OMG, a Degrassi Star was THIS Close to Being Zac Efron’s Little Brother!
Yup, you read that right! Ricardo Hoyos, a.k.a. Zig Novak on Degrassi: The Next Generation and soon-to-be Netflix series, Degrassi: Next Class, was one baseball catch away from becoming Little Zac Efron… Sort of. All jokes aside, the 20-year-old Canadian actor just missed starring alongide him in Charlie St. Cloud, where he would have played Zac’s little brother. How cool is that?!
Ricardo, along with his Degrassi costars, Ana Golja (Zoe Rivas) and Sara Waisglass (Frankie Hollingsworth), visited us to fill us in on tons of more fun stories like that, plus all about how pumped they are to start streaming new episodes on Netflix this year. Whether you are a longtime Degrassi fan, or just jumping on the bandwagon (what the heck have you been waiting for?!), we have everything you’ll want to know before it’s big premiere this Friday!
Degrassi is iconic and has been on the air for such a long time. When was your first recollection of its legacy?
Ricardo Hoya: “I can’t remember a time I didn’t know what Degrassi was.”
Sara Waisglass: “It just seeps into your life. You just figure out what it is, especially if you’re Canadian.”
Ana Golia:: “Exactly, it’s just part of growing up.”
There are some risqué topics, especially a few years ago when it was more taboo. Were you allowed to watch it when you were younger?
SW: “My parents couldn’t stop me (laughs).”
RH: “My parents could stop me (laughs).”
AG: “I personally was too scared to watch the show. I didn’t watch it until I was about fifteen or sixteen. I was afraid to talk about those issues and real life. That’s why I would always watch shows like, American Idol, and talent-based shows.”
How did it feel to be starting a new chapter of a show that already has such a big history and following?
RH: “It is a lot of pressure, but in the best way.”
SW: “You feel like you’re worth something.”
RH: “You feel like you’re in a position where people believe you. It’s a huge responsibility to be a part of, and you just want to deliver.”
Degrassi touched on issues that people were too afraid to talk about; do you think there are any other shows today that do the same job addressing those subjects?
SW: “I think something that’s really important that Degrassi does that I have yet to see other shows do, is actually use kids to play the roles of high school students. I think that’s something that makes it a lot more heart-breaking when you see these issues being tackled. For example, in Pretty Little Liars they’re all like, 30-years-old and playing high school students. I see that a lot. I’m seventeen and I think that that definitely is a reason why people are attracted to the show and it makes it that much more hard-hitting.”
AG: “When the characters are going through these things, we are in our personal lives as well. We’re just going on a giant journey, essentially.”
RH: “Also, the environment that it is shown in — high school — makes it different from most shows. I don’t think a lot of the topics that we talk about are on most high school shows with young people portraying it. It makes it really unique.”
SW: “I think the only show that comes to mind is Glee, because they did a good job of being educational and also showing acceptance of everybody. They didn’t use youngins, though (laughs).”
Are there any instances from this season that you think would be easy for teens to relate to?
SW: “I think my characters plot; she’s feeling so sad and doesn’t really have a reason to be sad, she’s just feeling it. She has to deal with that and figure out her own ways to be happy. I think that’s really important and something that everyone goes through. That’s easy to relate to.”
AG: “I agree, even with my character Zoe. Her issue is pretty universal, because she’s just struggling with not knowing who she is. She’s getting down to the core of who she is and what matters most to her.”
If you had one piece of advice for high schoolers, what would it be?
SW: “Do not surround yourself with people who make you go home and question yourself.”
AG: “You should never have to try to fit in. Always surround yourself with the right people.”
RH: “I would say, don’t take anything too, too seriously. High school is only the beginning of your life, and you have the whole rest of your life to be and do what you want.”
Being young and having to play characters with issues you may have dealt with, is it hard to put yourself in a place that is so vulnerable?
RH: “The crew that we work with is such a family, and it’s essentially been unchanged since I’ve been there, which is about five years now. You become so comfortable with these people, and usually right off the bat you don’t start off with really heavy stuff. They slowly work you up towards that. You get to a point where you’re very comfortable with these people. You might get nervous on the day if you have a big scene, but you know that everyone on set has your back, including the actors as well. We’re all very close, so it’s the best environment to have to do something like that in.”
AG: “Absolutely, but also going back to some of these sensitive topics, there’s a fine line of how you approach certain story-lines. One thing that we bank on, is the fact that they’re characters, and I think fans need to keep that in mind at the end of the day. We’re playing roles, and they don’t necessarily need to follow exactly what our characters do, and look up to them in that sense because they’re fictional.”
What real-life experiences that you’ve had make your portrayal of your characters easier?
RH: “I don’t have many similarities with the big challenges that my character faces, but as far as the day-to-day scenes that I have to portra, they are usually the scenes that I find the hardest. When you have to sit and have a tedious conversation, those scenes are the core scenes about why Degrassi is so realistic, and that’s where I relate the most with my character.”
SW: “For me, my character really cares about her family, and I obviously care a lot about my family. The scenes where I get with my mom are the scenes that hold a lot of weight to me. My mom at home as helped me with so much. My on-screen mom is blonde and so funny, just like my mom, and I know whenever I do scenes with her, it feels so natural because I feel like I’m in my own room at home with my mom. It’s really special and always feels refreshing.”
AG: “Zoe is a really dark character and really different. She comes from a dark past and broken family, so I’ve just built her.”
Is it hard for you to ever get out of that mindset when you leave set?
AG: “I’ve had times, especially during the assault story-lines, where it really affected me. I’d go home and be balling every night. I’ve found that when we’re filming, I get really sassy.”
RH: “Sure, blame it on the character (laughs).”
AG: “I’ve always been sassy, but it becomes a part of me (laughs).”
Romance is obviously a thing that people in high school deal with. Was your first kiss on set really awkward?
SW: “Honestly, I thought mine was so cute and fun, and it still goes down as one of my favorite days on set. I remember not even speaking to him yet or even knowing who he was, and he was across the table from me and we were reading through. It said, ‘They Kiss. It’s Hot.’ I was like, ‘Ahhh!’ But, I remember the day of we bonded so much. It was freezing cold that day and I had to be in a bikini and it was like -7 degrees and I saw snow that morning. After we would do the scene, we would run into this pool house with heaters and warm up, so we learned so much about each other and laughed so hard. My first on-screen kiss was something I’m really going to remember because it was such a great experience.”
AG: “My first on-screen kiss was also my first real-life kiss, so it was terrifying. My character Zoe and Miles were both supposed to be pros and it was supposed to be super sensual. The director told us to practice, so he made us go into the prop closet and gave us a few minutes. We started kissing, and someone walked in on us (laughs). We were like, ‘This is not what it looks like! We were told to do this!’ That’s one of the most embarrassing stories; really funny, but so embarrassing (laughs).”
RH: “I was pretty young, about fifteen and still pretty awkward in general. The girl that I was kissing was gorgeous. We had worked together all day, and it was the very last shot of the day, So, we were in a rush to get it, and I was so nervous and scared for it because I didn’t know how you were supposed to do it. It’s not like kissing normally, but eventually it happened and we had to do it a couple thousand more times. The weirdest part is when they’re setting you up from the shot.”
What advice would you give to someone about their fist kiss?
SW: “I have great advice, because it’s the advice I follow (laughs). My first kiss, I remember I was so nervous, but the most important thing is calming yourself down and letting whatever happens, happen. You can’t force anything. It’s a two-person score.”
AG: “Go with the flow; it takes two to tango.”
When it got announced that Degrassi was being picked up by Netflix, was there anything that changed as you were filming because it’s now going to be a streaming show?
RH: “I wouldn’t say that the format has changed, except for the first shot of the show, which is stylized to cater more to Netflix. As far as changes we have made this season from last season, it’s that Netflix has given us a freedom to be more authentic that we have been able to in the past couple of years. We’re able to be a little more risqué with what we say, and in turn able to tell these stories in a more authentic light as opposed to being vulgar for the sake of being vulgar.”
Who are some old celebrities from the show that you would want to come back?
SW and AG: “Nina (Dobrev).”
SW: “She’s just remained so amazingly humble and sweet. This was her last season of Vampire Diaries and when she wrote her post on Instagram, she was like, ‘Before this I was just a little Degrassi girl from Canada.’ I love that she knows where she’s from.”
AG: “She knows her roots and hasn’t lost sight of who she is.”
SW: “All the Pretty Little Liars were staying in the same hotel as us, and I said if Shay Mitchell came down, I would have been like, ‘Hey, we were on the same show. Follow me on Twitter.'”
Who’s a celebrity that if you met, that you would freak out over?
SW: “Kristen Wiig. If I met her I think I would possibly die.”
AG: “I’d have the exact same reaction for Meryl Streep. She is my Queen.”
RH: “I really like Tina Fey.”
Have you ever met anyone who you’ve lost your cool in front of?
AG: “I lost my cool when I met Eddie Redmayne…”
SW: “You met him?!”
AG: “Yeah we were looking at someone’s dog on the street, and then I looked up and it was his dog.”
RH: “I met Zac Efron because I did an audition with him for Charlie St. Cloud, back when I was about thirteen. He’s very cool. In the audition room we had a baseball and had a catch together. There was a nice feeling of brotherly warmness there.”
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner… Do you guys have any fun plans??
SW: “My friend and I established a tradition a couple of years ago and we watch romantic movies and just stuff out faces with brownies. Last year we went to my favorite crepes place and just had good times.”
What are some good rom-com movies to watch?
SW: “You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle ,Titanic…”
Do you have any really awkward dating story?
SW: “I got stood up, so that was probably my worst date experience. We planned it three weeks in advance. I went there and was waiting around for him. After a while I texted him and he told me he couldn’t come. I went home and was so devastated. He didn’t talk to me for four months after that. The only time he talked to me was when I was on some public appearance and he was like, ‘Hey.'”
Speaking of, has anyone who you weren’t really friends with tried to reach out to you since you’ve been on the show?
SW: “You think it won’t happen, and then it does. I’m always like, the more the merrier and trust all the wrong people.”
AG: “I have a small group of core people in my life, and I just keep it that way.”
SW: “Once someone breaks your trust, then you realize who’s really there for you.”
RH: “The biggest change I saw was when I was in high school. After I got the part, I had summer vacation and then came back for Grade 11. All of a sudden, older girls wanted to talk to me. I knew them, but they would never have talked to me before all this. I liked the extra attention from them, but realized that it kind of sucked.”