by Valerie Siebert
Living in Toronto, even if you haven’t seen Degrassi or her new show 18 to Life (ie. If you’ve been living under a rock), you will still know Stacey Farber’s face. For the last few weeks, an advertising campaign for the new sitcom has been storming the city and images of Farber and her on-screen husband (Michael Seater) have invaded what must be a majority of Toronto’s billboards, bus shelters, and subway posters.
The show follows the resulting events after the 18 year-old daughter of a new agey common law couple marries the neighbouring conservative Jewish family’s son; spoiler alert: heads butt and hilarity ensues. The show also mixes in a healthy dose of teenage drama and comedic twists on mundane realism that allows for some serious wide-spread relate-ability. I’ve been lucky enough to see the first 3 episodes and will definitely be tuning in for the subsequent ones.
Stacey Farber is a real home-grown Canadian TV star, having literally grown-up on TV. She spent 8 years (since the age of 14) treading the boards for Canada’s most notorious high school as goth-chick turned hardened tough cookie role-model Ellie Nash on Degrassi. Although she still plays a girl growing up a bit too fast on 18 to Life, the mood of the show is significantly lighter and will certainly let Degrassi fans see that Stacey Farber is not to be pigeonholed so easily.
Appropriately dressed for the weather, cute as a button and sweet as pie, Stacey has all the maturity one would assume she would with it being her job to grow up too fast, but she is also very grounded, honest, practical and genuinely has fun in what she does.
We sat down with her to discuss her new venture as well as life, love and twitter.
Your face is everywhere –I know you had a long run on Degrassi – but how does this huge amount of publicity focused on you feel right now?
It’s new, it’s brand new! Over the 8 years that I was on Degrassi I did a lot of press, but nothing like this. I think the big difference is that Degrassi was an ensemble cast so there were lots of people all my age and lots of girls, but on the new show I am the female lead so I get a lot of ad space. And it’s very overwhelming! I’ve walked into bus shelters that I’m on and I take the subway so I have to pull my hat over my head when I go through certain stations like Yonge and Bloor where it’s all 18 to Life. It’s a little scary, but it’s fun and it’s only up for a month, I think.
So should people get married at eighteen? Or is that destined to fail?
Well I don’t know really, I hope it works out for our characters on the show (I don’t know yet). The premise of the series is pretty simple, but that’s what makes it funny. Basically you can break it down to kids in adult situations and that always makes for great comedy. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
What do you think makes a marriage work? How do you know if he/she is the one? Or do you ever really know?
Ooh, I think I’m too young to answer these questions! Well I guess I would say honesty, you have to be true to yourself and to your partner to make it work, always. I’m not sure if you ever know if that person is the one, I like to think there is more than one person out there for everyone.
Do you think there is a trend right now in terms of all the shows centered around teenage pregnancies and teen marriage?
Yeah there is a trend, I think it started with Juno and then Jamie Lynn Spears and it just became a fascinating bit of news for the public. Our show doesn’t deal with pregnancy though, so it’s not completely in this trend.
What are you enjoying most about 18 to Life?
First and foremost would have to be the writing, which is what attracted me to the role in the first place; it’s very funny and smart and original and I’ve become very good friends with the writers on the show as well as the producers. Secondly, I was really excited to do something different from Degrassi because on Degrassi I played a much darker character. Every character on Degrassi has several issues, but my character often had to deal with things like depression and so I was excited to be a part of a comedy where I get to laugh instead of cry all the time. Thirdly, the producers invited Michael (Seater, costar) and me to participate in every part of the show. We would sit in on meetings for advertising, discuss PR opportunities, and talk about the scripts, wardrobe, set design, everything; which is really rare.
How did working on Degrassi mature you? You pretty much spent your teenage years on the show.
Degrassi affected me in really unique ways, as it did for everyone on the show because we pretty much grew up on TV and working. I had to work with adults like directors, producers and writers and I had to attend events where I was representing the show so I had to learn to behave maturely and professionally. I definitely think I grew up faster than I would have otherwise. As for 18 to Life, I’m beginning a new chapter, having completed high school and university, I’m in a much different place and I feel like I’m still figuring out who I am, but I have a much clearer idea of what I want.
What was the biggest learning experience you gained from Degrassi?
Well I learned almost everything I know in terms of acting on Degrassi as I hadn’t done much before that show (I was 14 when I started). In my personal life, I learned a lot about multi-tasking because I had to juggle going to high school and university and I also learned the importance of reputation and maintaining a positive sense of self because I did have to be a role model for young girls whether I wanted to or not and that was a big responsibility.
If you could spend a Saturday in Toronto, doing exactly what you wanted to –what would that look like? Favourite brunch spot? Boutique? Park?
Well I’m just starting to explore Toronto as I grew up in the suburbs and then went to University in New York and after I graduated in May I moved to Montreal where 18 to Life is filmed and stayed there all summer so I’ve only been here for a few months! I’m still trying to figure out that perfect Saturday. But a few things I love are Bloor cinema, walking down Ossington and Queen West and I really love brunch, but I’m still searching for a good spot.
You went to school for writing, is this something that is still a priority for you?
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my degree (Creative Writing). I went to a really unique school in New York, a little liberal arts college and the writing program was very special; we had no lectures and spend most of the time just writing and work-shopping. But I haven’t felt the burning desire to write anything in particular these days, I’m hoping that will change, I’m thinking about forcing myself to write a screen play, just to see if I can do it, but for now I have a lot of reading I want to do.
You had an internship at Teen Vogue, was it like Whitney and Lauren Conrad’s internship?
No, they were in the fashion department. I also did internships at Nylon and Allure, but I wanted to learn how a women’s magazine was run so I picked different departments every time and at Teen Vogue I worked for the website in the editorial department so it wasn’t like what they were doing. I was doing research and producing some original content for the site so I got to do more than just handle the clothes.
If you could try on a totally different career for a few years, what would that be?
I used to dream of owning a vintage clothing store. I don’t think much about it anymore, but it was something I always wanted to do. More recently I’ve been toying with the idea about getting an internship at a literary agency, because I love reading so much. And then instead of selling my writing I could sell other talented writer’s work.
I noticed you had a Twitter account, as someone who’s seen the media industry from both sides of the Dictaphone, what sort of impact do you see it having on journalism? Who do you enjoy following?
I only just got it! And I’m pretty bad at it! I’ll follow like CNN, maybe Tina Fey and some of my fans who ask me to follow them, but I don’t really read much of it. I don’t think it’s really the ‘new’ journalism because it’s just soundbytes, right; it’s so, so succinct.
When you are in NYC what do you miss from Toronto? And likewise –what do you love about NYC that we don’t have in Toronto?
I think in my first year in NY I felt homesick and I felt like I was missing out on stuff with my friends who were at University in Canada and I missed my family, but I was still able to come back when I was filming Degrassi and see them. Now that I’m back, I miss the pace of New York, it’s true that the city never sleeps, you can get food whenever you want, go to the bar or the movies whenever you want. It’s a city of convenience, which might be excessive, but also a lot of fun.
What’s on repeat on your iPod?
What’s the most favourite item in your wardrobe?
Well it changes, but I did just get a new pair of shoes that I’m excited about because I’m not really a shoe person and I realized I had been wearing the same heels every time I went out. I figured I should get a similar, but new pair, and so I did, and I’m very excited about them.
When are you your most happy?
Probably when I’m busy. I like a certain amount of stress in my life. I remember when I was in New York I really enjoyed having so many things going on at once because it made me appreciate my time off a lot more and to enjoy my weekends and time with my friends more because It’s so limited.
18 to Life airs Mondays at 8pm on CBC.