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Drake supposedly wasn’t a fan of Wheelchair Jimmy.
In celebration of Degrassi: The Next Generation’s 20th anniversary, the team behind the Canadian teen drama spoke to the A.V. Club about their experiences, and shared a number of behind-the-scenes anecdotes about storylines and characters. One of the highlights of the piece centered around Drake and his role as Jimmy Brooks, a basketball star who became paralyzed after getting wounded in a school shooting. Degrassi writer/producer/creative consultant James Hurst said Drake—who was better known as Aubrey Graham back then—wasn’t completely thrilled with his character having to use a wheelchair since Season 4.
Why? Because he was allegedly getting heat from his rap friends.
“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.’”
Hurst recalled sending for Drake immediately, and questioned him about the letter. Drizzy reportedly told the writer he had no knowledge of the mandate, but admitted Jimmy’s wheelchair had affected his personal life.
“I said, ‘Get him down here.’ He came in and was like, ‘What letter? I don’t know about that,’” Hurst recounted. “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.’”
Hurst went on to tell Drake the significance of Jimmy’s evolution, and how his use of a wheelchair could help many young viewers.
“[Drake] instantly backed down,” Hurst explained. “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 has consistently referenced his Degrassi days in his music, and even reunited the cast for his 2018 “I’m Upset” music video.