Mistaken identities, staying relevant: Degrassi stars discuss the show's impact
Kirsten Bourne, left to right, Roger Montgomery, Dan Woods and Stacie Mistysyn take a break after a panel discussion as former cast members of the television show "Degrassi" make an appearance at Toronto Comicon, on Sunday, March 19, 2017. (Chris Young / The Canadian Press)
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, March 20, 2017 12:55PM EDT
TORONTO -- Cast members of "Degrassi Junior High" continue to find themselves surprised by how often the series comes up in conversation.
Kirsten Bourne, who played Tessa Campanelli, left the phenomenon behind decades ago in pursuit of other professional interests, but one evening at dinner everything came back.
She was sitting at a restaurant with parents of her kid's hockey team when a waitress asked for her autograph.
"All the parents were like, 'Why does she want you to sign this?"' Bourne remembers.
"I had been with them for many months and just hadn't said anything. If there's not a reason to (talk about Degrassi), it's not something I break out. But they've never let me live that down."
Bourne is marking the CBC show's 30th anniversary with a series of appearances at comic book conventions across the country, starting with one in Toronto this past weekend.
She joined Pat Mastroianni (Joey Jeremiah), Stacie Mistysyn (Caitlin Ryan) and Stefan Brogren (Archie Simpson, a.k.a Snake) in taking a trip down memory lane with The Canadian Press:
ON WARDROBE: Mastroianni insists his character's iconic look wasn't inspired at all by his real-life style. "I didn't wear Hawaiian shirts, I didn't wear a fedora or anything silly like that," he says. "At the time I remember the wardrobe lady saying, 'The reason you have the over-the-top bright green is because it looks better on 16mm film.' We had these bright colours because it popped on television a little bit more."
ON DEGRASSI INSPIRING A CAREER: "As soon as we wrapped Degrassi I went off to university, then teachers' college," says Bourne, who admits the series may have triggered her pursuit of a job in education. She started as a teacher and is now a school administrator. "I don't have any educators in my family, so it's possible."
ON MISTAKEN IDENTITIES: While Mistysyn says she's recognized by fans often, she's learned not to jump to conclusions in clothing stores. "I've made the mistake where someone's looking at me and they say, 'Excuse me' and I say, 'Degrassi?"' she pauses. "And then they say, 'You look like the same size as my daughter. Can you try this on?' I swear to God that's happened to me twice where I assumed and then I felt like an idiot."
ON KEEPING NEW EPISODES RELEVANT: "We go on Twitter and we follow things," says Brogren, who directs episodes of "Degrassi: Next Class," the latest incarnation of the series. "(We read tweets) from gangs in Chicago, to kids in the suburbs of Connecticut, or somewhere in Vancouver. We make sure more than ever the stories that are necessary to feel Degrassi have a piece of truth in them."
ON CONFLICTS OVER STORYLINES: Brogren says in its final seasons on MTV Canada and Nickelodeon the producers ran afoul with executives who "wanted the show to very much become a sitcom." He added: "They said, 'We love that you have gay characters, they just can't have relationships.' ... They'd become very much afflicted by the fear the Bible Belt was giving them." Eventually the series was rebooted on Netflix and Canada's Family Channel with edgier storylines. "We try to go: 'Let's make sure we're still Degrassi,"' he adds.