When Degrassi: The Next Generation ended in August 2015, many thought the longest-running dramatic television show (including spinoffs) in Canadian history had run its course. But, thanks to the Family Channel, the Degrassi universe lives on.
Bringing together an ensemble cast of both new and returning actors, the new season of Degrassi: Next Class will once again focus on the contemporary teenage experience, highlighting the challenges they face as they come of age.
One of the returning actors is 17-year-old Jewish Torontonian Sara Waisglass, who has been playing the character of Frankie Hollingsworth since 2013.
“Honestly, it’s incredible,” Waisglass tells The CJN of her experience playing a Degrassi cast member. “I mean it’s obviously very scary to be on a show, especially one that’s already successful. I just feel really blessed to be a part of this incredible experience.”
As for her character, the actor says she’s a lot like herself, except for one crucial detail. “Frankie isn’t Jewish…which is upsetting. You win some, and you lose some.”
In New Class, Hollingsworth goes through a lot of changes, Waisglass says. Apparently, she finally comes into her own this season.
Apart from Degrassi, Waisglass appeared alongside John Malkovich and Evangeline Lilly in the 2008 film Afterwards, and also stars in the new James Dean biopic Life, starring Robert Pattinson and Dane DeHaan.
Of course, no interview with a Degrassi member would be complete without the prerequisite Drake talk. After all, Waisglass isn’t the first Jewish Canadian to appear on the show. “Everyone asks” if she’s met the rapper, Waisglass says, adding that while she hasn’t, “everyone loves him, and I do too.”
A new Jewish cast member on the show is actor Jamie Bloch, who already leads an illustrious career as a working actor, appearing in such films as Wingin’ It, Diary of the Dead, The Echo, and Flirting with Forty. Bloch was born in Toronto, and has lived in the Thornhill Woods area since she was six.
“My family is South African-British, and we are practicing Jews,” she tells The CJN. “I’ve also been acting since I was six, but this is my first season on Degrassi. It’s been very exciting so far! Acting is my number one passion, screenwriting is a close second, and that’s pretty much it. That’s me!”
Bloch also elaborates on her character’s Jewish heritage (if any). “My character’s name is Yael, which is actually my real Hebrew name, so it’s funny it worked out that way. This season it hasn’t really been specified yet that [my character] is Jewish, but I’m hoping that next season maybe it will come into play a little bit more. I haven’t brought in my Jewish background so much yet, but I am hoping to.”
Bloch describes Yael Baron as “an aspiring entrepreneur” who wants to be the next Zuckerberg – who doesn’t?.
“She is more on the quiet side, sticks to her own group of friends and into video games. I’m excited to see where they take her from here, and how they develop her more,” Bloch says.
The young Bloch also imparts some advice to other aspiring actors striving to make it in the business.
“Keep pushing on. I went through a quiet period for three years where I literally didn’t work on anything,” she says. “It was a little uninspiring and hard to swallow at the time. But, it taught me to keep going and not to listen to what anyone was saying. If you know that this is where you want to be, then keep going. Keep doing what you love because it all works out in the end.”
Bloch, too, has not met Drake – what, does he not appear on the set every week to say hello?
Check out Degrassi: Next Class at 9 p.m. on Family Channel’s new teen block, F2N. If you’re outside of Canada, the show is now streaming on Netflix.