Degrassi: Next Class to feature Black Lives Matter storyline in season 2
Plot coincides with franchise's 500th episode, which will see familiar faces return as protests take place
The Degrassi franchise is known for its topical storylines and the second season of Next Class kicking off Tuesday re-enforces that reputation.
As headlines swirl over police shootings of black men in the U.S., the season two arc of Degrassi: Next Class focuses on racism and a Black Lives Matter protest.
- Vigils, Black Lives Matter protests continue across U.S. in wake of deadly shootings
- Police in Louisiana say several officers shot in Baton Rouge
The storyline comes to a head in the franchise's 500th episode, in which some Degrassi alumni (not Drake!) return for a 35th anniversary gala that's disrupted by the protest.
"There's a protest happening outside of the school and true to her ... nature, Emma wants to join in on that protest," says Miriam McDonald, who starred as Emma Nelson on Degrassi: The Next Generation and returns for the 500th episode.
"I don't think we've ever really covered racism in this way, especially because it's not someone blatantly being racist because they know they're being racist," adds Sara Waisglass, who plays Frankie Hollingsworth, a politician's daughter.
"My character just doesn't understand that her act is racist and that's, I think, a really cool way to tell a story — a villain who doesn't know she's a villain. She learns through her best friend, which is also so important, because it shows that whole putting-yourself-in-other-people's-shoes (idea), which is also a main theme."
Reiya Downs's character, Shay Powers, is the one who helps Frankie realize her racist ways.
"I think that's the way it usually is," says Downs. "A lot of people have an idea that to be racist, you have to be this racist monster, but that doesn't generally exist, like, someone who will just blatantly say racist things.
"Usually it's more undercover and it's just a bias the person has that they don't really know about, but being open to learning about it is great and I think Degrassi showed that really well."