Degrassi Palooza will be a 'high school reunion' for cast and fans, says Pat Mastroianni
Fans and former stars of Degrassi High gathering for a 3-day convention in Toronto
The cast of the original Degrassi High will be having a high school reunion of sorts this weekend.
Called Degrassi Palooza, the three-day convention kicks off Friday in Toronto, and will see actors and fans, alike, waxing nostalgic over the classic Canadian teen drama that has gone on to spawn several spin-offs.
Pat Mastroianni, who played Joey Jeremiah on the original Degrassi Junior High and its successor Degrassi High, will host the event.
He spoke to As It Happens host Carol Off about the show's legacy. Here is part of their conversation.
Pat, have you kept in touch with Degrassi members?
It's been about 25 years since I've seen the majority of the cast.
What's it going to be like to actually see them?
We had a little pre-Degrassi Palooza party at my house a couple of weekends ago. I invited them all over for a barbecue just to dust off those friendship cobwebs, and it was lovely. Everybody had a great time. It's like we picked up where we left off. Many of us haven't changed at all. I mean, really we still feel 20 years old inside.
It felt honestly like a high school reunion.
What's the importance of having a Degrassi Palooza?
I'm almost 50 years old now and I think we're all nostalgic for a simpler time. We're all feeling, you know, the weight of the world sometimes on our shoulders, and it's nice to just escape for a weekend or a day.
And I think for many of our fans, this is a high school reunion for them as well. They grew up with us. They wanted to go to Degrassi. We were the people that they wished they were friends with, or they could relate to in real life.
But I think that the hallmark of this show was that it dealt with very difficult issues for a teen audience, and so it wasn't so simple, was it? I mean, there was bullying and there was drug use and then they dealt with child abuse and same sex-relationships, racism, divorce. But you took it on and that was what, I think, connected so many young people to this show, wasn't it?
These are topics that are still prevalent today. You know, we're still dealing with bullying, we're still dealing with drugs and abuse and all those things that were dealt with back then. So what I'm hoping with Degrassi Palooza, believe it or not, is to continue that conversation that we started 30 years ago on the show and and talk to each other like adults now.
This isn't just a "Come love me because I was on Degrassi" weekend. It's more than that. There's seminars. We have discussion panels on cannabis education, on bullying, on diversity, on yoga and mindfulness and wellness.
Your character [had] complex plotlines, sometimes more difficult ones. Joey cheated on his girlfriend and got another girl pregnant, and he was quite a character, wasn't he?
I think he was an amalgamation of many different kind of characters that you knew in high school. You know, there were a lot of class clowns and there are a lot of troublemakers. But I think Joey always came from an honesty that people related to. He didn't try to be the goof. He wasn't trying to be a jerk. He just made mistakes, but he had to pay the consequences for those mistakes.
And we never talked down to our audience. That was one thing I think our fan base appreciated about our show, is that we never had an adult come in and save the day and things didn't get wrapped up in a perfect little bow at the end of the season.
Do you think that it would actually be more difficult to have these discussions in a teen drama today?
I do believe that a show like Degrassi is important and it has been around for multiple generations. I love the fact that Degrassi came back with The Next Generation and then it came back again as The Next Class.
Every young generation has had their incarnation of Degrassi in their lives.
I believe that the mission statement of the show is to educate, to inform, to keep people open minded and never to talk down to them and to let them know that they're not alone. And I think that's the legacy of the show.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Canadian Press. Produced by Sarah Jackson.