Adamo Ruggiero is looking back at his time on “Degrassi: The Next Generation”.
Ruggiero played Marco Del Rossi, a gay character who struggled coming out, on the hit show. At the time, it was considered a groundbreaking character.
Looking back at the show for its 20th anniversary, some of the cast and crew spoke to A.V. Club about the representation.
“I was a closeted gay boy, and I found myself on the show, and my life went from zero to 100,” Ruggiero said. “I hadn’t really acted that much before. Suddenly, I was a character that was playing to all my deepest, darkest secrets, so there was a lot of negotiation of my coming out personally and a negotiation of my personally not being prepared to have those conversations because they were drawing to these pains in me.”
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“But in a way, I was forced to have those conversations, publicly and globally,” he continued. “That balance was ping-pong, like, ‘Who am I? Am I ready to reveal? I know that this character, whether I like it or not, is going to reveal it for me.'”
“It was a coming-out experience that should not have been that public for me. However, there’s always a wonderful side,” Ruggiero said. “What Marco gave me is a community. In the promotion of the show, I connected with a queer world. He just busted open this door of a world that probably would have taken a lot longer to find.”
Lauren Collins, who played Marco’s best friend Paige Michalchuk, had her own memory of the moment.
“I remember when Adamo came out to me, and it was after Marco came out. I can’t imagine the struggle and the turmoil that he’d been going through having to act out what he was about to experience in his own life. I think that’s what made the performance so moving,” she told the outlet.
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And while LGBTQ representation was few and far between at the time and the show also touched on other subjects like teen pregnancy, school shootings and rape, Ruggiero wishes they did more.
“We missed opportunities to talk about gay sex, and queer sex and queer bodies,” he said. “Marco is really kind of desexualized, and I think that was something that maybe networks weren’t ready for at the time.”
Adding, “Once Marco came out, he always had a boyfriend. But in his relationships, there was nothing about the dynamics of gay sex and safe sex and the sexual culture as a young gay man.”