A Canadian television show that blew up in the United States during the outlaw days of early 2000s digital cable television, Degrassi: The Next Generation is the show that went on for so long that everyone who is currently in their 20s and 30s has experienced it in some way, shape or form.
The show became a mainstay for teenage drama during the 2000s, tackling various challenges of teenage life including sexual identity, peer pressure, bullying, teen pregnancy, and school shootings.
Not every iteration of the show is worth mentioning, such as the awful Netflix version and the soon-to-be-released HBO Max revival, but it wouldn’t feel right without giving fans a celebration of the best characters in the history of this long-running series. To assist, I brought on Degrassi superfan Brittany Rose as we clashed over the top five greatest characters in the history of Degrassi: The Next Generation.
Brittany Rose: Holly J. Sinclair
Holly J. Sinclair is my #5 pick for greatest Degrassi characters. When Holly J. was first introduced in season 7, she was viewed by many Degrassi fans as a character meant to fill Paige’s “mean girl” role from the earlier seasons. That includes her too-tight ponytail and bossy attitude, to her coordinating outfits with her as a loyal follower, Anya.
Holly J. was determined to not live in the shadow of her sister Heather, a legend at Degrassi, and a running joke among the writers. We can only say that she succeeded. As the later seasons progressed, Holly J. really came into her own. While she definitely didn’t become passive, she matured from her original image as Paige 2.0.
Jacob Smith: Peter Stone
Peter Stone was a character who was brought in to be an antagonist in his first couple of seasons on the show, then proceeded to go through a roller coaster of changes in the following years. Peter had to deal with the pressure of being the son of a principal, but really just wanted to fit in with his classmates. He was definitely a ladies’ man, despite the fact that half the girls he dated left the show and went to work for the CW.
I always viewed his character as a more tolerable version of Craig Manning, who, despite his beginnings, became one of the more grounded characters in the show as he progressed. Given how he’s one of the few characters that the show actually did right by in his conclusion, he makes my top 5 list easily.
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Brittany Rose: Sean Cameron
My #4 pick is Sean Cameron. Is there any Degrassi fan who doesn’t love Sean Cameron? When Sean started at Degrassi, he made it clear he didn’t care about fitting in. However, we saw later on that he secretly had a heart of gold. Sean was always determined to make something out of himself, despite the circumstances he was born into.
Aside from his relationships with Emma and Ellie, he also maintained friendships with Spinner and Jay that were always entertaining to watch. The only bad thing we can say about Sean’s story arc is that he and Emma didn’t end up together, especially after executive producer Stephen Stohn admitted that Emma’s marriage to Spinner was a mistake. Semma forever!
Jacob Smith: Imogen Moreno
On paper, Imogen Moreno is a character that I should have no business liking. A feminist art student whose sexual orientation was so butchered by the creators of this show that, to this day, they couldn’t tell you what exactly she was. Despite all the window dressing, Imogen was a very charismatic character with a sympathetic backstory.
Imogen had a bad relationship with her mother, due to her father’s suffering of dementia. She was a girl who needed school as an escape from her real life, she was quirky and sometimes annoying, but she had a great personality and a heart of gold. Any other actress outside of Cristine Prosperi would not have done this character justice, but Imogen is truly a dark horse favorite in my top five.
Brittany Rose: Manny Santos
My number 3 is Manny Santos, who had one of the longest story arcs in Degrassi, and throughout it, she grew so much as a character. When Manny was introduced, she initially didn’t stand out. However, she really came into her own after her makeover in the show’s third season. During her time at Degrassi, Manny was nearly always involved in something interesting.
She was also incredibly relatable to so many young girls watching the show, making her a fan favorite. Through her teen pregnancy, acting aspirations and the seemingly never-ending love triangle with Craig and Ashley, fans rooted for Manny every time, because Ashley was the worst.
Jacob Smith: Spinner Mason
Not a big surprise that one of the longest-tenured characters in the history of the show has made my top three. No one went through more crap in the history of the show than Spinner Mason. Spinner was the fat kid who lost weight, started a band, inadvertently got his best friend shot and crippled, kicked out of school, alienated all his friends, came back to school, found God, got cancer, managed a coffee shop, and dated pretty much every girl who’s ever been on the show.
Nobody has a bigger resume than Spinner Mason. The man has been through it all, and it just wouldn’t seem right if we didn’t put him in the top three for best characters in the history of the show.
Brittany Rose: Jimmy Brooks
My #2 best character of Degrassi is Jimmy Brooks, who remained one of the most loved Degrassi characters throughout the series’ decades-long run. We can see why as Jimmy always remained loyal to his friends such as Marco, Craig, and Ellie. He was also typically the voice of reason throughout everyone else’s antics.
After being shot by Rick and becoming paralyzed ended his basketball dreams, Jimmy pursued new passions in art and rapping. Apart from the shooting storyline, Jimmy had other interesting arcs such as starting a music career and standing up to his father. He also gets major points with us for being able to stand Ashley, because let’s be honest, Ashley was just THE WORST.
Jacob Smith: Alex Nuñez
There’s arguably no other character in the history of the show that got more for a raw deal than Alex Nunez. A tough girl who grew up in a broken home made her way with the worst possible crowd in Degrassi, but she was never a bad person. Always keeping her edge, Alex grew to have so much depth as a character as the years went on.
Even when her character was changed to be a lesbian during the fifth season of the show, Alex maintained a drive to do better as a person, despite her shortcomings, and was given one of the best redemption arcs in the history of the show.
That is, until it was all taken away from her in the seventh season when her character abruptly left the show reverting back to her old ways in one of the most poorly written exits in the history of the series. Despite this, Degrassi could not erase the impact that she left on the show, making her my number two on the list.
Brittany Rose: Spinner Mason
If the Degrassi franchise were to have a face, it would be Spinner Mason. As one of the series’ most tenured characters, Spinner had dozens of storylines that Degrassi fans loved. His redemption arc after the shooting and his cancer storyline are some of the most memorable plots in Degrassi’s history. His relationships with Paige and Darcy were always great to watch, and meant so much for his character development.
In addition to that, Spinner’s personality was one of the show’s best delights. He was frequently hilarious, determined, and sometimes a little stupid, but we loved him for it, and that makes him my #1 best character.
Jacob Smith: Sean Cameron
The undisputed greatest character in the history of Degrassi is Sean Cameron. Sean was the only character who spent the majority of his time on Degrassi trying to be a better person. Compared to other characters on the show, Sean never cheated on his girlfriend, he never got anyone pregnant, he didn’t beat women, and he was the only person who displayed true remorse for the bad things he did, and put out a true effort to atone for his actions.
While the majority of the OG Degrassi characters ran to Hollywood to become actors and musicians, Sean joined the military and fought for his country. He was so head and shoulders above the rest of the cast in terms of character development that it wasn’t even funny, which is why he is my #1 character in the history of this show.
What are your thoughts on our top 5 list and who are some of your favorites?