Every few seasons, Degrassi: The Next Generation smartly graduates its seniors and brings in a new crop of “grade nines” (freshmen). But what’s really interesting is that one of the newbies isn’t new to the world of Degrassi at all: Alex Steele, who hardcore fans know as little Angela Jeremiah from seasons 1-5. Here’s the twist: Now she’ll be playing a new character, Tori Santamaria.
Oh, and another six-degrees-of-separation thing: Alex is the younger sister of Cassie Steele, who played Manny Santos from seasons 1-9.
According to the Degrassi fan wiki,
Tori’s parents have indulged her every whim with a stream of dance lessons, kid modeling jobs, and beauty pageants. Having never heard “no,” Tori enters grade nine believing she’s the best at everything.
Fansite Degrassi Experience first guessed that Alex would be (re)joining the show back in January, when they noticed Alex and Cassie were trading tweets about auditions and nervousness. Then in mid-August, Degrassi executive producer Stephen Stohn tweeted, It would’ve been to difficult story-wise to bring back @alexzasteele as Angela, so we’re bringing her back anyway: as Tori!
Many fans on the wiki are perturbed that the writers decided to create a whole new character. After all, Angela is the same age as the other grade-niners, and maybe there would even be an excuse to bring back Craig. But for as many fans as there are complaining, there are an equal number telling their peers to get over it and embrace the new character.
It sounds like the Degrassi Powers That Be have the same attitude. A few months ago, series creator Linda Schuyler explained how they ended up with their alum:
We created the character Tori and put out an open casting call. Out of all the actresses that auditioned, Alex Steele was the best. We debated not casting her because she had previously played Angela Jeremiah, but decided to go with the best actress for the part.
Degrassi definitely isn’t the first show to reuse actors they like. Gilmore Girls was all ready to have Sherilyn Fenn star in the Milo Ventimiglia spin-off, but when that didn’t take off, they brought her in as April’s mom. Buffy even made a joke out of the fact that Kali Rocha played two very different characters separated by two seasons and 120 years.