Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. And the search keeps getting tougher, as the professionals who make up the screen entertainment industry keep getting better. The selection represented here were carefully chosen with input from a variety of industry sources and organizations. This year’s 10 to Watch were revealed in Playback‘s Fall issue; the stories featured here are longer versions of the Q&As that appear in the print publication.
CASSIE STEELE, ACTOR
The buzz: After appearing in almost 200 episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, the young Toronto thespian and aspiring singer leads the cast of hot property The L.A. Complex.
You’re best known for portraying Manny Santos on Degrassi: The Next Generation. Tell us how that role changed your acting career.
Being on a TV series for so long with so many different issues covered was just a really great experience because I had so much practice. And, I made really great friends who I still keep in touch with.
Now your career is on a new plateau as you play actress Abby Vargas on The L.A. Complex. How has that role impacted your career?
Well, I took a break from acting for quite a bit of time, and L.A. Complex was basically what I got after it, so I was pretty lucky with that audition. I guess it’s just nice to work with people I look up to because they’re more experienced than I am. So for a while it was kind of difficult because I had been playing Manny for so long, and then I had to get over that hurdle.
Is Abby Vargas all about Cassie Steele moving from Degrassi High to adulthood and trying to distinguish you to fans?
I don’t think its Manny moving into adulthood because they’re two different characters. Abby is not supposed to be like Manny. She’s really flustered and has really bad luck. Hopefully I’m doing a good job in portraying that.
L.A. Complex is about the endless desperation of nice Canadians and Hollywood hopefuls. Does that role speak to you as a Canadian looking to make it in Hollywood?
Definitely. I can name a bunch of friends that have gone through similar situations that some of the characters have–and even myself have. Making it there is really, really hard. It’s a huge pool of people, and not a lot of Canadians have a visa when they get down there; they’re only there for pilot season, so they don’t have a visa to work. . . And you’re away from home, you’re away from family and support, and you don’t really know anyone. It’s tough.
You’re also a singer with two albums. Was music a way for you to break free of the Degrassi mould and let your fans know there’s more to your talents?
Music is something I’ve always loved. I pretty much started both things at the same time — maybe music even first before acting – and I was just lucky enough to break into acting first. Music is something I really like to do. I never thought of it like a rebellion against my role or anything like that. I really enjoy doing both things, and I really try to give them both a balance and try my best.
There was talk earlier of you returning to Degrassi as Manny Santos. Has anything come of that?
Not yet. My sister is on the show so, yeah, that would be fun.