Behind the queer storylines of “Degrassi”

 
 

Stefan Brogren has been part of the Degrassi franchise since before most of today’s Degrassi: The Next Generation actors were born.

He spent six years playing Archie “Snake” Simpson on Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High in the 1980s and ‘90s, a role to which he returned for Degrassi: The Next Generation (Mr. Simpson is the school’s current principal), in addition to producing, directing, and writing most of the show’s web content. Stefan has directed both episodes and movie specials of Degrassi, and, as of Season 10, he is also part of the production team, serving as the show’s Co-Creative Producer.

In the midst of juggling his roles as a director, producer, and actor on Degrassi, Stefan Brogren found a moment to answer some of my questions about finding the right actor to play Adam, Fiona’s coming out storyline, and what it’s like to be on the set of Degrassi.

AfterEllen.com: Given that Adam is the first scripted transgender teen character on television, he’s clearly unique, and yet he’s far from being a stereotype. How did you and the rest of the creative team conceive of the character originally, and how did he change in between then and when he finally hit our TV screens?

Stefan Brogren:
The idea of having a transgender character on Degrassi came into our minds a couple of years ago. It was something that we hadn’t dealt with so we were nervous about doing it right. We didn’t know if we were going to go male-to-female transgender or female-to-male transgender. Every year we want to bring in new and exciting characters, and when we were brainstorming for Season 10, it just felt like the right time.

The question then became “How do we present this?” We want to be fair, honest and do something that hasn’t seen before on television. Once we decided to have a female-to-male transgender character, we had to decide what kind of stories to tell about Adam. We didn’t want to tell stories about him discovering that he is transgender but to have him in the school knowing who he is already. We wanted to show the aftermath of the students finding out and then how the family deals with that.

The question then became “Who are we going to get to play this role?” We would have scrapped the character had we not met Jordan Todosey. It came down to three actors that we thought could possibly play Adam, but it was clear Jordan was hands-down the best choice for the role. Once that happened, we knew we could write around her and tell more in-depth stories. We knew Jordan could handle it.

AE: Degrassi is a show that has always pushed boundaries. What has the network’s role been in all this? Were they at all hesitant to take on the character of Adam or were they completely supportive?

SB:
Both TeenNick and MuchMusic were completely on board right away. Both networks just wondered if we would be able find the right actor to pull it off.

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