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Exclusive Interview with Degrassi’s Ehren Kassam

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Talk Nerdy With Us recently had the chance to speak with Canadian actor and musician Ehren Kassam. Ehren is best known for his roles on Degrassi: The Next Generation and Once Upon a Time. Ehren also plays guitar and is the lead singer for the band Eleanor Shore. Keep reading to see what Ehren said about the new demos Eleanor Shore is releasing, Degrassi: Next Class, Game of Thrones and more.

You picked Eleanor Shore as a band name because Eric (Osborne) had a dream, and that’s all you guys will say about it. We know that you guys had other names prior to that. What are some of the names that you came up with?

It was between Eleanor Shore which was Eric’s idea, and then I had this other idea that we all … It was the French word for “to sleep”, so Dormir. When we first started, we had more of a folk sound, so we wanted something that was kind of folk-y. It was a couple of weeks of deciding between Eleanor Shore and Dormir, and we just decided that Dormir was a little too pretentious sounding. (Laughs). It sounded like we were trying to be a coffee shop band, so we decided on Eleanor Shore.

How did Eleanor Shore come to be?

I don’t know. Eric woke up one morning and just said, “Oh by the way, I thought of a good name,” and I was like, “Okay, what is it?” He said it, and I had no idea what he said at first. (Laughs). Then he went on to explain this dream. We all were pretty into it, but I was still hooked on Dormir for a while, so I didn’t want to commit to anything. I didn’t believe him at first actually. I said, “You’re full of crap. You didn’t have a dream. You’re just too creative.” It was a really cool idea which was good.

How long have you been playing musical instruments?

I took piano lessons. I started really young when I was in grade 3 or 4 maybe. I did it because my brother did. I never wanted to take them, but my mom made me, and I took them for a couple of years, and then I stopped because I hated it. I ended up not playing music for a long time. I just started singing in grade 5 with karaoke tracks and stuff. Then one day I just sat down at our piano at home, and just looked up some chords to songs, and started playing. I went back to lessons for a year, and then I quit because I hated lessons still. (Laughs). Then I just started teaching myself again, and then in grade 8 I got my first guitar, so I taught myself that. I’ve just been trying to learn things ever since.

Do you play any other instruments?

I dabble on the drums a little, and I guess recently I’ve been dabbling on the bass, but I don’t really think I play it. In grade 8, I played the tuba.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

Definitely The Middle by Jimmy Eat World. It was the first one I sang in front of my school in grade 5. My mic didn’t work for the first half of the song, and I remember how cripplingly embarrassing that was (laughs). I was turned off singing for a while. Then I just did it again the next year and it was fine, but yeah, definitely The Middle.

What was the first concert that you went to?

It was Hedley, and it was for my brother’s birthday. We saw them in Peterborough. We went and saw Hedley for their first album, I think. My parents surprised us and stuff, so it was super cool. Since then, I think I’ve been to over 25 concerts.

What’s been your favorite?

I’m not a huge fan of the band anymore, but Green Day was definitely my favorite concert just because they had such an amazing amount of energy on stage. I think it was the American Idiot Tour. It was at the amphitheater, and it was so good. It was just 3 hours of nonstop playing. It was awesome.

You guys just announced that you’re releasing new demos soon!

Yeah, 4 more actually.

What can you tell us about them?

We gauged what they were going to be. We went off what kind of responses we got from the previous ones. We had a lot of positive response from the song Bug Bites, and that’s the kind of style we were going for. A kind of darker, alternative music. You can expect a lot of that kind of stuff, and also just on a bigger scale, more instruments and more effects. Eric bought a new synthesizer that we are playing around with. I think for one of our songs, our band mate Sean has got a couple of his friends to play violin and stuff, and they’re going to do some backing on them. I think it’s going to be really different from our previous stuff, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it sounds.

With 4 more demos, when will you guys release an EP?

I think we’re looking at an EP for next summer. We’re going to start trying to record throughout the year, and then next summer hopefully release an EP. We’re just trying to find the right recording studio that is going to best suit our stuff, so I think we’re looking at an EP for then.

How did you get involved with acting? Was it something you always wanted to do?

I did stage acting my whole life since grade 4, and then I remember grade 10, Eric tells me he got on the show, and I was like, “Holy crap. Is that a thing? How do you do that?” He said, “You just have to get an agent,” so I’m like, “Okay.” I went and got an agent, and that’s how I got into film and television and stuff. (Laughs). I’ve always been interested in stage acting, so that’s how it started.

What’s your favorite stage play?

Favorite one in general is probably … It’s a musical. I saw Robin Hood the musical when it came to Toronto, so either that or Les Mis definitely. Robin Hood is really good. It’s like a folk-y musical, so they do it on stage with guitars and stuff, and it’s really, really cool.

Then favorite one I’ve done was actually in grade 11. The reason I went to the high school I went to, was because they had a musical theater program that was very known and very good, so I decided to switch to that school, and also because my mom taught there, so I switched there. We did A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, and I got to play the male lead Sydney Carton, and it was by far the most favorite acting performance and thing I’ve ever done. It was a lot of fun.

You just graduated, right? 

Our actual graduation isn’t for a couple of weeks, but yeah, I finished high school!

Congratulations, that’s awesome! Are you doing anything special for graduation?

Our school has the ceremony where all of us come back and stuff. I think we’re going to have a quiet night after because we’re driving our friend back to Laurier the next day to go see her choir concert, so not really doing too much, but it’ll be nice to see everybody.

What are your plans for next year?

I don’t know. I don’t really think super far ahead. I was thinking of trying to go to school or something, or applying to a film program somewhere, but I’m also just thinking about taking another year to just live and get some more work maybe. I don’t really know the long-term plan yet. Maybe I’ll move to a mountain. (Laughs).

Exciting! What is your go-to Halloween costume?

Every year I keep forgetting to get one until the last-minute. So, I always end up a pirate because I have a white shirt, and a brown vest, and a bandana. This year I really wanted to figure something else out, so our friend Sara (Waisglass) said to me, “Let’s go as Khal Drogo and Khaleesi from Game of Thrones,” so I was like, “Okay, yeah, that’s going to be awesome.” She says then, “Okay, but I told some other people I’m going to be some stuff with them, so let me just get back to you,” so I said, “Okay.” Then I was hanging out with her and some friends the other night, and she was talking to all of them about her current Halloween costume which was not what she had told me, so that ruined my plan of doing Khal Drogo. (Laughs). I have no idea what I’m going to be. I’m going to start thinking about it.

What was your audition process like for Once Upon a Time?

For Once Upon a Time it was a very quick thing. It was cast by Clark & Page in Vancouver. I did a self-tape for it which my agent forwarded to casting and they booked me off my tape and flew me out to shoot.  

Had you watched the series prior?

I had watched half of season 1 with my mom when it first came out, and then I think I just couldn’t commit to whatever night of the week it was on or something. When it came on Netflix, I was interested in starting it. Then I got the audition too!

So, how did you and Spencer (MacPherson) become roommates?

That was a such a random thing. I posted on Facebook, “Anybody looking for a roommate?” Or something like, “Just let me know because I’m planning on moving.” 3 people liked the status, but nobody responded, so I was like, “Okay, well this sucks.” I was just looking at people who I could room with, and I remember just looking through my phone and seeing that Spencer was 18, so I said, “Okay, maybe he’ll want to move.” I didn’t really know him at all. We had only talked like 2 times maybe on set, and then I texted him and said, “Hey man, it’s Ehren. Are you planning on moving this year?” He said, “Yeah, I can move,” so I said, “Hey well, do you want to move in together?” He said, “Sure,” so we found a place. (Laughs).

Really? 

Yeah, I swear to God that’s how it happened. It was so, so random.

Since we are Talk Nerdy With Us, what do you nerd out about? What makes you a nerd?

Recently Game of Thrones. I got hooked on that, and I’ve got a lot of other people hooked on it too. I nerd about Game of Thrones! Khaleesi is my woman crush Wednesday. (Laughs). I think Jaime Lannister’s my favorite character. It’s definitely my favorite show in the world.

Did you binge watch it, or did you start it from the beginning? Did you read the books?

I had to binge watch the first few seasons, and then I watched it as it aired from then on. I know Sara binged watched the entire series in like a week. Everybody was telling her to watch it, so she ended up doing it, and I’m still trying to get Eric to watch it, but he says he hates anything medieval.

Are you more of a binge watcher, or do you watch weekly?

I like to watch weekly because I like the suspense and stuff. I kind of hate binge watching things because I feel a couch potato. (Laughs). I’d say I’m probably more of a weekly watcher. I binged watched Breaking Bad up until the very end, and then I watched it as it came on. I’d definitely say I’m more of a weekly watcher.

Do you enjoy watching yourself, or are you the type of person who can’t stand watching themselves?

I don’t really like watching myself. I only watch the handful of times when I’m live tweeting and stuff, and when we do ADR and stuff I’ll watch them. For the most part, I don’t really like to watch myself. I don’t think I’m a horrible actor or anything. I just get uncomfortable. It’s like looking at my nose on-screen or something that I don’t like. I don’t know. I get uncomfortable.

Since Degrassi moved to Netflix, are you still going to live tweet? How are you going to socially interact with fans now?

I don’t know how we’re supposed to do that now! I know it’s going to be on Netflix … It’s going to be on Netflix in every country, and then it’s going to be on Family Channel in Canada, so maybe we’ll live tweet as it comes on Family Channel? Not really sure how that whole twitter thing is going to happen anymore.

Tell me about your audition process for Jonah?

My audition process for Jonah was an all at once thing. I actually had got an agent the week before, and I had one audition for a character named Chris. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I think I went to an open casting call, or my agent told me about it and said to go, so I did.

Then I got a call back for Jonah, and I went and did it again. Then I had to go audition for the producers and stuff, and that was really nerve-wracking. I think there was only 6 of us auditioning at that time, and then I was told after that that I was first choice for the role, but I had to wait 2 months to find out anything. That was a very stressful 2 months.

What can you tell us about Jonah and Next Class?

Jonah and Next Class. You can expect a very different group of people he’s hanging out with, I can’t say too much. You can also expect maybe slightly new hair, but I also can’t say much about that. (Laughs). I don’t know how much I can say.

What character from Degrassi have you not had a chance to have a scene with that you would like to in future seasons?

I’d really like to have a scene with Miles actually. I don’t think we want to have a storyline. I think I just want to have one really random funny scene even. That’s just really out-of-place, but I just want one in there … For the fans that know we’re like best friends, it could be kind of funny.

Does Jonah get a love interest this season?

He does. Can’t say who, but he does!

Besides Degrassi. Do you have anything else that you’re currently working on?

This week, I just shot just a couple of episodes on a web series which I can’t really say too much about. I don’t even think I can tell you the name to be honest. I was asking them, but yeah I shot a couple of episodes on a web series. I play the main character’s little brother which is cool. That will be launching in November I believe.

Do you have preference between TV or web? 

No, not really. I didn’t really find too much of a difference. The thing with the web series is it was kind of different because we shot it with just a locked camera which was cool, so the camera didn’t move. That was different. It felt like the whole thing was a little more fast paced which I don’t know how crazy I was about. I like how with TV it takes a long time to do each scene because you get a lot more chances. I found the web series to be a little fast paced, but for the most part, they’re very similar. I haven’t done any film yet, so I don’t know …

Is web more similar to stage acting?

It is. It did feel a lot like a stage. It was very choreographed. People come in at different times and stuff. That was cool to go back to that for a little while.

 

Ehren’s Favorites: 

Disney character? I love all 7 of the dwarfs. They were always my favorite, and I have to say, Sleepy … There’s one named Sleepy right? Yeah, yeah. Sleepy was always my favorite.

Pizza? Barbecue chicken from Pizza Pizza! It has the barbecue sauce on it. I like spicy stuff.

Game console? Xbox which is kind of strange because I’ve played PS3 my whole life, and then I just bought an Xbox One last year, and ever since then, I’ve been hooked on that.

Animal? A horse even though I’ve never really interacted with them. I do really like horses, and I like birds a lot too, really big ones which is odd for most people because they’re scared of big birds. Pterodactyls, and cranes, and stuff.

Sport? Definitely baseball as of late, but before that, I really liked soccer.

 

Follow Ehren on Twitter.  

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