Wanstrom & Associates
Behind-the-scenes on Degrassi: The Next Generation with (L-R) Luke Bilyk (Drew Torres), Ramona Milano (Audra Torres) and Jordan Todosey (Adam Torres)
Degrassi: The Next Generation’s Audra Torres has plenty to keep her busy from the time her alarm clock goes off in the morning to when she goes to bed at night. Chief among her responsibilities is taking care of her two teenagers, Drew and Grace. Not too long ago they were new to Degrassi High School and trying to fit in. That was particularly tough for Grace, a transgender who made the difficult decision to abandon her old life as Audra’s daughter and start fresh as Adam.
It has been a rocky road for Adam but he is doing much better. In fact, in next week’s episode of the hit Canadian TV drama, "Rock Your Body, Part 2" (airing August 9th on Teen Nick in the U.S.), he meets a girl named Katie and sparks fly. Adam believes their relationship has the potential to become serious, but only if his body was more masculine, so he looks into breast reduction surgery. When his mom refuses to approve the procedure, Adam finds a way to go behind her back.
These are delicate as well as tricky subjects for a TV series to tackle, and actress Ramona Milano, who plays mom Audra Torres, was delighted with how Degrassi presented them.
“I have to say that I haven’t as yet been displeased with the way that Degrassi has handled any of the Torres family issues,” says Milano. “The transgender topic is hard for most people to understand, regardless of sexual orientation, and I don’t think that Degrassi is trying to make a point and bang anyone over the head with it. They’ve done a great job of letting it live and breathe through a very three-dimensional person who’s facing all aspects of such an extraordinary situation, good and bad, while surrounded by people who represent society as a whole.
“Adam is surrounded by some individuals who think he’s a freak, others who are totally fine with it, and by people who love him but don’t necessarily understand him but are doing their best to remain open-minded about a very real topic that might make them squeamish. At the same time, life goes on and new developments unfold every day testing each person’s tolerance and acceptance levels.”
While Adam may feel like he is the only one struggling with this situation, Audra is equally frustrated and wants only the best for her child. “As usual, the challenge with portraying my character is that I am always in search of making her three-dimensional,” says Milano. “Audra may be humorless and a hard-ass, but she loves her kids and is very challenged by this whole topic. I want parents to recognize Audra’s struggle and hand it to her for trying because I know the teen viewers aren’t going to have any sympathy for her,” she says with a chuckle. “They’ll just see her as a bitch - case closed.”
“I always love working with Jordy,” says the actress. “She’s a pro. I definitely lucked out with her and Luke Bilyk [Drew Torres]. They are both fantastic and handle their jobs with uber professionalism. We have fun working together, too, which is great. At the very least I’m glad to get a laugh with them in-between takes because there’s not a lot of laughing going on between Audra and her kids onscreen,” jokes Milano.
In today’s world where more and more people feel alone, out of place or misunderstood because they see themselves as “different” from the majority, Degrassi should be commended for providing a platform for everyone to express their individuality.
“I think it’s important to give everyone a voice,” says Milano, “particularly those who are not considered a majority with a common viewpoint that is shared, or even worse, those who are just ignored completely and/or dismissed. I mean, when it’s done in a conscientious way that intrigues and provokes thought as well as consideration, that’s really the goal, isn’t it?
“Art reflects life and life reflects art. The fact that Degrassi has been a hit show internationally for over 30 years pretty much speaks for why its storylines are effective and successful. They certainly know how to do it right.”