Degrassi Writer Says Drake Almost Left the Show Unless His Character Got "Out of the Wheelchair"

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Degrassi: The Next Generation's premiere episode, a number of alums shared their memories of Drake and his paralysis story line.

By Ryan Gajewski Oct 15, 2021 5:20 AMTags
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Drake's former Degrassi co-workers are weighing in on the performer's star-making acting gig

In honor of Degrassi: The Next Generation celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Oct. 14, 2001 series premiere, a number of the show's cast members and behind-the-scenes talent reminisced about its big moments in an oral history published by The A.V. Club on Thursday, Oct. 14. This included the season four twist involving Rick Murray (Ephraim Ellis) shooting Jimmy Brooks (Drake) and causing him to become paralyzed. 

In the piece, James Hurst, who wrote for the Canadian teen drama series, alleged that Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Graham, was adamant at one point about no longer wanting his character to use a wheelchair. 

"There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey," James said. "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.'"

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The writer continued, "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.'"

According to James, Drake, who remained with the show until season eight, ultimately understood where the writing staff was coming from and had a change of heart. Although Jimmy continued to use the wheelchair throughout season six, he underwent stem cell surgery the following season and was seen using crutches in the season seven finale. 

"He was so nice and apologetic about everything," James said. "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." 


E! News has reached out to Drake's team for comment. 

Although the 34-year-old "Started from the Bottom" vocalist did not participate in the oral history, some of his former co-stars speculated that there may have been multiple reasons why Drake didn't want to act from a wheelchair.


Shane Kippel, who portrayed Spinner Mason, shared, "[There's] the apprehension of having your character confined to a wheelchair, or even not really feeling like it's right to be portraying someone who is confined to a wheelchair if you're fully abled yourself. But that pertains to [Drake] and how he felt with that."

Meanwhile, Lauren Collins, known for her role as Paige Michalchuk, recalled Drake struggling physically with the wheelchair and even "toppling the chair over" a few times. "I don't want to speak for anyone, but I think [Drake] 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," she added.