It’s been 20 years since “Degrassi: The Next Generation” aired on CTV. The franchise is credited with launching the career of Aubrey Graham aka Drake but the Canadian rapper almost left the show upon learning about his character’s fate in the series.
According to James Hurst, Drake almost quit the show after learning that his character “Jimmy Brooks” would end up in a wheelchair after getting shot by another student at the high school.
Several writers as well as fellow actors on the show confirmed it during an interview with the A.V. Club. Lauren Collins, who played Paige on the show, said that Drake found it hard to accept that his character would be wheelchair bound in Season 4 of the show.
“I don’t want to speak for anyone, but I think [Aubrey] probably struggled with the idea that he was one of two Black characters on the show, and that he was the one who was winding up shot and in a wheelchair, which obviously is part of a much larger conversation.”
James Hurst, one of the writers on the show, said Drake’s legal team even asked the showrunners to get his character healed from the injury or he (Drake) would not return for the sixth season of the show.
“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?’ 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.’ 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.'”
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