When it was announced that there would not be another season of Degrassi Next Class, I was bummed. I've been following the series since Degrassi Junior High, and to have it end so unceremoniously at the hands of Netflix was just... heartbreaking. It felt like the end of a super long, Canadian era.
Since the very first series, there have been over 100 characters that have been appeared in the opening title sequences, and many more recurring. Ranking them is never easy, but here is my attempt at listing the 30 best characters in the show's history, from Degrassi Junior High all the way to the last season of Degrassi Next Class.
30. Michelle Accette - Degrassi High
Some of you might not recall Michelle, though her time on Degrassi High was quite memorable to me. Her father was a judgemental, racist piece of shit who forbade her from dating BLT. This grossness, plus the man's excessive controll issues, prompted Michelle to get a part-time job, move out on her own, and continue living her life the way she saw fit. She kept up her grades, her spirit, and never let anyone tell her she couldn't do something.
29. Saad Al'Maliki - Next Class
We didn't really get to see much of Saad, as he was introduced in season 3 of Next Class. But from the little we did see, every bit of it broke my heart. He was the only character, out of Degrassi's entire history, that I personally connected with. Yes, at times it felt like the writing was just too on-the-nose with the stereotypical hatred he had to endure, but at least they tried. Saad never really caught a break until the very end, when Lola fell for him and convinced him to stay in Toronto. Along with Esme, he's a character I really wished we could've seen more of.
28. Esme Song - Next Class
As mentioned above, I really wish we were given more of Esme. She was a tragic character, one who everyone else treated like shit, almost always. She endured slut shaming by almost all of Zig's friends, was ignored and hated by her father (and he blamed her for her mother's suicide), and at the end, it seemed like it was just too much for her to handle. Why did no one ever thank her, or even mention that she was the one who saved Maya's life? Why did none of Zig's friends give her a chance? Why did neither Zig nor Miles ever really wonder why she was the way she was? Frankie was literally the only person who ever gave her the time of day, who worried for her, and actually cared about her. Yes, I know she was a lot to take at times - giving drugs to an already messed up Miles, faking an allergic reaction, faking a suicide attempt, calling in a bomb threat, accidentally pushing Zig down a hill and leaving him there unconscious... but it seemed like there was something much, much deeper there, causing all of this. This unanswered mystery is of the many reasons why I'm so upset Degrassi ended.
27. Sav Bhandari - The Next Generation
Oh sweet, sweet Sav. With a face like that I'm surprised more girls weren't into him. Speaking of girls, I didn't like how he was with Anya, as I thought they were both better off (and less annoying overall) apart. But the blame for that doesn't go to him entirely. It must be very tough always fighting with your parents about your culture, and their need to pressure you into following their ways. Sav was usually a pretty good son, getting decent grades, a dependable friend, becoming student body president, and being passionate about becoming a sound engineer, and yet his parents wouldn't give their overbearing ways a rest.
26. Archie "Snake" Simpson - Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High/The Next Generation/Next Class
Snake has been in 256 episodes, starting from the very first episode of Degrassi Junior High (Kiss Me Steph) where he is an 8th grader who is running for student body president, all the way to the very last episode of Degrassi Next Class (#KThxBye) where he is presenting the graduating class of 2017. The man is a staple in the world of Degrassi, and there simply cannot be a Top Degrassi Characters list without him. From being a co-founder of the band Zit Remedy, to finding Claude after he committed suicide in the boy's bathroom (this is later referrenced in TNG when Eli finds Cam hanged), to being falsly accused of rape by Darcy, to cancer, to marrying and having a baby with Spike... Snake has been through everything under the Degrassi sun. I'm not sure what the writers were thinking when they made him cheat on Spike... maybe they felt like they had to give him one flaw? I don't know...
25. Drew Torres - The Next Generation
For some odd reason, no matter what Drew did, I couldn't hate him. From cheating on Allie with Bianca, to cheating on Katie with Bianca, to breaking up with Zoey and Clare right after sleeping with them... come on Drew, wtf? But he also had some great moments, like saving Bianca from getting raped, then taking the blame for that man's death, for being a pretty great big brother to Adam... Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I've always found his messiness very entertaining. Plus, he had chemistry with Clare, and it's unfortunate the show was so obsessed with Clare and Eli.
24 Mike Dallas - The Next Generation
He may have been a bully for quite some time, but he was one of the characters that Cam's death affected the most. He blamed himself for pushing Cam into playing hockey, even though he saw how unhappy Cam was. He spiralled after Cam's death, but ultimately he turned his life around. Degrassi has a pattern of turning awful characters into decent people, and Dallas was one of them. Plus, the episode where him and Connor experience racial profiling at the hands of Toronto's police... it may have only been a one-episode arc, but his very-justified anger was apparent, and Demetrius Joyette conveyed it beautifully.
23. Christine "Spike" Nelson - Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High/The Next Generation
Spike has the distinction of being the only character in Degrassi's entire history of giving birth on screen (not once, but twice) and keeping the baby. On Degrassi High, she was quick to put people in their place when they were judging Erica for getting an abortion. On TNG, she was supportive of Manny throughout her pregnancy and abortion as well (and knocked some sense into Emma). I still can't understand why Snake cheated on her, and sometimes I wish she had never taken him back, but I can also understand why she did. Here's hoping that in a few years we get a new Degrassi class, this time lead by Spike's son Jack.
22. Clare Edwards - The Next Generation
I know a lot of people found Clare annoying, and I did too, but that doesn't erase everything Clare had to endure, and what I think makes her so great. Aislinn Paul was one of the better actors on the seires, and sometimes I think the writers poured one hardship after another on her because she could actually convey all those emotions. From her parents' divorce, to her mother marrying the father of her boyfriend Jake, to the sexual assault from her internship mentor, to the cancer, to Adam's death, to Eli cheating on her, to Drew dumping her two seconds after they had sex, to the miscarriage... it was one punch to the gut after the other for Clare. By some miracle, she managed to make it through each and every situation, and she came out unscathed.
21. Campbell Saunders - The Next Generation
The character of Cam was written solely into the show to display teenage depression, and how it can unravel and, sometimes, lead to suicide. Whenever I do a re-watch of series, the moment Cam is introduced fills me with sadness. The arc was so important that the show would put on post-episode specials, where the actors would discuss the topic and how friends and family can detect depression and help anyone who may be suffering from it.
20. Lucy Hernandez - Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High
Lucy had her fair share of traumatic experiences. She began shoplifting as a coping mechanism for her absentee parents who didn't really care about her, she was victim to Mr. Colby's grossness, then later suffered from PSTD through nightmares (and he pretty much chases her around the school at one point), she breaks up with her older boyfriend when he pressures her to have sex with him (she doesn't go through with it), she was then slut-shamed by everyone, including her friends, because of it... But none of that stopped her from becoming Valedictorian, and achieving what she wanted. She was also pro-Choice, and told people off for shaming Erica.
19. Bianca DeSousa - The Next Generation
Bianca was a nightmare in the beginning. She continuously slut-shamed Alli, kept on pursuing Drew even after Drew repeatedly rejected her at first, then rubbed it all in Alli's face when Drew cheated on her. Yes, it was primarily the fault of Drew, but Bianca was also to blame, even if it was to a lesser degree. Let's not forget her transphobia, and outing Adam in front of everyone. Still, she grew up, and grew out of her horrible behaviour. She turned into a smart, driven person who tried very hard to make amends for her past digressions. She even went so far as to agree to be in a relationship with psychotic Vince to keep an unknowing Drew alive. She studied her ass off, got into a great college, and left her old life behind. Talk about doing a complete 180.
18. Miles Hollingsworth - The Next Generation/Next Class
Miles may have started off as the rich white guy who got everything he wanted, but as the show progressed, we saw that there was much more to him. From a father who used Miles's bisexuality just to advance his political career, to a boyfriend who fell into a long comma after the bus accident, to a brother with psychotic issues who nearly shot up the school, to developing a drug dependancy and nearly dying of an overdose... he was clearly another character that the writers loved to dump on. That doesn't mean he didn't make some seriously bad choices - taking those drugs in the first place, sleeping with Lola while Tristan was in that comma (then brushing Lola off when she was trying to tell him she was pregnant), leaving a drunk and passed out Zoe alone in a room, bringing a gun to school to scare off Zig, planting drugs in Zig's locker, taking pictures of Tristan's horrible state and then forcing everyone to see them... It was always a balance of extremes with Miles, and the actor was able to pull it all off very well.
17. Fiona Coyne - The Next Generation
It's pretty clear that Degrassi has a knack for taking messy characters and turning them into people you want to root for. Just like Dallas, Fiona was another example of this. She was first introduced as the clingy, spoiled, almost psychotic twin sister of Declan... but unlike Declan, she evolved into a beloved staple of Degrassi: The Next Generation. From her dependency on alcohol, to her recovery, to her assault, and her coming out, Fiona Coyne's journey was always full of interesting and heartfelt storylines. It was also nice that, unlike most of the other parents on the show that had their children come out to them, Fiona's mother was immediately accepting. In fact their overall relationship was wonderful. (We'll just pretend that the kiss between her and Declan never happened...).
16. Caitlin Ryan - Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High/The Next Generation
The original Cause Girl, Caitlin was the character that always called others out on their bullshit. She was clever, and stylish, and never hesitated to do what was right. When Claude committed suicide by shooting himself, and blamed it all on Caitlin in a note he left for her surrounded by roses... I'm not sure how she managed to make it through, but she did. She began Ryan’s Planet, and had Local Heroes, and never let a man, or anyone, hold her back from achieving her dreams (yes, she did step off that plane for Joey, but she later left him for an even better job).
15. Adam Torres - The Next Generation
As the first transgender regular on any show ever, Adam Torres left an unforgettable mark in Canadian television. He was sweet, and honest, and was met with an untimely death when he was texting Becky Baker while driving. This tragic event lead to many protests, as countless fans were rightfully outraged at the unceremonious departure of a character we all really loved. It sucked even more when the only reason this death occurred was because Jordan's contract was up, and instead of renewing it, they decided to kill him off - and not even long after Cam's death. How much sorrow do these people think we can take?
14. Alli Bhandari - The Next Generation
Another character that dealt with one hardship after another, Alli Bhandari was a force to be reckoned with. Sure, she may have started off as a boy-crazy, popularity-obsessed girl who cyber-bullied Holly J. but she was also very young, and thankfully she grew out of it. We all make mistakes when we're 14-15, but unlike Alli, we don't all transform into a super-smart, science genius with an early acceptance to MIT.
13. Lola Pacini - The Next Generation/Next Class
Lola started off as a ditzy, rather one-dimensional side-character. On Next Class, she gradually rose to be an integral part of the series. Sure, she still had some bad moments (posting a photo with your ex, who is now dating your friend, just to get a reaction, then getting mad for getting that exact reaction... what are you, 12?). But sticking by Saad no matter what, always helping Yael even though Yael was constantly a condescending asshole to her... it's unfortunate the writers didn't decide to make her more prominent early on. She was a better, much more interesting character than Frankie and Shay combined.
12. Eli Goldsworthy - The Next Generation
The main reason Eli is so high on the list is because of Munro Chambers. Chambers is probably the best actor Degrassi's ever had. In my opinion, he was able to convey more emotion in one facial expression than most of the other actors were ever able to show in their entire run. Some were annoyed that, of course Eli was the one to find Cam in the greenhouse... but really, thinking about it, I don't think anyone else would've been able to handle it. It just sucks that most of his time was wasted on the Clare/Eli plot, because it made both characters tedious and irritating. They were always better, and much more interesting, apart. It also sucks that Munro's career never really went anywhere post-Degrassi. He could act circles around many of the award winning actors these days (I may be biased, but I don't care if anyone disagrees).
11. J.T Yorke - The Next Generation
Just like with Jordan Todosey, Ryan Cooley's contract was up, and he decided that he no longer wanted to be on Degrassi. Fair enough. What wasn't fair, though, was how he was killed off. J.T. was part of the original TNG crew, a loveable goofball who broke our hearts when he made some horrible choices in order to save his family. Why did he have to get stabbed by a random character, over a pathetic rivalry between Degrassi and Lakehurst? Why couldn't the show include the heartwarming Degrassi Mini created 6 months after J.T's death in the actual series? (I highly recommend a watch of the Degrassi Minis by the way. Some of them are silly, but that particular episode was beautiful). Why did they remove the J.T. Yorke memorial from the garden in Next Class? Excuse you, creators... none of that was cool.
10. Jane Vaughn - The Next Generation
Why did the writers have to tarnish Jane’s awesomeness by making her cheat on Spinner? She was so great otherwise. Being the only girl to ever try out for the football team, then demanding the respect of everyone who thought she didn’t deserve it, then sticking it out when some of the assholes on the team began both physically and personally tormenting her… she was so badass that I was truly bummed she wasn’t introduced much sooner.
9. Emma Nelson - The Next Generation
The reason why Emma isn't higher on the list, when her character was the starting force of TNG, is because she was an awful friend to Manny. Manny was always there for Emma, while Emma was constantly judging her, acting all holier-than-thou, trying to shame her for wanting to get an abortion, dating Peter right after Peter released that video of Manny (she even blamed Manny for it in the first place)... but Emma was also an icon. Her "You Gave Me A Social Disease" is probably the most famous line out of the entire series. Her relationship with Sean was sweet and epic (and I'm still mad she ended up with Spinner. Spinner? Really? Where the fuck did that even come from?). Her eating disorder may have only lasted a couple of episodes, but it also made her stand up against body shaming women (remember when she stripped in front of everyone in protest?).
8. Sean Cameron - The Next Generation
Yeah, he was all Eminem on the outside, but he was actually nothing like Eminem. Sean was a tortured soul who couldn't quite shake his brooding nature. Unlike Jay and Spinner, he was not involved with the tormenting of Rick (and falsely blaming Jimmy for the chicken feathers). He saved Emma's life, nearly getting shot himself, and had to live with the fact that he killed someone (yes, it was self-defence, but something so traumatic will mess anyone up). I'm not sure why the show shipped him off to the military instead of giving him a happily-ever-after with Emma... also, fuck Drake for not inviting him to be in his music video. Who do you think you are, Drake?
7. Zoë Rivas - The Next Generation/Next Class
Zoë began her time on Degrassi with a huge, catastrophic bang. She cyber-bullied Maya by creating a very inappropriate site about her, started Degrassi Nudes (then forced all the girls in Power Squad to participate, and pinned the entire operation on Frankie), slept with Zig as some form of revenge against Grace... But from this huge wreckage, she rose as a rather decent human being. She turned her life around, focused on her grades, became student body president, came out to her friends, and confessed her feelings to Rasha. Despite all of the horrors she unleashed onto Degrassi in the past, our hearts still ached for her at the very end, when her mother disowned her for being gay. Also, the fact that she managed to speak on her own behalf in the trial for her assault, proving to herself and all girls everywhere that no one ever deserves it no matter what, cemented Zoë's status as badass queen.
6. Holly J. Sinclair - The Next Generation
I didn't like Holly J. when she was first introduced. She began her time on Degrassi as somewhat of a sociopath - constantly controlling, insulting and manipulating Anya, constantly shamed Mia for being a teen mom, spreads a rumour of Manny being racist, is very obviously ashamed of being seen with Toby in public, tries to break up Sav and Anya, all the while making literally everything that ever happens about herself. Two major events changed her as a person - the "I Hate Holly J." page Alli started, and saving Spinner from getting killed by a crazy person with a gun (fun fact: that crazy person with a gun went on to play Patrick on Schitt's Creek). She went from being a pretty despicable person to a driven, powerful overachiever, and graduated on the top.
5. Paige Michalchuk - The Next Generation
It took me some time to figure out where to rank Paige. Personally, I never liked her. I found her irritating and overbearing, and I especially hated the way she treated Terri. But the self-proclaimed Queen Bee of Degrassi did have some very strong, very memorable moments that made her an incredibly iconic character. Her rape storyline was powerful and heartbreaking, and her relationship with Alex was wonderful. It's these two plots, and every moment that played out during each of them, that earned her a spot in the top 5.
4. Ellie Nash - The Next Generation
Sometimes I really felt for Ellie. With an alcoholic mother who nearly burned down the house, to a father in the army she barely ever saw, Ellie's life was never easy. When she revealed that she released pain through self-harm, it was tragic and tore me apart. When she fell in love with Craig only to have him lead her on over and over again, it was brutal to watch. Yes, she did some things that were rather annoying (constantly coming after Manny for dating Craig, getting mad at Caitlin for kissing her boyfriend when Caitlin had no idea they were even together, then insulting her on tv...) but she had a lot more good going for her than bad.
3. Marco Del Rossi - The Next Generation
Marco had a lot going for him. He was intelligent, handsome, a pretty great friend, and unlike Spinner, he didn't dance like a polar bear. His gradual coming out to his friends, then later his parents, and the many hardships he had to go through in the process (getting beaten by a bunch of homophobic psychos in an alley, having to deal with Spinner's blatant homophobia, Alex threatening to out him if he didn't drop out of the election, not being allowed to donate blood during a blood drive HE started) trying to find a way to tell his super closed-minded father) made for seriously perfect storytelling. It also affected all the characters around him, whether directly or indirectly, and paved the way for similar storylines in Degrassi's future.
2. Jimmy Brooks - The Next Generation
While most of his friends were off being shitty to one another, Jimmy was getting by just trying to make the best of every situation. When his hopes of becoming a professional basketball player were dashed, in the most gut-wretching episode of the series, he played the hand that was dealt to him by giving coaching a try, but then realized his love for art. Yes, there were some questionable moments (calling Ashley a slut? excuse you, Jimmy) but for the most part Jimmy was a good guy and a loyal friend. I'm not sure if I would've ever forgiven Spinner (actually I don't think I'd even be that guy's friend to begin with), but that's why Jimmy ranks so high here. He was above it, he knew how to move on.
1. Manny Santos - The Next Generation
From the infamous blue thong to the "I'm gonna be famous" video, there is no shortage of iconic Manny Santos moments throughout her run on Degrassi. Manny may have been a mess at times, but who wasn't? She was also always a good friend to Emma, usually being the voice of reason without ever judging or coming off as holier-than-thou - even when those around her were being impossible. Her abortion storyline was one of the most impactful and controversial plots of the entire series, so much so that it was banned in the US for quite some time. We all stood by her side when her father kicked her out of the house, when the student body shunned her for coming in between Craig and Ashley, and when her gross professor told her she'd never be a good actress (joke's on you professor, Manny's the newest Disney Princess). From her many stylish hats to her wonderfully-layered personality to her unwavering loyalty, there's no denying that Manny Santos is the Queen of Degrassi.
Jenna Middleton - The Next Generation
Imogen Moreno - The Next Generation
Joey Jeremiah - Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High/The Next Generation
Erica Farrell - Degrassi High
Grace Cardinal - Next Class
The 5 Most Overrated Character
Spinner Mason - The Next Generation
Craig Manning - The Next Generation
Zig Novak - The Next Generation/Next Class
Jay Hogart - The Next Generation
Mia Jones - The Next Generation
The 5 Most Underrated Characters
Connor Deslauriers - The Next Generation
Katie Matlin - The Next Generation
Alex Nuñez - The Next Generation
Zane Park - The Next Generation
Stephanie Kaye - Degrassi Junior High
Bonus: The 5 Worst Characters Ever
Peter Stone - The Next Generation
Sorry Peter, you gross loser. You mess with Manny, you mess with us all.
Derek Haig - The Next Generation
Remember when this psycho kicked Jane in the stomach? Him and Danny were friends at first - but fortunately Danny was never this much of a loser, nor a sexist, and grew out of being a complete idiot. Derek, on the other hand, stayed a useless piece of shit, then disappeared. No one cared.
Luke Baker - The Next Generation
Probably one of the most of vile, if not THE most vile, character Degrassi's ever had in its opening credits. Sexually assaulting a passed out Zoey, then trying to convince Becky it wasn't wrong, then lying about all of it in court... he was such a disgusting asshole.
Bruce the Moose - The Next Generation
Another dumbfuck who beat up Jane. Why did this character even exist?
Owen Milligan - The Next Generation
I really don't care that he became somewhat less of an asshole after he began dating Anya. It didn't erase his blatant transphobia and homophobia. This guy was apparently in 111 episodes of TNG, and yet fans couldn't care less about him.