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.