INTERVIEW: Paula Brancati of ‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’

Since I can’t get enough Degrassi: The Next Generation, I thought I would interview Paula Brancati who played Jane, a rebellious feminist in seasons 7 and on. Now to be honest I kinda stopped watching around season 5 and 6 as I got engulfed in life and had no cable for a couple years. But after talking to Paula about the last couple seasons, she made me realize I missed some of the best parts of Degrassi. Now, I am on a Degrassi kick catching up (through Netflix) on episodes and loving it.

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In addition to being on Degrassi, Paula told me of all the wonderful things going on in her life; from singing on the road with her brother, starring in plays and musicals, and of course making movies. Most recently she released a movie on ABC Family called Desperately Seeking Santa, which if you did not get to see over the holidays you can now view on Hulu.  Later on in the Interview we talk briefly of a independent film she is starring in called Moon Point, directed by Sean Cisterna, which sadly is not yet in the States but that’s another blog. ;)

So, let’s get to know this fun bubbly talented young woman, shall we.

Could you describe to us your character Jane, what she is like in the show for those fans that never watched the later Degrassi episodes?

Totally, well I am off the show now but Jane came in at the beginning of season 7.  I was on the show for three years and then we sort of did this final Degrassi Takes Manhattan. I think it was called “The Heat Is On” in the states? It was called  Degrassi Takes Manhattan: The Heat is On  for you guys and that was my characters closing story line. We got to go shoot in New York and that was very cool.

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So I came on in season 7 as sort of a love interest for Spinner (Shane Kippel) right when he was getting diagnosed with cancer. He was sort of harboring this secret and she was a transfer student from Lake Hurst, which was the rival school nearby. Everyone there kind of stirred up mischief with all the new characters at school. So what started as a love interest story line sort of snowballed into a series regular, which is awesome! A lot of fans would know Jane as Spinner’s girlfriend but  in season 8 is when I really started doing a lot of her own episodes. There is a great episode in season 8, called “Fight the Power,” where Jane joins the boys football team. It’s really cool because she is the best player on the team and a couple of players are really threatened by it, so they actually beat her up. It’s really dark in that she gets really injured but fights the couch to stay on the team. She becomes the advocate for female empowerment and becomes the MVP player later in the season.  She over comes all these obstacles. We also learn in season 8 that she recalls memories of her father abusing her when he comes back in the picture in this two-part episode called “Jane Says”. That is a good episode to go back to, it shows a lot of her history. Very emotional but she over comes that as well.

In season 9, she still with Spinner but it’s kind of her coming out year because she is a little naughty with another boy, Declan (Landon Liborion). She joins the band and she is singing and we finally see her evolve. When she first came on the show she was always dressed in

cameo wear, like dreadlock hair, and dark eye makeup. We kept that dreads but just as people’s fashion evolves in real life, hers did to. We always had that nose ring; I don’t actually have my nose pierce, that’s a Jane thing.  She a little sexier in season 9 and sort of feeling good because she has this secret that she is harboring and this time, it’s because she cheated on Spinner.  Things start to unravel in “The Heat is On” and that is the final chapter to her story and that’s a really cool ending.

Now I feel like I have gone over her entire story arch [laughs]. She was such a great character to play and I don’t know if she was supposed to be around as long as she was but it was really nice to come on and not know what story lines were coming up next.

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Don’t you think those are the best characters, the ones that don’t start out as leads but people end up really liking them and sort of demanding more?

Yea, you’re right!  They sort of come on as the girlfriend, just as a catalyst for a plot. But then fans like them and especially with a show like Degrassi with so many characters you know they can easily change it up. I feel that the writers always paid attention to the message boards and sort of seeing what kind of fan responses come in and who resonates with people. The response I get from when I go to the States, even here in Toronto, but more so in the States is such a loud response and it’s so amazing. They’re very sweet and it’s sort of a cult following. I started tweeting actually and that sort of took over my Paula Brancati twitter. So that is I tweeting for anybody who is reading this (@paulabrancati). See, I thought I would never twitter and now I am full on. It’s a really nice site because it’s a way to hear from the fans. A lot of then are from the states and they write really great things. Someone wrote that they re-watched the “Fight the Power” episode just to inspire them and that’s really cool because it’s testament to the show and the writers and all of the pieces coming together for an episode that ends up being really special.

You mentioned you sang in a band in the show. Do you sing in real life?
jane singingThat was totally me who recorded all those songs in the show. We did about six songs throughout the season. It was a very collaborative process and I have never been in a studio to professionally record so that was really exciting for me. You can still get the soundtrack on iTunes.  It’s got some really catchy songs.

In real life, the music that I sing normally is lot like the oldies. I perform a lot with my brother who is a great jazz pianist. We do a lot of throw back and covers like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder and put our own twist on it.  We perform a lot in within Toronto. We just went to Italy this last summer and performed there. An album is hopefully on the horizon but we will see.

I am also really interested in musical theater and have done that my whole life, singing and playing piano. I started with community musical theater and then started doing professional theater in Toronto three years ago.

My passions are all in the arts but I normally have to focus on one area at a time to really excel in it but music is a definite love of mine.

What was your favorite play or role that you have played in theater?

Actually, I’ve only have done like three professional shows which ended up being a life changing experience for me. My first musical was at the Elgin and Winter Garden Theater, which is this beautiful theater in Toronto.  I played Cinderella but it was called A Fractured Fairy Tail like a pantomime. There were a lot of Motown songs in it so I felt right at home singing the songs I love. This was not your traditional musical.

I did this great play called Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead and the writer of it came to see it, his name isBurt V. Royal. He went on to write Easy A with Emma Stone and a bunch of his scripts just got sold to Fox Searchlight. We actually just did a one night only reading of it for The Fridge Benefit Series. It was nice to go back and re-visit the role. It’s like an older Charlie Brown story, where all the characters are teenagers but they all got serious issues. I played Van’s sister who is Lucy and she is a pyromaniac. For anyone who has seen Charlie Brown, this version is a little intense. Lucy for example burns the little red head’s hair off. We went to New York for the weekend and he got different cast members from different cities.  We performed at the Laurie Beechmen Theater, which is a very New York kind of feel. Joan Rivers was performing her show right after ours. It was just a surreal moment. Playing Lucy was probably the coolest role I’ve ever played on for TV and for stage.

One last thing, there is a new movie that you are in that I have been reading about called Moon Point. It looks so cute. Can you please tell us what it is about and where we can find it?

Moon Point was a movie I shot last year, in and around Toronto. Just been shopping it around Canada at different festivals and positive responses from all. We have a distributer now who released it in the New Year in Toronto and out west. We submitted to Sundance and other American festivals, which would open up that opportunity for Americans to get to see it but we understand they are hard to get into. It such a sweet charming movie with a fantastic soundtrack, we have tons of amazing comedians who do cameos. We are doing a lot of online content and people can go to MoonPointMovie.com, were also on twitter @moonpointmovie, Facebook, and we’ve been doing a lot of press and interviews. Hopefully you guys will see it. Maybe if there is a big response online it could help us get to the States. We are just so proud of it and it’s really very funny.

It’s about a 24 year old guy who is ambition-less, doesn’t have a job, doesn’t drive and the love of his life is working in the town over, she is shooting a movie. So he hooks a wagon on his disabled friends wheel chair to go confess his love. They meet me on the way and I squish into the wagon and that’s our means of transportation on this little road trip. Hilarity ensues and we meet a lot of crazy characters. It’s a very sweet movie and I think there is something for everyone in it. I hope you guys get to see it.

It will be on DVD at some point but maybe it will be on TV on the channels Movie Central eventually but we would like exhaust all our options first.

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Follow Paula on twitter @paulabrancanti.

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Moon Point will officially be in theaters for a week long run in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on February 3rd – February 9th!
AMC Movie Theater at Yonge and Dundas Square
www.moonpoint.com

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You can follow Sailor Mizz on twitter @MzVolpe.

 

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Written by Sailor Mizz