Drake shares his past frustration on set of Degrassi
Drake took legal action because he was unhappy his “Degrassi: The Next Generation” character was in a wheelchair.
The 34-year-old star — who worked under his real name of Aubrey Graham during his eight-season stint on the show — was frustrated at being confined to the mobility device after his alter ego, Jimmy Brooks, was left paralyzed after being shot during a fourth season episode titled “Time Stands Still,” so his team shocked producers by issuing an ultimatum.
Writer James Hurst recalled to The AV Club: “There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey. It was an odd letter that said, ‘Aubrey Graham will not return to ‘Degrassi’ season six as Jimmy Brooks unless his injury is healed, and he’s out of the wheelchair.’ I said, ‘Get him down here.
“He came in and was like, ‘What letter? I don’t know about that.’ And I said, ‘All right, I understand. But how do you feel about the wheelchair?’”
Drake admitted to the writer his musician friends said the character was bad for his image, but after James explained what a positive impact the storyline had for some viewers, he understood their point of view.
The writer continued: “He’s like, ‘All my friends in the rap game say I’m soft because I’m in a wheelchair.’ And I said, ‘Well, tell your friends in the rap game that you got shot. How much harder can you get? You got shot, and you’re in a wheelchair.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah.'”
It was all smoothed out in the end, and the actor stayed on the show until the eighth season.
“He was so nice and apologetic about everything. He instantly backed down. I was very passionate about it, and I said, ‘Aubrey, there’s some kid somewhere in a wheelchair, who’s completely ignored, who’s never on television, never gets represented. I need you to represent this person. You’re the coolest kid on the show, and you can say there’s nothing wrong with being in a wheelchair.'”
Drake was on the show from the beginning in 2001 until 2008.
Stefan Brogren, who played Archie “Snake” Simpson and directed 51 episodes of the show recalled how a compromise was reached to “get [Jimmy] out” of the wheelchair.
He said: “There was always a conversation, ‘Is there a surgery that Jimmy can have? Can we somehow get him out of this?’ The idea was played with a lot.
“In the end, we started having him getting up on his feet and walking with crutches.”