Degrassi Cast: Where Are They Now?
It's been 16 years since the first season of Degrassi: The Next Generation debuted. If you were like me, you probably watched the show every time it aired on TV; obsessively following all the characters and their respective dramas.
Despite the fact that the show is still airing (though now renamed Degrassi: Next Class), I really stopped watching by season 9, when the last of the original cast members left the show. Lately, I've been feeling nostalgic, which has led me to rewatching seasons 1-9 of the show. Most of the young Canadian stars had their last bit of fame on Degrassi (omitting Aubrey Graham, of course), but I'm still wondering what has happened to the rest of the talented cast.
Miriam McDonald was pretty much the star of the show during season 1, as one of Degrassi's main characters, Emma Nelson. However, McDonald has been relatively quiet since leaving the show in 2010.
The 26-year-old actress has acted in a handful of made-for-TV movies in Canada, as well as in a racy role for Lifetime's erotic thriller, Poison Ivy: The Secret Society.
She's also made a few guest appearances on TV shows, but she's done nothing that's gained as much attention as Degrassi.
McDonald seems to be keeping busy though. As of 2009, she was enrolled in university.
Cassie Steele didn't really get top billing until Degrassi's second and third seasons (who can forget the Manny/Craig/Ashley love triangle and subsequent fallout?), but her portrayal of Manny Santos was one of the series' most memorable and most talked about. Since her Degrassi days, Steele has been busy with both her acting and singing career.
She released two albums (How Much for Happy in 2005, and Destructo Doll in 2009), and her 2012 EP, Shape Shifter is now available on iTunes. She also starred in MTV's Super Sweet 16: The Movie, and currently has a lead role on the Canadian drama, The L.A. Complex.
For those still looking for a Steele fix on Degrassi, you can find Cassie's younger sister, Alexa Steele, on the show as Tori Santamaria. Previously, Alexa was also on the show as Craig's younger sister, Angie Jeremiah.
Lauren Collins was TV's original mean girl, and we loved to hate her in the role of Paige Michalchuk. Since Degrassi, Collins has had a pretty successful career doing small roles in movies and guest appearances on TV shows.
She's acted alongside Antonio Banderas in 2006's Take The Lead, and acted alongside some of her Degrassi castmates in the film, Charlie Bartlett (released in 2007). From 2006 to 2009, Collins acted in Disney Channel's sitcom, Life With Derek.
Currently, Collins hosts MTV's talk show, 1 Girl 5 Gays, and is one of the recurring cast members of Comedy Central's sketch comedy series, Kroll Show.
Jake Epstein was only a main cast member from seasons 2 to 5, but he left quite an impact on the audience as bi-polar heartthrob, Craig Manning. Since Degrassi, Epstein has maintained his acting career, though mainly on the stage.
He's been in numerous stage productions in Canada, including Cinderella, Our Town, and Billy Elliot: The Musical. In 2009, he starred in a national tour of the musical, Spring Awakening. He followed up that performance with another starring role in the national tour of American Idiot, a musical adaptation of Green Day's album of the same name.
Most recently, Epstein made his Broadway debut in Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark as the understudy for the lead role of Peter Parker/Spider Man. On January 12th, 2014, Epstein debuted in a new Broadway production, titled Beautiful; a musical based on singer, Carole King's life. Epstein plays her former husband, Gerry Goffin, on whom the musical is based.
Epstein is one of the few Degrassi stars without a Facebook or Instagram, but you can still find him on Twitter.
Shane Kippel is one of only three cast members who started the show during season one and stayed through to season nine (the other two were Cassie Steele and Miriam McDonald). Through the years, his character of Spinner Mason saw a lot of change and growth (and testicular cancer), and he left an unforgettable mark on the show.
Since Degrassi, Kippel has had a few small acting roles, but nothing of major significance.
Interestingly enough, Kippel has instead focused his talents on his alternative rock band, Dear Love, where he plays the drums.
I'm obviously saving the most famous of the main cast members for last, with Aubrey Graham. Graham has come a long way from Jimmy Brooks, and though we all loved his character on Degrassi, we've loved him even more in the last few years as his rapping pseudonym, Drake.
Once he ended his career on Degrassi, Graham self-released a mix-tape in 2006, with tracks featuring Lupe Fiasco and Trey Songz. His music caught the attention of Lil' Wayne and by 2009, Drake had released his third mix-tape, So Far Gone, which spawned hit singles like, "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful".
Last year, Drake released his third studio album, Nothing Was The Same. He currently has one Grammy, six BET Awards, and 12 number one hits under his belt.
In January of this year, he returned to the silver screen to host an episode of Saturday Night Live, which attracted 4 million viewers.
Daniel Clark was another of the original cast members from season 1, though he left the show by season 7. After his time on Degrassi, Clark went on to do more acting, including a guest role on ER, and a supporting role in the 2007 movie, Juno. Nowadays, Clark works for a television channel called Fusion, where he's a reporter and associate producer. Check out his Fusion articles and Twitter.
The character of Terri McGregor only lasted three seasons, but who can forget Christina Schmidt's convincing portrayal of her? Much like her Degrassi character, Schmidt went on to become a plus-sized model after leaving the show. She's appeared in ads for Torrid, Nygard, and has also been seen as runway model on How To Look Good Naked Canada.
Andrea Lewis was another season 1 original, as Hazel Aden. After leaving the show in season 5, Lewis went on to act in a few small roles, including a role in a Nickelodeon musical called Spectacular! and a supporting role in a national tour of Hairspray. Lewis also pursued a singing career and has released two albums, the latter of which is free via her website.
Adamo Ruggiero played one of the most lovable characters on the show, as Marco Del Rossi. After leaving Degrassi in season 9, Ruggiero went on to host a Canadian singing competition called The Next Star. Ruggiero, who came out in 2008, also starred in Make The Yuletide Gay, a Christmas-themed movie about a gay college student struggling to reveal his sexuality to his parents. Ruggiero is still close friends with Lauren Collins, and the two of them (along with Stacey Farber) even shared a condo together. You can find Adamo on both Twitter and Instagram.
Unfortunately, there's not a lot of information on either Jake Goldsbie or Ryan Cooley (whom played Toby Isaacs and J.T. Yorke, respectively). Goldsbie went to Concordia University after leaving the show, and graduated with a theater degree. He currently works for The Score, where he writes and does podcasts about sports. He's also active on Twitter. Ryan Cooley hasn't done much acting since Degrassi, though, as of 2007, he was studying theatre at the University of Toronto. He also has a Twitter and Instagram account.
I can't mention JT and Toby without mentioning Liberty Van Zandt, who was played by Sarah Barrable-Tishauer. Barrable-Tishauer hasn't done any acting since her time on the show, but she graduated from Concordia University in 2012, and currently works as a media consultant and graphic designer.
Nina Dobrev and Shanae Grimes were only on Degrassi for a short time, and both ladies have managed to have successful careers since. Dobrev (whom played Mia Jones) is probably better known now for her role on the CW's highly successful series, The Vampire Diaries. She's also acted in several movies, including 2012's The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She's on Twitter and Instagram, as well. Grimes (who played Darcy Edwards) also became more well-known for her role in the remake of the 90210 television show. She's also on Twitter.
Though Degrassi is still on air now, I find it hard to watch any of the episodes without the original cast in it. Perhaps it's just the obvious fact that I'm way older than Degrassi's target audience, or maybe it's just because I can't get over the nostalgia I have for the older episodes. Either way, I miss Degrassi circa 2002, and I know there must be other fans out there who feel the same way.
There's been no word of any sort of official Degrassi reunion, but wouldn't it be a great idea? The original cast has returned to the show a few times for the Degrassi films (there have been two made-for-tv movies, Degrassi Goes Hollywood and Degrassi Takes Manhattan), but I'd love to see the original cast all back together for a movie just focused on them.
Are Spinner and Emma still together? Did Manny ever make it as an actress? What is Paige doing now, and are her and Marco still friends? Is Craig still clean and did he ever realize that he's totally in love with Ellie? Did Jimmy make it as an artist? And what happened to Liberty, Toby, Sean, Hazel, Terri, Ashley and the rest of the gang?
Though it's highly unlikely that the entire cast will ever get together to act for Degrassi again, it's still nice to dream. In the meantime, I guess we can just rewatch all the old episodes and reminisce.
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© 2014 Brittany Brown