So my friends and I were discussing the fact that he had died in a Hamilton rooming-house, and my talented actor friend mentioned that, while Hope might well have been battling various issues that led him to a rooming-house life, it was understandable that he was down on his luck, as Degrassi actors of his era received no residuals. I thought that sounded totally outrageous, and so the next day looked it up online so that I could gently correct him. Instead, I found (on a website that, despite the fact that it features a background made to look like a sheet of lined paper, I choose to trust) the following:
"Today's actors would not 'screwed over' [sic] financially like the original Degrassi cast, who receive no residuals on reruns at all. There is more information accessible to younger people out there, thus there may be less exploitation of younger actors. Syndication residuals (money made from reruns of the show) get distributed to the producers of the Degrassi TV series but not the actors."
Dan Woods (Mr. Raditch) backed up the creator of this distressingly informative Degrassi website when he explained in an interview: "Well, it wasn't a union shoot. But they actually paid better than scale. However, we were on a buyout so there are no residuals. But those are tough to get. The producers have to really want you on the series to get residuals." He also commented: "Well, it's still on a lot here! One hour every night on Showcase. My wife calls Thursday's Dan TV. CCR at 6:30, Then DJH at 7, then DH at 7:30. And I'm still broke!!!!!"
So maybe my other friend wasn't kidding when she said that half the Degrassi cast was working in some food-service capacity at the Bayview Village mall complex during the '90s.
I'm not claiming that the Degrassi producers were utterly evil child abusers, or that Wheels would not have ended up alone and broke even if he hadn't had a small-screen career that led only to jobs at Money Mart and United Furniture Warehouse. But it's certainly depressing to find out that these kids, who taught us all about alcoholism, and depression, and sex, and unfortunate adolescent rock bands, were rewarded only with the nostalgic attentions of 30-somethings and empty pockets.