Their characters may hate each other, but Life with Derek stars (and now, Vacation with Derek headliners) Ashley Leggat and Michael Seater are the kind of fake siblings small-screen dreams are made of. They love working together, and are willing to do anything to keep the show that launched their careers going.
The duo have been filming the Family Channel sitcom since 2005. It's essentially a modern Brady Bunch - two divorcees, Nora (Joy Tanner, Cold Squad) and George (John Ralston, Living In Your Car), try to merge their families into one.
Although the whole family is featured, Leggat and Seater's characters, Casey and Derek, the always-opposing head kids of their respective families, are the focus and the main reason for the show's success.
"Ashley and I got along so well from the auditions," Seater says. "She had this frenzied feistiness that made her this alpha that had the cojones to go up against a jerk like Derek."
"I think you had a pretty big part too," Leggat says with a smile, adding, "He's great."
Life with Derek's final season aired on Family last March, but Casey and Derek are still all over the tube. The show picked up a Gemini award for best children's series last year (both leads previously nabbed acting noms; Seater won in 2006). In addition, Family airs repeats of the comedy daily, and the show-wrapping movie Vacation with Derek makes its debut this Friday.
The film, which was shot in Algonquin Park last September, follows Casey, Derek and co. as they head to a Northern Ontario chalet owned by Nora's mother (Kate Trotter, Murdoch Mysteries) the summer before university. There, the step-siblings must work together to save the wildlife-friendly property, which is being threatened by a local developer who wants to turn it into a luxury resort.
Over the summer, Casey and Derek learn to appreciate one another's quirks. Smarty-pants Casey gets uncharacteristically carefree, ditching her bookworm ways to tango with a sexy waiter (So You Think You Can Dance Canada winner, Nico Archambault).
Meanwhile, usually reckless ladies' man Derek leaves a hot local girl behind to help his siblings prep an environmental protest. By switching roles, they learn more about themselves, and each other, than ever before.
Leggat and Seater feel it was inevitable Casey and Derek would learn to accept and adapt to each other's personalities, because, frankly, they're growing up. "We went through high school and were about to start university too," Leggat, who turns 24 this September, explains. "Everyone changes in those years. I know I did."
"I've been the same person since I was two years old..." Seater, 23, adds with a laugh.
"Michael is unchangeable," Leggat continues, playfully cutting off her faux bro. "But we love him that way."
All jokes aside, Casey and Derek are not the only ones evolving. Since wrapping Vacation with Derek, Leggat guest-starred on City TV's Murdoch Mysteries and Cartoon Network's Unnatural History. She also just wrapped MTV's Made movie, in which she plays the exact opposite of Casey: a "very mean girl."
Seater, on the other hand, starred in 18 to Life, a CBC sitcom about an underage married couple and their opposing in-laws. He plays the groom, a conservative boy named Tom, who is madly in love with his neighbour/wife, Jessie (Degrassi: The Next Generation's Stacey Farber). The show's status is currently unclear, but it will likely return midseason.
Seater filmed Vacation with Derek right after 18 to Life's first season, which he says took a toll on him, professionally. After almost flubbing his first scene, featuring new characters, Seater found his way back after reuniting with Leggat and the rest of his onscreen family.
"Even when you've done a show for four years, you can be nervous when you first get into it," Seater says, turning towards his co-star. "But once I see Ashley, and she calls me Derek, and I call her Casey, it's like (snaps his fingers)."
Although there are no plans to extend the series, Seater and Leggat are not ready to say goodbye to Casey and Derek, or each other.
"For a few seasons, we knew it wasn't goodbye. But finishing Season 4, we weren't sure if that was the end," Seater says. "Doing press for the movie now, its like, 'Well, is this it? Is this the end of the show?' But it seems like we'll be doing this until we're about 90."
"Retirement Home with Derek?" Leggat suggests.
And with that, they burst into a fit of unified giggles only a brother and sister could share.
Vacation with Derek airs Friday, June 25, 8 p.m. ET/PT on Family Channel.