Degrassi writer says Drake threatened legal action over his character's wheelchair storyline
It seems not everyone was on board with Jimmy's wheelchair arc in Degrassi: The Next Generation, which gave rapper Drake his star-making television role. According to one of the show's former writers, the actor himself wasn't into it.
In an oral history for the series that was published by The A.V. Club, James Hurst described how Drake, also known as Aubrey Drake Graham, allegedly threatened legal action after his character had to use a wheelchair after a school shooting.
"There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey," Hurst said. "It was an odd letter that said, 'Aubrey Graham will not return to Degrassi season 6 as Jimmy Brooks unless his injury is healed, and he's out of the wheelchair.' I said, 'Get him down here.'"
Hurst mentioned that Drake said he didn't know about the letter, and they discussed his issues with the character's arc.
"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,'" Hurst recounted.
"He was so nice and apologetic about everything. He instantly backed down," the writer continued. "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.'"
EW reached out to Drake's representative for comment.
One of Drake's costars, Lauren Collins, who played Paige Michalchuk, remembered how "hard" it was for him to maneuver in the wheelchair. She mentioned having "a few memories of him toppling the chair over and falling off of makeshift ramps that they'd constructed for him."
"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 said.
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