“He said to me, ‘All my friends in rap say I’m sweet because I’m in a wheelchair.'”
Drake’s character in “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” Jimmy Brooks, was in a wheelchair for several seasons on the show – and reportedly nearly left the show because of it.
As revealed in The AV Club’s “Degrassi” oral story – which was released Thursday to mark the 20th anniversary of the premiere – writer-producer James Hurst said Drake had reservations that Jimmy remains in a wheelchair after the next up and coming. The hip hop star is said to have laughed at his “rap friends”.
During a two-part episode of Season 4 of the Canadian teen drama, Drake’s character became paralyzed after being shot in the back in a school shooting. According to Hurst, Drake – who was then known by his first name, Aubrey Graham, – almost left the show before Season 6 because he was still in the chair.
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“There was a letter from a Toronto law firm, and it was from Aubrey,” Hurst recalls. “It was a strange letter that said, ‘Aubrey Graham will not be returning in Season 6 of Degrassi as Jimmy Brooks unless his injury is healed and he is no longer in a wheelchair.’
He continued, “I said, ‘Bring him down here.” He walked in and said, “What letter? I don’t know. “I said, ‘Okay, I understand. But what do you think of the wheelchair?’ He said to me, ‘All my friends in rap say I’m sweet because I’m in a wheelchair.’ And I said, “Well, tell your friends in rap that you got shot. How much more difficult can you be? You got shot and you’re in a wheelchair. “He was like, ‘Yeah, yeah.'”
Hurst said Drake was “so nice and apologizing for everything” and “immediately backed down”.
“I was very passionate about it,” he explained. “And I said, ‘Aubrey, there’s a kid in a wheelchair somewhere that’s completely ignored, who’s never on TV, who’s never portrayed.’ I need you to represent that person. You’re the coolest kid on the show, and you can say it’s okay to be in a wheelchair. “
Jimmy remained in a wheelchair for most of his time on the show after that.
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Meanwhile, the Grammy winner’s co-stars explained that initially, it wasn’t easy for Drake to have his character suddenly in a wheelchair after filming.
“I think [Aubrey] struggled, just physically having to suddenly confine everything to a chair, ”said Lauren Collins, who played Paige on the show. “It was really difficult for him. I certainly have some memories of him knocking over the chair and falling off the makeshift ramps they had built for him.”
Shane Kippel, who played Skinner, added: “[There’s] apprehension of having your character confined to a wheelchair, or even not really feeling like it’s right to portray someone who is confined to a wheelchair if you yourself are fully capable. But this concerns [Aubrey] and how he felt about it. “
In Season 7, Jimmy underwent stem cell surgery and is seen walking on crutches as he graduates from high school in the Season 7 finale. Drake then made a final appearance as as Jimmy, in a season 8 episode.
As many now know, the rapper’s “Way 2 Sexy” wheelchair time on the show became a popular viral meme, titled “Wheelchair Jimmy”.