As a staple on teenager’s television sets across Canada and the US, actress聽Charlotte Arnold聽is hardly your average twenty-two year old. You’d be forgiven for thinking her regular role on the Emmy-nominated Degrassi, now in it’s incredible eleventh season,聽might make the starlet a tad unapproachable — but this Scarborough, Ontario native proves that just because you’re an entertainer, doesn’t mean you forget where you came from.
We recently sat down with Arnold, and asked her a few questions about her role on one of television’s biggest shows, recent work with Save The Children in India, and how she deals with her role in the limelight.
Your character Holly J went from being the “mean girl” at Degrassi, to a sweet, driven young woman who many viewers can relate to. How has this past season been different than others for you to work with as an actor?
Season ten was a really unique year of work for me for a number of reasons, the biggest of which has been our new (summer based) 48-episode format. It meant lots of fresh faces, more involved storylines and a new level of excitement from the fans. As far Holly J’s arc goes, I’ve really enjoyed seeing how she has matured and I think it’s very true to real life that the person you are in grade nine is not going to be the same person you are when you graduate. She’s been able to overcome some of her insecurities and open up a little, so she doesn’t need that armour anymore.
The show is never one to shy away from controversial story lines. What’s it like to be part of such a groundbreaking series?
It is thrilling, to be honest. It’s been a dream come true to call Degrassi my job. The cast and crew are some of my best friends, the studio is awesome, we get the opportunity to travel and go to interesting events. All of that would have been enough for me, it’s just a massive bonus that the material is so topical and that the show can touch people on different levels. The truth is that high school is complicated and messy. Teenagers have dealt with the same range of issues, albeit with technological and cultural adjustments, since the beginning of time… and it would be a disservice to shy away from the raw reality in depicting them onscreen. That Degrassi is fearless and relevant and the fans appreciate that makes me so, so proud.
You were recently in India with the cast working on building a school. Tell us about that experience.
It is really difficult to kind of articulate how the trip to India made me feel. It was my third trip with Free the Children, but you can never really prepare yourself for the onslaught of emotions and assault to your senses that you experience on one of these school-building trips. We were challenged in the best of ways and educated about the area’s specific issues and the most efficient ways to tackle them. Culturally, my mind was blown, and I became unbelievably close with my castmates who for those two weeks, through good and bad, were my family. The very best part of the time I’ve spent at Degrassi has been having the opportunity to fly across the world with my best friends on these adventures; I’m truly grateful to be a part of them.
Do you think of yourself as a role model for young fans? Does it ever feel like a lot of pressure?
I have a hard time buying into the idea that as actors we’re role models to young fans, only because my life is my life and I can’t be making choices based on the idea that people may or may not be watching. I’m very protective of my right to make mistakes and be myself, for better or for worse. This doesn’t mean that I don’t try to make good decisions; I just aim to fulfill my own expectations of myself, no one else’s. When I work with Free the Children instead of sitting around for the last two weeks of summer, it’s because fighting for children’s rights makes me happy. It would be my hope that fans are inspired to do whatever makes them happy and learn from any mistakes they may make. Nobody is perfect, not even we Degrassi actors.
Finally, when you’re not busy working, what kinds of things do you do to unwind?
I love to read, swim, listen to records, watch old movies, write, travel and hang out in Ajax with my family and friends.
Our thanks to Charlotte Arnold for her time and contribution to this piece.