'Degrassi' alumni returns... with a twist -- EXCLUSIVE

The bosses at Glee are still trying to figure out what to do with their graduating seniors. What they should do is take a cue from Degrassi — the Canadian drama now has the formula down pat. For the past few seasons it has (more or less) let its matriculating students head off to unseen colleges and replenished the high school’s halls with a crop of equally intriguing underclassmen. This year is no exception: Six characters (including fan favorite Holly J., played by Charlotte Arnold) will leave Degrassi when it ends its four-night-a-week, telenovela-esque summer run on Teen Nick early next month.

But there’s a twist! An old actress is returning — as a new character. Alex Steele (pictured above, right), 16, who previously appeared on seasons 1-5 of Degrassi as Angela Jeremiah (Craig Manning’s half-sister) will enter the titular school later this season as Tori, a character who sounds like she just walked off the set of Toddlers & Tiaras. According to the network, “Tori’s parents have indulged her every whim with a stream of dance lessons, kid modeling jobs, and beauty pageants. Having never heard ‘no’ … Tori enters grade nine believing she’s the best at everything.” Steele has another Degrassi connection: She’s the younger sister of Cassie Steele, who played Manny Santos from seasons 1-9,

Why bring back Alex as a character other than Angela? According to Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler: “We created the character Tori and put out an open casting call. Out of all the actresses that auditioned, Alex Steele was the best. We debated not casting her because she had previously played Angela Jeremiah, but decided to go with the best actress for the part.”

Are you watching Degrassi this season? (If not, you should check it out. It’s absolutely the best teen drama on TV this summer.)  How do you feel when old actors return to series as new characters? Here’s one obscure example: Garret Dillahunton Deadwood. Can you think of others?

Read more:
‘Degrassi': Catch a sneak peek of the new season here — EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

Comments (90 total) Add your comment
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  • Kay

    Couldn’t they have brought Alex Steele back as Angela Jeramiah, all grown up and hitting the halls of Degrassi? And cast someone else as Tori? Would have been a good reason to bring Craig back to Degrassi…

    • Trixie

      Pat Mastroianni quit the role of Joey Jeremiah for good, so I’m sure that casting Alex as Angela Jeremiah would have made them have to re-cast the role of her father (which would have made continuity even weirder)

      • Brittany

        True. But they could probably get away with not showing him. Maybe just put some pictures of him up around the house.

      • Flip

        What?! When did he do that?? Joey needs to come back so he can reunite with Caitlin once and for all!

      • Ted

        Did he really? That’s a surprise. I remember once seeing him in the middle of the day browsing through a video store. I always assumed he didn’t have anything on the back burner, although maybe he just wanted to quit acting altogether?

      • suze

        not only that, but Joey’s character actually moved to Alberta. Which is stated in the episode Craig come back and we find out he’s into drugs

      • Chuck

        When I saw she was returning, I assumed she was reprising the role. If Joey won’t return, they could have written it with her coming to live with Archie Simpson so she could experience the school which played a big part in her family’s life.

    • Kate

      I wish they had done that. I really like the idea of the character but Angela has a lot of potential for story lines as well. She was raised by a single father and has a crazy druggie brother and has several mom figures come in and out of her life. It would be really hard to deal with those issues with out Joey though. Many characters have come and gone without us ever seeing their parents but Joey is such a huge part of the show. Shame!

      • Adrian

        Why’d Joey have to quit? All I wanted was him to marry Caitlin, and just see his kids again. Oh well…

  • Sean D

    Will Forte in 30 Rock! But Paul is such a fantastic creation, I didn’t mind he vaguely resembled an Austrian manservant from season 1

  • Chelsea

    Please fix title of article to say “alumna” instead of “alumni” :)

  • Lisa S

    Good show. But very rambling and disjointed article.

  • damian

    I was just talking about how Craig’s sister would be the right age now to start at Degrassi. It doesn’t make sense not to bring her back that way but this show has been going for a decade and it doesn’t appear to be losing any steam so I guess I’m wrong.

    • Flip

      Agreed–Angela would have been a good choice to bring back because then they could also have folded in original vets like Joey and Caitlin.

    • Jessica

      Actually, in Degrassi time Angie would only be about 10-12. She was 5 in season 2, and Degrassi years are slower than real years, since one school year can span over two seasons in some parts, or most parts actually. She wouldn’t be old enough yet to be in grade 9. But Alex is old enough to be playing a grade 9, just not the character Angie.

  • bamalam

    I quit watching Degrassi once they stopped focusing on the original characters. They just seemed “inferior” to what I was used to…which is why I fear for Glee and them getting rid of characters.

    • Dwayne

      All characters must move on eventually….which is why I still like Degrassi because the old characters are just as good as the new ones.

      • Jen

        And besides the producers need fresh women to star in their shows. It keep things lively. You know, right?

      • taelor

        RE: Jen

        and men… females aren’t the only characters on shows…

    • Melvin

      You do realize that none of the characters on the Degrassi you watched were actually “original characters”? The franchise has been around since the 80s. It’s fine to say that you don’t want to watch new characters, but don’t use a word like “original”. It’s inaccurate.

      • Chuck

        This is true. While none of the characters of “Kids of Degrassi Street” carried over to “Degrassi Jr High/High” apparently several of the actors did.

  • DW

    This current season of Degrassi is fantastic, and in this case I don’t have a problem with the same actress playing two characters. It’s been ages since she’s been on the show, and I never would have remembered she was Craig’s little sister anyway.

    • Jada

      True i would have thought she was someone new till now but she does look just like her sister

  • Alisa

    Sherilyn Fenn. She first appeared as Sasha, the girlfriend of Jess Mariano’s estranged father in the season three episode Here Comes the Son. It was going to be a spin-off series but was cut due to location costs (shooting in Venice Beach). Then she came back later in the series as Anna Nardini. Luke’s Baby Momma. When they asked the created she said “I love Sherilyn so much and I don’t care. One thing about the show is I just want the best people. I’ve just been looking constantly for a time to work with Sherilyn, and I’m getting very old and I could just get hit by a truck at any minute. I just simply can’t put it off that long, so I’d just rather get her in and have her part of my world.”

    • Vero

      She was my first thought! Especially since I’ve been slowly watching all of the Gilmore Girls seasons again.

  • Woahhh xD

    Why can’t Alex play Angie again ?!?! Tori ?!?! What the heck, I dont think i’mma gonna like this .

  • Gerry

    Wait, Holly J’s leaving? Guess I can finally give this silly show up once that happens.

    • Flip

      Why is this a surprise? She is in Grade 12 and graduates at the end of this semester/season.

      • Twist

        If she lives….

      • joecup

        The minute Holly J’s bio mom asked for money I pictured her saying “Fiona get your checkbook out !”

    • Melvin

      So weird. I stopped watching a few years ago and had no idea Degrassi had moved so far beyond the characters I knew and loved. I’m not opposed to new characters or anything, I just outgrew the show. Playing that back in my head sounds silly because I’m 26 and didn’t start watching the show until I was 19 or something. I wouldn’t mind watching a spin-off about some of the previous characters as adults, though. Maybe Sean, America, Ellie, Paige, Marco, and Jimmy (in our dreams, right?)

      • Melvin

        See. It has been awhile. I called her America and it took me a full minute to convince myself that wasn’t right and remember that it’s Liberty.

  • Kara

    This is stupid why is holly-j leaving in the first place?

    • Jamaaliver

      It’s a show about a High School. She’s graduating High School. That’s the way it works.

      I’m sure she’s ready to go out and try new things anyway. Nobody wants to get stuck playing the same role for the rest of their lives.

      • KOP

        Unless you’re Stefan Brogren

  • Allie

    Ugh, but if she was a regular recurring character in earlier seasons, its gonna be hard to play her off as a different character now.

    • anna

      She wasn’t a regular – she was the (child) younger sister of a regular. She was in about 10-12 episodes and never really had her own story line, just a line or two here or there.

      • Ashley

        Can we count her older sister as a “Regular?” Considering that the almighty Heather Sinclair was a running joke, because she was a character never actually seen on camera.

    • Christa

      Not really. She was a lot younger and if someone hadn’t told me that was the same actress that played Angie, I’d probably never notice. In a completely unrelated note, I miss Paige.

  • Plump

    Holly J was the only non original characters that I liked.

    • Anonymous


    • Blonde South

      Me too! Sometimes I check in to the show just to see what Holly J is doing and what the show is like now. It’s still pretty good, but it’s just not the same without Manny, Emma, Paige, Ellie, Craig, Jimmy, and JT.

      • Captain


  • Trace

    Holly J and the others (Sav, Anya, Chantay, Riley & Zane) are leaving because they’re graduating. The show’s no longer going to follow students once they graduate.

    As for Alex, she’s looking so much like her sister these days that I think it might have been a little creepy if she played Angie, given her brother’s history with Manny.

    They can make this new character a cousin of Manny’s.

    • Ian

      I refuse to believe that Chantay is leaving. She will never leave. As others leave, she grows more and more powerful.

      She is truly the Highlander of Degrassi High.

      • Marilyn

        Ha ha! I wish she was gone already. That is one character I cannot stand. She’s wearing a graduation cap in the opening credits, so let’s hope!

  • maiv

    As nutty as Degrassi is, they definitely know how to write in new, interesting characters. I mean, network shows have trouble doing that!

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