Degrassi: The Next Generation, Canada’s premier teen soap opera, had everything: online stranger danger, abortion, teen pregnancy, a kid who got stabbed to death, an HIV scare, a school-wide chlamydia outbreak, sexual assault, self-harm, eating disorders, and, of course, a school shooting.
That last incident ended with Drake’s character Jimmy becoming confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his time on the show, which one writer is now alleging the rapper wasn’t too pumped about.
In an oral history from The AV Club, writer James Hurst revealed that Drake, born Aubrey Graham, had a law firm send a letter to the show demanding that his character get back on his feet, or else he’d walk on his functioning legs and quit. “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,’” Hurst said.
Hurst added that he asked the “Hotline Bling” rapper about the note. “[Drake] came in and was like, ‘What letter? I don’t know about that,’” he said. “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?’”
Drake’s co-star Lauren Collins (a.k.a. Paige) told The AV Club that she understood his concerns, saying that he “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.”
Collins is probably correct, – no one would say that the show had an especially light touch when it came to any issue, especially race. And yet look at Drake now. Everyone’s tweeting about how he’s basically a human version of the Sleepytime Tea bear, so it seems like he got over his desire to be “hard.”