Degrassi - My Introduction

The line stretched outside the mall

Glendora Galleria was a flurry of excitement, as it hosted an event for The-N's most popular show, 'Degrassi: The Next Generation'.  Kids ranging from anywhere between 12 and 20 flooded a line set-up reminiscent of Disneyland.  If anyone were to take on the improbable task of counting the multitude, the crowd would range in the thousands.

Each mall tour features a different pair of stars from the show.  At Glendora Galleria, Stacey Farber (Ellie, on the show) and Aubrey Graham (Jimmy, on the show) signed hundreds of autographs and took pictures with giddy (and pubescent) fans.

Aubrey Graham signing autographs for fans

I asked a few fans what they thought of the show and why they'd wait hours in line to see the actors from 'Degrassi':

Brandon: What is it you really like about 'Degrassi'?
Brett: I like 'Degrassi' because it teaches you and prepares you for the real world.  It's also very dramatic.
Brandon: Do you feel like you can connect to it?
Brett: Not so much connect, but I can see this stuff happening.  It's over-exaggerated, and I like it that way.

Brandon: You've been waiting in line how long?
Crystal: I don't know.  A couple hours.
Brandon: What is it about 'Degrassi' that makes you willing to wait that long to see the stars?
Crystal: The show's funny.

Brandon: This is a very long line.  What makes 'Degrassi' worth waiting this long?
Brandi: It's my favorite show.
Brandon: Who's your favorite character?
Brandi: Paige.
Brandon: Why do you like Paige?
Brandi: She's really bitchy.

Fans were also given the opportunity to take pictures with Aubrey and Stacey

To prepare for this article, I watched countless hours to get a feel for the television program which has young adults and parents talking.  Labeled controversial, 'Degrassi' tackles rough issues, such as cutting, abusive parents, school violence, and homosexuality.  The show is set in an urban school in Toronto (although filmed in a studio) and brought to American audiences by The-N, a network owned by Nickelodeon and geared toward young adults.  The show is structured somewhat like afternoon soap operas and requires some dedication to understand the nuances of each episode.

Having become a fan of the show in a few short episodes, I looked forward to an interview with the two stars at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.  They had some very insightful answers to questions I had constructed from my own thoughts and from fans' unanswered questions online.

I was able to interview Stacey and Aubrey in a more comfortable, laid back environment

Brandon: How long have you been acting and where did you train?
Stacey Farber: I've been acting all my life, but professionally it's been five years now.  I got an agent when I was 18, because I was attending a school for the arts in Toronto, where we took dance and drama and art.  I just loved the drama.  Kids there had acting agents, so it inspired me to get one.
Brandon: What was the school in Toronto?
Stacey: Claude Watson.
Aubrey Graham: I've also been acting about five or six years.  I started training with an acting coach named Marvin Karen, and I just really enjoyed all the aspects of it.  Just playing different people and learning things without facing the consequences.  I loved my first show, 'Soul Food', and from there it was 'Degrassi' and other little things.
Brandon: How do you feel about being on a very controversial but very highly decorated and loved show?
Stacey: I love it.  I think that's the greatest thing about the show.  It inspires kids to talk to their parents, to learn about things and to have open minds.  For instance, homosexuality.  Just basically accepting people and their problems.
Aubrey: I think it's amazing to be part of a show that addresses real issues.  Although, I don't think it should be that shocking.  These are issues that happen everyday, and I don't think they should be deemed controversial.  I feel like maybe more shows should deal with real problems.  Although the problems we deal with are considered controversial, there are even bigger problems in the world than what we deal with.  I think it's an amazing thing to be a part of, but I hope that one day this will set the standard for good television; real television.
Stacey: I think we have.
Brandon: You're both rising stars right now, so which established stars would you like to work with?
Stacey: There's so many actors and actresses that I'd love to work with.  I love comedy, so I would love to work with Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, or Vince Vaughn.  All of those guys are hilarious.
Aubrey: Acting wise, I'd love to work with... my idol since I was a young kid has been Denzel Washington.  Will Smith is one of my idols.  I'd like to work with some legendary musicians.  I just worked with Al Green, a while ago.  I'd like to just sit and hang with Jay Z for a minute.
Brandon: There's a rumor about a 'Degrassi' movie in the works.
Stacey: Nothing's for sure.  There was a script in development and negotiations, but it's not 100 percent set.
Brandon: Aubrey, in the show, you get shot and end up in a wheelchair.  But you were also a basketball star.  How did you prepare for the character?
Aubrey: I talked to the writers about what their feelings are about the character.  I was able to spend some quality time with a friend's friend who's in a wheelchair, and when we went out places, I tried to see how awkward it was for him; to capture all the emotions.  I try not to make it too dramatic, because I feel like there's a time when you need to come to terms with it.  I tried to gradually change.
Brandon: Stacey, you have a really crazy character at times.
Stacey: At times.
Brandon: But then she sometimes have these amazing moments where she's good to people.  On the times when you have to be really dark, how do you do it?
Stacey: It's challenging, but that's what makes the job fun.  Whenever I have an emotional scene to do, I just sort of get the head space of my character, figure out where they've come from and where they're going and what's happening in the scene to get the right intensity.
Brandon: Stacey, although your character is one of the most beloved on the show, there's not a lot of episodes with her in them.  Are we going to get a lot more Ellie episodes?
Stacey: Uh, yeah.  It varies with every season, as storylines change.  This season is more focused on her love life and relationships with other characters; not so much her mother and having a place to live like last season.

It doesn't look it, but that couch was very soft

Brandon: The slogan for 'Degrassi' is 'It goes there.'  Is there every a time when you thought it shouldn't have gone there?
Stacey: Never.
Brandon: Is there ever a time when you said, 'Whoa, I don't know about that.'
Stacey: There have been times when I said, 'Whoa, this is amazing that we're writing about this and that we're putting this on our show.'  But if it's something that happens in real life, it should be on our show.
Aubrey: It should always go there.  That should be our new slogan.
Brandon: The question I've found most people want to know about you, Stacey, is your ethnicity.  Many are guessing that you're Jewish.
Stacey: I am.
Aubrey: I'm also Jewish.
Brandon: How many people on the show are Jewish?
Stacey: The majority of the cast.
Brandon: Aubrey, you have a side project.  You're a vocal musician, and your stage name is Drake.  How's it going?
Aubrey: It's going great.  I put up a little website on 'myspace', and I got like 25,000 hits.  You can find my music at
Brandon: I noticed that most of the cast are musically talented.
Stacey: Not me. (She laughs)
Brandon: Well, there's a rumor that there might be a musical episode.  Is that true?
Aubrey: It'd be fun.  But I don't think so.  A lot of people like to dream.
Brandon: I know I do.
Aubrey: Well, dream.  Dream as you may, son.
Brandon: Would either of you ever leave Canada to do work in Hollywood?
Stacey: If I got a job, I would.  I don't see myself as the kind of person to sit around here and wait for auditions.
Aubrey: Um, yeah.  Kind of the same.  If I had some work out here, I would.
Brandon: Stacey, you're turning 18 this month.  What are you going to do?
Stacey: I'll probably be working.  That's what I was doing last year.  I don't have any plans... as of right now.
Aubrey: We're going to throw something for her.  I'm going to, anyways.  Even if she's not there.
Stacey: I'll be there, if you do.
Brandon: Are you going to rap the birthday song?
Aubrey: How about a musical birthday party?
Stacey: Dream as you may, son.

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