For Cassie Steele and Miriam McDonald, playing Degrassi's inseparable best friends Manny and Emma came with a lot more pressure than just being on camera.
On June 21, the two stars reunited on Instagram Live and discussed everything from playing their legendary roles to their IRL friendship of over two decades. When asked what Cassie thought the most challenging thing was about playing her character, she revealed that fellow teenagers had difficulty separating her from her role of Manny, especially during her infamous sidekick-to-school-hottie phase.
For those who don't know, this particular phase included an infamous scene of Manny making heads turn while she walked down her school hallway with a visible thong. She was also the focus on one of the show's most controversial episodes when she got an abortion in season three.
"People couldn't separate me from my character," Cassie explained. "I felt like I was being bullied a lot at parties growing up and even at the mall. People [would call] me a slut. And that was very difficult because I just wanted to make friends."
Miriam echoed she also experienced similar bullying in real life after her character contracted an STI in season four. "I was terrified to walk through the cafeteria and mall food court at lunch time where there were teenagers," Miriam said. "Everyone's pointing, everyone's looking and throwing paper at you."
Because they both went through similar experiences of bullying and isolation, the actresses explained that it made their real-life bond even stronger. "That's part of why we formed such a strong connection," Miriam recalled. "We were each other's number one peers."
The dynamic duo also revealed that they're grateful that social media was not a huge thing back when they were starring on the hit show. After all, Miriam was 14 years old when she was cast as Emma and Cassie was just 11 years old when she landed the part of Manny. "As a teenager, you read some of these brutal things that are written," Miriam shared. "And it's very hard not to let that affect you."
Despite the negative experiences the stars faced outside of the infamous Degrassi set, they also reflected on the positive impact the show undoubtedly made on audiences worldwide.
"The experience of having these friendships and traveling and exposure and just being part of something that's touched a lot of people's lives," Cassie shared. "It's irreplaceable."