'Degrassi' Co-Creator Kit Hood Dead; Fans And Series Stars Pay Tribute

TORONTO — For “Degrassi” star Stacie Mistysyn, series co-creator Christopher (Kit) Hood was like another parent in some ways.

When Mistysyn performed in “Cabaret” in high school, Hood was there to support her, along with fellow “Degrassi” co-creator Linda Schuyler.

And when Mistysyn needed advice on whether she should do a certain film in her post-“Degrassi” days, Hood was there to help.

Mistysyn, who was on several incarnations of “Degrassi,” is among those sharing memories of Hood after news of his death earlier this week in Nova Scotia.

“He was one of the few mentors I had growing up, and so I appreciated him taking the time for me,” Mistysyn said Friday in a phone interview, noting that she and other cast members felt lucky to have reconnected with Hood in recent years after not seeing him for a long time.

“He was kind of like a second dad in a way, but one that you feel kind of estranged from.”

An obituary on the website of the Cole Harbour Funeral Home and Crematorium in Nova Scotia says Hood died suddenly at his home in West Lawrencetown, N.S., on Monday.

Born in England, Hood emigrated to Canada in his mid-20s and made a career as a writer, director, editor and producer.

In 1976, he and Schuyler, a former teacher, founded the Toronto-based Playing With Time Inc., which produced the Canadian TV series “The Kids of Degrassi Street,” “Degrassi Junior High” and “Degrassi High.”

The series became cult sensations with their look at the fictional lives of youth in downtown Toronto, from the light-hearted antics to the deeper issues that weren’t featured in many other youth-focused programs.

In a statement, Schuyler said Hood had a “trademark impish charm, and a kid’s-eye view” and never let “the camera look down on” their young protagonists.

“Kit’s intimate and respectful style of directing, small of scale and richly layered, was integral to the success of the series through ‘Degrassi Junior High’ and ‘Degrassi High,”’ Schuyler said.

“To this day, his style is deeply imbedded in ’Degrassi’s DNA. My love and support goes to his whole family. Kit’s devotion to his family was always steadfast and strong.” 

The cast of "Degrassi: The Next Generation," a popular spin-off series that was spawned after Kit Hood and Linda schuyler's original series.  (Photo: Everett Collection)

“The Kids of Degrassi Street,” which ran from 1979 to 1986 and aired on CBC TV, won an International Emmy Award.

“Degrassi Junior High,” which ran from ’87 to ’89 on CBC and also won an International Emmy, was heralded for portraying the complex issues facing teens - from teen pregnancy to shoplifting and relationships.

And “Degrassi High,” which ran from ’89 to ’91, also tackled heavy topics including abortion and suicide.

Those series spawned other internationally acclaimed incarnations produced by Schuyler’s Epitome Pictures Inc., including “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” which helped launched the careers on rapper Drake (nee Aubrey Graham) and Hollywood star Nina Dorbrev. 

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Other titles in the franchise include “Degrassi: Next Class,” the documentary series “Degrassi Talks” and the made-for-TV movie “School’s Out!”

“Growing up on the show, he was someone I felt I could trust,” said Mistysyn, who was on “The Kids of Degrassi Street” as a character named Lisa and then played Caitlin Ryan on “Degrassi Junior High,” “Degrassi High” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

“He was good with us. We felt that he was a fun person who you just feel comfortable with, and obviously that’s very important, especially when you’re a kid who’s not used to being in front of the camera.”

Mistysyn said she and other cast members lost touch with Hood for a while after he left the franchise but eventually saw him again at gatherings including Degrassi Palooza last summer. She was happy to see he was living a peaceful and quiet life in Nova Scotia, where he had a bee colony on his property and made his own honey.

“It was just really nice that he wanted to be a part of my life after all these years,” she said.

“I think he felt that people didn’t necessarily associate him with the legacy of ‘Degrassi’ anymore, because he sold the rights to Linda Schuyler, so I think it was really good for him to have fans tell him how much they appreciated him being a part of it since he founded the original show.”

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Hood’s obituary says while he stepped away from professional video production in his later years, he would still film things that caught his interest. It says he loved the ocean and nature, and spent the last two decades of his life living on Nova Scotia’s Atlantic coast.

“He also shared this love with his two daughters, Georgia and Fenella, and his grandson, Sylvester,” says the obituary.

“He is survived by his wife Agnes Malouf and her daughter July, and his sister Nicola and her husband and two sons in Australia.”

Schuyler noted that Hood was attracted to character-rich dramas with their naturalistic and intimate style.

His “contribution to Degrassi has been invaluable and enduring,” she said.

“Kit’s quick wit, easy charm and ‘no b.s.’ attitude will be greatly missed.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2020.

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'Degrassi' Crew

So happy, so fearless, so optimistic. It only took a few episodes for these bright-eyed teens to understand the rigours of life. Same goes for the generations of kids who followed in their footsteps down the hallowed halls of Degrassi.

Snake ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High," "Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

All things considered, Snake got off pretty easy. Aside from much personal anguish about his height and his inability to talk to women, his worst experience had to have been finding the body of a guy who committed suicide in the school bathroom. As we all know, he's now Mr. Simpson, principal of Degrassi. As an adult on "The Next Generation," Principal Simpson also battled cancer.

Joey ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High," "Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

Oh, Joey. So nerdy and irritating. Above all, Joey just wanted to be cool, and he failed almost every single time. From buying condoms for the first time to losing his virginity to walking naked through the cafeteria on a dare, Joey was involved in almost every major plotline. He ended up cheating on long-term love Caitlin, and he accidentally got Tessa (the girl he cheated with) pregnant. In the next generation of "Degrassi," Joey has a daughter and runs his own car dealership. Hey, that's better than what most people thought he'd achieve.

Wheels ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

Probably the most tragic character ever on "Degrassi," everything bad happened to Wheels: his parents gave him up for adoption, his adoptive parents died in a horrible car crash with a drunk driver, he was sexually abused, he did poorly at school, and then he himself was the drunk driver in a car accident that killed a baby and severely injured a dear friend. Last we saw Wheels, he was being taken to prison in the back of a police car. Even sadder is the real-life mirroring of these tragedies: Neil Hope, the actor who played Wheels, died alone and unnoticed in 2007, allegedly a drifter in southern Ontario.

Caitlin ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High," "Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

Caitlin was the obvious crush for so many guys at Degrassi, and she got into some rough predicaments because of it. When she dated Claude, she got arrested for trespassing at a chemical plant, and then when he bailed on her, she cut him out of her life. Then he committed suicide and blamed her in a suicide note. Caitlin also got burned by "real" first love Joey Jeremiah, who treated her like gold, but then proceeded to cheat on her while Caitlin worked all summer. She and Joey reconnected as adults, but nothing ever lasted between them. She ended up becoming a journalist.

Dwayne ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

In a contentious plotline (especially for the '80s), Dwayne was infected with HIV after having unprotected sex. At the time, it was a popular misconception that only gay men contracted the virus, so Dwayne was subjected to ceaseless teasing and ostracization, which is ironic considering he was the bully on the show. Dwayne takes out his anger on Joey Jeremiah, who doesn't understand what's going on. After Dwayne admits his HIV status, Joey ends up being one of the more supportive people at Degrassi. We don't see much of Dwayne after his admission, but he was definitely a groundbreaking character.

LD ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

Poor LD. High school as a tomboy can't be easy. In a cruel twist of fate, LD's mother died when she was very young, so she was raised by her father and thus adopted a lot of male habits. She developed leukemia and was forced to stay in the hospital. She lost all of her hair, and eventually we didn't see any more of her.

Lucy ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

Lucy almost made it out. Almost. Aside from a lecherous teacher who inappropriately touched her and a boyfriend who mistreated her, Lucy's Degrassi experience was one of success. Lucy's semi-luck came to an end when a drunken Wheels got in a car crash -- she was a passenger in the car -- and she suffered serious eye damage.

Spike ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High," "Degrassi: TNG")

Spike (a.k.a. Christine) was the best. Her hair is basically impossible to imitate -- not that you'd want to -- but Spike was also one of the first-ever pregnant teenagers on TV. She was a groundbreaker in that she refused to transfer to another school when the teachers found out she was pregnant. She gave birth to her child (who you all know and love -- Emma) and remained at Degrassi. Spike was an outspoken feminist, and was notably against animal experimentation. Think of her as the badass Canadian Jesse Spano ("Saved By The Bell").

Stephanie K. ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

Any Canadian kid who grew up in the '80s and early '90s will know the phrase: "All the way with Stephanie K!" All Stephanie wanted was to have male attention, so she went above and beyond, changing out of her modest clothing into ... erm ... revealing outfits in the girls' bathroom. As a result, everyone at Degrassi thought she was "easy," and that became her rep, hence the catchphrase. Poor Stephanie never really recovered, and we never heard from her much after her brief tenure as school student body president.

The Twins (Erica and Heather) ("Degrassi Junior High," "Degrassi High")

Oh, the twins. So classic. Always interfering in other people's business, the twins' lives weren't easy (of course). Erica famously underwent the first-ever abortion in "Degrassi" history, resulting in an episode that was banned in the U.S. when it first aired. After that, their problems were mostly minor, but they addressed "twin" issues, like "Can I have a boyfriend and still share time with my sister?" Oh, and that episode where one of the twins makes out with Wheels is still an epic one.

Adam ("Degrassi: TNG")

Degrassi's first "out" transgender student, Adam went through a powerful arc, from coming out to finding a girlfriend to dealing with peer abuse. He was also accidentally shot at the prom, and his life was cut short in a car accident, the result of him checking his phone for a text message.

Cam ("Degrassi: TNG")

Poor, sweet little Cam. The hockey player -- who ironically disliked hockey -- was a master on the ice, but not so great off the rink. He also moved to Toronto from Kapuskasing, which caused him considerable homesickness. Weighed down by depression and pressure on the ice, Cam committed suicide in the Degrassi greenhouse.

Craig ("Degrassi: TNG")

Craig was the rock star of "Degrassi." He cheated on Ashley with Manny and ended up getting her pregnant. Then Manny had an abortion, dashing any hopes Craig had of having a family with her. He exited the series when he landed a record deal, but his trip to the big time got him hooked on cocaine. He also suffered from bipolar disorder. The last time we saw Craig, he seemed to be on the straight and narrow.

Ashley ("Degrassi: TNG")

Ashley is one of the few characters who got out relatively unscathed. After popping ecstasy and becoming the black sheep of Degrassi, she experimented by becoming a Goth (c'mon, who didn't try that out in the '90s?). She was also Jimmy's GF for a while, as well as Craig's. Eventually Ashley came into her own and settled for a more "regular" look, as seen in the picture. She ended her time at Degrassi by travelling to Europe for her music career.

Darcy ("Degrassi: TNG")

Darcy started off as the straight-laced Christian girl, who eventually descended into the vice-laden world of popularity when she became a cheerleader. She was slipped a roofie, raped at a party, and contracted chlamydia. Unable to deal with the trauma, Darcy headed down a promiscuous path, even accusing the sweet Principal Simpson of sexual harassment. To solve her problems, she went to Brat Camp, and ended up leaving for Kenya -- her real-life departure from the show.

Ellie ("Degrassi: TNG")

Ellie was also a Goth for a period of time, but then she slowly softened. Ellie had a lot of problems at home, including an absent father and an alcoholic mother. She engaged in self-harm and tried to kill herself by walking into the water when she was drunk.

Emma ("Degrassi: TNG")

Spike's child Emma -- of course -- went on to be a major "Degrassi" character, and a lot of stuff happened to her. She was an outspoken environmentalist (just like Mom!), though she suffered from anorexia. She also flashed her boobs to the entire school (kind of like Joey and his naked walk through the caf). Oh, and she also contracted gonorrhea after performing oral sex on Jay. After dating a string of bad boys, Emma eventually settled down and continued to be the "reliable" one of the bunch.

Hazel ("Degrassi: TNG")

Hazel, born in Somalia, fled from the civil war in the early '90s with her mother to Canada. She deals with a few issues -- one not so serious, the other really serious -- in her time at Degrassi. She was sent to detention for surfing porn at school, but then also dealt with racist students who stereotyped Muslims (her religion). Hazel is generally regarded as a "safe" character, and she escaped Degrassi with very little trauma.

Jimmy ("Degrassi: TNG")

Most notably, James "Jimmy" Brooks character was shot at the end of Season 4. One of Degrassi's most memorable plotlines, Jimmy was bound to a wheelchair until the end of his time on the show. On top of dealing with a disability and reshaping his friendship with Spinner, we also saw Jimmy struggling with his sex life (the erection episode!) and relationships. Now we all know him as Drake, so don't feel too bad for him.

J.T. ("Degrassi: TNG")

J.T. was a sweet class clown, sometimes reminiscent of Joey Jeremiah, his predecessor. He accidentally got his girlfriend (Liberty) at the time pregnant, who then eventually gave up the baby for adoption. Sadly, his life was cut short at 17, when he was stabbed to death outside of Liberty's party.

Liberty ("Degrassi: TNG")

J.T.'s girlfriend for a time, Liberty was the brainy overachiever. After a lifelong crush on J.T., the teen couple accidentally gets pregnant, and they're ultimately forced to give the child up for adoption. J.T. is stabbed to death outside Liberty's party at the age of 17, leaving Liberty heartbroken.

Manny ("Degrassi: TNG")

Viewed as one of the most popular characters in the "Degrassi" universe, Manny certainly didn't get out scot-free. Similar to Emma (who was her best friend), Manny started off innocent and ended up becoming somewhat promiscuous. She got pregnant and had an abortion, experimented with drugs, and was basically a walking disaster while trying to navigate her teen years.

Marco ("Degrassi: TNG")

Marco's main storyline revolved around the fact that he was openly gay. Arguably, he was Degrassi's first real "out" gay character, though it took him a while to come out. He deals with one of his best friends, Spinner, not being able to handle his homosexuality, and has to contend with constant harassment and anti-gay sentiment from his Degrassi schoolmates.

Mia ("Degrassi: TNG")

Mia's big issue was her teen pregnancy and birth of her daughter, Isabella, whom she delivered when she was 13. She struggled to maintain her schoolwork while balancing her social life, and had to deal with ostracization about being a mom. Eventually Mia left Degrassi to pursue a career in modelling (a.k.a hit it big with "The Vampire Diaries").

Paige ("Degrassi: TNG")

Paige is the "mean girl" of "Degrassi" -- or at least she was in the beginning. Sometimes cruel, definitely diva, Paige grew on us as the show went on. At 15, she was raped by a boy from another school, and he was never found guilty. She also had an inappropriate relationship with a T.A. at Degrassi. She went to university post-Degrassi and subsequently suffered such severe panic attacks that she had to drop out. Paige was also involved in the first-ever bisexual storyline: she dated Alex (a female) after dating Spinner for quite a while.

Peter ("Degrassi: TNG")

Peter's demons were many: besides a major drinking and drugs problem (meth), he also almost killed a man while drag-racing with Sean. He was then placed under house arrest. On the minor end of the spectrum, he videotaped Manny stripping at a party, and then he sent it out to the whole school.

Rick ("Degrassi: TNG")

Above all, we can never forgive Rick for his biggest sin: shooting, and then paralyzing, Jimmy. His close second was his outright physical abuse of one-time girlfriend, Terri. When she tried to leave him, he hit her on the head with a cinder block, leaving her in a coma. Rick was accidentally shot and killed in the tussle to get the gun after shooting Jimmy, never to terrorize anyone again.

Sean ("Degrassi: TNG")

Sean was the bad boy of "Degrassi" for a time. That is, until he got together with Emma -- who inspired him to become a better person. He fought a lot with Jimmy, as well as some other boys at Degrassi. As mentioned earlier, he drag-raced with Peter and almost killed a man, resulting in some jail time. In the end, Sean shipped off to Afghanistan with the Canadian military.

Spinner ("Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

At first, Spinner was the school bully, but over time he softened into more of a jock. After Jimmy was shot and paralyzed, Spinner felt guilty, and had a tough time getting over it. He struggled with ADHD, and was stricken with testicular cancer. Eventually he went into remission. He and Emma eventually got married in a super-sweet ceremony. Phew, thankfully happy endings do exist at Degrassi!

Terri ("Degrassi: TNG")

Ugh, just looking at poor Terri makes us want to cry. She had a rough experience at Degrassi, right from the start. Insecure about her weight, she tried to mask it with alcohol, and ended up puking at the school dance. Once she started dating Rick, things went to hell, and he continually abused her from start to finish. Eventually, things escalated, and he hit her in the head with a cinder block. She is left in a coma for a brief period of time, and is eventually sent to private school. (Bet none of this stuff happens there.)

Clare ("Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

What doesn't Clare experience? She's a sister to Darcy (Shenae Grimes), which is drama in and of itself. She started off on "Degrassi" as little nerdy Clare, and slowly grew into a confident woman (she was even VP of the student council). But her personal life was a mess: she was on and off with Eli so many times it was hard to gauge how long they'd been together. While she Eli, she rebelled against her parents, who fought all the time. One of her last battles on "Degrassi" was with cancer, specifically rhabdomyosarcoma. She was in remission the last time we saw her.

Eli ("Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

Meet the resident "hot guy" at Degrassi: Eli. As he went through Degrassi, he left his Goth phase, excelling in theatre and more artsy media. He suffered from bipolar disorder, and even though he was a good writer, he sometimes had difficulty getting it down on paper. Eli was the king of dealing with death: his BFF Adam died in a car crash, his first love Julia died, his hockey buddy Cam killed himself, and his on-off GF Clare struggled with cancer.

Bianca ("Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

Bianca certainly cleaned up her act, but at the start of her Degrassi stint, she dressed provocatively, skipped class frequently and caused a lot of trouble. She even had a probation officer! Women at Degrassi hated Bianca, and her story was hard to believe: she was abused, forced to sell drugs and have sex with Vince in order to keep herself alive after she accidentally murdered Anson when he attempted to rape her and kill her boyfriend. Got all that?

Fiona ("Degrassi: TNG," "Degrassi")

Fiona has so many problems, they're hard to recount. She was a socialite, loved to party, drank to excess, and her mother was put under house arrest for fraud. She was also abused by her boyfriend. One of the worst things Fiona did was kiss her own brother (!!) to make Holly J. jealous.Yikes. At least she eventually went to rehab.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.