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The Best Characters In Degrassi: The Next Generation Ranked By Likability

"Degrassi: The Next Generation" was a game-changer for Canadian television. The groundbreaking show is one of the longest-running teen shows in history and faced difficult and real issues teenagers faced head-on, tackling heavy subjects like catfishing as early as 2001. The show prominently featured a diverse cast, exploring the highs and lows of the students at Degrassi Community School in Toronto. The show became an international sensation for its refreshing approach to teen issues, although the long-running franchise last appeared with Netflix's "Degrassi: Next Class," which ended in 2017.

That's left a huge gap in the world of "Degrassi" fanatics, who are desperate for more thrilling adventures to take place in the hallowed halls of the world's most gloriously dramatic school. Thankfully, fans have gotten some terrific news, as HBO Max returns to "Degrassi" with a new series kicking off in 2023. To celebrate, we have looked back at the characters that made the show such a big hit to discover who was the most loveable of them all. Let's take a look at the best characters in "Degrassi: The Next Generation," ranked by likability.

14. Craig Manning

It almost seems unfair to put Craig Manning (Jake Epstein) at the bottom of the list, but that speaks both to just how many problems he caused so many people at Degrassi Community School. Craig has really suffered in life. In his first appearance, his father is very abusive towards him, which causes Craig to eventually move in with Joey (Pat Mastroianni). Craig never really felt like he had a family of his own, which resulted in some pretty erratic and irresponsible behavior towards his peers.

Craig had quite a few relationships and was something of a ladies' man at Degrassi. He dates Ashley (Melissa McIntyre), though the relationship crumbles when he has an affair with Manny (Cassie Steele), which leads to an unexpected pregnancy due to Craig's irresponsible choice not to use protection.

Things get a bit better for Craig when he is diagnosed with bipolar disorder in Season 4, though he struggles with the result of his diagnosis and feels very much like a social pariah as a result of it. However, Craig's life goes off the rails when he becomes a drug addict in Season 6 and his relationship with Manny comes to a screeching halt. Craig's life steadily improves after being released from rehab and finding success as a singer. Still, it is just too difficult to forget all the negative ways he treats the people who care about him, even if he is going through some really heavy stuff.

13. Toby Isaacs

Poor Toby. Toby Isaacs (Jake Goldsbie) was a character brimming with potential and one of the few cast members to appear in the very first episode of "Degrassi: The Next Generation." Toby had some compelling storylines in the earlier seasons, including a difficult battle with eating disorders when he joined the school's wrestling team. His struggles with body issues allowed audiences to sympathize with Toby and look past his stereotypically geeky behavior.

It's not that Toby is especially unlikable, per se. It's more that he became a victim of having too many characters in play at one time, and his development suffered as a result. Toby continues to fade into the background as seasons go on, which is likely because Toby never has much in the way of romantic relationships. He dates Kendra Mason (Katie Lai) for a couple of seasons, but the pair were rarely on-screen together. There are plenty of opportunities for Toby to get back into the limelight at Degrassi Community School, especially after his friend Rick (Ephraim Ellis) became a school shooter and his best friend J.T. (Ryan Cooley) is tragically stabbed to death. He does get a beautiful moment in the seventh season where he sits by J.T.'s grave, but ultimately Toby never got enough time to make him one of the most loved characters in "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

12. Ashley Kerwin

Maybe it runs in the family, as Ashley Kerwin, Toby's stepsister, is next on our list. Ashley is an intriguing characters at Degrassi Community School and was something of a queen bee amongst her popular friends like Paige (Lauren Collins), Terri (Christina Schmidt), and Hazel (Andrea Lewis). Ashley had a real knack for being cruel to her friends, especially Terri, who she'd regularly remind that, unlike her, Terri had never been on a date, which likely played a pretty significant role in Terri struggling with her body image.

Ashley had a knack for being quite selfish –- when her father comes out as gay, she makes it all about her and even tells Terri, whose mother died, that she can't possibly understand what she is going through. She is also never an especially warm sister to her stepbrother Toby and was never that big sister Toby could rely on. One of her cruelest moments comes when Manny is dating her ex-boyfriend Craig. Ashley announces in front of the entire school at lunchtime that they are going to have a baby, something Manny wants to keep secret. Ashley is completely callous and uncaring towards Manny, taking out her anger towards Craig out on her.

Ashley does have a significant character arc over her time on "Degrassi." After she starts using drugs, she loses all her friends. She does regain them and learns that popularity wasn't everything, but it's still hard to forget the cruel things she did.

11. Gavin 'Spinner' Mason

Spinner (Shane Kippel) is one of the most developed characters in the series, appearing in well over 100 episodes. Spinner had a vast journey over the show's run, first being the school's bad boy in rather desperate need of reigning in. He then starts a serious long-term relationship with Paige before hooking up with Manny in his next adventure. Then there is Darcy (Shenae Grimes), who helps him redeem himself, and Jane (Paula Brancati), who he meets in the wake of his devastating testicular cancer diagnosis. That's not all, though, as Spinner ultimately marries Emma (Miriam McDonald) in Season 9.

The primary reason that Spinner ranks so low on the list, despite being one of the most developed characters, is his betrayal of his best friend Jimmy (Aubrey Graham). During "Time Stands Still," Spinner implicates Jimmy in the prank that leads Rick to bring a gun to school and ultimately shoot Jimmy, leaving him paralyzed and unable to walk. Spinner actually pulled the prank, and Jimmy nearly loses his life because of Spinner's actions. Though he owns up to his horrible mistake and works very hard to get back in Jimmy's good books, it was definitely Spinner's biggest low, and it prevents him from being closer to the top of the most likable characters in "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

10. Emma Nelson

Emma Nelson (Miriam McDonald) is our gateway into the world of "Degrassi: The Next Generation," as she has the main storyline in the show's first-ever episode. Emma has quite an adventure over her nine-year arc on the show, experiencing just about everything a high school student could. Emma is best known for her environmental activism and regularly allows that to take precedence over her friendships. As Liberty (Sarah Barabelle-Tishauer) tells her, "go back to saving rainforests and whales, because when it comes to helping people, you suck." In early seasons, Emma always felt like that kid who just tried a little too hard, and was so laser-focused on one thing that all her personal relationships struggled as a result.

Emma definitely became more interesting as the show went on, and really came into her own as she grew up. Her rocky relationship with her best friend Manny gets stronger as the show goes on, and the two really begin to embrace each other's differences. It is a joy to watch her romantic relationship with Sean (Daniel Clark) unfold, as it allows both characters to really mature. Emma struggles when Sean moves away, turning to some pretty dark places, but one of her best moments is standing up to Jay when he gives her gonorrhea. 

Emma was always a fearless activist and sure of herself, and that allowed her to make lots of mistakes, it made her a passionate, interesting character at the core of the show's success.

9. Liberty Van Zandt

Everyone who has ever gone to school has known a Liberty Van Zandt -– the kind of kid who would raise their hand for every single question, so you know they did their homework. The over-zealous academic, Liberty always has her head in the books and is determined to let everyone around her know it. Her lofty ambitions are always very clear, as Liberty would happily tell anyone and everyone what she was looking to do. Sure, those traits make her a pretty obnoxious and needy presence in the halls of Degrassi, but Liberty has an undeniable fearlessness that twists her nerdy persona on its head and makes her something truly special.

Liberty has a huge crush on J.T. from the moment she sees him. Despite it taking a long time for their relationship to develop, the love between Liberty and J.T. will always be one of the great romances in the show's history. The pair makes a heartbreaking decision when Liberty becomes pregnant at 15. Despite desperately wanting to keep the child and start a family with J.T., Liberty makes the choice to put the child up for adoption, which shows her tremendous sense of responsibility in the face of adversity. Liberty also struggles with her diagnosis of dyscalculia, though she never let it stop her from achieving her academic goals. Despite having a significant evolution on the show, Liberty never stopped being judgemental, which keeps her from climbing too high on our list.

8. Sean Cameron

It didn't get much cooler than Sean Cameron, who first appears in the series' fourth episode, "Eye of the Beholder," being driven to school on a motorcycle. The show's ultimate bad boy with a heart of gold, Sean ends up in a relationship with Emma, which is a significant part of his character arc on "Degrassi: The Next Generation." He comes from a difficult upbringing and a violent past before arriving at Degrassi Community School, but when he gets there, he has serious ambitions to improve his life. Sean has some real difficulties at home and ultimately emancipates himself, though Sean leaves the show for a couple of seasons to go back to live with his parents, who only send him away as they are worried that he will wind up in prison.

Sean comes a long way through his time at high school, mending his relationship with his parents, reconciling with a guy he attacked, and even coming out of jail with a new lease on life. Sean ends up fulfilling his goals, becoming an extremely mature and responsible young man who ends up joining the Canadian military. In our last moments with Sean, he says goodbye to Emma before heading out to Afghanistan.

7. Ellie Nash

Ellie Nash (Stacey Farber) started out playing the moody goth character when she first arrived at Degrassi Community School. Ellie played a big part in one of the most intense episodes of "Degrassi: The Next Generation," when her home life crumbles, leading to her spiraling into self-harm. Her subsequent journey into recovery allows audiences to see what a special person Ellie is. Ellie begins her time at Degrassi in a relationship with Marco (Adamo Ruggiero), who is in the closet at the time. When he comes out, Ellie could have easily been furious but is surprisingly warm, fully supporting Marco, and she is proud of him for embracing his life.

Though Ellie is one of the show's quieter characters, and her drama is a lot more introspective than most of the other high-schoolers, she is always a reliable friend and is there whenever she is needed. Ellie's passion for journalism leads to her following her dreams of working as an editor. While her character just kind of vanishes after the TV movie "Degrassi Goes Hollywood," she makes her mark on eight seasons as a terrific testament to never giving up and following your dreams.

6. Terri McGregor

Terri McGregor was always one of the popular girls at school and practically ran things alongside her gal pals Ashley, Paige, and Hazel. While her friends had boys interested in them and engaged in romantic relationships, Terri always found herself on the outside of love looking in. 

Terri was heavier than her friends, which gave her some serious body issues. In many ways, Terri feels like one of the most relatable characters in the show, and her shy nature makes her genuinely fascinating. Terri is regularly made fun of by her friends, especially Ashley and Paige, who would regularly remind her that she has never been in a relationship. However, her quiet confidence grows over her time at Degrassi, especially when she begins to pursue a career as a plus-size model. Despite her friend's occasional cruelty, Terri is always supportive, reliable, and ready to offer a shoulder to cry on.

Terri eventually finds romance with Rick, though things quickly go south as he reveals himself to be conniving, controlling, and abusive towards Terri. Her end on the show is genuinely tragic. Rick's dark side emerges again and he shoves Terri, who falls and hits her head severely, putting her in a coma. Despite Terri's shocking ending on the show -– though thankfully she recovers from the coma -– she is always a charming, loveable presence in "Degrassi: The Next Generation."

5. Paige Michalchuk

At the beginning of "Degrassi: The Next Generation," Paige Michalchuk has it all. Her entrance in the show is truly iconic, arriving at school in sunglasses and a red crop top that reads "Hottie." Paige is the real queen bee of Degrassi Community School, the head cheerleader that all the boys want and all the girls want to be. Paige also has a pretty major mean streak and is quick to share her very unsolicited opinions with anyone in earshot. She is also prone to jealousy, and it's fair to say that she is one of the cruelest girls at school.

No character undergoes a greater transformation than Paige, whose world turns upside down after she is raped. Paige's world is shattered, but her fierce confidence helps her deal with the anguish. In one of the show's greatest moments, she sings with her band in front of her attacker, who walks out ashamed while Paige regains her power. Paige bravely takes a stand against her attacker as well, though he devastatingly is found not guilty. Through her time on the show, she also explores her newfound bisexual identity and is one of the best-developed characters on the show, coming a long way since her legendary crop top.

It's impossible to deny the fantastic journey she had on the show, as she goes from a typical high school mean girl to a hugely accomplished, independent, selfless, and thoughtful young woman.

4. Marco Del Rossi

Marco Del Rossi is one of the most popular kids in school and happily dates Ellie in the second season of "Degrassi: The Next Generation." However, Marco struggles with something that countless young people have had difficulties with –- his sexuality. Marco comes out to his girlfriend Ellie, who is thankfully very supportive, making for some seriously groundbreaking television for an early 2000s teen drama.

Eventually, Marco comes out of his shell, and then comes out to his friends and the rest of the school. On his way to meet up with Paige's older brother Dylan, he gets gay-bashed in one of the show's most emotionally resonant episodes. While Spinner reacts very negatively to Marco's coming out, the rest of his friends are really supportive, and Spinner eventually comes around. Marco is an incredibly loving and well-rounded guy, and watching him excel as an openly gay teenager is one of the greatest joys "Degrassi: The Next Generation" has to offer.

3. Manny Santos

Manny has one of Degrassi's most legendary moments of the entire show when she decides she is tired of being the cute girl. She makes a choice to wear fashions that are far more revealing and ends up walking down the school halls with low-rise denim jeans and a very visible blue thong, turning every head as she walks past. 

A typical show could have lazily branded the decision as something negative, but "Degrassi: The Next Generation" always has Manny's back, and her boldness and confidence are celebrated. Manny is a trailblazer on the show and is the first girl to get pregnant, leading to the controversial abortion episode that almost never aired in the United States, per Fader. Manny's fierce independence and willingness to always go for things she wants is inspiring and fits her lofty ambitions of becoming a singer, which later transitions into dreams of becoming an actress. Her dream even comes true in the amazing TV movie "Degrassi Goes Hollywood," as Manny nabs a lead role in a musical and spends the rest of her days happily in Los Angeles.

2. J.T. Yorke

A beloved class clown, everybody at Degrassi's is brightened by the life of J.T. Yorke. J.T. never has an enemy in the world, and he possesses the irresistible ability to make everyone feel a little better. J.T. eventually became the school mascot, further raising his profile as an extremely funny and likable guy. J.T. has some real challenges at Degrassi. When his girlfriend Liberty gets pregnant, J.T. has to hustle to make ends meet, suffering some serious mental health issues. He even sells drugs to try and raise enough money for them to have their child, though Liberty ultimately decides to give the child up for adoption. J.T.'s life is on the rebound, and he even has a new girlfriend, Mia (Nina Dobrev), but is shockingly killed in a sudden and shocking stabbing.

His tragic death makes his wonderful character all the more resonant, and the school even erects the J.T. Yorke Memorial Garden in his honor. Thanks to this, J.T.'s name remains a prominent part of the show long after he passed, allowing his amazing and charming legacy to live on forever at Degrassi Community School. Just try not to get choked up each time you see it!

1. Jimmy Brooks

Everybody adored Jimmy Brooks (Aubrey Graham), the star of the school's basketball team. Jimmy is definitely one of the most popular kids in school but stands out for being progressive and open-minded. Although he sometimes teases other kids with his bestie Spinner, Jimmy is always a good guy.

Jimmy really comes into his own in the face of unspeakable tragedy. After he is shot by Rick, Jimmy is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair for the rest of his life. While that would destroy most people's lives, Jimmy undergoes extraordinary growth to become an even better person than he was. He is even able to retain his love for the sport of basketball and become the coach of the high school team. When questioned by one of the players, Jimmy challenges him to an epic basketball shootout, proving once and for all that he is still the best basketball player in Degrassi. Jimmy is also lucky in love. After his on-again-off-again relationship with Ashley finally comes to an end, Jimmy falls head over heels in love with Trina (Terra Vnesa), who he meets at physical therapy, and the two end up becoming engaged and moving to New York together.

Jimmy also channels his anger about his circumstances into music and develops a passion for the world of rap. This was likely inspired by the actor's real-life aspirations, as Aubrey Graham is more commonly known as global music superstar Drake.