Who is Cassie Steele?
MANILA, Philippines - After more than 11 seasons on the air, the Canadian TV series Degrassi has become a stepping-stone for a few of today’s Hollywood celebrities. Rapper Aubrey “Drake” Graham, 90210’s Shenae Grimes, and Vampire Diaries’ Nina Dobrev are all alumni of the show. It seems that the Canadian show has become the perfect platform for actors who want to cross the border. After wrapping her second season of the stateside-aired show The L.A. Complex, we now have another name to add to the roster of Degrassi graduates that have crossed over: Cassie Steele.
For nine seasons of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Cassie played Manuella “Manny” Santos, a first-generation Filipina-Canadian — a fitting role for Cassie who is a Filipina-Canadian. Cassie’s role as Manny was not the typical portrayal of an Asian-Canadian — instead of playing the usual nerdy Asian, Manny progressed from being the vivacious innocent to the “school slut.” The show also drew inspiration from Manny’s Filipino background, with one episode centered on Manny’s debut, the coming of age party that is often celebrated in the Philippines. After realizing her dreams of becoming a star by landing a role in a Hollywood movie, Cassie bid adieu to Manny Santos and to Degrassi to follow the steps of her fictional character by landing the lead role in a TV show in the US.
The L.A. Complex revolves around the lives of several 20-somethings, living in one apartment complex, who deal with the harsh realities of living out their dreams in big, bad Hollywood. Cassie plays the lead role of Abby Vargas, a Toronto native who moves to L.A. to try and become a star. Far from being the clichéd story of the arduous road to fame (and ruination), the series gives viewers an unembellished look at what really goes on in the industry. As she did with Manny, Cassie brings her own unique energy to Abby that translates past the TV screen. Viewers of the show are now waiting with bated breath for news on the third season of The L.A. Complex — the end of season 2 saw Abby getting on a one-way ticket to Germany to follow her new husband, leaving the viewers wondering if she was finally through chasing after her dreams. With fans clamoring for another season, it would seem that we’ve not yet seen the last of Abby Vargas — and that we’ve only reached the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Cassie Steele can bring the table. We asked Cassie a few questions.
YOUNG STAR: Did you always want to be an actress? Was it something that came naturally to you?
CASSIE STEELE: I started improvisation at age nine and I loved it so much I stuck with it. As a by-product, acting was just something I was lucky enough to fall into.
How has your life been affected by Degrassi and by Manny Santos?
I originally auditioned for (the role of) Liberty and after several auditions I landed the role of Manny instead. She’s an identity that I know so well from being on the show — I don’t know how my life would be without Degrassi.
What does it feel like, crossing over after starring in shows in Canada and having wrapped two seasons of The L.A. Complex stateside?
It feels great; it’s a natural progression. I like that I’m playing the same age as myself portraying Abby/Manny.
You’re a singer and songwriter as well as an actress, and you’ve released two studio albums already. How long have you been into music?
As long as I can remember... but I’m sure I started sucking less (as a singer) much, much later.
Tell us about Abby; when you first read the script did you connect with her?
Abby is someone who, I think, a lot of people can relate to — that’s what drew me to her.
Did you ever go through what Abby has gone through on the show? Any similar circumstances?
I definitely had trouble adjusting, but I didn’t go through anything specific that Abby went through.
Do you agree with Abby’s choice to leave her dream behind to be with her new husband?
Abby put a lot of herself into her work, I think it’s nice she’s doing something for her heart.
Have you ever been to the Philippines or do you have plans of visiting?
I’ve never been but my mother is from the Philippines. One day I hope I get to explore the whole of it.
What would you say is Filipino about you?
I grew up with the culture… and I really love karaoke and adobo!
Would you ever consider starring in a show in the Philippines? What type of character would you like to play?
Yes. Maybe an action hero? That’d be amazing!