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Alcoholic Degrassi Star Neil Hope Died Alone

The actor who played the alcoholic high school character "Wheels" died unrecognized in a boarding house four years ago.

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Neil Hope drew on the troubles from his own
life for his character. Photo via

By Bryan Le

02/28/12

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Neil Hope, who starred in the 1980s Canadian dramas Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High and was an alcoholic, was found dead at 35 years old in 2007—but members of his family only discovered this four years after the event. Police and the coroners were originally unable to identify Hope's body after he died in an Ontario boarding house, and he was buried unclaimed in a municipal morgue. Hope played the role of Derek “Wheels” Wheeler in the Degrassi dramas, a character whose series of misfortunes leads him down the road of alcoholism. The show's producers revealed that Hope's character drew largely from Hope himself: his neglectful parents took his earnings from the show to feed their own alcohol habits. He had his own drinking problem by the time Degrassi High finished filming; at the age of just 19, Hope contributed to a public service film about alcoholism. “It's nothing to be ashamed of. Because it's not your fault,” he said, hoping to help other teens growing up in similar circumstances. For the rest of his life he worked odd jobs, unable to recapture his acting career, and ultimately disappeared from the public eye entirely.

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