As the cast of Student Bodies sets to gather for the first time together in almost 20 years, we had the opportunity to chat with Miklos Perlus, who played Victor Kane on the popular Canadian series. Before that, you may have recognized him as Peter Craig on Road to Avonlea. Since Student Bodies, Mik has had a successful career as a voice actor, writer, and producer. Mik talks about why Student Bodies still resonates with audiences after all these years, the show’s creative transformation and how the 20th anniversary reunion came about.
Do you still get recognized?
I don’t get recognized as much as some of the other cast members, for whatever reason. Usually what’s happened for me is that I’ll be working with somebody for a couple of months and then one day they’ll come into my office and say, “Oh my god!” I’ll say, “Yeah, we’ve been working together for several months, did you just notice?” [Laughs] That’s sort of how it happens for me.
Victor was definitely one of my favourite characters. He was so devious at times.
Yeah, he was kind of a prick!
There was a lot of character growth after the first season. Viewers got to understand him a bit more. He and Chris (Ross Hull) went from enemies to friends.
In the first season of the show, Victor was this two-dimensional villain. We didn’t really understand why he was trying to sabotage the Student Bodies team other than he didn’t like the competition. After season one, the writers pulled us all into individual meetings to talk about our characters. They told me that they loved what I was doing but felt that the villainous rivalry between the two student newspapers had run its course. “Where do you see it going?” And I was kind of put on the spot, but at the time, I really understood why Victor did what he did. Victor was an outcast. He had positioned himself above the rest of the kids in school. He always thought that the rest of the students were just a bunch of idiots! He didn’t have any friends other than Flash (Jessica Goldapple). Once this group of people — who all got along with each other, had fun and were such great friends — I think that he just wanted to be part of them…be part of that gang. But he didn’t know how to get their attention at first… He just started being a jerk to them! That’s what I had told the writers and I think that was an interesting angle for the character. What the writers did after that, was that they started playing up this whole thing about him trying to get in with the gang, which led to the reoccurring gag, “Shut Up, Victor!” He would always try to weasel his way in and they’d e like “Shut up! You’re not part of us!” That never ran its course or got old. It became the relationship between Victor and the rest of the characters for the rest of the series.
Drunk Victor was hilarious, even though what he said to Flash was pretty mean. “Not everybody who drinks is going to become an alcoholic like your mother.”
That was pretty cruel… But he was hammered. That was a really fun episode to do. At the time, we didn’t realize how edgy that was for “kids TV.”
The show did more of that, like Mags (Kate McIninch) contemplating getting breast implants. They had some very adult themes for what was a teen sitcom.
Yes, we did do that. We sort of thought of ourselves as a comedic version of Degrassi. We were talking about kids losing their virginity, like with Cody (Jamie Elman), at the end of season one, who goes to see this model. The whole show was about relationships. It was about student bodies. They’re in high school where their bodies are going through all these changes… It was like how o you handle it? That’s kind of what the show ended up being about. That’s why it resonated with not only the younger kids who thought it was funny, entertaining, goofy and loved the cartoons, but also with the older kids. We had this secondary audience of people who were in university and were coming home at like 2 in the morning from bars and watching the show in reruns. We had a huge number of fans who were way behind the ages of the characters on the show, but they connected with the whole experience and idea.
The show has always paired with another teen favourite, Breaker High! It seemed as if these two shows always ended up being packaged together in syndication.
We had nothing to do with each other — they were shot in Vancouver and we were shot in Montreal, but we came out roughly at the same time. I think that they might have come out first, but we did hit the air around the same time and became kind of like sister shows. It was this back-to-back Canadian comedy hour on YTV. It was great! What was nice is that even though we didn’t know those people at the time — although, I know some of them now — the fans sort of saw them as this package piece, so it created this really nice block of programming for the audience.
Now we’ve got Student Bodies in reruns on ABC Spark. How do you feel about the fact that we can still watch it every day?
It’s strange and wonderful. Not all shows have that kind of lasting legacy. I’m a producer now and I’ve worked on a lot of shows over the years. I also wrote on Degrassi for awhile and that show also has longevity. But that’s about it… A lot of shows go away but Student Bodies manages to keep finding new audiences and broadcasters still want to put it on. It’s great. It’s a real nice compliment.
What can you tell us about your more recent projects?
Right now I’m working on a show called Nina’s World, which is a cartoon. I’m producing that for Universal Kids, which is an American channel. Before that, I was doing a show called Opie’s Home, which was on TVO. Both are pre-school shows. Before those, I was working on a number of YTV shows, including Open Heart. I also produced Spatalot…
Which is also a fun show to watch when you come home from the bar at 2 a.m.!
Yeah! [Laughs] Just watching kids get the crap kicked out of them! There’s also another show I did a few years ago called Driving Me Crazy for YTV which is about teens learning to drive from their parents.
I just had bad flashbacks of my own experience with that…
Me too! I’ve always had an affinity for kids television, ever since I was in it. I always stayed in it… I never really left. I went from being on a high school show to writing high school shows like Degrassi and Instant Star. I then did some writing for animated shows and did cartoon voices. Now I’m producing some pre-school shows. I’m kind of getting young and younger with my work as I get older! Maybe it’s because I have kids now. I tend to be attracted to those types of shows that my kids are watching. My youngest just turned seven and he’s just come out of that pre-school world. So all the shows that I’ve been writing the past few years have been pre-school shows because I’m very familiar with that audience.
What happens in 10 years when he wants to watch Student Bodies?
With all of the buzz and attention that’s been happening with the show recently, my kids are all over it now! They find the whole thing completely ridiculous. They can’t believe that that’s their dad! It’s all so foreign to them. But at the same time, it’s very similar to the shows that they’re into watching. So yeah, they’ll sit down and watch it. But they’ll also sit down and watch pre-school shows too… They’re still a little bit too young for Student Bodies!
Would you return to being in front of a camera?
Yeah — it’s certainly not where my career has taken me but I’d do it with these actors for sure. Any day! At my age, I can look back on my life and it’s no exaggeration to say that it was one of the best times of my life. Being on that show with those people!
Who have you remained the closest with?
I think Jamie Elman and I have remained the closest. But we were also close at the time. We were actually roommates… So that’s where that episode of Victor moving in comes from. Jamie had moved in with me in my apartment in Montreal for the summer. We also travelled together. We backpacked through Europe together. We became really good friends. I’m also good friends with Ross Hull (Chris), who I see in Toronto because we’re both here. Mark Taylor (Romeo) as well. The four of us try to get together once every few years, just the four of us. But I have managed to keep in touch through Facebook with pretty much everybody in the cast. Even though we haven’t been in the same room together for almost 20 years, we’ve all managed to stay in touch thanks to the power of Facebook.
Is that how the plan for this Saturday’s reunion started?
Plans for the reunion started when we realized that 2017 was going to be the 20th anniversary of our premiere episode. Ryan Stick, who has a YouTube channel called You, Me & YTV, is actually going to be moderating the panel at Fan Expo. He had done a couple of interviews with some of the cast members and in one of the interviews, he mentioned that “Hey, 20 years in 2017!” And that kind of took me by surprise. I couldn’t believe that 20 years had gone by. But I also thought, how often do you get to celebrate these types of anniversaries? If worst comes to worst, we all just get together and go out for a dinner, but let’s see if the fans would be interested in seeing something. So we put together a little video on Facebook and basically invited them to the 20-year Edison High School reunion and the response was overwhelming. We had more than a million views in the first week, it’s closer to 2 million now. Everybody was so excited to see this show come up on their feed again. They were so excited at the idea of having the whole cast come together for a reunion. The next couple of months, the idea of doing Fan Expo took shape and the idea of doing some TV interviews took shape and that’s what we’ve been doing. Really, the Fan Expo panel is going to be the big reunion for us.
As a TV writer and producer, would you entertain the idea of doing an actual Student Bodies reunion movie or special?
Absolutely. Yeah, I’ve been talking with the people who have the rights to the show and it’s something that we’re discussing. It’s not an easy thing to get off the ground. A movie is a difficult thing to finance. A TV series can be even more difficult. It takes a lot of time. It’s not something that we could have put together in the few months that we put together this Fan Expo reunion. But what’s been great is seeing how much interest there is with this show and this cast… Even 20 years later! It’s given us the push that we need to seriously start talking about doing just that!
That’s awesome. It’s great to hear. Now, where would Victor be after 20 years? Running an online newspaper?
Oh, I think if he managed to avoid prison, I think that he would certainly be in his father’s company. I don’t see Victor being the type of guy who would pull himself by his bootstraps. I think he would have followed in his family footsteps and just tried to stay rich as long as he possibly can.
One last question — why did you guys change the theme song?
That’s a really good question… The series went through a lot of changes from season one to season two. I mentioned the discussion with the cast. After we finished season one, some of the more cartoon characters like the three-headed Jock went away. The show also aged up a bit because when we looked at who was watching the show, we found that the audience was a little bit older than we had originally thought it was going to be. We had originally thought that it was going appeal to a 6 to 11-year-old audience but it really ended up appealing to a 9 to 18-year-old audience. So, as part of that shift, we started doing more challenging subject matter. If you look at season one, we didn’t really have much of those hot topic, push the envelope, type storylines… We did things like “goop,” or we did some more silly ideas. But as season two and three came around, the show started to age up and the storylines started to age up. We wanted a theme song to reflect that idea. It ended up sounding a lot more like the Friends theme song than anything else, but it was that idea of “Look, we’re not just these goofy cartoon-type kids anymore! We can be more appealing to an older audience.”
The Student Bodies 20th Anniversary Panel and Q&A takes place this Saturday, September 2, at Fan Expo, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Click here for details on the cast members that are expected to attend. Be sure to like the Student Bodies Anniversary Facebook Page for more reunion info.