Friday, October 26, 2012

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Stefan Brogren On His Career and 300 Episodes of DEGRASSI

Producers Stefan Brogren, Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn celebrate 300
episodes of DEGRASSI. Brogren also directs has has been playing Archie
'Snake' Simpson since the original DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH series.
Stefan Brogren has been playing Archie "Snake” Simpson since the first DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH series. The current DEGRASSI airs its 300th episode tonight 25 years after Brogren first played the character. These days he's also directing and producing DEGRASSI as well as THE L.A. COMPLEX. We Love Soaps caught up with Brogren today to talk about his career and the latest DEGRASSI milestone.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Congratulations on 300 episodes of DEGRASSI. When you were shooting the original series, did you ever think the shows would leave such a lasting impact or have such a successful comeback?
Stefan Brogren: I was pretty much convinced that first year when I was 13 years old doing it that it was a one year summer job and we wouldn't come back for a second season. We were having so much fun making it as kids I don't think we realized we actually had people that wanted to watch it again and again. It is a ridiculously happy experience that we're hitting 300 episodes.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: The show has always been topical and well-written but I think casting real teenagers to play teens makes the show more relatable. Do you think that added to the DEGRASSI success?
Stefan Brogren: It makes all the difference in the world. I think an audience member can tell when a 16-year-old is being played by a 16-year-old and it not a 27-year-old. They can see themselves in the characters There's a certain amount of innocence that comes with that actor. They might necessarily have gone through what the character has gone through in life and they have research it and experience it for themselves for the first time. That gives you a much different experience than someone coming in with 5 to 10 years of acting experience and already having experienced those things several years prior. So there's something to be said about finding young talent the age of the characters they play.

Stefan Brogren in the DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH
opening from 1987
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I have to admit I'll never love anything more than that "Everybody Wants Something" video by The Zits. That's my personal favorite 'Snake' moment.
Stefan Brogren: [laughs] You know, only in retrospect now do I enjoy it. I remember back then watching it being absolutely humiliated afterwards. That was part of the charm of it all. I remember when we made it we were having so much fun, but then saw it a couple of years later and was like, "Oh my God." It just feels so true. That's what a bunch of high school kids would do to put together a rock video for their band. It would be that rough.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you have a favorite 'Snake' moment that stands out in your mind?
Stefan Brogren: In THE NEXT GENERATION there was a moment where I serenaded Spike in the mall in a tuxedo, "Sometimes When We Touch." It was such a super cheesy moment but I thought it was a lot of fun to do because it was so over the top. I really enjoyed that. It has to be in the Top 5 for me.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Were you always interested in directing and producing or did that come later?
Stefan Brogren: After we finished the original DEGRASSI, I went to theater school in the States to see if I was capable of playing anything else or doing anything else. Once I finished that I started developing an interest for writing and being on the other side of the camera. I made with other people coming out of school that were in for directing and film making and we started making our own little projects. One of them was actually good enough we got it on IFC. Linda Schuyler, the creator of DEGRASSI, saw it and was extremely impressed. She gave myself and Samir Rehem, who directed it, several opportunities with little things that sort of orbited the show DEGRASSI like documentaries and webisodes. They threw that out there to see if we were interested and we jumped on it. Now we both direct on the show, and I've been lucky enough to become one of the producers on the show.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You also work on THE L.A. COMPLEX as a director and producer.
Stefan Brogren: The funny thing is that's opposite world of DEGRASSI, but the one thing that is similar is there's a truth to it and an edge to it that only a company like Epitome can do. The writers, including Martin gerro, the head writer on the show, have full reign to go as far as they want to go to try to push boundaries, but at the same time keep that audience entertained. I don't think there's a lot of companies around like Epitome that would allow shows like DEGRASSI and L.A. COMPLEX to really push boundaries.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: DEGRASSI seems as strong as ever. What do you think the future holds? Will the show go on and on?
Stefan Brogren: I think one of things is we have a team here in front of and being the camera, the writers, that have a constant need and want to make this show fresh. We would easily get bored if we just sat on our laurels and allowed this show to run on auto-pilot. We want to see the show progress, and mature, and go to other levels and keep growing. That's one of the things that keeps up interested and still doing it, and at the same time, keeps our fans going, "I'm getting something new than I got last season." It's about progression, and we just love doing the show.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What does the future hold for you? Are there things you haven't done yet that you still want to try?
Stefan Brogren: God knows. I'm here year-round basically at this point. We have a lot of other projects we're going to start developing in the next little bit. Epitome is one of those companies that offer so many opportunities in terms of exploration. I'll definitely be with DEGRASSI for a long time to come, and with this company. We'll see what happens in the future but it's a pretty amazing place to work.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: We're around the same age. I'm thinking we'll see Snake's great grandchildren on the show someday.
Stefan Brogren: [laughs] It's bound to happen.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: If you could go back 25 years to the beginning of your career and give yourself a piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?
Stefan Brogren: Hmm, I think it would be never look a gift horse in the mouth. You have to look at every opportunity as an opportunity to grow. Even though it might seem like something out of your comfort zone. For me, I might have shied back from taking certain opportunities or pushing forward. There's nothing wrong with failure so it's always good to take those chances.

Roger Newcomb is a producer and writer in New York City. Aside from co-hosting WE LOVE SOAPS TV, he has written and produced a full-length indie film, Manhattanites, and two radio soap operas, SCRIPTS & SCRUPLES and ROCKLAND COUNTY. He has also made acting appearances in indie web series IMAGINARY BITCHES and EMPIRE. He has consulted on numerous indie soaps, worked as a producer on the first two seasons of Emmy-nominated THE BAY, and is executive producer on the indie short May Mercy Lie, which is currently making the rounds at film festivals.


  1. The Zits ruled. I will be watching tonight.

  2. Congrats on DEGRASSI's 300th. I was a fan from as far back as THE KIDS ON DEGRASSI STREET. I stopped watching NEXT GENERATION after the horrible "Goes Hollywood" TV-movie because I felt the spirit of the original show(s) was gone.