Tag Archives: Stefan Brogren

What Degrassi means to me? Um, I’m Effin’ Snake. Duh.

By Stefan Brogren

So last year we were cancelled by our American broadcaster. Without much more explanation than, “We think Degrassi has run its course.” It was over. Truth is, we’ve always had a problem fitting in. We’re not a sitcom, we’re not 90210—and most of our subject matter deals with the most God-awful aspects of growing up.

Still, I was dumbfounded. Why give up a series that’s the teen equivalent to the Star Trek franchise (don’t shoot me)? It could go on forever!

OK, yes. There are a bunch of reasons to say Degrassi should call it a day and just go away (I’m rhyming, yo).

We’ve been making the show for a jillion years and for some folks that’s just annoying.

We have a serious lack of students that are vampires, werewolves, mutants or serial killersnot for a lack of trying, mind you.

And the big one. We’re unabashedly Canadian. We’re reminded of this every time the States makes a list of what makes Canada … Canada. “Poutine! Canucks! Degrassi! Trees!” I know, it’s annoying.

You could say we “recycle” the same subject matter every couple of years (drugs, sex, boners, mental health, boners, peer pressure, boners). But if you think being a teenager now is the same as the good ol’ days of Joey streaking the caf, well then you haven’t checked your effin’ Snapchat feed lately. Manny freaking out because her boobs were put on the Internet (Season 5, The Next Generation) has zero relevance to a generation that send and receive “junk pics” on their smartphones as part of the dating process. Sorry parents. They all do it. Seriously. All of them. Even the sweet ones. Boners. No one’s safe.

For lots of people (who probably haven’t watched the show in years), Degrassi is painfully earnest in its depiction of teensand earnest equals not cool.

Skins is cool. Degrassi is … earnest.

Degrassi

I’m biased obviously, but Degrassi isn’t earnest in its depictions of teen life. It’s thoughtful. Our fans grow up watching and adoring shows like The Vampire Diaries, The 100 and Pretty Little Liars. They’re awesome and fantastical. Then they turn around and watch Degrassi with all the crappy, gross, embarrassing, manic, euphoric, lovely and ridiculously funny moments that come with being 17. And it feels like a friend.

So we were cancelled. And then, in what seemed like the next day, we were given new life on Netflix. The second season of Degrassi: Next Class premieres in Canada on Family Channel on July 19th and streams on Netflix July 22nd. If you haven’t watched Degrassi in a whole bunch of years, give it a shot. I promise you, we have 70 per cent more boner stories than any other show out there. Period. (And probably the most period stories too.)

Degrassi: Next Class airs Tuesdays at 9:45 p.m. ET on Family Channel.


Stefan is well known to Canadians for his six years on the television series Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High. He was a Gemini Award nominee for Best Actor at age 17. Stefan is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles, where he won the prestigious Michael Thomas Award for acting excellence. Stefan has made numerous television appearances, including the series Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye, Wild Card, Jonathan Cross’s Canada, Twitch City, I Was A Sixth Grade Alien and The Associates. Stefan can also be seen in the movie Too Smooth with Neve Campbell and Rebecca Gayheart. Stefan has since become a key part of the Degrassi production team taking on the role of Series Producer. Adding Director to his responsibilities, Stefan has helmed numerous Degrassi episodes, as well as the MOWs Degrassi Goes Hollywood and D: NYC – Degrassi Takes Manhattan. In 2010, Stefan won a Gemini Award for Best Direction in a Children’s or Youth Program or Series. He followed this up with another win in 2014 at the Canadian Screen Awards. Stefan has also co-produced, directed and written a large portion of Degrassi’s original digital content. In addition, Stefan was also a Co-Executive Producer and Director on the two seasons of the MuchMusic/CW series The L.A. Complex and the first season of the YTV/TeenNick series Open Heart.

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Degrassi returns on a new network with the Next Class

New Year, new network and a new class. Yes, Degrassi makes its triumphant return to television in 2016 after upheaval in 2015. First came word last summer that Nickelodeon had cancelled the long-running teen series for U.S. viewers. That was followed by the news MTV Canada would no longer broadcast Degrassi in this country. After much hand-wringing on sad-face emoticons, the good news was announced: Degrassi was moving to Family Channel in Canada—it debuts Monday at 9 p.m. ET/PT—and Netflix in the rest of the world.

“A few years ago we were doing a read-through and Lyle [Lettau], who plays Tristan, said, ‘Why are we not on Netflix?'” recalls longtime series star and series producer Stefan Brogren. “And everyone said, ‘Yes Lyle, we’d all love to be.’ But that started us thinking about where our audience is at. Where are they watching these shows?” The audience was headed online, streaming content, and the Degrassi: Next Class folks decided if they had the chance to pitch the program to Netflix they would. Brogren is quick to compliment the online network, marvelling at the lack of notes and being left alone to follow the season story arc everyone wanted to follow.

The same is true of the relationship with Family, where Degrassi: Next Class takes pride of place in the channel’s new teen block, F2N. Brogren says their Canadian carrier has been just as supportive of the show’s direction, which kicks off with 10 episodes, and fans will see a lot more truth than they’ve seen from the iconic show amid the tales of high school students beginning their journey into adulthood. Of course, there are issues to tackle along the way, from homophobia and racism to substance abuse and the complications of dating in the social media age.

Back for more drama—and laughs—are Ana Golja (Zoe Rivas), Ricardo Hoyos (Zig Novak), Eric Osborne (Miles Hollingsworth III) and Sara Waisglass (Frankie Hollingsworth) alongside Brogren, who plays Principal Archie “Snake” Simpson. The New Class title is fulfilled by new cast in Jamie Bloch and Dante Scott, who play Yael Baron and Vijay Maraj, respectively.

“Yael is a girl in a man’s world,” Bloch, who most recently co-starred on Wingin’ It, says. “She’s very into video games and technology. She’s quiet and keeps to herself and doesn’t like to be the centre of attention.” Bloch had originally auditioned to play a lesbian character named Maude, but changes resulted in new student Yael.

“No, she is not a lesbian, and that becomes very clear near the end of the season,” Bloch says with a laugh.

“Vijay is very outgoing and energetic and a little bit dramatic,” Scott says of his character. “He’s always there to talk to if you need him—I think he’s a really good friend to have—and can take a negative situation and turn it into a positive.” Tonight’s debut episode oozes positivity; Scott says its because of characters like Vijay and stories that delve into hope and a bright future for the Degrassi kids.

“This season feels a little like old-school Degrassi did,” Brogren says. “We were able to have more fun while at the same time telling exactly the stories we wanted to tell. For all the trouble that goes on at Degrassi you still want to be there.”

Degrassi: Next Class airs Monday to Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel for two weeks and streams on Netflix outside of Canada beginning Jan. 15.

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