Degrassi actor Neil Hope, aka Wheels, died in 2007, but because his death was kept quiet, the world didn't find out about his passing until Thursday.
Hope reportedly died of natural causes at the age of 35 on Nov. 25, 2007 in Ontario, Canada, according to The Canadian Press, but no other details have emerged about how exactly he passed away.
Neil Hope has been off the map for the past several years, and many people close to his family and the Degrassi family say that they had not been in contact with him for years.
The Degrassi actor's death had not previously been announced publicly, because Hope's family wanted to keep news of his death close to home.
The show's executive producer, Stephen Stohn, said on Twitter that Degrassi producers respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, adding that the entire team is very emotional about his passing.
Neil Hope also did not appear in a 1999 cast reunion on CBC-TV, when the cast's other members all indicated that they had not been in touch with the actor. Derek Wheels Wheeler was an alcoholic character, and Hope had spoken about his own divorced parents' struggles with alcoholism, which killed his father in 1987 when he succumbed to cirrhosis.
Neil Hope played the character Wheels on the popular show Degrassi. He was in the following iterations of the series: Degrassi: The Next Generation, Degrassi Junior High andThe Kids of Degrassi Street. On The Kids of Degrassi Street, he played the character Griff beginning in 1979.
Neil Hope's death became a rumor on Twitter earlier this week, but it was not confirmed until Thursday, and it has since become a major entertainment news story.
Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler offered her condolences on Thursday, saying that she was terribly saddened by the news, according to the news outlet:
Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team who are like a family to us and indeed to the lives of the many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played, starting from the early days of 'The Kids of Degrassi Street,' Schuyler said in a joint statement issued with the show's executive producer Stephen Stohn. His life was not an easy one but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work and hopeful optimism and he is sorely missed.
Degrassi star Neil Hope, a.k.a. Wheels, died a lonely death unnoticed
For millions, Neil Hope was “Wheels” — the lovable, troubled onscreen teen with that feathered blond hair and huge glasses.
To the public, the Toronto actor’s role as Derek Wheeler on the hit Degrassi TV series thrust him into the realm of celebrity, but in real life he died anonymously.
Police have confirmed to the Star that Hope was found dead on Nov. 25, 2007 in a Hamilton rooming house. That shocking revelation was made known to friends and family only this January — and became public Thursday.
He was 35.
To former castmates, producers, friends and relatives of the Degrassi celebrity, he was just Neil, quiet and bright-eyed.
“Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the live of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played,” said statement from executive producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn. (Schuyler was involved in the original series.)
“His life was not an easy one, but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work and hopeful optimism and he is sorely missed.”
From its original iteration as The Kids of Degrassi Street in 1979 to the still-running Degrassi: The Next Generation, the series is one of Canada’s prime television success stories. It developed a cult following, was picked up in the U.S. and is now watched the world over.
Many former actors, who were mobbed in malls for their Degrassi fame, went on to successful careers, including Aubrey Graham, better known now as award-winning recording artist Drake.
But Hope met a very different end in that Hamilton rooming house, where local police found him dead, according to former fiancée Christina Boulard, 37.
“I was shocked,” said Boulard, fighting back tears as she talked to the Star.
She and Hope dated between 1998 and 2001 and were engaged until the relationship ended amicably. “I was devastated (by his death). I still am.”
Little is known about how the intensely private Hope came to a sudden end, alone and unnoticed. “Everybody falls on hard times,” Boulard said. “Neil had a hard life.”
The star’s struggles with his parents’ alcoholism — his father eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver — were well documented in interviews.
Boulard said Hope’s brother Danny and his wife, Tracy, began hearing rumours of his death two or three years ago but they brushed it off. But two years went by and no one had heard from him. “That’s when we started to worry,” she said.
Boulard said she lost touch with Hope in 2002, but remained in contact with his family through Facebook. When they hadn’t heard from Hope, they called her. Finally they contacted the police in Hamilton.
Boulard said the police told Hope’s family they had a record of someone who had died but the names and birth date didn’t match up. She said the family clung to that, hoping it wasn’t him.
But finally, this January, police confirmed that it was indeed Hope who had died of “natural causes” in November 2007. (The coroner’s office was not immediately available to confirm the details.)
Hope was buried in March 2008. The location of the grave is being kept private, Boulard said.
Boulard said she is organizing a private ceremony, with help from Amanda Stepto, who played Christine “Spike” Nelson on Degrassi, for friends to remember Hope. Hope’s family is planning their own memorial.
As his character was being eased out of the show in 1991 — “Wheels” pleads guilty to a drunk-driving death late in the series — Hope faded into the background too.
“He was the one that stayed as far away from the public eye afterwards as possible,” Boulard said.
Dan Woods, who played Mr. Raditch, a teacher and later principal on the show, remembered meeting Hope when he was a teen on the set of Degrassi Junior High.
“He was a quiet guy when we were off set, but full of energy, very bright-eyed,” Woods told the Star from California.
He was always friendly with the cast behind the scenes, Woods recalled. In a way, they became his family and the set his home. Schuyler, the early Degrassi producer, became like a second mother to him on the set, many said.
Though he made a few guest appearances on episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Hope went back to being a nobody. He missed his cast family, even though he wasn’t great at keeping in touch, Boulard said.
“He didn’t know any other life,” she said. “That’s why he latched on to his Degrassi family so hard … They were his brothers and sisters.”
Former Degrassi castmates began sharing the news of Hope’s death a couple of weeks ago, Woods said.
“We’re all pretty shocked about the news. We’re saddened by it. Neil was a great guy and a great light,” he said.
Boulard met Hope when they were both working at a Money Mart in Hamilton. “I’ve gotta work,” she said he told her. “I’ve gotta make a living.”
He moved on to blue-collar jobs, including one at United Furniture Warehouse. But Boulard said he always talked about becoming a director, but never reached out to Degrassi’s producers or former castmates.
“Wheels” made his last guest appearance on Degrassi in 2003 with former castmates Pat Mastroianni and Stefan Brogren, who play Joey Jeremiah and Archibald “Snake” Simpson — the original Degrassi trio who formed the fictional rock band the Zit Remedy.
His last moment on camera shows the three singing a Zit Remedy classic in the car after reuniting at a bowling alley. Hope’s character is all smiles in the passenger seat.
Everybody wants something they’ll never give up,
Everybody wants something, they’ll take your money and never give up
In his quiet off-screen life, Hope romanced Boulard. She remembers one dinner in particular, where the entire kitchen staff came out to ask for Hope’s autograph. While she was annoyed at the intrusion, Hope took it all in stride.
“He was smiling and joking with them and he signed everything,” she said. “He loved being known as ‘Wheels.’ ”
For an audience of teens, Hope represented an awkwardness and personal strife many could relate to.
“You can’t underestimate the phenomenon and how people believed in Wheels,” said former Star journalist Catherine Dunphy, who wrote two Degrassi books and conducted a Degrassi Talks interview with Hope. “This awkward, shy, grinning, bespectacled kid was very endearing.”
His legacy showed on social media sites Thursday, as fans expressed shock at the sudden news of Hope’s death.
“Neil Hope,” “RIP Wheels” and “Zit Remedy” (the fictional band of which Hope’s character was a member) were all trending on Twitter in Canada Thursday.
On a Facebook page dedicated to getting Hope to join the social networking site, Tracy Northrup Hope, his sister-in-law, wrote in January: “RIP You will always be in our hearts and always remembered. Now we all can be at peace. We miss you soo much !!!!xoxox.”
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Degrassi star's death a five-year secret
This was published 9 years ago
By Mex Cooper
Mystery surrounds the death of a star of popular high-school drama Degrassi, that went undiscovered for five years.
Canadian media today revealed that actor Neil Hope died aged 35, in 2007, of natural causes.
Hope, who played Derek 'Wheels' Wheeler on Degrassi Junior High, Degrassi High and Degrassi: The Next Gen-eration, reportedly died a lonely death in a rooming house, unknown to his family, colleagues or fans.
His last appearance on the television series was in a reunion special in 2003.
Producers and former cast members confirmed Hope's death, according to Canadian news website The Star.
Executive Producer Stephen Stohn took to Twitter to express his sadness.
"We have respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, but our entire team is very emotional about his passing,” he wrote.
The child star died alone in a rooming house, his former fiancee, Christina Boulard, told The Canadian Press.
She said Hope's family had spent years trying to find him after hearing rumours he had died but police only confirmed his death last month.
Ms Boulard said she was angered that his death had remained unconfirmed for so long.
Hope, who wore large glasses and had a blond curly mullet on Degrassi, played a troubled teen and in real life, Ms Boulard said he was plagued by his own problems.
"Neil was a very private person," she told The Canadian Press. "He didn't have the best life, there were times when he would go a while without seeing or talking to his family."
The actor was reportedly buried four months after his death.
Fans took to Twitter to share their grief.
"Wheels was the man," one tweet read.
"RIP Wheels (Neil Hope) sad day, I'm a big Degrassi fan," another fan tweeted.
A Facebook page has been set up in Hope's memory.
"I am so sorry. Such a sad shock. My deepest condolences," one post said.
"He was a great actor that will be missed. An important part of my childhood," said another.
The Canadian series was popular with Australian teenagers in the 1980s and perhaps to appeal to the show's local fans, Wheels once donned a Footscray VFL jumper in an early episode, leaving local audiences impressed and bewildered.
From our partners
Philip Neil Hope (September 24, 1972 – November 25, 2007), known as Neil Hope, was a Canadian actor best known for playing Derek "Wheels" Wheeler on the teen drama series Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High from 1987 to 1991. Previously, he had portrayed the character Griff in the series The Kids of Degrassi Street from 1985 to 1986. After reprising his role for two episodes of Degrassi: The Next Generation, Hope died in 2007, with his death not being announced until five years later.
Hope was born on September 24, 1972 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the fourth son and fifth child of his family. His parents were alcoholics, and had an unstable relationship, which led to their separation. He and his siblings often moved back and forth from their mother to their father. Hope had a good relationship with his father, who he felt was supportive and loved him and his siblings. Hope would often watch television with his father and siblings for dinner, which led him to develop an interest in the behind-the-scenes aspects of television production. He took a television training course, paid for by his father, and had professional promotional photos taken of himself. Hope made his acting debut in the Kids of Degrassi Street episode Martin Meets The Pirates. Hope would tell interviewers that television had been an escape from his problems, and being involved in the medium would make that escape a reality.
Hope attended the Etobicoke School of the Arts.
Hope was the child of alcoholics and was vocal about his own struggles with drinking. He discussed his parents' alcoholism in an episode of the documentary series Degrassi Talks. Hope also made a documentary about children of alcoholic parents, called The Darker Side, which featured contributions from his co-stars Bill Parrott and Rebecca Haines. Hope's father died in 1987 from cirrhosis of the liver.
In 1994, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the effects of which were aggravated by alcoholism and his failure to keep up with insulin injections to manage the disease. He also experienced bouts of depression as a result of his other issues.
Hope met Christina Boulard when the two both worked at the financial service Money Mart in 1998. His family described him as being at his most happy with Boulard, and he would eventually propose to her in 2000. The two split amicably in 2001, at which point Hope had begun to drift again. Hope was a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. and Warren Zevon.
Final years and death
Hope was described as a drifter in his later years. His family recalled him making sporadic calls and visits until 2005. His final public appearance was in the CTV documentary The Degrassi Story, hosted by co-star Stefan Brogren, who interviewed him in Windsor. Hope later moved to Hamilton, where he briefly stayed at a Salvation Army shelter in 2006.
His landlord found Hope dead in a Hamilton rooming house on November 25, 2007. According to the Toronto Star, Hope was dead for more than a week prior to his discovery, and multiple unused insulin vials were located around his room. Hope, who neither police nor coroner’s office officials recognized, was buried, unclaimed, in an unmarked plot in March 2008. His mother died in 2010. His death remained unpublicized until January 2012 when his family was notified, and his sister-in-law announced his death on a Facebook fan page dedicated to him. He was later buried with a new gravestone at Woodland Cemetery located in Hamilton, Ontario.
- ^ abcd"Neil Hope Obituary". Associated Press. 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
- ^ abcdefghijklmnoDaubs, Katie (February 28, 2012). "Degrassi's Wheels: The lost years of Neil Hope". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on October 1, 2017. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
- ^ abcdVitello, Paul (2012-02-27). "Neil Hope Is Dead at 35; Teenage Actor Whose Life Unraveled". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 3, 2021. Retrieved 2012-03-02.
- ^ abcdefghiDunphy, Catherine (2005-12-28). "Degrassi Talks - On Alcohol". web.archive.org. Retrieved 2021-05-15.
- ^ ab"Philip Neil "Wheels" Hope". Find a Grave. findagrave.com. Retrieved 17 June 2019.
- ^McGinn, Dave (February 16, 2012). "Degrassi family mourns 'Wheels' actor Neil Hope". Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 19, 2012.
- ^Pagliaro, Jennifer (February 16, 2012). "Degrassi star Neil Hope died in 2007, family only learned news last month". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 17, 2012.
Did neil hope die how
Neil Hope Is Dead at 35; Teenage Actor Whose Life Unraveled
Neil Hope grew up in the 1980s before an audience of millions as a star in a pair of gritty Canadian television dramas, “Degrassi Junior High” and its sequel, “Degrassi High.” The shows were cultural touchstones in Canada and cult favorites in the United States, where they anticipated teenage docudramas like MTV’s “Real World” and soaps like “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
Mr. Hope had few secrets left after his five years in the role of the troubled teenage character Derek (Wheels) Wheeler. The show’s producers admitted all along that the story of Wheels, a boy who stumbles through misfortunes before drifting into alcoholism, drew broadly on the life of Mr. Hope, who never had formal acting training.
When the series ended in 1991, he spoke openly about the wages of alcoholism in a kind of public-service documentary, revealing that he was the child of alcoholics who had virtually abandoned him and had fed their drinking on his TV earnings. He said he wanted to convey a message to other teenagers whose parents were substance abusers: “It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Because it’s not your fault.”
He was 19.
There is no map through the territory Mr. Hope navigated from that moment of heartfelt communication to the final moment of his life, when he had become so isolated that it would take four years before his own family learned that he had died. He was found dead on Nov. 25, 2007, in a room in a Hamilton, Ontario, boarding house. Neither the police, who concluded that no foul play had been involved, nor the coroner’s officials who removed the body recognized the name or the face of the deceased. He was 35.
Unclaimed, his body was buried the following March in a municipal cemetery. Family members, who declined to be interviewed, found out about his death only recently.
“It has been confirmed that Neil passed away,” a relative said in a notice posted on a “Degrassi” fan Web site on Jan. 12. The news emerged in Canadian newspapers only this month.
“It’s hard to describe the emotion this has generated,” said Sam Tweedle, a Canadian television critic who wrote about Mr. Hope’s death on his blog, Confessions of a Pop Culture Addict, and who spoke in an interview. “He was a good guy, who had all the worst possible things happen to him and made some bad decisions.”
Mr. Hope, who was born in Toronto on Sept. 24, 1972, was an actor who essentially played one part. Like most of the “Degrassi” cast members, he was recruited from Toronto schools. He was 10 when he was cast in a guest role on a precursor show, “The Kids of Degrassi Street.” The job was a godsend, he told interviewers. Watching television had been his fantasy escape, he said, and acting in it would make the escape literal.
In some ways it did, though the fictional world he entered as Derek Wheeler, beginning with “Degrassi Junior High” in 1987, was a harrowing one. All its characters portrayed teenagers confronting crises over issues like sexual abuse, racism, unwanted pregnancy and AIDS, but the troubles dealt Wheels made him the Job of the cast.
After his adoptive parents are killed by a drunken driver, Wheels learns that his biological mother is dead and that his biological father has shunned him. Wheels drinks, he drives, and by the final episode of “Degrassi High” he finds himself in jail, charged with killing one person and blinding another in a drunk-driving crash.
By the end of the show, Mr. Hope himself had a drinking problem, and though he had wanted to attend film school, he all but dropped out of sight, only to emerge years later to make a guest appearance in a 10th-anniversary “Degrassi” reunion special. (A new version of the show began in 2001 and appears on TeenNick, an offshoot of Nickelodeon.)
At the reunion, he told former castmates that he had been working as a forklift operator, a furniture salesman and a customer service representative for a pizza chain. In the reunion episode, Wheels has recently been released from prison and appears as a drifter looking in at the festivities through a window.
Fans of the show would sometimes spot Mr. Hope on the streets of Toronto and Windsor, where he alternately resided, said a former fiancée, Christina Boulard. “They shouted: ‘Wheels! Is that you?’ ” Ms. Boulard said in a telephone interview.
But she told friends never to mention Mr. Hope’s character, even in fun. He loved his time in television, she said, but he was not Wheels.
“He was Neil,” she said. “They were different people.”
His contact with his two brothers and a sister became intermittent at best. As much as a year could pass without word. In 2005, Mr. Hope was tracked down in Windsor and interviewed for an entertainment news show. He was thinner than people remembered, his long hair shorn to the nub. He said he was working at odd jobs, still hoping to go back to television.
He conceded that he had probably not been mature enough to find his feet when “Degrassi High” had ended.
“I’m not saying I don’t like my life,” he added. “I’m just saying it would have been beneficial — another season or two — my life would have maybe been a little different than it is now.”
RIP 'Degrassi' Star Neil Hope: Actor's Death Revealed 5 Years Later
It's a sad day for the kids of Degrassi, as it was reported that Neil Hope, the actor that played the lovably troubled Derek 'Wheels' Wheeler on the cult Canadian television series, passed away in 2007. What's even more unfortunate is that his family and friends were unaware of his death until just last month, almost 5 years after it happened.
Making Hope's death public this past week, police confirmed that Hope died of natural causes in Hamilton, Ontario on November 25, 2007. He was 35 at the time of his passing.
While Hope's brother and sister have said that they heard rumors of his passing 3 years ago, they simple brushed it off, as there had been no official confirmation. After not hearing from Hope for a significant length of time, the family contacted the Hamilton Police.
Acknowledging that there was record of someone similar to Hope's description that died in 2007, the police told the family that the names and birth date didn't match up. It wasn't until January 2012 that the police confirmed to the family that the person in question was, in fact, Hope.
Weeks after Hope's family became aware of his passing, his former Degrassi co-stars were told of the news.
Degrassi creator Linda Schuyler and Degrassi: The Next Generation producer Stephen Stohn released a statement about Hope's death:
Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team, who are like a family to us, and indeed to the lives of many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played.
Taking to Twitter, Stohn continued:
We have respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, but our entire team is very emotional about his passing
Hope's former co-star Stefan Brogren, who continues to reprise the role of his original 'Degrassi' character Archibald 'Snake' Simpson on Degrassi: The Next Generation, briefly mentioned his passing on Twitter:
Sad day for Degrassi. Rip Neil.
Hope was initially buried in March 2008, though the location of the grave is being kept private.
Former Degrassi co-star Amanda Stepto, who played Christine 'Spike' Nelson on the series, is organizing a private ceremony to remember Hope. Hope's family is also planning their own memorial.
Screen Rant would like to extended our condolences to Mr. Hope's family and friends in their time of grieving.
R.I.P. Neil Hope: September 24, 1972 – November 25, 2007
90 Day Fiancé: Jenny Slatten's Unhygienic Habits Exposed By Sumit's MomAbout The Author
As Screen Rant's television editor, Anthony gets yelled at by fans of every television show on the air. It's not his fault that your favorite show is terrible. Kidding! (kind of) e-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @anthonyocasio
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Degrassi's Wheels death announced, over 4 years later
Actor Neil Hope, who played Derek "Wheels" Wheeler on the long-running Degrassi series, died more than four years ago, it was confirmed publicly for the first time on Thursday.
Degrassi producers Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn said he died in 2007. Hope was 35 at the time of his death.
"We have respected the privacy of the family by not saying anything until now, but our entire team is very emotional about his passing," Stohn said on his Twitter feed.
"Neil and his character Wheels in the early Degrassi deeply touched many lives."
It wasn't clear why his death had not been reported previously, but a spokeswoman for Epitome Pictures, which produced the series, says contact with Hope had been lost over the past several years.
Reports said Hope — who appeared on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Degrassi Junior High and The Kids of Degrassi Street — died Nov. 25, 2007 of natural causes.
Wheels struggled with alcoholism during the series and Hope spoke candidly about his parents’ alcoholism and his own struggles with alcohol abuse.
He was involved in a 1992 series called Degrassi Talks, in which Degrassi actors encouraged teens to seek help with problems such as addiction and sexuality. He also made a documentary with co-stars Rebecca Haines and Bill Parrott called The Darker Side that focused on children with alcoholic parents.
"Neil made an important contribution to our lives, to the lives of our television team who are like a family to us and indeed to the lives of the many Canadians and others around the world who were influenced by Neil and the roles he played, starting from the early days of The Kids of Degrassi Street," Schuyler and Stohn said Thursday in a joint statement.
"His life was not an easy one but the time he spent with us was a shining example of determination, hard work and hopeful optimism and he is sorely missed," they added.
Hope was one of five children born to a Toronto family. He began acting at age nine. He lost a brother, Brian, to cancer.
Kevin Smith, a director who appeared as a guest on Degrassi, was one of many fans expressing sadness at Hope's death. He "will be missed," Smith tweeted.
Degrassi fans also shared the news on Facebook and poured out condolences on Twitter.