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Why Drake Actually Threatened Legal Action Over His Degrassi: The Next Generation Character

Drake Degrassi: The Next Generation screenshot
(Image credit: Bell Media)

Millions of people know Drake as a dominant force in music and pop culture. But before he was one of rap’s biggest stars, Millennials and Gen Z knew him as Jimmy Brooks during his seven-season stint on Degrassi: The Next Generation. While on the classic teen drama, his character went through multiple changes, including being paralyzed after a school shooting. While many praised Drake’s acting after the turn, the rap superstar didn’t see it that way. The situation grew so problematic for him that he almost took legal action against the series, according to a Degrassi: TNG writer.

Jimmy Brooks becoming wheelchair-bound was the result of the Season 4 two-parter “Time Stands Still,” which saw bullied student Rick Murray shoot him in the back. While the episodes were praised, Jimmy’s disposition started to affect Drake’s burgeoning rap career in later seasons. So, it led him to take an extreme measure that didn’t go over well. Veteran Degrassi: TNG writer James Hurst revealed to A.V. Club how a legal letter from the rap superstar (whose full name is Aubrey Drake Graham) inspired a pivotal conversation about his character’s importance.

There was a letter from a law firm in Toronto, and it was from Aubrey. 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.’ 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.' He was so nice and apologetic about everything. 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.’

At least, James Hurst was able to avoid a crisis for the series. He was able to bring in the “street credit” element for Drake to embrace his character’s circumstances. Once you think about it, what’s Degrassi: The Next Generation without Jimmy Brooks? Drake’s struggle playing Jimmy Brooks wasn’t a private one as his cast members took notice. Former castmate Lauren Collins may not have witnessed Drake’s image problem but did see his physical struggle. The Degrassi: TNG alum recalled the rap superstar struggling with his wheelchair.

I think [Aubrey] struggled, just physically with having to all of a sudden do everything confined to a chair. That was really hard for him. I definitely have a few memories of him toppling the chair over and falling off of makeshift ramps that they’d constructed for him.

Knowing Drake’s behind-the-scenes struggle put his time on Degrassi: The Next Generation in a better perspective. Playing Jimmy in his new circumstances after the shooting would take a toll on a performer. This wasn’t the first time Drake’s issues with the cult classic have been addressed. While the rap superstar eventually moved on, he has embraced Degrassi: TNG’s impact on his career in recent years. Maybe all this Degrassi talk will lead to a reunion or possible reboot in the future. In the meantime, you can watch the entire series on Prime Video.

Adreon Patterson

A boy from Greenwood, South Carolina. CinemaBlend Contributor. An animation enthusiast (anime, US and international films, television). Freelance writer, designer and artist. Lover of music (US and international).