Who still remembers Campbell Saunders? As Degrassi fans wait anxiously for the fourth season of Degrassi: Next Class on Netflix, saying goodbye to the last class of students from the original series, let’s look back on one character who is no longer a student and a great way they could’ve brought the character back even just for one scene.
Who was Campbell Saunders? Canadian actor Dylan Everett joined the show in the beginning of the original Degrassi’s twelfth season, appearing first in its “Bite Your Tongue” season 12 promo video with the rest of the Degrassi cast. It has 78,590 views on YouTube. Saunders played for the hockey team and dated Maya Matlin. He became the fan-favorite character really quickly. He appeared only in 20 episodes, but Dylan Everett brilliantly portrayed Saunder’s struggles and everything that drove him into that fatal decision in the greenhouse and ended his own life. Everett’s last episode on the show aired on February 15th, 2013.
Throughout season three in Degrassi: Next Class, Maya Matlin has developed a fascination with death. In the last episode of season 3, #ImSleep, it has been 4 years after Campbell’s suicide, and Maya Matlin sat in an empty school bus attempting to kill herself by putting many pills into her mouth and waited for her death listening to music. Then, after awhile, she decided to walk onto the school’s attic, looking down and taking a picture of trees. Two students found her with liquid out of her mouth. Then, the doctors in the hospital saved her. It was as strange and weirdly uneventful as the description you had just read, and her “death fascination” storyline ended in an awkward way. The show seemed to say, “Stop becoming fascinated with death or you will die…well, almost die!”
When Campbell Saunders died, Everett said during an interview in the YouTube video, “The Inside Look: Bitter Sweet Symphony,” “When I originally auditioned for the part, I had known one of the reasons I was submitted for, they were like, oh it’s just gonna be one season, and then progressively throughout the season, you find out that Cam is depressed and whatnot, so it was speculated on set whether it was gonna happen or not.” He continued, “It was a surprise to everyone when we came back from the hiatus and that was the first script we’re reading and then boom! It happened and everyone was just in shock.“ It was supposed to be shocking, it was supposed to be sad, but it wasn’t as impactful as the show developers had hoped, mainly because the character was only on screen for 20 episodes. A few PSA videos and on camera interviews were made and his death mostly impacted Matlin but then everyone moved on, including Matlin, and Saunders was barely mentioned, and especially during Degrassi: Next Class, no one even talked about Saunders until the third season when Matlin mentioned him while she was talking to Saad in #PicsOrItDidnthappen.
Instead of her randomly going to the attic when she attempted to kill herself, wouldn’t it have been better if she suddenly felt alone dying in the school bus and so she stepped into the Degrassi Green House, wanting to be at the place her former lover passed away and so even though she was dying in the dark all by her lonesome, she didn’t feel alone because she was going to see Saunders after death? Then, when she started hallucinating, have Campbell Saunders appear in an illusion, urging her not to make his mistake because if he had not died, he would’ve been able to be a great hockey player, maybe even join the National Hockey League, maybe they would’ve been able to grow old together. The spirit of Campbell Saunders might even encourage her to become a great singer and write a song about him one day, making Matlin want to treasure her own life and end her fascination with death. It would’ve given her “death fascination” story a better resolution and actually allowing Saunders’ death to mean something. Instead of using the storyline to warn kids against being fascinated with death, it would’ve encouraged the viewers to treasure their lives. It would’ve reinforced everything they were trying to say with Saunder’s death and it would’ve been more powerful than any of the PSA videos they made after Saunder’s death.
According to Dylan Everett’s IMDB, Campbell Saunders will make an appearance in Degrassi: Next Class season 4’s finale, “#KThxBye.” However, it’s actually a mistake and the character would not make an appearance at all. Twitter user @frahry asked the Degrassi Writers (@DegrassiWriters) regarding Saunders’ credit on IMDB with a picture of it attached to the tweet saying, “Care to explain?” The Writers confirmed it was a mistake with their reply saying, “No idea.”
Degrassi: Next Class will premiere its fourth season on Friday, July 7th on Netflix.
Written by Curtis Han, RM Entertainment Contributor