Before he was the ‘Champagne Papi,’ Drake was just neighborhood teenage heartthrob Jimmy Brooks on the Canadian hit television series Degrassi: the Next Generation. Even though the “Flip the Switch” rapper was part of the cast for seven seasons, Drake almost left the show after his character was shot and confined to a wheelchair toward the end of his time on the show. That’s according to a new oral history, Degrassi writer James Hurst revealed to the A.V. Club on Friday, October 15.
“There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey,” Hurst told the A.V. Club. “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.'” For those who didn’t watch the who, Drake’s character Jimmy Brooks was shot by schoolmate Rick Murray in the season 4 episode “Time Stands Still,” which aired as a two-part episode in December 2004.
But apparently Hurst also recounts that Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Drake Graham, said that the rapper claimed he was not aware of any letter being sent on his behalf when James confronted him about it. When the two finally did talk about issues Certified Lover Boy had with the direction of his character’s story arc, it still took some convincing, for Drake never seemed to quite settle into his character’s new life living with a disability.
“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 recalled. “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.'” But despite any hesitation Drake had playing the role that launched his career, the TV show is still a great and powerful influence for people who grew up in 90s and early 2000s, and younger generations who have come to discover the show today.
But don’t get it twisted — Drake has been more than grateful and happy to have spent some of the most formative years of his career and young adulthood on Degrassi. He’s had several reunions with former castmates like Miriam McDonald and Nina Dobrev, and has even featured his fellow colleagues in his music videos as he continues to settle into super stardom. Whatever it takes, Drake!