Neil Hope was a longtime Degrassi fixture—he started out as the cherubic Robin “Griff” Griffiths on The Kids of Degrassi Street and, like Stacie Mistysyn and Anais Granofsky, became a beloved major player at Degrassi Junior High. His well-meaning but troubled character, Derek “Wheels” Wheeler, was best pals with Joey Jeremiah and Snake, and the third member of the Zit Remedy, the de facto Degrassi house band. Although Wheels remained on the pop-culture radar for years after Degrassi wrapped—thanks to countless seasons of reruns—Hope stayed out of the public spotlight. This past February, fans were shocked to learn that he’d not only died, but, according to reports, had passed away in 2007. Most of his former castmates have been careful not to discuss the particulars of Hope’s passing, but many have noted that the tragic circumstances did serve as a catalyst to get back in touch with other Degrassi alums. “He was family,” says Mistysyn. “He is family. And in a way, it took him to get a lot of us to reconnect.”
Related reading: What happened to the other cast members of Degrassi Junior High?