‘Degrassi: The Next Generation’: The Special Way Miriam McDonald’s Character Got Her Name

While world-renowned rapper Drake starred on Degrassi: The Next Generation during his youth, that’s not the only interesting trivia about the long-running Canadian television drama.

Drake might be the most well-known former star of the series, but an ample supply of talent walked through the halls of Degrassi High throughout its 14 seasons on the air. One such talent was actor Miriam McDonald. Read on to learn how McDonald’s starring character got her name and what the actor has been up to since her days at Degrassi High

The half-century history of ‘Degrassi’

Airing from 2001 until 2015, Degrassi: The Next Generationcaptivated multiple generations of teen audiences. The series always looked to address tough topics like sex, teen pregnancy, bullying, drug abuse, LGBT issues, domestic violence, mental health, and death. As a result, the series served as a sort of “How to Guide” for teens dealing with challenging issues throughout the 2000s and early 2010s. 

Degrassi: The Next Generation certainly inspired many teens throughout the beginning of the new millennia. However, even diehard Degrassi: The Next Generation fans may not know that the series was actually part of a nearly 40-year Canadian TV franchise. In 1979, the first installment came out as The Kids of Degrassi Street. In 1987, Degrassi Junior High was released. Two years later, Degrassi High aired, following the original students into high school. This leg of theDegrassi franchise ended in 1992, with the series ending with the TV movie School’s Out. In 2001, Degrassi: The Next Generation would revive the franchise 19 years after its original ending. 

Starring as a ‘Degrassi’ legacy character 

The Degrassi franchise has quite the legacy. One legacy character of Degrassi: The Next Generation, first written into the show on Degrassi Junior High, was Emma Nelson. The character of Emma Nelson, played by Miriam McDonald, is the child of Christine “Spike” Nelson and Shane McKay. Spike Nelson and Shane McKay were both original characters in Degrassi Junior High. Their daughter, Emma, was born at the end of the second season. 

The head writer of the Degrassi series, Yan Moore, decided it was time to revamp the franchise as Spike’s daughter would be entering junior high school in the early 2000s. Luckily for Moore, the idea paid off big, with Degrassi: The Next Generation being a staple TV drama for the next 15 years. According to Insider, Emma’s legacy status isn’t the only interesting fact about her. The character actually has an interesting story behind how she got her name. Writers decided Emma would be the perfect fit for Spike Nelson’s daughter because Degrassi Junior High won an Emmy for the episode where Spike finds out that she was pregnant. 

What is Miriam McDonald doing now? 

Miriam McDonald
Miriam McDonald | Brian de Rivera Simon/Getty Images

When first taking the role of Emma Nelson in 2000, the teenage Miriam McDonald couldn’t have had a clue that she would be portraying the character for the next decade. However, McDonald definitely had a good run on the series, maintaining a leading role from 2001 to 2010. In 2016, she even made a special appearance in the Netflix sequel Degrassi: Next Class. While Degrassi has taken up a large part of McDonald’s life, the franchise is definitely not the only thing the actress has had going on. 

Since leaving Degrassi: The Next Generation in 2010, McDonald has had an eventful life over the past decade. She has continued to work as an actress, gaining guest roles on shows like Lost Girl and Orphan Black. According to US Magazine, along with her acting endeavors, McDonald has also worked as a yoga instructor and real estate agent since her days at Degrassi High.  

Related: Drake’s Residual Checks From ‘Degrassi’ Are Not as Big as You’d Think