TORONTO – Class is set to resume on a new incarnation of “Degrassi,” this time on different platforms — Family Channel in Canada and Netflix in the U.S.
While cast member Ana Golja says some of the content on “Degrassi: Next Class” is “a little more risque,” the creators insist the show’s Netflix foray hasn’t affected the series in an extreme way.
“I don’t want to make it feel like, ‘Oh, we’ve gone to Netflix and we’re going sensational,’ because that is so not true,” says series co-creator Linda Schuyler, who is also an executive producer.
“I think if anything, we’re back to our real roots. We might have just shied away from them a little bit towards the end of ‘Next Generation.'”
“Degrassi: Next Class” premieres on Family Channel on Monday, during a teen block of programming called F2N, and on Netflix in the U.S., it will debut on Jan. 15.
The change comes after a 14-season run with Bell Media, ending in the summer with “Degrassi: The Next Generation” on MTV Canada.
“Being on Netflix and the teen block of Family Channel … I think that’s definitely given us some leeway in terms of our content and what subjects we can deal with and how explicit we can be,” says Golja, 19, who was also in “The Next Generation” as former teen star Zoe Rivas.
Schuyler says they wanted the show to feel like it had been rebooted, but also contain the “basic principles of ‘Degrassi’ that you can find all through the 35 years of it.”
“We wanted to make new fans feel like they could be welcome, that you didn’t have to have seen the old show, you can come in and start from the beginning, start from the bottom,” she says, playing on the “Started From the Bottom” song title of franchise alum Aubrey Graham, a.k.a. Drake.
“Or, if you are a fan of the show already, it’ll still feel familiar to you as well as fresh.”
Both Family and Netflix have given creators and writers much freedom, says Schuyler.
“Their attitude to working with us is, ‘You are the people who are the experts, you’ve been doing this show long enough, we are not going to give you a lot of notes.’ And that, I would say, has been very, very refreshing for myself and the writers.
“But I still feel tremendous responsibility, because I know I’m producing for a youth market and I know that our storytelling has to be responsible.”
“Next Class” focuses on Generation Z and Schuyler says social media has provided “a plethora of great storylines” for the Emmy-nominated, Toronto-set series, from issues related to photo-sharing sites, to catfishing and cyber-bullying.
Other returning cast members include Ricardo Hoyos, Eric Osborne, Sara Waisglass, and Stefan Brogren. New faces include Amir Bageria, Chelsea Clark, and Dante Scott.
Schuyler surmises the show has resonated for so long because they have a roster of veteran and new writers, as well as an age-appropriate cast who have some input.
“We don’t publish a single script here until the writers and the cast all sit down and read it together,” says Schuyler.
“So by the writers being very diligent in keeping their ear and eye on the pulse of what’s out there and with the genuine input from our cast, we keep ourselves in check.”