Neil Hope: Neil Hope, Of ‘Degrassi’ Mourned After 2007 Death
February 17, 2012 by staff
Neil Hope: Neil Hope, Of ‘Degrassi’ Mourned After 2007 Death, Degrassi producers and former cast members have confirmed the death of Neil Hope, who played the character Derek “Wheels” Wheeler on the long-running show, having only learned of his passing in 2007 days ago.
As fans mourned Thursday, Stephanie Cohen, vice-president of marketing and communications for Epitome Pictures Inc., which produces the teen drama, said executive producers Linda Schuyler, who was involved in the original series, and Stephen Stohn were “incredibly saddened” by the news.
“Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the live of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played starting from the early days of The Kids of Degrassi Street,” the pair, who were on vacation Thursday, said in a statement.
“His life was not an easy one, but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work and hopeful optimism and he is sorely missed.”
Former Degrassi stars shared the news among themselves on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, said Dan Woods, who played teacher, and later principal, Mr. Raditch on the show.
Woods said he first met Hope when he was a teenager on the set of Degrassi Junior High.
“He was a quiet guy when we were off set, but full of energy, very bright-eyed,” Woods said in a phone interview with the Star from California. “We’re all pretty shocked about the news. We’re saddened by it. Neil was a great guy and a great light.”
Schuyler and Hope worked together over the past 32 years the show has been running, from The Kids of Degrassi Street to Degrassi: The Next Generation, where Hope appeared in three reunion episodes with old cast members Pat Mastroianni and Stefan Brogren, who play Joey Jeremiah and Archibald “Archie” “Snake” Simpson.
But Cohen said Epitome had lost touch with Hope in the past several years since his last appearance in 2003.
On Twitter Thursday, after tweeting a link to the Star’s story of Hope’s death, Stohn wrote: “We have respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, but our entire team is very emotional about his passing.”
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