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Teen Drama 'Degrassi' Introduces Its First Transgender Character

Teen Drama 'Degrassi' Introduces Its First Transgender Character

"Degrassi" marks ten seasons of surprise pregnancies, underage drinking, hearts being broken and universal angst-ridden rebellion in the new season starting on Monday with uncharted territory as it introduces its first transgender character. Jordan Todosey will play transgender student Adam. 

Degrassi marks ten seasons of surprise pregnancies, underage drinking, hearts being broken and universal angst-ridden rebellion in a new season starting on Monday by going into formerly uncharted territory as it introduces its first transgender character.

This season of the Canadian teen drama will break new ground with the introduction of new student, Adam, who identifies as male, despite being born female, according to CTV.

"I can truly say that when we decided to do this episode we realized this is brand new territory for us," producer, director and actor Stefan Brogren says. His character, Mr. Simpson will be returning as the principal of the school. 

"We've never even tried to breach this subject before. Of course we've dealt with gay and lesbian stories but you can't approach this the same way."

Playing Adam is Jordan Todosey (Life With Derek), a bright 15-year-old who chopped off her long blond hair, dyed it dark and assumed a boyish swagger in order to master the part. 

"The writing is good, they really go there with that kind of stuff and I think that this character can really speak for anybody who is outcast or bullied or transgender or anything like that," Todosey said after shooting a scene with a violent confrontation with school bullies. "I really hope the fans like Adam."

Anyone who has seen just one episode of the show knows that fragile topics are nothing new for the franchise, which began in 1980. The show started as The Kids of Degrassi Street, followed by Degrassi Junior HighDegrassi High and Degrassi: The Next Generation.

The show airs in both the US and Canada, and created controversy with Degrassi High in the US when a pregnant teen made her way through protesters outside an abortion clinic. Canada allowed the full episode to air, while the US aired an edited version that never revealed whether or not the girl went through with the procedure. 

However, this new episode is slated to play on both TeenNick in the US, and MuchMusic in Canada. Brogren assures that every effort was made in handling the transgender story-line carefully. Writers consulted with advocacy groups to ensure accurate presentation of the issue. 

"It really sort of threw us for a loop because the writers did some amazing research, both networks have been in touch with gay, lesbian, transgender organizations to make sure they like the script. We want to make sure that we're not hurting the subject matter," he says. "This will be an ongoing character, this will be someone who'll be around his whole high school experience, so we want to make sure that this character is loved (and) develops a fanbase."

As defined by The National Center for Transgender Equality, the word transgender is an umbrella term referring to people "who live differently than the gender presentation and roles expected of them by society."

Despite being rarely discussed, and an issues that adults often have problems understanding, Todosey expects the weighted topic to resonate with the youth audience. "It's well-written. I feel like it really does speak to kids and I think it's a great role to really open up, show people what transgenders are like." She describes her character as a person who "was born physically as a girl but between the ears, he feels like he's a guy."

"It lets the audience walk a mile in the character's shoes and that's really good."

Episodes set to air August 11 and 12 will have things coming to a head for Adam as his secret is discovered by the school. Jean-Marc Genereux, ballroom dancer and  So You Think You Can Dance Canada judge, will also have a guest role. 

The 10th season begins Monday, and will air on a special summer schedule with the first 24 episodes air four days a week and repeats in a two-hour block each Friday. The show will go back to airing weekly in September. Brogren explains that "it changes how we write scripts, how we shoot them and you're getting a lot more of an elongated story throughout those 24 episodes. We don't want to call it a soap opera, but it definitely has a lot more cliff-hanger going on."

Preceding the new season is D:NYC -- Degrassi Takes Manhattan, the TV movie airing on MuchMusic this Friday.

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