Jessica Tyler and “Degrassi” back for Season 12

OK, yes, technically Degrassi has been around since 1979, but the reboots have been going on for a while. Degrassi: New Beginnings has the series celebrating Season 12’s premiere on TeenNick Monday, July 16 at 10pm ET, and the drama will be as thick as ever. To get a taste for what Degrassi’s new season will hold, I talked with series regular Jessica Tyler, who plays Jenna Middleton in the series. Jenna had quite the intense storyline in Season 11, having had a baby whom she subsequently gave up for adoption.

Channel Guide Magazine: So how was last season for you? Did it affect you in any sort of profound way that you might not have expected?

Jessica Tyler: It was certainly a new storyline for me to take on, considering I’ve never had to experience something like that in real life, but after doing research, I was able to get really into the role. It was easy to act the emotional scenes, especially giving up the baby, because I did get close with it, working with the baby. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work, but I’m happy that Jenna found a way to move on from all of that, and that it’s all good now.

CGM: What sort of research did you do, going into that particular storyline?

JT: I’m a fan of the show Teen Moms, so I watched that a couple times. And in school, there was, like, a maternal course you can take where you have to watch a kid overnight. My friend did that, so I stayed with her when she watched the baby, just to kind of get myself the heads up on that.

CGM: So what’s going on in Season 12 so far? What should we expect for Jenna and in general?

JT: Right now, we’re about halfway through the season that we’re filming now, but when we come back, in terms of Jenna, she will have just broken up with K.C. and given the baby away, so she’s coming back to school hoping to have a fresh start, maybe make some new friends and try to move on from the past in a positive way.

Basically, this whole season is about picking sides between the characters here. There’s all of this drama going on, as always, so Jenna and Becky — a new character — they become friends, and as Jenna’s values in life and views start to change, it’s all about picking sides and what’s right, what’s wrong this season. It’s kind of like that for every character.

CGM: And what’s with this whole Luke Baker character that Jenna is involved with?

JT: Jenna might get a new love interest. He’s certainly cute, so …

CGM: OK, I’ll back off the boyfriend question for now. What about Jenna’s music? Will we see more songs from her this season?

JT: Yeah, there’s definitely always music in the works with Jenna, because that’s her passion and that’s kind of how she releases her emotions, so certainly she always will be writing. There’s a couple of scenes that she gets to break out the guitar and sing a couple of songs. She might even have a friend join her on singing the songs.

CGM: You can’t say whom, yet?

JT: No, I wouldn’t want to give that away.

CGM: How do you feel, personally, as an artist, having music you’ve written premiere under the guise of Jenna?

JT: It’s always great when I get the chance to put my own-written songs on the show. I know the fans always like to hear them. It’s really good publicity for that, and as much as me and Jenna are different, I think the core of Jenna is a lot like myself. We’re both pretty outgoing in that sense, so I’m really happy that they’ve incorporated songwriting with her character, because it makes it even more relatable for me.

CGM: And what about your own musical career? What’s new in that department for you?

JT: Personally? Right now, I’m working with a new producer. We’re slowly putting together a new album. Things sound awesome, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

CGM: Who’s your new producer? Is that a secret?

JT: It’s with Demo Castellón. He’s actually Nelly Furtado’s husband. He’s awesome.

CGM: Are you going to go on tour, or maybe support the album online somehow?

JT: I wish I could answer that. It can kind of go any way. Of course, promoting and trying to get a tour started is all a very big dream that I would love to happen. But I think right now, we’ve just got to get the album done and then go from there.

CGM: How is life different for you now that you’re past your own high-school graduation but still on campus at “Degrassi”?

JT: For me, it’s a lot easier now that I’m out of high school because I can keep all of my focus here at Degrassi, whereas I was always battling with that while I was in high school. Personally, I’ve enrolled into university. It’s an online school. I’m just taking a couple of courses here and there, just to keep my foot in the door. It’s just a general right now — I’m kind of taking courses all over the place. I took a world religions course, and I’ve taken an English course …  just keeping it fun and interesting.

CGM: What course are you liking best so far?

JT: I’m really liking this world religions course. But it also has some popular culture in it, so it’s cool.

CGM: What else are you working on these days? Do you even have time to do anything else, or is this all-encompassing for you?

I mean, it all kind of works together, but other than music — I’m always songwriting at home. I have two sisters; I like to spend time with them, and my friends. It’s the summer, so I always like to get up to cottages. That’s my favorite part about living in Canada — I always get to go to cottages. But right now, my main focus is Degrassi, we’re working on this album, and university.

CGM: Lastly — how are you liking the arc of your character so far for Season 12, as opposed to last season?

I’m really enjoying it. My character is finally getting out of her sadness and wearing no makeup, not doing her hair. So it’s kind of nice to get all dolled up again when I come to set, and be able to express my emotions and try new things, talk to new characters. And it’s nice that Jenna is finding light in her life again after all she’s been through.

What’s really exciting this season is that Chazz Bono makes an appearance. That’s pretty exciting for me and for the rest of the cast, and for Degrassi. I got a chance to meet Chazz when he was on set, and he was really, really nice. I’m excited for everyone to see it.

CGM: Anybody else?

JT: We are really good friends with Lauren, the host from MuchMusic, and she’s always here anyway, so you never know. She could just pop up in a scene one day.

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Photo: Stephen Scott/Epitome Pictures, Inc./Nickelodeon.  ©2012 Viacom International, Inc.  All rights Reserved.

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