Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

February 08, 2007

U of G Student Stars on Degrassi: The Next Generation

University of Guelph philosophy student Deanna Casaluce has been playing the character Alex on Degrassi: The Next Generation for three seasons and just wrapped up her first film, appearing opposite another Canadian actor, Mia Kirshner, who starred in The Black Dahlia.

The CTV show, which was preceded by Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High and The Kids of Degrassi Street, is Canada's most-watched domestic drama series and is broadcast in more than 70 countries.

Casaluce said she has little in common with her character, Alex Nunez, a lesbian who cut classes and smoked pot while everyone else was planning for their future. This season, while most of her friends are at university, Alex is back at Degrassi part time to beef up her marks and get into a physiotherapy program.

Playing one of the few teenage lesbians on prime-time television is an honour, said Casaluce. “If people are identifying with my character, and it helps them sort out a situation in their mind or makes them feel like they’re not so isolated, it’s a huge privilege to be able to help people in that way.”

For the past few years, Casaluce has done mall tours in Boston, Detroit and New York City with her castmates and has been overwhelmed by the number of people who’ve come out to meet her. “It was a surreal experience because these tweens were lined up for hours to get an autograph, and normally I’m just another university student wandering around campus,” she said.

“I’m not a celebrity,” insists Casaluce, who turns 21 this month. If her classmates or professors recognize her from her role on Degrassi, they don’t mention it, she says.

Casaluce said she didn’t want to plan her university education around her role on Degrassi because she had no idea how long it would last. The co-op option in psychology is what drew her to U of G in fall 2003, but ironically, she hasn’t been able to commit to the co-op program because of her booming acting career. She has since changed to a philosophy major and social psychology minor.

For her first two years at U of G, Casaluce took six courses a year and planned them around the heavy May to November filming schedule. Last semester was the first time she wasn’t able to take any on-campus courses. The season six finale – shot during the fall – is centred around her character, and her weekends off from Degrassi were dedicated to working on the film with Kirshner.

Casaluce is currently taking two distance education courses. “The flexibility of being able to continue my degree through online courses has been great,” she said.

When she’s had to explain to professors that she can’t make an exam or essay deadline because of her filming schedule, they’ve been extremely understanding, she added.

“Guelph is a great school. I love the professors and I love going to class. You can only really enjoy going to class if you enjoy the content and if the prof can make that content fun and interesting.”

Regardless of what happens with her acting career, Casaluce said she wants to finish her degree at Guelph. “I don’t like to think of my education as ‘plan B’ because that would mean I’d only be doing it out of necessity, which is not the case,” she said. “I really do have a passion for philosophy and psychology.”

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.

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