Then + Now: The Cast of ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’
Remember ‘Degrassi,’ everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure Canadian TV show? Ever since The N (now TeenNick) brought the drama-licious series to the States in the early 2000s, we’ve been hooked. Wondering what your favorite characters from Degrassi Community School are up to today? Read on to find out. And hey, we have to say it: Whatever it takes, we know you can make it through!
Miriam McDonald (Emma Nelson, Seasons 1-9)
Then: For nine seasons, Miriam McDonald played the role of Emma Nelson, whose friendship with Manny Santos and relationship with Sean Cameron were main focal points of ‘Degrassi’ throughout the early seasons. As the determined activist Emma, McDonald’s character dealt with a wealth of issues, including anorexia, bulimia and even an STD. Ultimately, Emma ends up drunkenly marrying Spinner and decides to stay with him when realizing that they really do love each other. Gotta love ‘Degrassi.’
Now: During her time on ‘Degrassi,’ McDonald also starred in the Lifetime movie ‘She’s Too Young,’ playing a promiscuous teen who contracts syphillis. Since ‘Degrassi,’ McDonald has acted sporadically, with occasional roles on ‘Lost Girl’ and ‘Orphan Black.’ She has since become a yoga instructor and has a series of instructional yoga vids on YouTube. (Watch them here!) McDonald has also stayed close with her ‘Degrassi’ besties, frequently tweeting them and Instagramming pictures of her and Cassie Steele (Manny). Too cute!
Cassie Steele (Manny Santos, Seasons 1-9)
Then: As Emma’s BFF, Cassie Steele’s Manny underwent quite the transformation throughout her time on ‘Degrassi,’ going from an innocent young girl to becoming pregnant with Craig’s baby (and ultimately choosing abortion) to dating Jay and becoming an actress in ‘Degrassi Goes Hollywood.’ And how could we forget the time she flashed Peter’s camera and drunkenly told the world she was going to be famous?
Now: In addition to acting, Steele has also focused on her music career, releasing two albums, going on tour and releasing an EP in 2012. That same year, she landed her biggest role since ‘Degrassi,’ starring as Abby Vargas on the short-lived series ‘The L.A. Complex.’
Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham (Jimmy, Seasons 1-9)
Then: Before he became Drake, Aubrey Graham was most well-known for his role as Jimmy Brooks, Spinner’s best friend and Ashley’s BF who was infamously shot and paralyzed. After the shooting, Jimmy was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of the series, dashing his dreams of playing basketball — but opening the door to a career in music.
Now: After leaving ‘Degrassi,’ Graham, who we all know now as Drake, ‘YOLO’-ed his way to the top, becoming an incredibly successful, Grammy Award-winning rapper. But he hasn’t forgotten his ‘Degrassi’ roots, even coming up with a ‘Wheelchair Jimmy’ dance move for one of his biggest hits, ‘The Motto.’
Lauren Collins (Paige, Seasons 1-8)
Then: Lauren Collins played popular cheerleader Paige Michalchuk, ‘Degrassi’s’ resident mean girl for the first few seasons of the show. Over time, she reforms and deals with such issues as rape, drug use, anxiety and her relationship with Alex. Her series-long friendship with Marco comes to blows in ‘Degrassi Goes Hollywood,’ where it is ultimately hinted that the two are no longer friends.
Now: Though primarily known for her ‘Degrassi’ fame, Collins has acted steadily both during and after her run on the show, most notably with a recurring role on the Disney Channel show ‘Life with Derek’ and in the film ‘Charlie Bartlett.’ Collins, who frequently tweets her ‘Degrassi’ co-stars, is currently the host of the talk show ‘1 Girl 5 Gays’ and has a recurring role on Nick Krull’s sketch comedy series, ‘Krull Show.’
Daniel Clark (Sean, Seasons 1-7)
Then: Daniel Clark played the rough-around-the-edges Sean Cameron, who, despite his tough background, has a heart of gold. He dates Emma on-and-off throughout the series (as well as Ellie, for a time) until he and Emma eventually call it quits for good when Sean joins the army.
Now: In 2007, Clark had his second biggest role to date with a bit part in ‘Juno.’ He now works in news on ‘America with Jorge Ramos’ on the Fusion network, which he frequently discusses on Twitter.
Melissa McIntyre (Ashley, Seasons 1-7)
Then: Melissa McIntyre played Ashley, who dates both Jimmy and Craig over the course of the series. She joins Craig’s band, and in one particularly memorable episode, gets high on Ecstasy. Ashley eventually ends up touring with Craig in Europe.
Now: After her run on ‘Degrassi,’ McIntyre stayed out of the public eye for quite some time. In 2012, she re-emerged as a member of the band Fortune, and is currently on Twitter.
Jake Epstein (Craig, Seasons 2-8)
Then: As Craig Manning, Jake Epstein played one of the cutest guys of ‘Degrassi,’ but, like his fellow classmates had his fair share of drama. Throughout the show, the Downtown Sasquatch musician dated Ashley, Manny and Ellie, and suffered through bipolar disorder, a cocaine addiction and an abusive father.
Now: After ‘Degrassi,’ Epstein set his sights on a musical theater career, starring in several national tours, with main roles in ‘Spring Awakening’ and ‘American Idiot.’ He currently stars as the titular character in ‘Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark’ on Broadway.
Stefan Brogren (Archie ‘Snake’ Simpson, Seasons 1-Present)
Then: Before any of the other ‘Degrassi: TNG’ characters were even a glimmer in the producers’ eyes, Stefan Brogren played Archie ‘Snake’ Simpson in the original ‘Degrassi: Junior High’ and ‘Degrassi High’ series. Brogren has been portraying the character for over 15 years, with plot lines surrounding everything from Snake’s marriage to Emma’s mom Spike, undergoing chemotherapy to becoming principal of the school. During his time on ‘Degrassi,’ Brogren has also expanded his career to the other side of the camera, becoming both a director and producer of the show.
Now: Brogren continues to portray Snake on the series, and in 2012 served as a producer and director on ‘The L.A. Complex,’ on which Cassie Steele starred.
Jake Goldsbie (Toby, Seasons 1-8)
Then: For eight seasons, Jake Goldsbie played the bespectacled Toby Isaacs, Ashley’s younger, nerdier step-brother. He was best friends with J.T. Yorke and traumatized after J.T. was stabbed to death in Season 6.
Now: Apart from appearing in one episode of ‘Being Erica’ in 2009, Goldsbie retired from acting after ‘Degrassi.’ He is, however, very active on Twitter and works as a web editor and writer for The Score.
Shane Kippel (Spinner, Seasons 1-9)
Then: Shane Kippel’s Spinner Mason was one of the ‘Degrassi’ characters most synonymous with the show. Spinner started off as a bully but soon transformed, becoming best friends with Jimmy and having an impressive dating resume, which included Paige, Manny, Jane and ultimately Emma. During his nine years on the show, Spinner deals with the drama of his various romantic relationships, his guilt over bullying Rick (the classmate who shoots Jimmy), the horror of testicular cancer and eventually being shot himself (though he recovers).
Stacey Farber (Ellie, Seasons 2-8)
Then: Stacey Farber portrayed Ellie Nash, who, in the beginning of the series, handles her mother’s alcoholism and her dad’s military absence by cutting herself. She dates Sean for a while, eventually moving in with him after her mom accidentally sets their apartment on fire. However, she and Sean break up and Ellie heads off to college with Marco and Paige, where she discovers her love of journalism. She is last seen in ‘Degrassi Goes Hollywood,’ where she eventually gets together with her longtime crush, Craig.
Now: Interestingly enough, Farber has seemingly followed in Ellie’s career footsteps. After graduating from Parsons School of Design (where she had multiple internships at fashion magazines), Farber currently serves as the executive editor for the scarf company Lilogi. She is also still acting, and had roles in the television shows ’18 to Life’ and ‘Cult.’
Sarah Barrable-Tishauer (Liberty, Seasons 1-9)
Then: Liberty Van Zandt, played by Sarah Barrable-Tishauer, was one of ‘Degrassi’s’ most strong-willed, determined female students. Throughout the series, Liberty dates J.T. and becomes pregnant but chooses to give the child up for adoption. After J.T. is killed, she is forced to deal with his death. She ultimately goes to college and rooms with Emma and Manny.
Now: After briefly appearing in ‘Degrassi Takes Manhattan,’ Barrable-Tishauer no longer acts. She has instead become a graphic designer and works as a communications consultant.
Adamo Ruggiero (Marco, Seasons 2-8)
Then: Adamo Ruggiero played Marco, the series’ first openly gay character. As such, his time on the show often revolved around the struggle of coming out and dealing with hate crimes and violence due to his sexual orientation. After graduating from ‘Degrassi,’ he went to college with Paige and Ellie, but presumably ended his friendship with Paige in ‘Degrassi Takes Hollywood.’ In Season 9, Marco briefly returns to Degrassi Community School as a teacher.
Now: Ruggiero, who came out in real life in 2008, was the host of ‘The Next Star’ from 2008-2012. Most recently, Ruggiero starred in the ‘Truth or Dare Show,’ a stage reading of a Madonna documentary. He is still close with his castmates, particularly Lauren Collins and Stacey Farber, and the trio frequently tweet each other.
Shenae Grimes (Darcy, Seasons 4-8)
Then: Shenae Grimes got her start as conservative Christian Darcy Edwards on ‘Degrassi.’ Though her character quickly fell from grace — getting caught up in a nude photo scandal, attempting to commit suicide and even accusing Snake of sexual harrassment — Darcy eventually returned to her spiritual ways. She ultimately moved to Kenya.
Now: While on ‘Degrassi,’ Grimes also had a recurring role on ‘Naturally, Sadie,’ alongside future ‘Degrassi’ star Charlotte Arnold. In 2008, Grimes got her mainstream break by starring as Annie Wilson in The CW’s ‘90210,’ a character she played throughout the show’s run. In 2013, she tied the knot with musician Josh Beech.
Nina Dobrev (Mia, Seasons 6-9)
Then: Nina Dobrev got her big break playing Mia Jones, a young teen mom who transfers to ‘Degrassi’ from their rival school, Lakehurst, in Season 6. Much of Mia’s plotlines surrounded the difficulties of being a young mom and her struggle to balance her modeling career with school.
Now: After ‘Degrassi,’ Dobrev achieved mainstream success by being cast as Elena in ‘The Vampire Diaries.’ While on the show, she also appeared in 2011’s ‘The Roommate’ and ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower.’ She and her ‘TVD’ co-star Ian Somerhalder dated for three years before calling it quits in 2012. She was last seen reportedly locking lips with Liam Hemsworth.
Charlotte Arnold (Holly J., Seasons 7-11)
Then: Driven and bossy with a sarcastic streak, Charlotte Arnold’s character Holly J. Sinclair commanded the school. Over the course of the series, she dates Blue Chessex, Declan and Sav. She ultimately has kidney failure due to a staph infection and is forced to go on dialysis, but, in true Holly J. fashion, still manages to graduate as the ‘Degrassi’ valedictorian and attend Yale. Before starring on ‘Degrassi,’ Arnold played the titular character on the series ‘Naturally, Sadie.’
Now: After leaving ‘Degrassi’ in 2012, Arnold has not appeared on screen since. She is, however, active on social media and you can follow her on Instagram here.
Aislinn Paul (Seasons 6-Present)
Then: Aislinn Paul’s character, Clare, was first introduced on the show as Darcy’s nerdy little sister. As her character developed, Clare soon grew more complex and shed her know-it-all image. She was best known for her friendship with Alli and her on-and-off relationship with Eli, which has become a fan favorite.
Now: Paul continues to portray Clare on ‘Degrassi.’ During the show’s most recent season, Clare is diagnosed with cancer but manages to beat it. You can follow Aislinn Paul on Twitter here.
Munro Chambers (Eli, Seasons 6-Present)
Then: Munro Chambers plays the emo Eli Goldsworthy, whose on-and-off relationship with Clare is one of the show’s main plotlines in the later seasons. In addition to his relationship with Clare, Eli is a good friend to transgendered classmate Adam Torres, but also gets involved with drugs, including pot and MDMA, a form of ecstasy.
Now: Like Aislinn Paul, Chambers still stars as Eli on the show. In the last season, he attends NYU after graduating from ‘Degrassi’ and reveals he has cheated on Clare while at school. However, she forgives him and the two resume their relationship. Follow Munro Chambers on Twitter here.