Canadian actor Adamo Ruggiero has opened up about his groundbreaking role on Degrassi and his coming out journey.
In an interview with the AV Club, Ruggiero celebrated the show’s 20th anniversary and revealed that his character – Marco Del Rossi – helped him come out.
“I was a closeted gay boy, and I found myself on the show, and my life went from zero to 100. I hadn’t really acted that much before,” he explained.
“Suddenly, I was a character that was playing to all my deepest, darkest secrets, so there was a lot of negotiation of my coming out personally and a negotiation of my personally not being prepared to have those conversations because they were drawing to these pains in me.”
He added: “But in a way, I was forced to have those conversations, publicly and globally. That balance was ping-pong, like, “Who am I? Am I ready to reveal? I know that this character, whether I like it or not, is going to reveal it for me.”
Although his time as Marco was an eye-opening experience, Ruggiero wished that his own coming out journey wasn’t so public.
“It was a time that was incredible, but also left some things in me that have taken me some years to negotiate, and I’m still negotiating,” he said. “It was a coming-out experience that should not have been that public for me.”
He went on to say that his character helped introduce him to the “queer world.”
“What Marco gave me is a community. In the promotion of the show, I connected with a queer world,” he exclaimed.
“He just busted open this door of a world that probably would have taken a lot longer to find.”
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Later in the interview, Ruggiero’s Degrassi co-star Lauren Collins – who played Paige Michalchuk – gave further insight into what he was going through at the time.
“I remember when Adamo came out to me, and it was after Marco came out,” she said.
“I can’t imagine the struggle and the turmoil that he’d been going through having to act out what he was about to experience in his own life. I think that’s what made the performance so moving.”
Although Marco broke barriers for LGBTQ+ representation, Ruggiero felt like there were a few missed opportunities for his character.
“[Marco] was so pure. We missed opportunities to talk about gay sex, and queer sex and queer bodies,” he explained.
“Marco is really kind of desexualized, and I think that was something that maybe networks weren’t ready for at the time.
“Once Marco came out, he always had a boyfriend. But in his relationships, there was nothing about the dynamics of gay sex and safe sex and the sexual culture as a young gay man.”
Known as the show that “went there,” Degrassi: The Next Generation first debuted in October 2001 and spawned 14 seasons and three TV movies.
The iconic series was later revived by Netflix with Degrassi: Next Class, which ran for four seasons.