On Tuesday morning, Joshua Safran (Quantico, Gossip Girl), the creator of Netflix series Soundtrack, shared the heartbreaking news that actor Jahmil French passed away Monday at age 29, via Twitter. According to Essence, Safran was the first to break the news, that was confirmed later in the day via French’s representative in a statement shared by CNN and other outlets. The Canadian actor starred in the film Boost and television series such as Let’s Get Physical, The Divide, Remedy and Soundtrack, but is most well-known for his role on the teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation.
I can confirm my good friend, co-worker, and all around inspiration, Jahmil French, passed away yesterday. Only posting because I see the story getting out there. I will have more to say about him later. Right now we’re all just processing this devastating news.
— chisme chica (@Anthologist) March 2, 2021
The series-spanning Canadian drama institution Degrassi, can trace it’s origins back to the 1979 series The Kids of Degrassi Street. The franchises’ rotating ensemble highlights a bevy of up-and-coming Canadian talent and has produced stars such as Stacey Farber (Superman and Lois, Saving Hope), Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries, The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and Drake. French enrolled in Degrassi Community School in 2009, where he played student Dave Turner.
According to Essence, French’s role on Degrassi: The Next Generation earned him a Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Performance in a Children’s/Youth Program/Series. The series’ official Twitter page released a statement from Degrassi: The Next Generation co-creator and executive producer, Linda Schuyler, after news French’s passing broke on Tuesday.
character ‘Dave’ with an airy lightness. Off screen Jahmil would always make me smile. He will be deeply missed.”
Co-Creator and Executive Producer
Degrassi: The Next Generation pic.twitter.com/VlYwI2uqSg
— Degrassi (@Degrassi) March 3, 2021
As the day continued, social media feeds began to populate with condolences from Degrassi: The Next Generation fans alongside statements of disbelief and remembrance from the alumni of French’s graduating Degrassi class.
A sad day for the Degrassi family. With a heavy heart I thank you for all the times you made me laugh, taught me dance moves, and gave me confidence as Adam. Thinking of all the memories we shared on and off of set. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/KzzqXhvOzY
— Jordy Todosey (@JordyTodosey) March 2, 2021
Fictional brothers Drew and Adam Torres, portrayed by Luke Bilyk (Raising Expectations, Lost Girl) and Jordan Todosey (Life with Derek, Wishfart), served as two of Dave Turner’s closest friends on Degrassi: The Next Generation. On Twitter, Todosey shared how French’s warmth off-screen helped give her the confidence to play Adam, the franchises’ first transgender character. Drew Torres’ actor, Bilyk, shared an Instagram gallery of behind-the-scenes photos of French during the production of Degrassi: The Next Generation, commenting that “I’ll always remember you dancing down the halls of the green room.”
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“He was always dancing,” Degrassi: The Next Generation actress Annie Clark (Solo) submitted video evidence to back up her claim on Twitter. Clark added that the video of French dancing is “is how I’ll always think of him. So full of energy and fun” (Twitter).
Heartbroken over the loss of our friend Jahmil French. This video is how I’ll always think of him. So full of energy and fun. He was always dancing. A true talent and a great friend. We will all miss you so much Jahmil pic.twitter.com/hgKibZ1h1j
— Annie Clark (@anniejclark) March 2, 2021
Sam Earle (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Guidance) reiterated French’s love of dancing with an anecdote of his own. “He would show up to my house-parties with a crew of dancers,” the K.C. Guthrie actor shared on Twitter “and they would elevate the mood immediately.”
Jahmil had such talent and charisma that it would have been intimidating were he not also a real gentleman. He would show up to my house-parties with a crew of dancers and they would elevate the mood immediately. When life got messy he would handle himself with grace and levity. https://t.co/gDxmXdb6IA
— Sam Earle (@Smearle_RH) March 2, 2021
Even when he wasn’t dancing, French’s infectious warmth and energy filled the halls of Degrassi, and his charisma was referenced by numerous cast members throughout the day on Tuesday. Campbell Saunders’ actor, Dylan Everett (Wingin’ It, Degrassi: The Next Generation), told Twitter that the late actor made Degrassi a welcoming environment and that “he disarmed you with a smile” (Twitter).
✨ Thinking of Jahmil French & the entire Degrassi family today ✨ pic.twitter.com/KdZUveEMML
— XXXDRIVE (@luxxxstone) March 2, 2021
In a longer and more involved Twitter obituary, Lyle Lettau (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Arthur) shared a collection of specific specific about his time working with French, including yet another instance of the actor dancing without inhibition. Lettau ended his statement with a call to action, imploring his followers to adopt an ounce of French’s storied fearlessness and confident sense of self. Lettau also shared behind-the-scenes insight about the nervousness that he and French shared shooting Degrassi’s “Romeo & Jules” musical together.
Melinda Shankar (Degrassi: The Next Generation, How to Be Indie), another actress who shared a Degrassi kiss or two with French, attached the caption “Bhandurner forever” to photos of herself and French both on and off-screen through the years, via Twitter. Fans of the series know Bhandurner as the couple name for Shankar’s Alli Bhandari and French’s Dave Turner.
Bhandurner forever in my heart. pic.twitter.com/aWLHzsGUkf
— Melinda Shankar (@melindashankar) March 2, 2021
French’s cause of death has not yet been disclosed, but the sudden nature of his passing was best summarized by fellow Degrassi alumni, A.J. Saudin (Degrassi: The Next Generation), who tweeted that the news “still doesn’t feel real.”
My heart is broken. I feel strange, announcing these things I wish I had told him more often. Reached out more often. The regret is acute. He deserved his flowers when he was here. I hope he knew how much love & admiration there was for him in this world.
— Aislinn Paul (@aislinnpaul) March 2, 2021
“He deserved his flowers while he was here,” actress Aislinn Paul (Heroes Reborn, Degrassi: The Next Generation) shared her regrets and grief on Twitter. In a previous tweet, the actress reflected on the year of sadness that has ensued since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and how tragic news, such as this, only adds to the grievous mental toll.
I’m sick with the news of Jahmil’s passing. He performed Dave with such sensitivity and thoughtfulness and could make me laugh so easily. It was a pleasure to work with him and he will be missed. This is a real loss. Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/ZbCyqNulkC
— Stefan Brogren (@stefanbrogren) March 2, 2021
Degrassi: The Next Generation actors Stefan Brogren (Degrassi High), Andrea Lewis (Cadet Kelly) and Cristine Prosperi (Bring It On Worldwide #Cheersmack) likewise shared obituary posts for their colleague and friend on Twitter. Television director R.T. Thorne (Degrassi: The Next Generation, Backstage) and After Degrassi host Lauren Toyota also contributed to the outpouring of love and loss expressed for French on Tuesday.
— RT Thorne (@directedbyRT) March 3, 2021
Upon leaving Degrassi in 2013, French showed promise with reoccurring roles in many television series, including his most recent role in Netflix’s Soundtrack. Though he may have left the hallowed halls of Degrassi behind, French’s legacy and generosity continued to influence the next class of students. Actor Eric Osborne (Thicker Than Water), who took his character Miles Hollingsworth III from Degrassi: The Next Generation to Degrassi: Next Class, shared how he was impacted by French’s compassion during his brief time working with the actor before his 2013 departure from the series, via Twitter.
The impression I had always stuck with me and from all I have heard he was such a beautiful and loving person, the special kind that makes everything a little lighter. Thank you to everyone who has been sharing stories of their time with him. Sending love to Jahmil and all of you
— Eric Osborne (@ericosborne_11) March 3, 2021
Shankar has ensured that the love for French and his legacy will continue to pour in on social media throughout the week, with a Twitter call for Degrassi: The Next Generation fans to share “love notes, fan art and videos” of the actor online.
If anyone has a love note, fan art, videos or anything about Jahmil they’d like me to pass on to his family please share and I absolutely will. Happy memories are priceless during this time.
— Melinda Shankar (@melindashankar) March 2, 2021