking on Canadian television in two high-profile series. Combined with her role as troublemaking friend Jenny in Being Erica, Brancati gets to do â€œa lot of stuff onscreen that I wouldn’t do offscreen,â€ as she said in a recent interview.
In Degrassi Takes Manhattan (known as Degrassi: The Heat Is On in the US), Jane tags along with her friends Holly and Declan â€œbecause her lies and cheating on Spinner are revealed, so she goes along as an escape.â€
Naturally, â€œlots of debauchery ensues.â€
For Brancati, however, the highlight was recording three songs for the soundtrack when Jane joins an indie rock band. Though she started acting in musical theatre as a child and has performed live, this was her first professional recording.
She’ll miss the movie’s premiere on Friday at the MuchMusic headquarters for a great reason, however: her play Love, Loss, and What I Wore premieres that night at Toronto’s Panasonic Theatre. Written by Nora and Delia Ephron and starring Andrea Martin, Louise Pitre and Mary Walsh, the play is a big part of Brancati’s big night.
The 10th season of Degrassi premieres on Monday, but as for Brancati’s involvement? â€œYou know, you’ll have to wait and see the movieâ€ she said. â€œThe movie is really tumultuous. She experiences heartbreak and you don’t know what’s going to happen next with her. She has so many opportunities and places to go, so who knows if Degrassi or Toronto will be one of the options for her.â€
Fans will definitely see more of Brancati when the third season of Being Erica airs, though. At 21, the actress gets to play Jenny as a 15-year-old in flashbacks and as a 30-year-old in present-day.
She’s already shot one episode where â€œthere may have been some pole dancing involved. That doesn’t seem to be such a stretch for Jenny but for me it was a little daunting.â€
And there’s more to come. She’s shooting another episode in a couple of weeks with the tentative title â€œJenny on the Block.â€
The show, of course, remains centred around Erin Karpluk’s Erica, but Brancati thinks the upcoming season will shake things up a little. â€œThis season is very dark for Erica. It’s not just a formulaic episodic show. It goes in a whole other direction and there’s new characters .It’s not just a therapy session with Erica and Dr. Tom. I think fans will really enjoy it.â€
As for the Degrassi movie, Brancati is curious about the audience reaction. â€œI want to hear how fans respond to the craziness that’s going to go down. And I want people to empathize with Jane. I really hope they do. She’s made some mistakes but I support the fact that she’s a good girl. Please feel for her!â€
Degrassi airs on MuchMusic in Canada and Teen Nick in the US. Being Erica airs on CBC in Canada and SoapNet in the US.