From “DeGrassi” to “Verona”: Shannon Kook-Chun on Playing Gay, Fitting in and More!

Degrassi has
always done a great job telling the stories of gay and lesbian teens, and that tradition has continued recently with the coming out drama of football player Riley Stavros (Argiris Karras).
This season, the show brought on Zane Park,
played by Shannon Kook-Chun, as a new character as a love interest for Riley. So far viewers have watched Zane help the still closeted Riley continue to do with his anger issues and worries over how coming it will affect his life.

We talked to Kook-Chun about his role, his views
on gays on television, his own struggles to fit in in a world where he’s
perceived as different, his short film Verona and a
lot more.

How did you get started in acting?
I was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was doing acting in
school as an extramural [activity], but never really thought of myself as someone who
could actually do it. But then one day I had a wake-up call and I moved to Canada. At
first I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through an agent or whether I should go
to classes or theater school, so I just took it step by step.

I decided to just go for what I want now. You always try to
act like you know what you want to do like going to university, but you never
really know why you’re doing it. I’m not the type of person who does something
just for the sake of doing it so I decide to just roll with it and see how it
goes. That’s pretty much how it happened.

AE: How’d you get the job on Degrassi?
been auditioning for a little while and I went to theater school and the
casting director saw my work. I knew a lot of the cast before. I’d hang out with a bunch of the Degrassi kids. I was good buddies with
Argiris. We hung out a lot last summer. He was crashing on my couch for like
three weeks. But they didn’t know I was friends with Argiris until I came to

with Argiris Karras (Riley)

Photo credit: Stephen Scott

AE: What appeals to you about Zane?
He’s a
lot more bold than I am. I’ve dealt with my own issues being a mixed race guy
who comes from South Africa
and moving around the world. I’ve dealt with issues of belonging and
identity and what makes me who I am. You can often tailor what you are or
should be by what’s around you and behave in what you think is the right or
cool way to behave. I’ve dealt with that a lot and have my own questions about
who I am and where I belong.

With Zane, he’s very okay with himself which I find a very
hard thing to be. I don’t know that many people who are okay with themselves. What
I love about him is the way he stood up to people who were ridiculing him and
people who were telling him who he should and shouldn’t be. I’ve dealt a lot
with that myself, but I’ve been in situations where I haven’t handled it as
well. And I just really admire the way he stood up for himself.

Photo credit: Stephen Scott

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